The Intersection

Nader the Vote Raider

I don’t have much to add to Sheril’s recent post on Ralph Nader–and I certainly don’t have anything nearly as clever to put up here as the Forrest Gump picture (although I will add that unlike Nader, Forrest did eventually stop running).

I will say this, though. As someone who was working at a liberal magazine, The American Prospect, at the time of the 2000 election, I observed a peculiar phenomenon. The older folks at the magazine, who remembered Ralph Nader as a hero, seemed more inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. But the younger people like myself, who really only knew Nader as a spoiler, weren’t nearly so favorably disposed.

Now, eight years later, with Nader threatening to do it yet again, it is getting harder and harder to hold on to a generally positive view of the man based solely on his past achievements. You have to take into account what he has done since 2000 and weigh it pretty heavily too.

As a result, I think this guy has pretty much lost my generation. Which is pretty sad, when you consider that he’ll be lucky to get even 1 percent of the vote.

Comments

  1. #1 hardindr
    February 25, 2008

    I think it is wrong to consider Nader a spoiler because there were larger factors in the 2000 election that worked against Gore, mainly that the mainstream press HATED Gore with a passion (anyone who has read Bob Somerby’s Daily Howler knows this) and made up tons of shit about him (he said he “invented” the internet, discovered Love Canal, claimed he was the basis for Love Story, the Union Label Song, the dabate “sigh”, “earth tone” Al, etc). Another factor was that liberal writers (those that work for the Nation, American Prospect, TNR, Washington Monthly) choose not to stand up to mainstream media (probably because they want to go up the journalism food chain and work there one day for better pay) and shoot down these calumnies. It’s baffling that liberal writers today refuse to discuss this.

  2. #2 hardindr
    February 25, 2008

    Also, Nader is basically irrelevent now. With his presidential run in 2000, he had a chance (albiet a small one) to build a movement that could push the Democrats to the left and keep them honest, but he chose not to do that and his 2004 run was a disaster. In the end, Nader is a pretty tragic political figure.

  3. #3 ~C4Chaos
    February 25, 2008

    i agree with the first commenter.

    “I think it is wrong to consider Nader a spoiler because there were larger factors in the 2000 election that worked against Gore,”

    putting the blame on Nader (instead of the controversial election process) for what happened in the tragic 2000 election is worse the sour-graping. the man is just standing for what he believes in and practicing his civil liberties. give the guy a break 🙂

    i’m interested to see how Nader would make use of social media to make more noises and get attention. can Nader use social media better than John Edwards to get his issues on the table? could Nader shed light on scientific issues should he participate the Science Debate 2008? would Nader have a similar “Edwards Effect”? let’s wait and see.

    ~C

  4. #4 iRobot
    February 25, 2008

    Why should we give the guy a break when he was funded by the republicans in the 2004 election?

  5. #5 IanR
    February 25, 2008

    putting the blame on Nader (instead of the controversial election process) for what happened in the tragic 2000 election is worse the sour-graping. the man is just standing for what he believes in and practicing his civil liberties.

    The essence of Nader’s campaign was “vote for me because Gore is going to win anyway”. It’s to the eternal shame of the Green party that they picked a man with no interest in environmental issues over someone who actually has a real, solid record. But his run in 2004 – using Republican money and resources – confirmed what I had come to suspect earlier – he was just another millionaire doing what he could to ensure that he got “his” tax cut. Once upon a time he was a man of the left – but then, so were people like Richard Neuhaus and most of the neocons.

  6. #6 Dark Tent
    February 25, 2008

    “the younger people like myself, who really only knew Nader as a spoiler, weren’t nearly so favorably disposed.”

    Since when did losing become the responsibility of anyone other than the loser?

    I hate to say it, but Al Gore lost all on his lonesome, not least of all because he failed to mount any significant challenge to the Florida results. had he done so, the Nader result would have been essentially irrelevant.

    Gore simply rolled over and played dead for George Bush (or more specifically, for James Baker). Talk about pathetic. After that showing, Gore did not deserve to win, in my opinion. Do we really want people as President who give up so easily?

    Nader is called a “spoiler” because people like me actually respect him and vote for him (in the last two elections in my case) based on what he has actually done for this country, rather than simply based on what he promises to do.

    So don’t blame Nader, but blame those of us who voted for him!

    Our country is in the bad situation it is currently in largely as a result of a two-party system that gives us mediocre, corporate cow-towing candidates election after election after election.

    It’s a little like going to a restaurant where there are only two choices on the menu: beans and rice (of the Condoleeza brand, of course)

    Ralph Nader is a true American hero and if he wants to run for office, he should certainly be able to do so.

    It is the responsibility of those candidates he is running against to make their case to the voters like me.

    If they don’t get my vote, it ain’t the fault of people like nader who are actually offering a real alternative to the same old same old.

