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If Texas Gov. George W. Bush is declared the winner of the 2000 presidential election, one of the scapegoats of Democrats will surely be Ralph Nader. The lawyer, consumer advocate and presidential nominee of the Green Party has had a significant impact on the results of the election, in the all-important state of Florida, where his 90,000 votes, if they had gone to Vice President Al Gore '69 (as Democrats presume), would have determined the outcome of the Presidential election far before the networks could make a mistake.
But Ralph Nader is not the problem. The idea that the Democrats lost the election because of Nader ignores the fact that Democrats could not keep a significant amount of voters in their party from bolting to him. With the rise of the "New Democrats" and the centrist policies of President Clinton and Gore, the Democrats have slowly but surely alienated the liberal base of the party.
These voters have embraced Ralph Nader, and not because they believe Gore and Bush are the exact same candidate: There are obvious differences between the candidates on many issues, especially social policy (abortion, gay rights and affirmative action). Instead, these voters fear that the entire democratic process in the United States is a sham, that the vast amounts of money that corporations are pouring into political campaigns are corrupting democracy, and that both parties simply ignore the problem.
And while his supporters did not reach the 5 percent necessary to gain federal funding, Nader showed that there is a significant proportion of Americans who feel that the democratic system has abandoned them. If these 90,000 votes do indeed cause the election to tilt to Bush, Democrats must look within their own party and re-evaluate their direction.
As Nader defiantly said the morning after the election, "I did not cost Al Gore this election. Al Gore cost Al Gore this election." We agree.
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