Today on Meet the Press, Ralph Nader announced that he is running for president as an independent.
I've joined the ABB Brigade (Anybody-But-Bush), so I'll be voting for the Democratic nominee. I'll take John Kerry or John Edwards over Bush in a heartbeat.
I've seen how good public policy can raise our living standards, and how there is a big difference between Democratic policy and Republican policy. I'm not longer a member of the Green Party, because I've decided to join the majority coalition in Illinois: the Democratic Party.
I am a big fan of a multi-party system, and I do think people should have lots of choices on the ballot, so I think another candidate is a good thing. But with our plurality voting system, where the majority of voters can split between two similar candidates, and let someone else win, an insurgent campaign can hurt more than it helps.
That's why we should be using instant runoff voting and ensure the winner has a majority of the vote.
I was happy to see Nader mention my employer, the Center for Voting and Democracy, at the end of his Meet The Press interview (although he sort of criticized us, but hey, I'll take the exposure). He didn't say the magic words "instant runoff voting," but this is real progress. I think that third party candidates and independent candidates have the burden of explaining -- at every possible opportunity -- that the reason why the third candidate causes problems for the better major-party candidate is that we don't have a runoff election (instant or otherwise) to ensure the majority of voters don't split. Lots and lots of people don't get that yet.
I worked on the Ralph Nader 2000 presidential campaign, as the Illinois manager and as one of the policy people for electoral reform. I think Mr. Nader is getting better at explaining that we have an outdated electoral system, and that it's relatively easy to fix it (just use instant runoff voting), and I hope that progressives will take this opportunity to push for instant runoff voting in city councils and state legislatures.
Berkeley, as a matter of fact, will vote on an instant runoff voting amendment to the city charter the first Tuesday in March. The campaign website is here.
This is one of my day jobs, so if you're interested in trying to make instant runoff voting actually happen (instead of just complaining about Nader's decision), get in touch with me or join our national listserv here.
Because there is a real value for progressives in a progressive presidential campaign besides the Democratic nominee -- that third candidate can inspire and bring out voters that the Democratic nominee just can't. It might be 1% or 5% of 10%. But those are a lot of votes, and those voters can vote for the Democratic candidate down-ticket. In close races for state representative or Congress, those extra votes really help. So if we can figure out how to harness the power of a progressive third candidate without splitting the vote (yeah, that's instant runoff voting), campaigns like Mr. Nader's can be an unambiguously good thing. Now, it's a real threat to the Democratic campaign for the presidency, and a potential small help for Democrats in swing districts.
And all that said, I think that the Nader campaign is likely to get about 1% of the vote. The ABB Brigade has a strong pull this year.