  7. #7 TTT
    February 25, 2008

    Nader has no appeal except to his fellow aging Boomers. I’m 30, and totally unimpressed by his Woodstock-era consumer activism; if he hadn’t invented the car seatbelt (or whatever), someone else would have. What has he done in the last two decades for any cause? Nothing. What has he done since 2000 other than run for President again? Nothing. What could make any open-eyed, non-nostalgic person ever even *consider* him suitable for an executive position, let alone the presidency? Nothing.

  8. #8 Rev Matt
    February 25, 2008

    To Gore’s credit he takes full responsibility for losing in 2000 and has dismissed claims that Nader was a spoiler.

  9. #9 Scott Belyea
    February 25, 2008

    and totally unimpressed by his Woodstock-era consumer activism; if he hadn’t invented the car seatbelt (or whatever), someone else would have.

    A remarkably silly statement, which could be repeated about any advance you chose to pick.

    In addition, it might be wise to actually learn a little bit before slagging someone so comprehensively.

    Your comment seems to support the saying, “Ah, the arrogance of the young…”

  10. #10 TTT
    February 25, 2008

    That dog don’t hunt, Scott. Arrogance is Nader doing nothing of consequence since the Ford Administration but still trying to coast on nostalgic goodwill. SEE ALSO: Joe Lieberman acting like his civil rights marches in the ’60s made his Iraq War votes immune to criticism.

  11. #11 Chris C. Mooney
    February 25, 2008

    I must say, I’m really shocked how many Naderites we have here on this blog. I think this really must say something generational–or sociological, or something…because I cannot even *begin* to understand their point of view. Seriously: It’s as alien to me as evangelical Christianity.

  12. #12 Scott Belyea
    February 25, 2008

    That dog don’t hunt, Scott.

    Not so. I have no patience with Nader’s recent activities, but those in no way diminish his genuine contributions.

    If you’re suggesting that his recent silliness somehow erases all that went before … well, that dog won’t hunt.

  13. #13 Scott Belyea
    February 25, 2008

    I must say, I’m really shocked how many Naderites we have here on this blog. I think this really must say something generational–or sociological, or something…because I cannot even *begin* to understand their point of view.

    Well, just in case that’s aimed in some small measure at me – whatever foolishness he’s indulged in recently should not diminish his genuine and significant contributions to automotive safety and other areas.

  14. #14 Jon Winsor
    February 25, 2008

    It’s worth noting that with the slimness of the margin in Florida, you could say the Natural Law party spoiled the election in 2000. Not to mention Katherine Harris.

    In 2000 Nader had my sympathies because I was disappointed that Gore didn’t do more about climate change under the Clinton administration. And he barely mentioned it during the 2000 election, if at all. So I was sympathetic to Nader’s run back then–not that I thought he could win, but that he would send a message that people were peeved at how spineless Gore/Clinton was.

    But Nader totally lost my sympathy in 2004, and he’s completely nuts in 2008.

  15. #15 ponderingfool
    February 25, 2008

    I must say, I’m really shocked how many Naderites we have here on this blog. I think this really must say something generational–or sociological, or something…because I cannot even *begin* to understand their point of view. Seriously: It’s as alien to me as evangelical Christianity.
    *************************************************
    To defend Nader’s right to run and to counter scapegoating his run in 2000 does not make one a Naderite it should be said. I did not vote for the man in 2000 nor 2004. The quick response by some Democrats on the web to his run is just petty. He got 0.38% of the popular vote in 2004. He got 2.7% in 2000. Eugene V. Debs, a Socialist, pulled a higher percentage running for president while in prison in 1920 (3.4%). To me Democrats getting upset by Nader just feeds the mindset that the former are whiners, without the backbone to lead. That is the critic of the Democratic Party both from the Left and the Right. Do you really see that many Republicans getting upset by the Libertarians pulling around 0.32%?

  16. #16 Sven DiMilo
    February 25, 2008

    Well, guess I count as “older,” as Nader was a real hero of mine in my formative years.
    But even ignoring his past, seeing him one-dimensionally as an evil “spoiler” seems very unfortunate to me. For one important reason:
    RALPH’S RIGHT! All “major candidates.” and one must include Gore in that category, are heavily in debt to the corporate status quo. Those of us who dwell in the lower-left quadrant of the political compass are unrepresented by anyone even running, now that Kucinich is out.
    You can decry “what Nader has done” by running as a third candidate and putatively splitting the Democratic vote, but he is the only true alternative for people like me who might feel compelled to vote their consciences, instead of holding the nose while choosing the lesser evil year after year because somehow a non-Constitutional two-party two-faces-of-the-same-coin system has become fossilized.
    And just by showing up, Nader gets a message out that “major candidates” don’t want people to hear. He’s all about not being hypocritical.

  17. #17 Dark Tent
    February 25, 2008

    Chris Mooney said: “It’s [support of Nader’s] as alien to me as evangelical Christianity.”

    Because both Nader and the Evangelicals fight for what they believe in?

