The film discusses at length how Ralph’s legacy has been tarnished, perhaps irrevocably, because of public perception of him as a “spoiler” in the 2000 election. But the film never even took one moment to discuss the fact that the very existence of the “spoiler” possibility in our system is one of its most profound flaws. Ralph himself never comments on it in the film, just as he continues to fail to do over and over in his own speeches and other interviews. And none of the people interviewed in the film - not one - even mentions this issue. I don’t know if some mentioned it, but it was left out by the filmmakers, or if it was just chosen not to be touched on. But I find it hard to believe that this absolutely pivotal point to the entire issue was not even touched on by anyone.
I have talked to Ralph personally about this in the past and I am angered time and again that he won’t put election reform itself, such as advocacy of Instant Runoff Voting, at the top of his agenda so that “spoilers” are not even possible. If his true intent was to open up the system to third parties, as he claims time and again, he must realize, as must many of the people who spoke in the film, that this type of reform is the only way to create any kind of fair playing field. I know absolutely that people like Ralph and Theresa Amato are fully aware of these reforms since I was with them, for example at Fairvote’s Claim Democracy Conference in 2003, where they spoke and all of these issues were front and center.
I have my theories as to why Ralph repeatedly refuses to make this issue his top issue and, given his considerable platform, why he chooses to focus on the faults of the Democratic Party rather than the faults of the election system itself which enable and provide the foundation for the Democratic Party’s exclusionary strategies. His refusal to do so remains the one thing that continues to plague my conscience about Nader because it is so disingenuous. It seems to me to portray a higher priority on revenge for his own personal exclusion by the Democrats than on creating a just election system, even when he himself and his legacy are some of the system’s biggest unnecessary victims.
I spent more than a year of my life devoted almost exclusively to promoting Instant Runoff Voting, helping to make Ferndale, Michigan the third city in the country in recent years to pass an Instant Runoff Voting measure, which we are now working to get implemented. I feel deeply that, along with Campaign Finance Reform, this is the absolutely central measure if we want to open up the playing field to more voices in our political arena. And the failure of the major parties to widely support such reform is the crucial answer to why it is unfair to expect third parties not to participate. And yet when Ralph - as well as everyone else depicted in the film, especially politically savvy people like Michael Moore - refuse to focus on that issue, it is a shameful lost opportunity for real reform.
I plead with Ralph Nader himself, everyone involved in any way with Ralph Nader and with this film, An Unreasonable Man, to repeatedly refocus the “spoiler” discussion toward the faults of the election system and the need for Instant Runoff Voting. I plead with them to turn the discussion away from Nader personally and toward groups such as Fairvote who are doing such fantastic work on beginning to change the system so that “spoilers” don’t even exist. And I plead with anyone who wants to discuss this matter more to get in touch with me. There are few issues that continue year after year to affect me so deeply, down to my bones, as this one and I am eager to speak with anyone who understands and is passionate about bringing real justice to this system, rather than rehashing a pointless debate about why one of the greatest Americans of all time fell victim to a system that should never exist in this form in the first place.
Nader’s “spoiler” fiasco can still be turned into constructive action if we focus the same amount of energy that supporters put into those several-thousand-seat-filled rallies in 2000 and that detractors have put into Nader-bashing ever since then onto the real leverage point for constructive change, election reform, especially Instant Runoff Voting. I call on those who supported and still support Nader to beat a steady drumbeat of “Instant Runoff Voting would have allowed him to run fully without the ‘spoiler’ issue looming.” I call on those who opposed him vehemently and perhaps still do to beat the exact same drumbeat. This is the common ground on which we can all walk together toward greater justice, regardless of where we fall on the double bind by which this system victimized all of us in the 2000 election and continues to victimize us through a mathematically unfair limitation of our choices.
I hope that whenever the 2000 election is mentioned, it gets to a point where the next words on every one of our lips are “Instant Runoff Voting” and “Fairvote.org”. It is the one way to turn this shameful debacle into a win for democracy and justice. And isn’t that what Ralph Nader himself claims to want in the end, even if in recent times he has failed to adopt wise strategy in pursuing it?
Whatever our feelings on Ralph Nader and his 2000 and 2004 runs for the White House, it is time we stop wasting energy on blaming or defending him and band together, with or without his support, to Fix The Election System!
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Tags: 2000 election, an unreasonable man, campaign finance reform, claim democracy conference, democratic party, democrats, election reform, election system, fairvote, ferndale, films, green party, instant runoff voting, michael moore, politics, ralph nader, social change, social justice, spoiler issue, theresa amato, third parties
Included in: Carnival of Political Punditry for December 30, 2007, The Politics and Money Carnival - Edition 1, Carnival of the Liberals #55, The Guru's Movie Review Carnival #9, Carnival of the Decline of Democracy - Edition 3.0, Carnival of the Libertarians #2