June 12, 2004

Plausiblethan theories about the sanity of Ralph Nader.

Proof that I read Jeremy's theories seriously: I paused to think about the meaning of the word "plausiblethan." A portmanteau word combining plausible and Elizabethan, suggesting the sort of assessment of plausibility that duped people in Shakespeare's day? See, this is why I'm a slow reader. I'm always stopping. If I had just glided along, trusting that meaning would take form...

So, the issue is whether Nader is crazy or lying or both when he says he will take more votes from Republicans than Democrats in the coming election. Jeremy initially went with lying, and I had said a liar would have to be crazy to go with such an unbelievable lie, so even if he's lying, he's still crazy. Jeremy correctly notes that the sane liar only needs to be believable to the subgroup of listeners he hopes to trick, so we should judge Nader's sanity by whether it's believable that potential Nader voters could believe that most of the Nader votes are coming from Republicans. Maybe people with any potential to vote for Nader--as a sane Nader would know--are starry-eyed and eager to believe things that will allow them to ignore the downside of voting for him. I could buy this. I note that Democrats are often pointing to the large number of working class Americans who vote Republican when they should be voting Democratic, who have misassessed where their interests lie. Maybe something keeps them away from the Democrats that would not block them from tumbling over to Nader. I could almost believe this as a long term strategy or as something that could happen with the right third party (but not something that Nader could do this year).

Jeremy also asserts in Nader's case in particular it might even be sane for Nader to think that he only means to dupe a subgroup of people who will be satisfied with the belief that Nader believes what he's saying. Under this theory, Nader rationally believes his voters only need to believe that their man isn't a liar and that he isn't knowingly helping Bush, and that they don't mind if their man is out-of-touch with reality. This version of Nader is quite unpleasant, but not all that megalomaniacal, because he's now only aiming at manipulating a small group of fairly odd ideologues.

Jeremy concludes with this statement:
I am amazed at the extent to which people are still willing to accept the idea that Nader is being sincere when he says he wants to see Bush out of office, and that he somehow just doesn't grasp how much damage his own campaign could do to the prospects of that happening. I think the available evidence is much more consistent with the idea that Nader knows full well he was a spoiler in 2000 and is not going to do anything to avoid being a spoiler in 2004.

I agree! And I certainly think he is lying when he denies that he doesn't mind spoiling it for the Democrats. If he were only trying to get the votes of the small subgroup of American voters who, like him, think the Democrats are so conservative that it's acceptable or even beneficial to leave the Republicans in power, then he wouldn't need to claim that he's taking more votes from Republicans. He could just say the Democrats deserve to lose votes to him unless they reframe their platform. But he doesn't say that, presumably because there are not enough hard-line ideological voters to make him a significant third party candidate. He'd just be another one of the fringe candidates who get no press.

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