    That’s an admirable trait, as far as I am concerned. But then again, I’m probably just old-fashioned. I was a child of the sixties. You know, back when it was cool to stick up for what you believe in.

  18. #18 TTT
    February 25, 2008

    Are there any two political figures who Naderites WON’T claim are “two sides of the same coin”? I could maybe kinda fathom Bush and Gore pre-2000, but…. McCain and Obama?! Nader is a member of the species Homo sapiens, just like McCain too!

  19. #19 Sven DiMilo
    February 25, 2008

    TTT, you’re ignorant.
    Look here to see just how “far apart” Obama and McClain are, on issues.

  20. #20 TTT
    February 25, 2008

    Golly, that’s REALLY compelling proof there–an anonymous hobbyist website that has had to shut down its feedback link! Pull the other one.

  21. #21 ChrisC
    February 25, 2008

    I live in a country where the voting system is preferential, so maybe I’m missing something. But _what_ has Ralph done wrong?

    He sticks his hand up and campaigns to be president. This is his leagal right as an American citizen. Every person in America who has voting rights also has the right to cast their ballot how they see fit. If I think Ralph is the best candidate for the job, why should I not cast my vote accordingly.

    If I was to suffer a brain hemorage and decided that friggin’ Lyndon LaRouche is clearly the only one for the job, then it is my right to vote accordinly. Perhaps if people were willing to do this, then we wouldn’t be stuck with two political parties who, more or less, are differentiated only in details.

    Ralph’s biggest crime here seems to be that he refuses to play by the rules set by the two party system, and having a little intergrity. When he talks about change, unlike Obama, he actually means what he says and has the track record to prove it. He certainly doesn’t force people to vote for him.

    I’m a 23 year old with US citizenship, living abroad, and I will be voting for Nader. Not because I think it’ll make a difference, not because I think he’ll win, but simply to add my voice to the admittedly small minority who say to the GOP and the democrats that neither can count on my vote , and I’ll cast it for the best candidate. If they want my vote, they can bloody well earn it.

  22. #22 Chris C. Mooney
    February 25, 2008

    these responses continue to be shocking.

    that’s really all I can say.

  23. #23 daenku32
    February 25, 2008

    George W Bush said it best:
    “fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.”

    But, Nader and the 3rd parties running nicely show the problem with electoral college. It’s not that they shouldn’t run, just that their running screws with the EC votes. No reason a candidate should be able to win with less than 50% of popular vote.

    Of course, I live in Indiana so my vote for president doesn’t count anyways. I doubt this state will elect a black president for one, a Democrat for another. If you are in a “swing” state however, I absolutely hope you vote for the Democratic candidate and not for Nader.

  24. #24 Jon Winsor
    February 25, 2008

    these responses continue to be shocking.

    Why? I’m also glad Ron Paul is running. I disagree with him completely on tons of issues and I think he’s a market fundamentalist. But he stirs things up, in a good way.

    Same with Ralph Nader. (In the 2000 election anyway–in 2004 he jumped the shark.)

    BTW, I think Nader’s 2000 election run anticipated the populist style of the 2008 campaign.

  25. #25 SLC
    February 25, 2008

    For those morons who supported Nader in 2000, I have only one comment. Ginsburg and Breyer vs Roberts and Alito. Anybody who thinks that the first pair has anything in common with the second pair is either ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked (but I don’t want to consider that). Apologies to Richard Dawkins.

  26. #26 Sven DiMIlo
    February 25, 2008

    SLC, the “morons” are the people who voted for Bush.
    In 2000 his campaign was all about “bringing Democrats and Republicans together.” He was lying. In 2004 he was lying agaion, but nobody had any excuse for not knowing it. Damn near half of Americans voted for him anyway. Those, sir, are the “morons.”
    For all his Nobel-winning activism in recent years, in 2000 Al Gore ran as a standard-issue corporate Democrat, much like Clinton this year. He (and now she) said nothing that might have even the slightest chance of rocking the oligarchical boat. Barely a word on the environment. It polled low as an issue, don’t you know. So yeah, I preferred him to Bush, but he impressed me not at all, and I voted for Nader to help send a message (and also because I voted in Oklahoma, where a vote for a Democrat is just as wasted a vote as one for a Green).
    In 2004 Ralph went a bit over the top, and I was voting in a potential swing-State, so I held my nose and voted for Kerry, as bland and doomed a candidate as I have ever seen.

    If you think that Republocratic politics is the way to go in solving our very serious environmental problems, then rock on with raising money for Obama, Clinton and/or McCain. If you think it might be nice to have an actual choice someday, then somebody needs to start doing some pushing in that direction now. Nader has chosen to do such pushing, not “for his ego” but because nobody else is doing it. I guess I’ll probably vote for the Democratic pod again, but I’m damn glad that Nader is standing up.

    As for Supreme Court justices, I wonder who a President Nader would have nominated?

