Principles and pragmatism
A lot of Democrats are trying to stop Ralph Nader from getting on the ballot in some states, including Pennsylvania, and a lot of Republicans are trying to help him get on so he will siphon votes from Kerry. I sympathize with my fellow Democrats but I believe there is a greater principle at stake here. While I hope Kerry wins, I believe that the monopoly the two parties share over the political process, from presidential debates to ballot access to fundraising, poses a danger to our democracy, and thus I believe in the right of any third-party candidate to gain access to the ballot. I believe that there are enough differences between the parties--and Bush and Kerry--that it does matter who wins. But let's face it--on many key issues Republicans and Democrats are fighting at the margins. One of the reasons we have no serious third parties is our winner-take-all electoral system; but the two parties have added plenty of barriers to perpetuate their stranglehold on political power. (Including the requirements for ballot access.) And that should give us all pause.
Fester, whose opinions I respect if not always share, is looking into a challenge of Nader's signatures. Here is my response:
I'm sorry; I want Bush defeated and Kerry elected like you, but I think Ralph Nader, so long as he does follow the rules, deserves a spot on the ballot, as do any other third party candidates. I understand that Republicans are trying to help Nader to get on the ballot in some states, in the hopes that he will be a spoiler, and I understand that carries potential for much chicanery. If you care about the integrity of the process, then I respect your efforts; I just hate to see Nader's signatures challenged because as Democrats we fear the impact he will have on the election.