Heading into the 2004 general election, those are perhaps the two most dreaded words in liberal/progressive political circles. In the 2000 general election, Ralph Nader's performance in certain states like Florida and New Hampshire tilted the electoral balance in favor of George W. Bush. In other words, though Nader backers (especially in those states) largely deny it, had Ralph Nader not run for President as the candidate of the Green Party in 2000, Al Gore would have been easily elected President.
From reading the transcript of the 'Meet the Press' appearance, I still can't really gather exactly why Ralph is running. His platform seems to be the same as that of Dennis Kucinich, which is not really surprising, though it's curious why he doesn't then endorse Kucinich. The general thrust of the Nader argument centers around this statement: "the corporate government remains in Washington, whether it's Democrats or Republicans" elected to the Presidency. What I find interesting is the fact that he does not seem to acknowledge that if this is in fact true, then it also wouldn't matter if an independent was elected to the White House. Using Nader's own logic, the independent would be worse off, as there would be no party-line support in the Congress for an independent President to stand up to corporate interests. In essence, it sounds like Nader is making the argument that people just shouldn't bother voting.
Backing off slightly from his old line that Democrats and Republicans are no different, Nader ranks the Democratic Party with a D+ and the GOP with a D-. He also had some kind words to say about John Edwards, something I've been pointing out for the better part of the last year. I'm not exactly sure what Nader meant, but he compared Edwards to "an expanding accordion" when matched up against Bush, who he said "is really a giant corporation in the White House masquerading as a human being." (I think the 'expanding accordion' analogy has to do with Edward's broad-based appeal as a populist.) When Russert pressed Nader as to whether he'd eventually drop out of the race to endorse the Democrat, he refused to rule it out.
I'll be following Nader and his candidacy in the coming months. I think it's much too early to denounce Nader, though I'm certainly not happy he's running. If he holds true to his pledge to campaign against Bush and for himself rather than against everyone but himself, he could in fact help the Democrats by doing some of their dirty work. I'm thinking here of the impact that Michael Moore's 'deserter' comments about Bush have had on the political landscape in the last few weeks.
That said, Ralph Nader would be much more of an asset to progressives if he would endorse and campaign for the Democratic nominee in the lead up to November. Here's hoping it's not too late for that to occur.
PS - You've got to wonder what kind of impact this is going to have on the remaining Democratic primaries. If Democrats think there's a greater chance that Nader would drop out of the race if Edwards is the nominee, wouldn't at least some of them be more inclined to vote for Edwards over Kerry?
posted by Scott |