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Run, Ralph, Run!

Alex Hogan
Date Published: 
January 01, 0001

Ralph Nader is currently meeting with small groups of Greens and other supporters of his 2000 presidential campaign across the country to explore the possibilities of a 04 presidential bid. While many of his former supporters are encouraging him to once again throw his hat into the ring, others have been outspoken in their advice for him to sit this one out. Robert McChesney, a member of Nader's Citizen Works' Corporate Reform Commission and president of the professors' council of the US Campus Greens told the Nation, "Core elements of progressive constituencies, exactly the groups that the Greens need to build upon, will revolt with open contempt--far worse than 2000--to anything that helps keep Bush in office."

Another former supporter, Ronnie Dugger wrote last November, "These are the realities that tell us Bush must be beaten in 2004. Not only the nation, but the world, depends on it. If we divide our votes for President again between the Democratic nominee and Ralph Nader, we will very probably help elect Bush. Therefore, Nader should not run for President as a Green in 2004."

It is remarkable that many of his former supporters who had no problem supporting Ralph against Bush and Gore in 2000 are now using the excuse of the utterly reactionary nature of the Bush administration(surprise) to promote the cherished Democratic Party myth that Nader cost Gore the election. The "spoiler" legend has become the party's equivalent to the bogeyman in the closet meant to scare anyone whose wants to see political discourse and debate move beyond the two party system of far right and center right. It has also been an easy excuse for the Democrat's own failures to mount any kind of serious challenge to W despite the repeated opportunities they have had in the last four years.

As Nader says himself, he didn't cost Gore the election; Gore cost Gore the election. His utter passivity in the face of a judicial coup by the Republicans was disgraceful, despite his current playing at being the Democrats populist consciousness. Anyways, most of the exit polls at the time showed that only around half of Nader's votes came from Gore supporters, with the rest divided between Bush supporters and independents.

Of course, those arguing that this election is too important for Nader to run also assume that the election will be as close as it was in 2000. What would be more of a disaster than Nader splitting the Democratic vote, would be a repeat of 1984 and 1988 elections where a right moving centrist Democrat got creamed by a Republican wrapped in the flag and fear with no progressive voices ever making their way into the campaign. Will Dean (or Gephardt) be another Mondale or Dukakis, a symbol of Democratic Party impotency and irrelevance?

This election is too important for Nader and the Greens not to run. The Bush administration is dangerous to the future of the country and world. We can not afford another four years of it. Nader himself has made the point that if he did run, he would focus his fire almost exclusively at Bush. The reason for a Green campaign in 2004 is that the Democrats have shown repeatedly that they can not beat Bush and the Republicans on their own. In the waning days of the Gore campaign, the Vice President's last minute turn to populism in fear of the Nader challenge shot his numbers up the polls.

Despite his current Bush bashing and anti war rhetoric, Dean is not and never has been a progressive Democrat like Dennis Kucinich. If he is nominated, the pressure of corporate money, professional advisers and the Republicans which the Democrats always seem more responsive to than the pressure of their own constituencies will come down on him like a landslide. He will want to appear "reasonable" and "middle American" as defined by Karl Rove. And the more the Democrats play by the rules and stick with the level of discourse established by Republican pundits, the more apathy on the part of the American voter will raise their head.

The fear of a Nader "spoiler" campaign, while based on a slander, could very well act as a counter pressure on the Democrat who knows that they ignore or dismiss the Green Party and more importantly the issues concerning most progressives at their own risk and that they had better start both talking the talk, and walking the walk. Without Ralph, the pressure from the left will vanish.

I for one greatly hope that Bush Jr. will be moving back to Texas next November. So far however there has been nothing that has proved to me that the Democrats will be able to pull it off. American voters have been shown to be responsive to the politics of fear, which the Republicans are masters of and will use successfully in 2004. I believe however that Americans can also be responsive to politics of principal. If a candidate in 2004 can speak clearly in stripped down language to the American people about the nature of Bush's pay offs to the rich, the looting of Social Security, full time employed adults making less than seven dollars a hour, how the administration stuck us in a new Vietnam based on open lies, and the contradictions of a "jobless" economy than progressives might be able to strike a chord and go on the offensive in the electoral arena for the first time in decades.

Right now we can only count on a Green to do so and they will hopefully let the Democratic candidate know that they can not hope to beat Bush on a Republican lite platform.

If Dean plans on running a campaign of principal, then perhaps Nader will need to reconsider. But until then, I have little faith in having the Greens folding up shop into the "anybody but Bush" camp. The left has gone that route before. The Greens have shown that they are here to stay as shown by Matt Gonzalez's near victory in San Francisco. We need its independent progressive voice in the national arena in the all out fight to beat Bush. As Nader recently said at a meeting in Washington DC as his response to the Democratic Party, "is your candidate against Bush? Then you should go for it, the more the merrier." It is time for the Greens to join the fight and nominate Ralph in 2004.