FORGOTTEN, BUT NOT GONE Ralph Nader declares his candidacy again.

I confess, I’ve never really understood the appeal of figures like Ralph Nader and Ron Paul. I vote for candidates who can’t possibly win–but only when I am genuinely unable to muster a preference between the major-party candidates. Ralph Nader voters clearly have a preference for Democrats over Republicans, and Ron Paul voters, at least those who have graduated from college already, probably mostly prefer the reverse. So why vote for the guy you know can’t win?

I know, I know–you want to move the party in the direction of Truth, Justice, and the American Way. But this is wishful thinking. The reason that those of us on the fringe–libertarians, Greens, socialist workers, or what have you–do not have more representation in government is not because there is some structural problem with the American political system, like a lack of IRV or minority party candidates. The reason we don’t have more representation is that most people just don’t agree with us. Oh, I know you can find a poll that says that voters want national health care, a guaranteed income, a carbon tax, or lower government spending. But voters like lots of things in the abstract. When you get down to the specifics of raising their taxes and restricting their choices, they tend to get balky. The Democrats cannot move significantly closer to Nader, nor the Republicans to Ron Paul, without losing more voters in the center than they gain on the fringe.

That’s not to say that you should have a preference between Democrats and Republicans–frankly, these days, it feels a lot like “So, by which of the plagues of Egypt would you like to be consumed?” But if you do, you should vote for that candidate, rather than making an expressive vote which could put your last choice into office.