In 2000, I voted for Nader. I didn't see a big difference between the Democrats and the Republicans. The Democrats had moved center, supporting NAFTA and lifetime caps for welfare. The Republicans were sure to be worse than the Democrats, but not by much. Or so it seemed.
Voting for Nader seemed like a good, long-term move. I dislike our two-party system, so I support third parties and independents in principle. For example, I've been known to vote Libertarian. In the long run, supporting a third party or an independent candidate can change the national conversation about important issues. The Abolitionist party, for example, never put a president in the White House, but they put the issue of abolition into the mainstream. Nader could theoretically put the issue of corporate welfare into the mainstream, though he hasn't succeeded so far. Neither the Democrats or the Republicans want an extended, frank debate about corporate welfare.
But what I hadn't counted on was 9/11. After the terrorists struck, it mattered a great deal who was calling the shots at the Oval Office. We never would have invaded Iraq if Gore had been elected. It's not like Gore would have established universal healthcare or brought peace to Palestine, but at least he wouldn't have invaded Iraq.
In fact, Gore probably would have invaded Afghanistan, just like Bush did. Only Gore wouldn't have a launched a second war. Maybe we'd have focused on Afghanistan and helped the Afghans establish a secure democracy. Instead Bush abandoned the fledgling government to handle the warlords and the Taliban mostly on its own. The Taliban is still active in southern Afghanistan because Bush invaded Iraq.
If Bush had been forthright about his intentions during the 2000 race, maybe I'd have voted for Gore. If he'd said that, given half a chance, he'd invade Iraq, I think I would have seen a bigger difference between him and Gore. But instead of telling us what he had in mind, he claimed that he was going to put an end to US troops being used for nation-building.
I happen to live in a state where Nader didn't draw enough votes off to give Bush the win. Gore got all of Washington's electoral votes. My voting for Nader didn't change the outcome. But if I lived in Florida, I'd be mortified.
This time around I'm voting for Kerry. He promotes the liberal values that have defined progress throughout the 20th century. Sometimes there's a really big difference between the Democrats and Republicans, and you never know when some president is going to be thrust into a conflict of historic proportions. Better safe than sorry.