I know a lot of people hold grudges against Ralph Nader for Al Gore’s defeat in 2000, and I’m not going to deny he played some role. But so, too, did Gore himself. So, too, did Katherine Harris. So, too, did the Supreme Court.
I don’t want to rehash 2000, though. Let’s turn the page, as Barack Obama says.
This year, it’s really unlikely that Nader is going to have any impact on the outcome of the race whatsoever.
In 2000, he got 2.7 percent of the vote. In 2004, he got one-tenth that. And I doubt he’ll even hit that low-water mark this time around. He’ll barely be an asterisk in the almanac.
But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a right to run. And it doesn’t mean he can’t possibly do some good by running.
One function he could play is to point out how undemocratic our two party system is, how rigged it is against third party or independent challengers. He’s doing that already.
Another, even more important function, is to raise issues that no other candidate is raising, and he’s started to do that, too. It is salutary to call Obama on his support for the bloated Pentagon budget, or his reluctance to lead on the issue of Israel and Palestine, or his failure to embrace single-payer health care.
To be sure, the rationale for Nader running this time is not nearly as great as it was in 2000, when he held out the promise of actually building a third party, the Greens. But he seems to have lost interest in that.
So when it’s over this time, an institutional base won’t be there.
Nor is he building a progressive movement. To the extent that there is anything like a progressive movement going on right now, it is foursquare behind Obama.
For Nader’s sake, I do worry that he risks making a fool of himself and tarnishing his legacy. But as he said in the great documentary An Unreasonable Man: “My legacy? Are they going to turn around and rip out seat belts?”
Ralph Nader is perhaps the most counter-suggestive man in America. He won’t be dissuaded from his lonely course.
But there’s no reason to abuse him for it if you’re an Obama supporter.
I barely know anyone who has voted for Nader in the past who will vote for him this time.
And hardly any of the tiny few who may vote for Nader would otherwise go to the Democrats in the fall, anyway. They’d vote for Cynthia McKinney or some other third party candidate, or they would write someone in, or they wouldn’t vote for anyone for President. That’s their right, too.
One of the nice things about working at The Progressive is that the staff here is so talented and creative and activist-oriented.
Off the clock, two or three are poets, one edits a short story publication, one is writing a book on nonviolence, another is working on a child care book, one does community radio, one plays guitar, yet another works to improve race relations in Madison, another coaches girls’ volleyball, and just about everyone gets to a protest now and then.
But our art director, Nick Jehlen, has been especially active as of late. He’s been very involved with Iraq Veterans Against the War and helped prepare the group for its Winter Soldier testimony about U.S. atrocities in Iraq. We offer the accounts of two Winter Soldiers this issue. Theirs is testimony that must be heard.