Editorial: Spoilers — Political dilemma

In the 2000 presidential election, left-wing “green” outsider Ralph Nader put the Republican Bush-Cheney ticket into the White House, causing tragic harm to America.

It’s simple arithmetic: Democratic nominee Al Gore lost Florida by only 537 votes. Liberal reformer Nader took 97,421 votes in that state, mostly from left-leaning voters. If Nader hadn’t been on the ballot, Gore — nearly as progressive and “green” as Nader —would have carried Florida and won the presidency.

In his book, Crashing the Party, Nader denied that he had been a “spoiler” ruining Democratic hopes. He said exit polls indicated that one-fourth of his Florida voters would have chosen Bush-Cheney, while 38 percent would have picked Gore and the rest wouldn’t have voted. Well, that math gives Gore at least 12,000 more Florida votes, far more than needed to carry the state and win the White House.

Imagine how U.S. history would have changed if Gore had become president. The disastrous Iraq war wouldn’t have been launched on erroneous pretexts. Enormous giveaways to the wealthy would have been avoided. Perhaps tighter policing of Wall Street promoters could have averted the Great Recession.

Therefore, the spoiler role in politics is a sobering reality. Although Nader had no chance to win in 2000, getting less than 3 percent of the national vote, he nonetheless handed the country to hard-line conservatives he opposes.

Currently, West Virginia’s left-wing “green” Mountain Party is backing two outsiders in the 2014 election — Bob Henry Baber for U.S. Senate and Ed Rabel for Congress in the 2nd District. Neither has any actual chance for victory. They’re token, symbolic candidates.

But what if Baber diverts progressive votes away from Democratic nominee Natalie Tennant, just enough to tip the race to Republican Shelley Capito? What if Rabel does likewise, causing Democrat Nick Casey to lose to former Maryland politician Alex Mooney? In effect, both Baber and Rabel would damage their own vision for America.

Democracy entitles all Americans and groups to pursue their political beliefs and values to the fullest. But fringe candidates hold a bizarre role. Unwittingly, they may aid the side they dislike most.

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