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My response to the vilification of Ralph Nader as a potential "spoiler" in the 2004 presidential election.

After Ralph Nader announced his intention to run for president again in 2004, voices from all areas of the political spectrum were quick to condemn his campaign. Many labeled it well-meaning, but ill-conceived. Some said it was simply an attempt to pacify his own ego. Others even went as far as accusing him of being put up to running by Republicans hoping he would "steal" votes from the Democratic nominee and help George W. Bush win, as many feel he did in 2000 in Florida and New Hampshire.

Our election system is unfair and needs reform. As it stands, the injustices in the system itself create unwinnable dilemmas. In my mind, Nader's run exemplifies one of these no-win dilemmas. On one hand - the side less often discussed - there are serious costs to third party candidates not running over the long-term. Third parties have traditionally brought crucial issues such as the abolition of slavery, women's suffrage, the elimination of child labor, and civil rights to the table throughout our history. While it may have been one of the major parties that finally enacted the relevant legislation in these cases, they would never have been pressured to do so without the threat of "losing votes" to these third parties. Similarly, if Nader is not to run, there would be no threat which pushes the Democratic party to consider many important issues of our day, including reform of the election system itself.

However, there is a true con to Nader's running as well in that - contrary to what he himself often admits - he does in fact risk "spoiling" the election for the Democrats in key states and helping George W. Bush to win. However, the key thing to realize is that this "spoiler" effect is one of the most unfair aspects of our election system. In a democracy, candidates should have the freedom to run for office without discouragement and voters should be free to vote for whichever candidate they like most without worrying about helping their least favorite candidate to win in the process.

It is for this reason that Instant Runoff Voting is a reform that I feel is seriously needed and Nader's run is perhaps the best example we've ever had of why it is so important. If his run accomplishes nothing else but to bring into broad daylight this flaw in our election system, then it may well be worth it. I first expressed this sentiment in a press release that was sent to many media outlets throughout Michigan. This press release led to articles in the Detroit Free Press and The Oakland Press publicizing the importance of Instant Runoff Voting in light of Nader's run.

In order to spread this idea more widely, I sent the following commentary to the Boston Globe, Business Weekly, and many other publications, as well as posting it on numerous message boards.


The "spoiler" issue is actually a flaw in our election system, and we don't have to put up with it. We can fix that problem. We are working to do just that in Ferndale, Michigan through a system called Instant Runoff Voting. It is used all over the world, is endorsed by John McCain, Howard Dean, and USA Today, and would make sure there are never spoilers again in American elections. For more information visit, and

Democrats and Republicans need to stop complaining about third parties "spoiling" elections unless they are willing to support Instant Runoff Voting to ensure it never happens again. If they won't support this common sense reform, then there is really no alternative to third parties but to continue having their voices heard by running anyways. Imagine if as much energy was put into fixing the fundamental problem in the election system as is put towards discouraging and vilifying third party candidates who really represent the victims of the system enforced by the two major parties themselves.

Also See:

Detroit Free Press article in support of IRV due to Nader:

Oakland Press article in support of IRV due to Nader:

For more of Ferndale for Instant Runoff Voting In The News see

Howard Ditkoff
Oak Park, Michigan

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