Back in the early 2000s heyday of the anti-globalization movement, the Nader campaign urged voters not to choose among the "Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum" of Al Gore and George Bush.
Both were corporate globalists, military interventionists and expansionists, and bought and controlled by the mega-donor class. They offered only cosmetic differences on social and cultural "hot button" issues to distract voters from their utter sameness on the truly important issues affecting the economy and the government.
As a volunteer for the Nader campaign on an uber-liberal college campus, most of the resistance I met was from the liberals for Gore. "Gore and Bush are the same? Ummm, what about ABORTION." "Ummm, what about THE ENVIRONMENT." "Ummm, what about RACISM." Bla bla bla.
They didn't care that the Clintons, and a potential Gore successor, were strangling Iraqi civilians back into the Stone Age with sanctions (and that was before the Iraq War). In response to the estimated 500,000 children's deaths caused by the sanctions, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told 60 Minutes in 1996 that "We think the price is worth it."
Worth what? To discredit and humiliate Saddam Hussein -- who as a secular nationalist was a better force for stability, peace, and moderate rule than the Islamic whackjobs who the United States would end up causing to come into power throughout the region.
With that as the consensus among the Democrat Establishment -- along with the enthusiasm for NAFTA, repeal of Glass-Steagall, and so on and so forth -- there was no reason to assume that Gore would have been any better than Bush on the major issues. He would only be throwing non-conservatives a handful of breadcrumbs about environmentalism.
You might as well vote for Nader in order to make visible the rising opposition to corporate globalization, rather than cast a vote for Gore that would be indistinguishable from an endorsement for NAFTA, the Iraqi sanctions and no-fly zones, and the rest of the Clintonite agenda.
In 2016, the situation has been reversed. Now the two major parties are offering polar opposite candidates on the major issues, with Trump representing populism and anti-globalization, and Crooked Hillary standing for corporate elitism and globalism. On the social and cultural hot-button topics, they are actually closer to each other since both are moderates, albeit one more to the right and the other more to the left. Gun control is the only culture war topic where they do not overlap, and where they have boasted about their stance during the campaign.
This time, the voters who are normally apathetic about choosing one variation or another on the theme of corporate globalization and endless pointless wars, suddenly have a real choice from a major party. If ethnic identity politics had not hindered the Bernie movement in the primaries, there would be two candidates offering a breath of fresh air on the major issues.
These are the people who have not voted much, if at all, for the past 10 to 20 years. There was no real choice, so why bother? Now there is a real choice, so where do we sign up?
In opposition to this trend is the sudden apathy among people who were regular voters over the past 10 to 20 years, who now find themselves with unappealing choices. They say that both are equally horrendous, that she's a corrupt liar and he's a narcissistic sociopath (who gave up his wealth and brand appeal in order to stick up for the forgotten little people). I don't think they mean what they say, they're just fumbling for a rationalization to articulate their gut-level distaste for the two main choices.
But when there is such variety separating the two, how can these voters be claiming that they're equally bad? They are the inversion of the major issues voters, seeking cosplay candidates who will play a certain role, cultivate a certain persona, and put on a certain performance while in office. They evaluate primarily on how "presidential" the candidate acts.
Clinton could not be a more wooden, phony, and terrible actress. And Trump could not be more breaking-the-fourth-wall. With neither choice putting on a West Wing-worthy performance, the "neither of the above" voters of 2016 will be looking elsewhere or staying home.
At first they were parking their vote with Gary Johnson, none of whose policies they knew about or shared if they did. He was wacky, and in such an absurd world -- judging by the presidentiality metric -- why not go absurd all the way?
But the summertime fling of uncommitted voting is done, and Johnson's polling has declined from over 10% to around 5%. The serious ones who want more of the status quo are going to Clinton, those who are unimpressed by the status quo are going to Trump, with the unserious voters resigning to stay home.
The other third party choice is Jill Stein, but by now the Trump platform overlaps 80% with hers -- and that which the Bernie activists tried to get into the Democrat platform, before getting crushed by the Clinton machine in committee. The only differences are climate change and gun control. Stein has endorsed Trump over Clinton in the two-way race, mostly due to their stances on globalist trade deals and especially war-mongering in the Middle East and against nuclear Russia.
The Green Party platform of the 21st century is primarily about populism and non-interventionism, which has made them strange bedfellows with the Trump movement. All of the good open-minded people on Twitter are at least tolerant of both Trump and Jill, while utterly despising Crooked Hillary, and kinda-just-meh about Johnson.
Who knows, maybe future historians will describe the Nader and Stein campaigns as initial disruptions that ultimately broke off the progressive populists from the old Democrats and into the new Republicans. They would be like the Dixiecrat and George Wallace movements that portended the loss of the "Solid South" to the Republicans, albeit over a different set of issues.
Toward that end, it would work wonders for Trump to make some appointments on the advice of Stein, Nader, Tulsi Gabbard, and even Bernie "deal with the Devil" Sanders. Not relating to climate change or gun control, but trust-busting, weakening Wall Street banks, ending the revolving door between lobbyists and politicians, and the like.
They and people they know have spent endless time and energy looking into who is bad and who is good, so they would know the right people to appoint -- more so than the typical Republican advising Trump, aside from a handful of populists like Jeff Sessions. Trump is all about hiring the best person for the job, and figuring out who knows who the best person for the job is.
It would also be worth it to see Michael Moore crying impotently as Ralph Nader and Bernie Sanders wind up campaigning for President Trump's re-election in 2020.
Hey, Eugene McCarthy endorsed Ronald Reagan in 1980 -- who says it can't happen again?