  27. #27 SLC
    February 25, 2008

    Re Sven DiMilo

    “As for Supreme Court justices, I wonder who a President Nader would have nominated?”

    A statement as stupid as this merits no response. However, I agree with Mr. DiMilo that a vote for Nader in Oklahoma, Utah, or Texas was probably defensible as Gore had no chance to carry those states. However, a vote for Nader in Florida or New Hampshire was irresponsibility of the first order and the people in those latter states who voted for Nader are entirely responsible for Roberts and Alito who will be damaging the US long after the adventure in Iraq is a distant memory. To repeat, the jerks who voted for Nader in Florida and New Hampshire are either ignorant, stupid, insane, or wicked.

  28. #28 Craig Pennington
    February 25, 2008

    I live in a country where the voting system is preferential, so maybe I’m missing something. But _what_ has Ralph done wrong?

    Good old “No Difference” Nader has my contempt. Not for his 2000 run, which merely annoyed me. I considered the Supreme Court a sufficient difference to prefer the Democratic candidate to W in 2000, but could see how Nader and his followers might feel otherwise. No, I hold him in contempt for his Republican supported 2004 run and again for this run. A war of choice in Iraq, the denial Habeas Corpus, enhanced interrogation techniques, warrantless surveillance, politicized use of “terror alerts,” the politicized DOJ, the politicized NOAA — these are big fucking differences. It was obvious by 2004.

    And finally Nader’s complete and utter rejection of the possibility that his 2000 run might have had any hand, however unintentional, in bringing my country the worst administration in it’s history is what really clinches it for me. An honest “If I’d have only known…” or “There really was a difference…” sometime between 2000 and 2004 might have gone a long way with me.

    But not after he’s taken Republican support for his run in 2004. There are very few politicians for whom I wouldn’t sign a petition to get them on the ballot. As of 2004, “No Difference” Nader is one. He has every right to run — but he has no right to be free of my vocal opposition thereto.

  29. #29 Jon Winsor
    February 25, 2008

    For those morons who supported Nader in 2000…

    Personally, I blame everything that’s happened over the past seven years on John Hagelin.

    [/snark]

    In previous years, if the Dems had run campaigns half as substantial as the top three Dems ran them this year, then I bet they would have won in 2000 and 2004. (BTW, they have John Edwards’ participation to thank for this, whom Nader said he would not run against if Edwards were the nominee–because Edwards’ message made his redundant. Again, not that I approve of Nader running…)

  30. #30 Dark Tent
    February 25, 2008

    SLC said “For those morons who supported Nader in 2000,…”

    I forgot to mention that I lived in an overwhelmingly Democratic state when I voted for Nader, so it made absolutely no difference as far as the final result was concerned.

    But I probably would have voted the same even if I thought it would have made a difference.

    As I said, Gore lost on his own.

    But I am one of those people that SLC considers a “moron” because I vote for the person who I believe will be best for ALL Americans — including “ordinary” ones like myself.

    Quite frankly, I am shocked that many people have so little respect for our democratic system that they apparently believe that people like Nader (Ross Perot, John Anderson and others) with alternative viewpoints (to the Democrats and Republicans) should just stay out of the mix entirely.

    Finally, I find it quite interesting that people who don’t like Nader usually choose to attack him as a “spoiler” rather than address his ideas.

  31. #31 Chris C. Mooney
    February 25, 2008

    Look folks, it is rare that I hear so much special pleading from my own intellectual compatriots.

    Mathematically Nader cannot really do anything but hurt the Democrats, given our current system. To me, everything else is basically irrelevant.

  32. #32 Jon Winsor
    February 25, 2008

    Mathematically Nader cannot really do anything but hurt the Democrats, given our current system.

    Math has its place, but so does policy. If you have a party where everyone who’s not Republican Lite gets triangulated, eventually you’re going to get a correction. (I think the correction has been happening since Howard Dean, and Ralph Nader doesn’t get it.)

  33. #33 ngong
    February 26, 2008

    Nader has no appeal except to his fellow aging Boomers. I’m 30, and totally unimpressed by his Woodstock-era consumer activism; if he hadn’t invented the car seatbelt (or whatever), someone else would have. What has he done in the last two decades for any cause? Nothing. What has he done since 2000 other than run for President again? Nothing.

    Nader also seems irrelevant when you spend a fair amount of time in the developing/third world, where people have far bigger worries than the ingest-ability of plastic toys.

    To me, it’s weird how some normally science-oriented bloggers seem unwilling to even consider the mathematics of the situation (Gore lost it solely because of his own lousy campaign, blah, blah, blah).

  34. #34 Badger3k
    February 26, 2008

    Aside from appealing to 30-odd year old laurels, what are Nader’s points? What does he stand for? Calling the two parties both tolls of corporations, then taking Republican money to run is somehow clean? The money was laundered through the GOP, so Nader is blameless. He’s a guilty as the rest. I guess hypocrisy is to be lauded when it’s from a loon.

