Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Ok. I did it a few posts ago but I’m going to do it again in a different, and hopefully better, way. I hope this will prove cathartic. That’s why I’m writing it, anyway.

Ralph Nader (or anyone to the left of the Democratic party, including people like Dennis Kucinich) should run for president outside the party IF
-- the goal is to build another party and
-- the goal is to pull the Democrats away from their “me too” addiction and
-- the goal is to address issues which need to be, but aren’t being addressed and
-- the goal is to call attention to the structure of the political system and
-- there appears to be some chance that any or all of the above goals can be accomplished in any way and couldn’t be otherwise.

In the 2000 election, all of those goals were part of the Nader candidacy and all seemed reasonable. The Greens DID get a higher profile (and not just in a bad way), many Dems WERE pulled away from me-tooism (witness the Dean, Sharpton, and Kucinich campaigns as well as the recent rhetoric from Clark, Kerry, and Edwards as well as the late stages of Gore’s 2000 campaign and pretty much all of his public pronouncements since). The Nader campaign DID raise the profile of several key issues, including the environment, citizen apathy, “special interest” corruption, media bias, the “two Americas”, and the rigged nature of the presidential campaign.

Had Nader not run, some people who voted for him may have held their noses and voted for Gore. I wouldn’t have, but some would have. That may have allowed Gore to win outright (Need I mention that he did win the popular vote? Nader was the only candidate who addressed the vile anachronism that is the Electoral College). Of course, had Nader not run, Gore may not have gone “populist”, and therefore may not have pulled as many votes as he did (Need I mention Gore’s excuse for a debate, in which he agreed with Dubyah on almost all points? Need I go into the continuity between Bush 1, Clinton, and Bush 2? Need I address Gore’s voting record as a Senator?).

Nader (and his supporters, including this droid) DID underestimate Dubyah’s potential as a force for badness. Dubyah has certainly been worse than I expected him to be (I figured him to be more or less like his father) and this has pointed a blazing arrow at the few measurable differences that do exist between the Dems and Repubs. The one that concerns me most at the moment (and concerned me in 2000, but not enough) is Federal judgeships. The high profile things Dubyah has done, however (such as the Patriot Act and the two wars) are not fair things to pin on the 2000 election, since the mainstream Democrats have by and large supported them. Gore may have done some of these things a bit differently, but it is largely a question of tactics rather than strategy.

Which brings me to why Nader, at least, should NOT be running for president this time:
-- He will not be doing anything to build a viable alternative party, and may even set the cause back a few years.
-- In part because he doesn’t appear to represent much of a movement, he will be virtually ignored by the media (except insofar as he can be portrayed as a spoiler) and by the Democratic nominee (probably Kerry).
-- This means that any issues that he might try to bring up will go nowhere and his strongest card (the rigging of the system against alternative parties) can’t be played.
-- His candidacy this time may actually strengthen the DNC types, who will likely argue that any drift to the left will only encourage Nader voters.
-- His candidacy will pretty much destroy his well-earned reputation as a clear-eyed critic of the system, as it appears he is running a vanity campaign. This is a loss to the country and the world.
-- Not only is there no chance that he’ll win (given the system) and his lack of a party, there is really nothing tangible he can hope to achieve except piss some people off and draw a few voters (probably very few) away from Kerry (or whoever) and Dubyah. He MAY manage to persuade a few people who might not otherwise vote at all to do so, and this MAY have an impact in other races, but that’s about it.

Considering all of the above, one thing jumps out at me: Nader could have (and should have) thrown early and vigorous support to Dennis Kucinich, who has long said the same basic things as Nader AND had an outside chance at making a difference in the campaign. Had Kucinich gotten a bit more attention, he might have done better in the primaries, and that might well have shaken things up in precisely the way Nader claims he wants to. But we will never know.

I find this all very troubling. I cannot imagine what he must be thinking. I can’t figure out why anyone would support his running under these circumstances.

And this wasn’t as cathartic as I had hoped it would be. In fact it just puts me in more of a funk.


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