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Letters from alumni about Ralph Nader '55

February 23, 2004

Classmate Ralph Nader ’55 has announced his candidacy for U.S. president gain, and I urge all members of 1955, indeed all Princetonians, to support him financially. I admit that in 2000 I did not understand the impact Ralph would have on the electoral process and failed to support him.

The record, however, demonstrates that Ralph performed a great service to the nation in 2000, and deserves the opportunity to do so again.

We should all contribute to his campaign so he can make an impact in every state.

John G. Grant ’55
Dallas, Tex.

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August 2001

In response to Preston M. Wolin's letter: While some of Eugene McCarthy's "passionate" followers may have sat "on their hands" in 1968, the analogy with Nader is, I believe, faulty. After all, McCarthy was not on the ballot that November. The three major candidates were Nixon, Humphrey, and George Wallace!!! And most commentators then and even Humphrey supporters like myself felt that Wallace took more votes away from Nixon than Humphrey -- far more. Without Wallace, Nixon might have won in a landslide. Democrats didn't complain about Wallace then and cannot in all fairness complain about Nader now. Third-party candidates only make a difference when major party candidates fail to inspire.

Gary Williams '68 *84
Vienna, Va.

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May 2001

Several readers have complained about votes for Ralph Nader '55 taking away from a potential Gore victory, and Nader voters tend to respond that they ought to be able to vote for the candidate they prefer.

We have a system at hand that could allow them to have their cake and eat it too: Princeton's own voting method for alumni trustees (first choice/second choice, out of three -- the third rank is implicit) - this could be extended indefinitely to an ordered-list vote of any number of candidates.

Out of a field of N candidates, each voter would rank them 1 through N (one supposes that many voting for Nader as #1 would have chosen Gore as #2, or at the very least, Gore ahead of Bush, and just about everybody ahead of Buchanan). Then there are N-1 elimination rounds, with the last-place finisher in each round being removed from the next round, and their votes reverting to the next-best choice on each ballot that ranked them at the top. In the final round, you get a head-to-head matchup of the two candidates best tolerated by the most people, without splitting the ballot among candidates with similar ideologies.

This mathematically removes the paradox, because those Nader votes would largely have reverted to Gore anyway, even while Nader may have gotten even more first-place votes from those who adamantly wished Bush not to win and thus voted for Gore. Thus, it also helps Nader get a better result for matching funds (which would be allocated only on the basis of absolute #1 rankings in the first round).

With computer technology, this is entirely feasible.

Of course, it would weaken the two-party system by encouraging much more third-party voting without fear of ballot splitting, thus the major parties would be expected to oppose such a thing quite strongly.

I don't know if it is politically realistic for our country to consider this yet, but I personally think it is the fairest, most accurate method of voting, as far as expressing the actual will of the people.

Dan Krimm '78
Los Angeles, Calif.

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May 2001

Yes, I too would have preferred Gore to Bush.

From the beginning Bush has made it very clear that he would do everything he could to put more wealth and power in the hands of the very wealthy who run our multinational corporations, and if it costs the health of our planet, so be it. Combine this with religious fundamentalism and you have a real winner.

Gore would have regulated this situation a little, but he would not have dealt with the fundamental problem.

We should appreciate the courage that Nader has demonstrated over the years in standing against the large corporations, and know that he is right when he says that we have become a nation of the General Motors, by the IBMs, and for the DuPonts, and that power should be in the hands of the people. When he was asked what he would do to defend America, he said he would wipe our poverty around the world. This is a profound and doable solution, but not when a few are stealing all they can for themselves. Can there be any moral argument for why any one of us should have more than one six billionth of what can be sustainably produced on our planet?

This is an old fight and most Princetonians have followed Madison in trying to structure this nation for the benefit of the opulent. However, my soul thrills to Jefferson's words that all humans are endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights, and among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Vote Green!

David Jenkins '62
Sand Point, Ida.

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Ralph Nadir?

I am no particular admirer of Ralph Nader, but surely one would hope that disagreement with his position could be expressed without the level of hysteria in the letters in your March 21 issue. Talk of "Republican thugs", "right-wing extremists" (members of the Great Right Wing Conspiracy, no doubt), Bush's minions bloodying minority rights advocates, etc. does little to contribute to rational debate, and only demonstrates what the writers must at least believe to be the extreme weakness of their positions on the merits to make such invective necessary.

William J. Jones '57
New York, N.Y.

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The topic should have become rigid long ago, but it remains surprisingly alive. Why did Ralph Nader not see the light, and withdraw, so that we could have the beneficent (or at least benign) Gore, rather than the evil Bush? What crushing ego! What irresponsibility!

No, what arrogance on the part of those who say such things! Why is it that those of us who voted for Nader should be deprived of our right to vote for a candidate to our liking, so that a candidate not to our liking should win the election? Are we less worthy of democracy than other voters? Egotistical because we feel that neither Bore nor Gush represent our interests? Even if we are wrong, why do we have less of a right to vote than those in the "opposite party" (as if there could only be one)? Could it be because the "opposite party" is, in fact, not so very different, and thus much less of a threat than we? How Orwellian!

An idea: In a democracy, one should be allowed to freely vote. And candidates should be allowed to run for office, and to collect votes from people who believe as they.

Nicolas Clifford '82
Morristown, NJ 07960

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When I was an undergraduate, Mr. Nader was proudly acknowledged as a Princetonian for his work, among other things, with consumer protection. Unfortunately, his political legacy will be a quite different one. He will be remembered every time the "new Supreme Court" hands down an opinion. He will also be remembered each time a "new environmental policy" is promulgated. He is already being remembered as the latest "faith based initiatives" threaten the traditional and cherished separation of church and state.

Can Mr. Nader really believe that the Green Party will be any more successful than the Reform Party? In the interview (February 7) Mr. Nader stated that "it was not a campaign to defeat Al Gore." It might not have been, but that was the net effect. Far from being anything new in American politics, Ralph Nader and his followers remind me more of the "passionate" followers of Eugene McCarthy in 1968. They preferred to exult in their own smug self-righteousness and sat on their hands while Richard Nixon narrowly defeated Hubert Humphrey. We all know what followed thereafter.

Preston M. Wolin '73
Chicago, Ill.

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