  35. #35 Wes Rolley
    February 26, 2008

    Well, here is one Green Party member who has tried to write an objective commentary on Nader’s candidacy. I followed that by some additional comments on Green Commons today about the manner in which it was received. The press coverage is something that Chris be willing to criticize, because it frequently showed that the reporter / editor had already decided what the story line was without regard to what he actually said. Without regard for what he actually said or did, the message was the same. I think he recognizes that the world has changed, has made some adjustments, but no one is listening.

    The rest of some of the comments above just show that many consider politics to be No Country for Old Men.

  36. #36 Anna Haynes
    February 26, 2008

    From Feb 2004, an analysis by Lessig of whether Ralph Nader bears responsibility for Bush’s election, using Nader’s [earlier] reasoning.
    Short answer: yes. (“‘responsibility’ is placed upon the person in the best, or cheapest, position to avoid a foreseeable harm. …”)

  37. #37 Dark Tent
    February 26, 2008

    “Mathematically Nader cannot really do anything but hurt the Democrats, given our current system. To me, everything else is basically irrelevant.”

    If Nader gets other candidates to talk about important issues that they would otherwise ignore, isn’t he contributing something of value? (ie, not just “hurting Democrats”)

    It is precisely because a significant number of voters take him seriously that the Democratic candidate can not ignore him without risking turning away some people like me.

    The assumption that some seem to make is that people like myself who voted for Nader would automatically have voted for Gore had Nader not been running. That’s a faulty assumption.

    Gore didn’t get my vote not because Nader took it away, but because Gore failed to adequately address one critical issue that Nader was addressing: the undue influence of corporations (and money in general) on our so-called “democracy”.

    I happen to believe (as Nader does) that such influence is eating away at the very foundation of our government. John Edwards has addressed the issue (which is why Nader endorsed him) but none of the other candidates has really done so. Neither party is willing to do so because they both benefit immensely from corporate largess.

    If people like Nader are not bringing these issues up, then who will?

    Certainly not candidates like Hillary Clinton.

  38. #38 Chris O'Neill
    February 26, 2008

    I think it is wrong to consider Nader a spoiler because there were larger factors in the 2000 election that worked against Gore, mainly that the mainstream press HATED Gore with a passion

    Yes, and two wrongs make a right.

  39. #39 Science Avenger
    February 26, 2008

    Being an insurance actuary and only in my 40’s, I have nothing whatever nice to say about Nadar, having never seen him take an information-based stand on anything (if you know what Prop 103 means…).

    Nonetheless, what he really has shown over the last 8 years is how fucked up the American political system is. Who in their right mind would design a system wherein the only way a 1-20% candidate can exercise his rights is to cause the 40+% candidate most like him to lose?

    We need another constitutional convention, badly.

  40. #40 ngong
    February 26, 2008

    We need another constitutional convention, badly.

    I’d be content with seeing Pat Robertson enter the fray.

    Does anybody wish to argue that Robertson would be siphoning roughly equal numbers of votes from Obama/Clinton and McCain?

  41. #41 AdrianJC
    February 26, 2008

    “Mathematically Nader cannot really do anything but hurt the Democrats, given our current system. To me, everything else is basically irrelevant.”

    Does mathematics make logic irrelevant, too?

    If Nader is redundant (i.e. represents no new issues that the Democrats already represent) then he cannot hurt the Democrats. Die hard Naderites (voting only because he is Nader) will not vote for the Democrats regardless of his participation.

    Therefore, if Nader’s participation does end up hurting the Democrats, then Nader must be representing an issue that appeals greatly to some voters who would otherwise have voted Democrat. Also, for Nader to disproportionately hurt Democrats more than Republicans, it must be an issue that appeals more to those inclined toward Democrats rather than Republicans, i.e. the Democrats stand to gain more voters by adopting the issue than if Republicans were to.

    Turns out Nader runs pretty much a single issue campaign, so there is only one issue that could possibly hurt the Democrats by refusing to adopt it.

    If there is an issue that the Democrats do not want to adopt, it must be because it will cost them more votes than it would gain. (e.g. the anti-corporation Naderite stance would threaten much needed corporate-related backing to finance crucial advertising in the final months running up to November)

    According to correspondent inference theory, people will infer that Nader deciding to run implies that his intention is to hurt the Democrats. However, the only way for this to be true is if there is some truth to his single-issue campaign — the influence of large corporations matters more than which party eventually wins.

    So, regardless of the intentions of Nader and his fellow Naderites: to hurt Democrats, to support his ego, or to highlight an altruistic issue; acknowledging that he has any effect at all is an admission that the Democrats will be pandering to corporate interests if they win.

  42. #42 ngong
    February 26, 2008

    Adrian…in 2000, all that needed to happen to see a Gore presidency was a Nader speech in which he urged his supporters to side with Gore. Instead, we get Nader’s tedious dogma that Bush and Gore were/are clones. It’s simplistic, but it’s possible to frame this in terms of one man’s deluded ego instead of the rational decisions of the masses and/or the behind-the-scenes dealmakers.

