February 24, 2008

Nader's Decision



So, Ralph Nader has decided to run for president yet again.

No, really. Should you care?

I just watched Tim Russert interviewing Nader on Meet the Press. Nader comes off as thinking that nobody but Nader would run the country correctly. He was affronted when Russert asked him to distinguish between the two candidates.

Here’s what I said about this in 2004.

I don’t think there is a reason to panic if Nader decides to run. Unless you can get a whole bunch of other people who weren’t planning to vote to panic, too. If Nader does whip people up into a panic, it may even get out the vote. At this time, things are too uncertain to know what effect we will be seeing. We don’t even have a nominee from the Democrats yet.

Kerry lost, but that’s because Kerry couldn’t bring the country together under his vision. Nader was largely irrelevant.

Today, I think we have the possibility of a candidate that could do what Kerry could not, one who is getting more enthusiasm from progressives than Gore got in 2000. That’s Obama. But if Senator Clinton is the nominee, I expect we would either see a repeat of 2000 or 2004. Hillary is already behind to McCain in early polls assuming she’s the nominee. Polls this far out aren’t predictive, they’re only a temperature reading of the feelings of the electorate. And the feeling seems to be that progressives just aren’t enthusiastic to get behind Hillary. Will they defect to Nader or just stay home?

Both Nader and the Republicans are hoping against hope that the Democrats send Hillary to represent their platform in the general election.

The Republicans want Hillary so they can use all that rhetoric they’ve been honing against Sen. Clinton for years. They work extremely efficiently to take advantage of past groundwork in mobilizing support. For evidence of this, look at the effect of a NYT story that was perceived as a hit piece against McCain. All the canards bout the liberal media were trotted out and brave Republicans suddenly flocked to McCain’s side. You could hear it on conservative radio, they turned on a dime. Multiply that by a few hundred thousand if Senator Clinton is the nominee.

Nader wants Hillary in there because he gets more camera time. He doesn’t want to have to compete for attention with a charismatic candidate. He feels he is the charismatic candidate of virtue. Hillary is more representative of what’s wrong with Washington, and she would provide a better backdrop for his message.

Nader would tell you that, no matter who is the nominee, the Democrats have the best shot at winning in a long time. And he figures that if they don’t win, it’s not his fault, it’s their own fault. Well, that’s one point of view. In 2000 we were naive. Today we ought to know better when we see Nader coming. Nader would also tell you that his presence is going to pull Hillary (or Barack) to the left and get the Democrats more progressive votes in the process. He actually thinks he can help the Democrats win, and be more progressive candidates, by running against them in the election.

I don’t buy it. Making the Democrats fight a war on two fronts does not make them stronger. It makes them preoccupied. Obama has the best chance at largely ignoring Nader; he’s run the most effective campaign and proven he can stick to a message whereas Clinton’s campaign has faltered, thrashed on messages and frayed to a shambles. And Nader would act as a further strain on her campaign. So this may be worse news as Hillary speeds toward the end of the primaries.

So, my take: Nader largely irrelevant vs. Obama vs. McCain. Nader disastrous vs. Clinton vs. McCain, if not in the votes he will get then in the strain he will put on her as the fight for alienated progressives. And this has made me increase my support for Obama.

Obama is not some progressive savior. He’s a motivated politician who has shown effectiveness in working with people in both parties, and he cares about a lot of the issues that worry me. He’s been able to get people excited and involved on those issues in a way that makes me think he’ll be an effective leader in unifying this country to reverse some of the damage of the last 7 years. Is Nader more progressive? I don’t doubt it. But as we approach the final election, Nader is the enemy of progress, in practical terms. The only way to ignore that is to be ignorant of the way our electoral system works, with years of evidence staring you in the face.

Posted by James at February 24, 2008 10:33 AM
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What really bugged me about that interview was that Russert incorrectly stated that this would be his third run for President and nobody corrected him. Does no one remember Nader ran in 1996 as well?

I don't really like the waffling of Nader in that he's running but he doesn't intend to win. It was the same way I felt about Kucinich this time around. If you're not actually running, don't run. I wouldn't mind if Nader said, "Look, I'm running and if the Democrats don't like it they should be more Progressive so guys like me don't run and folks don't vote for me." Instead he said, "I'm running but I promise it won't hurt the Democrats so don't be mad at me, okay?"

Which was just a layer-cake of bullshit.

Still, it's nice to know I'll have the option of voting for someone decent if Hillary wins the Democratic nomination.

Posted by: David Grenier at February 24, 2008 12:55 PM

I also think it's a little silly of him to claim there weren't any progressive choices when Kucinich ran. And didn't get much support.

So, who is going to have to convince Huckabee to run as an independent?

Posted by: James at February 24, 2008 2:52 PM

I was a huge fan of Nader back in the 1980s. After the 2000 election, he lost me.

If he really wants to get progressives out to vote in such a way that will make a real difference, he should work with the Democratic nominee (whoever that turns out to be).

In some ways, I think he's right to say that he won't cost the Democratic candidate that many votes (especially if its Clinton). People who would vote for him as an independent (or third party) candidate probably weren't going to vote anyway. ... Probably. However, does he really want to risk being a catalyst to another Republican presidency?

McCain attracts some centrist Democrats. If the Democrats do not close ranks around their nominee 110% after the convention, divisiveness on the left will hand the election to McCain.

Kucinich's run during the primaries put his issues on the table. However, when November rolls around, Democrats better have their priorities straight, or be fully prepared for the ultimate McCain presidency.

Posted by: Kitten Herder at February 24, 2008 6:04 PM

You know, I'll confess, I voted for the man in 2000. I considered it a "protest vote," not a "serious vote," or a "vote for somebody I actually think can run the country," but I knew it was a "safe vote" because I live in Massachusetts.

And he said one thing this morning that I semi-agree with, (I can't really justify the quotes, consider them pseudo-quotes) "if the Democrats lose the race because I'm in there, then it's their fault."

Yes, I agree. The Democrats need to stop sucking. But Obama doesn't suck, he's pretty darn good as far as policies. And I believe he could actually run a country, as opposed to Nader. So what I take away from that is more evidence that Nader would make a shitty president (yeah, I'm pissed that he's running) -- he can't compromise. His way or the highway. Hey, isn't that what the Republicans are like? &*&#%#()$*

Posted by: Maggie at February 24, 2008 8:54 PM

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