Admittedly, I am one of those evil commie-pinkos who voted for Ralph back in 2000. This was in large because of my hatred for the Clinton Administration's right-wing policies, like the Welfare Reform Act, NAFTA and GATT (sensitive issues for me because of my family's union background and the fact most all of them have lost their jobs in traditional industries in the last decade on account of trade liberalization and globalization), the Defense of Marriage Act, his crime and terrorism acts (which vastly expanded the reach of local and federal law enforcement, not to mention helped construct jails for the mass imprisonment of future generations of targeted minorities), the carpet bombings of Iraq, Bosnia, Kosovo, the Sudan, Pakistan, etc.
Gore's pro-NAFTA debate with Ross Perot was really the last straw for me. This is one of the reasons why I cringe at the sight of him winning an Academy Award about global warming. One of the leading causes of increased CO2 emissions has been free trade, and yet there is no mention during An Inconvenient Truth of how the WTO can force countries to eliminate their environmental laws if another member state (at the behest of corporate interests) claims such acts are discriminatory. This is also the same man who when he was in Congress was an anti-abortion, anti-gun control, anti-obscene rock lyrics, pro-war (voting in favor of the first Gulf War), anti-Sandinista conservative Democrat. In fact, when Gore was in Congress his environmental record was virtually non-existent. It was not until he ran for President that he decided to care about things like women's choice and climate change. It was this insincerity, along with his defense of Clinton's policies, which instilled in me a deep seated dislike for the DLC and just about everyone in the Democratic Party that defended these policies. In that context, voting for Ralph Nader was easy. I even reveled at the thought of Al Gore losing the election because of it.
The Bush Administration has been a hard pill to swallow, however. As much as I disliked Gore, even I have to admit that he probably would not have committed many of the missteps and crimes that the current officeholder has inflicted upon our body politic. That circumspection basically caused me to hold my nose and vote for John Kerry in 2004, a candidate I found almost as odious as Gore/Clinton (and a man who spent his entire political career rationalizing his previous liberal views). It is a vote I do not regret--such was my desire to see George Bush thrown out of office. In hindsight, I had underestimated the second Bush as being more of a moderate (i.e., "compassionate") Republican (not entirely unlike his father).
This time around, it is likely to be Hillary Clinton vs. John McCain. As candidates, they share many similarities. Both oppose tax cuts, oppose a Constitutional Amendment banning gay marriage, support the President's path towards citizenship for immigrants (flawed though it is), favor the death penalty, free trade, and a foreign policy based on turning non-nuclear Third World countries into ash pits (although it is hard to top McCain for overall chauvinism). About the only differences between them that I can detect are on abortion and maybe healthcare. Those are important differences, to be sure, but when I think of all of the steel workers and automobile assembly workers in my family who have lost their jobs in the last decade, in part because of policies passed during the Clinton Administration (and the fact the current candidate Clinton waits until she's running for President to critique these trade laws [she sure did not seem to think much about labor concessions and rights during the NAFTA debate]), I cannot be enthusiastic about her candidacy.
It amazes me even more than labor unions are campaigning for Clinton, knowing her history and the history of her husband (a man who campaigned as a pro-labor supporter of a striker replacement bill in 1992, only to quickly desert it to spend over a hundred hours personally lobbying Democratic members of Congress to pass NAFTA in the first year of his Presidency). I suppose they are hoping against hope that she will one day recognize that they still exist. I would not be waiting, if I were them. On the other hand, at least they are not delusional enough to think Ron Paul or Mike Huckabee will repeal the Taft-Hartley Act.
I would like to vote for Barack Obama. He opposed the Iraq War, still opposes it, and supports a timetable for brining the troops home. This is a marked improvement over the Arizona Senator, who wants to keep a military presence in Iraq for the next hundred years. It also makes more sense to me than someone who claimed the only reason they ever voted for and supported the invasion and occupation of Iraq to begin with was because the likes of George Bush tricked them into it. That is experience for you.
The problem with Barack Obama is his campaign offers very little in terms of substance. The change cliche has been around for decades (I remember when a certain Governor of Arkansas made it his campaign theme back in 1992). As far as I can ascertain, and it is not easy looking up his views, Barack Obama is non-committal on attacking Iran, has rhetorically asserted the right, even necessity, for the US to unilaterally attack and invade Pakistan, and has unknown views on issues important to labor unions (like trade concessions or even that old striker replacement bill that has been kicking around since the Truman Administration). This is hardly inspirational, and is only more tolerable than Clinton because he at least opposes the Iraq war (and has since the beginning).
So, should Nader run? I have previously looked at other campaigns (including the Greens and even the Socialist Equity Party), so it would be wrong for me to judge Ralph negatively. At this point, I am still undecided, but there is no one left in the Democratic field I want to vote for in my upcoming primary--unless Mike Gravel is still on the ballot (or alive for that matter). Kucinich's dropout was a terrible disappointment.
Sometimes I wonder why I even bother with this party. It is ironic that the Constitution was written almost as if it was a premonition of the two-party state, even though the framers were so vocal in their opposition to the formation of parties. Maybe at some level I feel since I am a political scientist and make my living in the field, and preach the virtue and necessity for political activism in my classes, I obligate myself to support the system and give it my vote (even when I know it will have no influence on those in office).