  43. #43 Craig Pennington
    February 26, 2008

    AdrianJC wrote:

    the influence of large corporations matters more than which party eventually wins.

    And this was exactly Nader’s position in his Republican supported run in 2004 and again now, which is why I hold him in contempt. I agree that corporate influence matters and is worth fighting — but I fundamentally disagree that it matters more than the makeup of the Supreme Court, Iraq, “enhanced interrogation techniques” and the rule of law, neutered federal regulatory agencies (if you think the CPSC under a Democratic Administration would be no better than the current one then you are delusional, IMNSHO) and an administration that treats the executive branch not as a branch of government of which it has been given temporary custody by the people but as an arm of the party. These are huge fucking differences between the parties that have a real influence on the lives of people right now. Nader harms the country in a very real way.

  44. #44 ponderingfool
    February 26, 2008

    I will say this, though. As someone who was working at a liberal magazine, The American Prospect, at the time of the 2000 election, I observed a peculiar phenomenon. The older folks at the magazine, who remembered Ralph Nader as a hero, seemed more inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. But the younger people like myself, who really only knew Nader as a spoiler, weren’t nearly so favorably disposed.
    ****************************************

    Isn’t this anecdote counter to the actual demographics of the Nader voters?

    Of the youth vote in 2000, Nader got 5% compared to his 2.7% overall.
    http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2000/results/index.epolls.html

    Nader also picked up support of those that did not identify as Protestant/Catholic/Jewish (the other or none regarding religion, 7% & 7%).

    In 2004 Nader was down in pretty much all categories. The age demographic for Nader shifted to the 30-44.
    http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2004/pages/results/states/US/P/00/epolls.0.html

  45. #45 daenku32
    February 26, 2008

    Nader harms the country in a very real way.
    Again, blame the electoral college system. Not the idealist.

  46. #46 Alan B.
    February 26, 2008

    There was a time in my youth (way back when there was such a species as “moderate Republican”) when the claim “there’s no difference between the candidates” could hold up. Anybody who tries to make it now just ain’t paying attention. The American political system almost assures a 2-party system (except for those special occasions like when we are on the brink of a civil war) and any 3rd party candidate is, by definition, a spoiler. If a politician wants to “send a message” he can do so in the primaries.

  47. #47 Dark Tent
    February 26, 2008

    “If a politician wants to “send a message” he can do so in the primaries.”

    While that is all well and good in principle, it means almost nothing practice.

    Let’s face it, other candidates just don’t take you (or your positions) seriously unless you represent a significant threat to their chances of winning.

    Gore was well aware that many people might vote for Nader, but rather than trying to address the issue (corporate influence) that drove many of them to do so, Gore and his supporters simply whined childishly about what a “spoiler” Nader was.

    And this made some fence-sitters more (not less) likely to vote for Nader because in ignoring Nader’s issues, Gore was essentially saying to potential Nader voters “I don’t care what he says and i don’t care what you think.”

  48. #48 Jon Winsor
    February 26, 2008

    I happen to believe (as Nader does) that such influence is eating away at the very foundation of our government.

    You don’t have to go out to the fringe to hear people say this is happening. TNR’s Jon Chait doesn’t lean that far left. He supported the war in Iraq, and he has a strong fiscal conservative streak. But he wrote a pretty shrill book about the lock that moneyed interests have on politics in recent history. See also, Robert Reich’s latest book.

  49. #49 Sven DiMIlo
    February 26, 2008

    given our current system

    You can have it.
    Which is, see, the freakin POINT.

    AdrianJC makes some excellent points, I think.

    “Get the message out in the primaries”? Uh huh. Like, for example, Dennis Kucinich? I have a great deal of respect for the guy, but you can easily see how seriously he is taken when people and the media have decided ahead of time that he can’t win.
    Should Nader pretend to run, then in an October Surprise, urge his supporters to vote instead for the Democratic lesser evil? That would be cynical and hypocritical. What people seem to understand least about Nader is that he is all about NOT being hypocritical.
    Look, I’m not an idiot (nor, SLC, a “moron”)(bite me, by the way); I hate Bush as much as the next commenter, I am appalled and sickened by this “war,” the erosion of civil liberty angers me, I despair daily about the environmental mess me and my peers and forebears have bequeathed to my daughter, etc., and I have NO DOUBT AT ALL that I would have been happier with a Gore presidency and probably also with a (yawn) Kerry presidency.
    But–again–Ralph’s right. The Democrats are just as beholden to corporate oligarchy as the Republicans. Maybe slightly different corporations to slightly different degrees, and obviously not so in-yer-freakin-face blatantly, but their self interest is still to retain the Holy Profit Motive as the nation’s Prime Policy Directive. That’s what Nader is talking about, and he’s right.
    And now I’ll shut up on the subject.

