Playing the “what if” game can never be done in a vacuum. If you want to reconsider Ralph Nader’s candidacy as a spoiler for Al Gore in 2000, you must also reconsider all the other factors that led to the actual results. Bear in mind the link above is from the California Green Party, so they are *wanting* to absolve Ralph Nader, but the link does point out many possibilities which could have changed such a close result. This doesn’t even get into the fact that only 70% of eligible people are registered to vote and somewhere between 50-60% of those registered actually vote in a presidential election.
This article from just before the 2004 election tries to support the notion that a vote for a third party candidate is a wasted vote and likely to “help the candidate most dissimilar to how you would vote”. It is a scare tactic to keep voters within the 2-party system….and it worked in 2004. Minor-party candidates received many fewer votes, dropping from a total of 3.5% in 2000 to approximately one percent in 2004. As in 2000, Ralph Nader finished in third place, but his total declined from 2.9 million to 400,000, leaving him with fewer votes than Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan had received in finishing fourth in 2000. The combined minor-party total in 2004 was the lowest since 1988. This is extremely short-sighted and doesn’t take into account the importance (historically) of third parties on shaping the political debate in the U.S.
It can be argued that the existence of the Libertarian Party led to the “smaller government” planks in the Republican platform during the Reagan and Bush Sr. days. The existence of the Reform Party led to the campaign finance and reform laws in the Clinton era. As icky as it is for me to say, the existence of the Socialist Party in the late 19th and early 20th centuries led to women’s suffrage, many of the labor laws we have, the 40-hour work week, and the progressive income tax. The existence of the “Bull Moose” Progressive Party switched the Republican Party from the progressive, reform party of Abe Lincoln into the dominant conservative party we have today and helped make popular vote primaries the dominant method of determining presidential candidates for the Republican Party.
I say all of this to help you challenge the numb-brained myths such as Ralph Nader’s influence on the 2000 election and that a third party vote is “a wasted vote”. Always vote your conscience, whether it be a major party candidate or minor. Your voice and opinion will be heard eventually either way.