Monday, February 25, 2008

Ralph is In

In what will likely not be well received to many Democrats, Ralph Nader has decided to run again for President.

Ralph Nader starts presidential bid

By Donna Smith Mon Feb 25, 12:08 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Consumer advocate Ralph Nader, blamed by many Democrats for their loss of the White House in the 2000 election, said on Sunday he is launching another independent campaign for the White House.

Nader, who will turn 74 this week, announced his longshot presidential bid on NBC's "Meet the Press" saying that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans were addressing problems facing Americans.

Nader called Washington "corporate occupied territory" that turns the government against the interests of the people. "In that context, I have decided to run for president," he said.

Democrats said they do not expect Nader, who also ran as an independent in 2004, to have much of an impact.

"When you get into running for your third or fourth time, I don't think people will pay that much attention to it, and I wouldn't see it having any effect on the race," Virginia Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine said on "Fox News Sunday."

In an interview with Reuters, Nader said he will push the candidates on a number of issues including health care and changing the tax system to shift the burden away from wage earners and put it on things like pollution, tobacco and "Wall Street speculation" and reduce taxes on wages.

Nader dismissed Democratic criticism of his latest bid for the White House.

"For anybody who thinks that the third try is something that should be demeaned, it represents persistence, it represents never giving up the struggle for justice," Nader said. "The forces of injustice never take a holiday."

Nader ran for president in 2000, when he got about 2.7 percent of the national vote as the Green Party candidate. Many Democrats blamed Nader for draining votes from Democrat Al Gore and tipping the election in favor of Republican George W. Bush. He also ran as an independent in 2004, but got only a tiny fraction of the vote.

Nader said he expects to do better this time and will work to get his name on the ballot in all 50 states.

Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee, appearing on CNN's "Late Edition," said he thought Nader could pull votes away from the Democratic nominee.

"Naturally Republicans would welcome his entry into the race and hope that maybe a few more will join in," Huckabee said.

Democratic candidates Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama criticized the independent candidate.

"That's really unfortunate. I remember when he did this before, it didn't turn out too well, for anyone, especially our country," she said. "I hope it's kind of a just a passing fancy that people won't take too seriously."

Obama, Clinton's rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, was asked on Saturday about a Nader candidacy. "My sense is that Mr. Nader is somebody who, if you don't listen and adopt all of his policies, thinks you're not substantive," he said.

(Additional reporting by Claudia Parsons, Jeff Mason and Nancy Waitz; Editing by David Wiessler)

(To read more about the U.S. political campaign, visit Reuters "Tales from the Trail: 2008" online at

I do not mean to sound insulting to Ralph Nader, or to most Democrats, but the fear that he will "win" the election for John McCain seems rather preposterous. Unless the election is decided by 0.1%, this is highly unlikely. Nader's national vote share decreased from 2.7% in 2000 to 0.3% in 2004 (and that after fighting the Democrats to get on most of the state ballots in '04). It seems even less likely that he will break the one-third of a percent vote this time, as most of those voters are likely Democrats who will not consider a vote for Nader in 2008, anymore than most of them did in 2004.

I include myself in this bunch, potentially. I voted for Nader in 2000 (out of my hatred for the rightward shift of the Clinton-Gore Presidency) and Kerry in 2004 (strictly to vote against Bush, as I found Kerry uninspiring). I am split and undecided on what to do for 2008. I cannot stomach the thought of voting for the same person who lobbied on behalf of the Welfare Reform Act, and if Senator Clinton receives the nomination I will have to consider not voting, or possibly wasting my vote for a third party candidate (and yes, dear third party people, it is a wasted vote because 1-2% in a majoritarian system is an electoral throwaway). I could at least envision myself voting for Barack Obama, if for no other reason than the Iraq war, but he has run an ambiguous campaign, and has refused to make the Iraq war the focus of his campaign's differences with Senator Clinton. Instead, I am treated to the offense of having to hear which candidate is for change and which one is about experience.

Every Presidential campaign comes down to this. We are constantly fed certain lines every four years, such as, "This is the most important election in the last [generation, ever, since World War Two, etc.]." "My opponent is for change for its own sake." "My experience will get the job done." "These times call for strong leadership." It is literally the political version of what athletes do in their interviews when talking about "taking it one game at a time," "we're all in this together," "we're a blue collar team," etc. This is why I have given up on watching television during the campaign season.

The worst part of campaigns, though, are the endless phone calls, to which I have received too many to remember them all. "Did you know that Barack Obama never voted against the Iraq war resolution?" "Did you know that Hillary Clinton supported Republican candidates for higher office after the beginning of her political career?" "Did you know my opponent worships the devil and eats little babies?" Well, OK, I sort of made up the last one. I will never understand why they call, as it makes me more determined not to vote for anyone. Maybe that is the idea. I am not sure.

As for the Nader candidacy, I think it is wrong for Democrats to worry too much. One, the 2000 Nader campaign was anomalous. It was the product of liberal frustration with eight years of a less-than-liberal Democratic Administration, something which is not at issue in 2008. Plus, in 2004, when a mediocre candidate, John Kerry, received the nomination, he easily swept up the 2000 Nader vote, even though Kerry voted in favor of the Iraq War resolution. A Republican White House, and right-wing authoritarian one at that, has done much to deter liberal voters from voting for a third party.

Secondly, even if Nader is a legitimate threat to a Democratic victory, as he was in 2000, the question has to be asked: How inept could the Democrats be to allow a consumer advocate with no money or party to threaten their chances to win a national election? How morally bereft do the Democrats have to be to lose leftist votes to lose to such a candidacy? These are questions that are never asked. We are always treated to lectures of why we should be loyal to a party that has been so disloyal to many of our ideas. Maybe if the Democratic Party did a better job of representing those interests, instead of raising money from corporations (who are merely hedging their bets to gain political access and protect their investments), or enacting laws like NAFTA, GATT, and the Welfare Reform Act, this would not be an issue.

Still, Ralph is going to lose, and he is going to receive a much smaller percentage of the vote than Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinich ever did in their primaries (funny how Paul's loyalty to the Republican Party is never an issue to his "progressive" supporters, who seem eerily silent these days). I do not want to tell him whether he should run, after defending the principle of third party candidacies, but if you have been a third party candidate on more than one occasion, and the only certainty is your downward vote trajectory, it might well serve a progressive to find someone else--a newer candidate, such as Cynthia McKinney, who is not only running for the Presidency for the first time, but doing so with the backing of a party.

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