  50. #50 Nomen Nescio
    February 26, 2008

    The assumption that some seem to make is that people like myself who voted for Nader would automatically have voted for Gore had Nader not been running. That’s a faulty assumption.

    seconded.

    this notion that any third party candidate can “hurt” either of the major parties seems to me to rest on an implicit assumption that every vote rightfully belongs to either the democrats or the republicans, and any other parties are somehow illicitly poaching on their betters’ territory. that, to me, is an idea truly worthy of contempt, yet without it there seems to be no even remotely sensible reason to object to Nader or anybody else running as a third-party candidate.

    certainly, if Gore had managed to convince even a small fraction of republican voters to vote for him instead, then Nader’s few percentage points would have been wholly irrelevant. yet nobody seems to complain that Bush was a “spoiler” for Gore! assuming out of hand that Nader voters “should have” voted for Gore (by what right?) is arrogant and conceited.

  51. #51 Dark tent
    February 26, 2008

    “You don’t have to go out to the fringe to hear people say this is happening.”

    I don’t believe Nader is the fringe — at least not on the issue of corporate influence and at least not when it comes to the public — though he may indeed be the fringe when it comes to mainstream politicians.

    Does anyone really belive that our current politicians represent the “American People”, like Nancy Pelosi loves to call everyone not in our government.

    I would guess that most Americans like me resent the fact that our politicians are being bought by the highest corporate bidder.

    They resent that billions are going to idiotic foreign misadventures to benefit companies like Haliburton rather than being spent on schools and roads.

    They resent that the richest Americans are getting the vast majority of the tax breaks.

    I’d have to say most of our politicians (including most Democrats in Congress) are closer to the fringe (with respect to most Americans) when it comes the issue of corporate influence.

    They have a vested interest in perpetuating the current corrupt system because their very job depends on it.

    This system will never change from within and it therefore falls on people like Nader to try to change it from the outside.

    I’m sure people said the same thing about nader back when he was fighting for vehicle safety: “The guy is a fringe rabble rouser. A nut.”

    Well, sometimes the nuts are the really sane ones.

    Finally, who really believes that Nader does this stuff to feed his ego? Give me a break. The guy has accomplished more in his lifetime than most people dream of. He certainly doesn’t need to feed his ego and he does not need to put up with the crap — being shut out of debates, called a “spoiler” and worse and all the rest.

  52. #52 TTT
    February 26, 2008

    Reading Nader fans talk about corporate power is like reading right-wingers talk about environmental protection laws. Environmental problems don’t matter enough to justify governmental action, of any kind; political issues don’t matter enough to justify electing corporate-supported politicians, of any kind.

  53. #53 Craig Pennington
    February 26, 2008

    Nader harms the country in a very real way.

    Again, blame the electoral college system. Not the idealist.

    Not being bound by the limits imposed by the current system on casting my vote for US President, I can cast blame in the direction of both Nader and the Electoral College. Blame is not atomic.

  54. #54 Craig Pennington
    February 26, 2008

    The Democrats are just as beholden to corporate oligarchy as the Republicans. Maybe slightly different corporations to slightly different degrees, and obviously not so in-yer-freakin-face blatantly, but their self interest is still to retain the Holy Profit Motive as the nation’s Prime Policy Directive. That’s what Nader is talking about, and he’s right.

    And he feels that making that point is more important than the differences between the Democratic and Republican parties on the Supreme Court, Iraq, the rule of law et cetera. I thought he was wrong in 2000, but it is his Republican supported 2004 run is what really peeved me to the point that I will refuse to sign a petition to get him on the ballot.

    And now I’ll shut up on the subject.

    Likewise.

  55. #55 Jon Winsor
    February 26, 2008

    If you want to read what this is about, look at this 2002 American Prospect dialog with Mark Penn (among others). How is something like climate change ever supposed to be addressed with Penn’s kind of “split the baby” strategy? And here’s the “where are they now” file.

    Again, I think campaign strategists like Joe Trippi (Howard Dean and John Edwards’ campaign manager) changed the way the game was played. Small donors over the Internet makes it so that you don’t have to walk on eggshells in front of corporate donors. It turns populism turns into a plus instead of a minus. Things changed drastically in 2004.

  56. #56 Lance
    February 28, 2008

    I agree whole heartedly with Nomen Nescio when he says

    this notion that any third party candidate can “hurt” either of the major parties seems to me to rest on an implicit assumption that every vote rightfully belongs to either the democrats or the republicans, and any other parties are somehow illicitly poaching on their betters’ territory. that, to me, is an idea truly worthy of contempt, yet without it there seems to be no even remotely sensible reason to object to Nader or anybody else running as a third-party candidate.

    This indeed shows the extent to which two party group think has infected American electoral politics. Reinforced by the mass media and embraced, for obvious reasons, by the two major parties this counter-productive status quo has condemned us to a binary plutocracy.

