Is Josh Claybourn falling for the “Nader Delusion”

Libertarians — By on November 14, 2003 at 12:45 pm

Several day ago, Josh Claybourn, wrote about how as a “libertarian-minded conservative” he was having doubts about Bush being the “best option” available. He adds:
“Of course most, if not all, of the Democratic candidates are just as far from my ideal position. But they are not the only people running, and silently trudging down the wrong path does nothing to correct the course. That’s why I’m officially an “undecided” voter.”
Though he doesn’t exactly say what course of action he will take, he does imply that he will be voting. If this is the case, he is left with three options:
a) Vote for the Republican candidate (Bush)
b) Vote for the Democratic candidate (Dean, most likely)
c) Vote for a Third Party candidate
Since he outlines some of the criteria that will influence his decision (racial preferences, pro-life leadership, state’s rights) he must believe that either option (b) or (c) is preferable to Bush. Claybourn appears politically astute enough to know that none of the potential Democrats will be any closer, in aggregate terms, to his view, so I assume that he believes there is a third party candidate that fit’s the bill.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter.
Though Claybourn agrees that the “voting isn’t worth your time” argument is bankrupt, he nevertheles seems to be falling under the “Nader Delusion” – the belief that by wasting your vote on a third party candidate you are participating in a legitimate form of political protest.


Whether a third party candidate would be more conservative is irrelevant to the process of making a rational decision about choosing a president. The purpose of casting a vote is to elect the candidate of your choice. Because of our present system, a candidate must win a majority of the electoral votes in order to win the presidency. Since each individual vote only affects the particular state the voter lives in (in this case Indiana), for the vote to matter it must be cast for one of the two candidates that have a chance of winning that state.
No third party candidate has a chance of taking Indiana in ‘04. Even Claybourn would agree with that. So what other valid reason would he have for not voting for Bush? I presume it would be as a form of political protest, though I hope not because I think he’s smarter than that.
His post reminded me of an anecdote I read in the brilliant article by Lee Harris, “Al Qaeda’s Fantasy Ideology”:
My first encounter with this particular kind of fantasy occurred when I was in college in the late sixties. A friend of mine and I got into a heated argument. Although we were both opposed to the Vietnam War, we discovered that we differed considerably on what counted as permissible forms of anti-war protest.
To me the point of such protest was simple — to turn people against the war. Hence anything that was counterproductive to this purpose was politically irresponsible and should be severely censured. My friend thought otherwise; in fact, he was planning to join what by all accounts was to be a massively disruptive demonstration in Washington, and which in fact became one.
My friend did not disagree with me as to the likely counterproductive effects of such a demonstration.
Instead, he argued that this simply did not matter. His answer was that even if it was counterproductive, even if it turned people against war protesters, indeed even if it made them more likely to support the continuation of the war, he would still participate in the demonstration and he would do so for one simple reason — because it was, in his words, good for his soul.
What I saw as a political act was not, for my friend, any such thing. It was not aimed at altering the minds of other people or persuading them to act differently. Its whole point was what it did for him.

Surely Claybourn isn’t thinking of voting for a third-party candidate in order to salve his own political conscience. The Naderites are stymied by their Panglossian worldview, so it is understandable that they would fall for such nonsense. But Claybourn is supposed to be a hard-headed conservative. He should know better.



  • http://www.patrickcarver.blogspot.com/ Patrick Carver

    Excellent analysis.

  • http://www.patrickcarver.blogspot.com Patrick Carver

    Excellent analysis.