Monday, February 25, 2008

Ralph Nader, again!

Perennial presidential candidate Ralph Nader is once again a candidate for, you guessed it, the presidency. Mr. Nader has run for president every election starting in 1992. His most notable run was in 2000 when the handful of votes he received may very well have been a factor (among others) that helped put George W. Bush in the White House.

Marc Cooper has these thoughts on Mr. Nader:
Nader's anti-corporate message should not be shrugged off nor should his commitment to raise all of the issues that make most politicians of both parties squirm. "You take that framework of people feeling locked out, shut out, marginalized, disrespected," he said in announcing his candidacy on Sunday. "You go from Iraq, to Palestine/Israel, from Enron to Wall Street, from Katrina to the bungling of the Bush administration, to the complicity of the Democrats in not stopping him on the war, stopping him on the tax cuts."

Great message, Ralph. But absolutely no strategy. Politics is all about perception, and the perception of Nader's first run, fairly or not, was that of a tragedy. His redux in 2004 was more of a farce. His run this time will be doomed to be pathetic. It will accomplish absolutely nothing except to diminish Nader's own towering record as a citizens' advocate and to marginalize the crucial issues he raises.

In 2000, running as a Green candidate, Nader scored less than 3% of the vote. He left behind no infrastructure, no organization, no network of any significance. All that marked his legacy was a mountain of bitterness and recrimination. Four years later, in the middle of the Bush catastrophe and with the Democrats fielding a candidate equally lame to Gore, Nader was able to attract a flyspeck .3% of the vote - a tenth of what he garnered in 2000.

What does Nader expect this time around? He has no funding, no party structure behind him, and no rational way of explaining of what he could possibly accomplish. More disturbing, he has no visible constituency. The overwhelming bulk of what might be called the Nader Vote has been swept into the vortex of the Obama campaign. Nader can make the argument, if he wishes, that Obama is just one more corporate sell-out but it is unlikely that the millions who have flocked to Obama are all of a sudden going to be jolted into an about face that because Nader will appear on the ballot.

Nader is far too smart a man to know that he has any chance of winning anything. What he, and whatever few supporters who will join him, will argue is that by running he will somehow force Obama - or Hillary if she wins the nomination--to move to the left. This is, of course, nonsense. All of the factors that contributed to Nader's dismal finish in 2004 are many times more potent this cycle. His candidacy will force nothing, except the voters to view Nader as some sort of bizarre spectacle. The competing candidates will see him as little more than a nuisance.

It doesn't have to be this way. Ralph Nader could play an essential and productive role between now and November without sacrificing neither his independence nor his principles. One could imagine a rolling, coast-to-coast chataqua over this coming summer during which Nader, precisely, would keep alive any and all of the issues neglected by the mainstream debate. It could be a role of great import and great dignity. Why Nader, instead, has chosen to further marginalize himself and his agenda is way beyond me.

4 comments:

Paul H said...

Sadly for him, RN is becoming more and more irrelavent. I expect him to have almost zero impact, but in a close race, 1% of the vote could tip a state and the entire electoral college one way or another. Another sad example of our outdated electoral system. Crisis leads to outrage and outrage leads to change. Maybe this is what it will take to replace the current system with something more democratic.

Tor Hershman said...

Good for Nadar, everyone else runnin' is just Hitler Dee or Hitler Dum.

Paul H., Something less unfair would be my idea of having State Reps be REAL state Reps, not a section of a state Reps.

You do this by having the top vote getters win the office the entire state.

It would make the vile rascals do some real work to keep total power and be less unfair but Americans, the builers of the world's most heavily armed empire, ain't interested in "Fairness."

Paul H said...

I have nothing against RN running for President. The more the merrier as far as I'm concened. I do have something against our absurd electoral system, which disenfranchises millions.

I'm not sure I get your point on state reps, but I would like to see districts fairly drawn to represent geographic areas instead of demographiic and political "swazilands" designed to determine the race and party of the winners BEFORE the election.

Comrade Kevin said...

As a reformer and consumer rights advocate he is top notch. As a politician, he is an utter failure.