    I site the lack of discussion of “super delegates” in regard to the anointing of either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton as evidence that those screaming loudly about undemocratic principles are really only partisan players grumbling about somebody not playing their rigged game.

    I share Nomen Nescio’s contempt for these posturing whiners.

  57. #57 Sven DiMilo
    February 28, 2008

    ‘K I said I’d shut up but I can agree with someone who hasn’t:
    http://palimpsest.typepad.com/frogsandravens/2007/12/still-not-getti.html#more

  58. #58 Libertarian Girl
    February 28, 2008

    I used to be of the “Blame Nader” camp, but I’m not any more. Al Gore simply needed to be a better candidate. He was not as good as he could have been, and if he had been better Nader wouldn’t have gotten the votes he did. He didn’t even win his own state.

    I’m not sure exactly what happened in regards to Nader in 2004, but Kerry was an even worse candidate than Gore. The Dems need to put up some good candidates in order to win these races, it’s as simple as that. Kerry even had some Republicans supporting him that year out of protest, and he still couldn’t pull it off.

  59. #59 Dark Tent
    February 29, 2008

    The Dems need to put up some good candidates in order to win these races, it’s as simple as that.Kerry even had some Republicans supporting him that year out of protest, and he still couldn’t pull it off.”

    I wonder if Kerry even managed to get his own vote in 2004.

    If he did, I’m sure he waged a real battle at the polling place: “I voted against myself before I voted for myself…”

  60. #60 Jon Winsor
    March 1, 2008

    The Nation has a good article on the new Democratic strategy and politics following Howard Dean:

    Dean has remained fastidiously neutral and low-key in this presidential cycle. Yet a number of his top supporters believe the Clinton-Obama contest has become a referendum on the kind of grassroots party building and citizen empowerment Dean pioneered as a presidential candidate and continued as DNC chair. On that issue most Deaniacs, not surprisingly, side with Obama. “Ever since the TV era began in 1960, every single presidential campaign in America has been top-down,” says Joe Trippi, Dean’s ’04 campaign guru and an adviser to John Edwards before he dropped out of the race. “Only two have been bottom-up. One was Dean. The other is Obama.”

    …Howard Dean and Bill Clinton were both pragmatic, moderate governors of rural states who shared an affinity for balanced budgets and free trade. But ever since Dean became a presidential candidate, his relationship with the Clintons has been rocky. His campaign was a striking repudiation of Clintonian centrism…

    …Hillary’s candidacy represents the polar opposite of what Dean built as a candidate and party chair: her campaign is dominated by an inner circle of top strategists, with little room for grassroots input; it hasn’t adapted well to new Internet tools like Facebook and MySpace; it tends to raise big contributions from a small group of high rollers rather than from large numbers of small donors; and it is less inclined to expand the base of the party.

    …In contrast to Clinton’s campaign, Obama’s–with its hundreds of thousands of small donors, Internet buzz and red-state appeal–reflects to a great extent the realization of Dean’s ideals.

    …The net effect is Obama’s large base of small donors, who are enthusiastic supporters he can tap again and again. Ninety percent of the $28 million he raised online in January, for example, came in donations of $100 or less.

    Before Dean and Trippi’s populism, Nader was the only place to go to oppose the “centrist,” eggshell-walking, corporate-support-garnering, anti-activist DNC.

  61. #61 Jon Winsor
    March 1, 2008

    …anti-activist DNC.

    Sorry, should be “anti-activist DLC.

  62. #62 Jon Winsor
    March 9, 2008

    Just in case someone’s still reading, here’s Matt Bai of the NYT:

    It’s worth remembering that all the things Mr. Nader talked about as he paced in front of the TV back in 2000 — corporate dominance, the working poor, etc. — have become central tenets of the Democratic argument. John Edwards made these the core themes of his campaign, and Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama have adapted them as well; witness the fight right now in Ohio over who can put the most daylight between himself and NAFTA, an argument that would have been unthinkable eight years ago.

    Ralph Nader wasn’t the most persuasive advocate for these issues, but he was the first candidate of the post-Clinton era to give them voice, and one can draw a direct line from Mr. Nader’s 2000 campaign (complete with packed arenas and Eddie Vedder) to Howard Dean’s 2004 insurgency and then to Mr. Edwards and this year’s Democratic field. Whatever one thinks of Mr. Nader, his legacy as a candidate can’t simply be reduced to helping Bush ascend to the presidency. He also helped incubate the liberal discontent that now, to a large extent, permeates the Democratic Party.

    …When Mr Nader said this week that he would run again because the other candidates still wouldn’t talk about universal health care or special interests, it was clear that he hadn’t really been paying attention; in fact, it sometimes seems that all the Democratic candidates do talk about is universal healthcare and special interests. It was Mr. Nader who started pushing the party in that direction eight years ago, and for that he probably deserves some credit.

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