Nader: Pros and cons

As one might expect, the Internet is somewhat abuzz over Ralph Nader’s recent presidential announcements. The latest two articles to hit my inbox capture a bit of the debate.

Pro:

Although it’s not always clear why candidates such as John Anderson, Ross Perot or, this year, Ralph Nader run for president with no chance of being elected, it clearly is their right to do so.

If the Democratic and Republican parties do not adequately emphasize the positions these candidates feel strongly about and they legally follow the process to get their names on the ballot, then voters will have added perspectives from which to choose.

It may be argued that a candidate is running due only to a narcissistic megalomaniac inclination, but the same argument can be made for the GOP and Democratic candidates.

There is no plausible argument as to why Nader should or shouldn’t run, other than a partisan groan (Democrats) or partisan hurray (Republicans) as the prevailing thought is that Nader will take votes from the Democratic candidate.

Con:


There was a time when Ralph Nader was relevant to a generation of consumers and good-government zealots. He made many of us think differently about corporate America and the victimization of the buying public. But Ralph Nader is no longer relevant to anything or anybody. So naturally he decided to run for president of the United States—again.

This is the fourth consecutive time he’s done it, each with exponentially diminishing response from the electorate. The last time he was on the ballot in only 34 states. This time, with even later entry into the race and a wider yawn factor, he’ll be lucky to be on 25 state ballots.

Mr. Nader is ruining his reputation and credibility. He already is widely blamed for Al Gore’s loss to George W. Bush in the 1999 Florida balloting, where he siphoned off 95,000 votes.[...]

Some electronic media are even pondering who Mr. Nader might select as his vice presidential running mate. Frankly, most people don’t care—and they shouldn’t.

11 Responses to “Nader: Pros and cons”

  1. BillTX Says:

    I agree with the “Con”.

    Go away, Saint Ralph.

    McKinney ‘08!!

  2. David Gaines Says:

    That was a rather lukewarm “pro” article. I would recommend the Los Angeles Times’ recent editorial or Rosemarie Jackowski’s piece in Dissident Voice for far more substantive support of Ralph’s campaign. Both are linked to from votenader.org.

    I went to see Ralph Nader and Matt Gonzalez last night at their campaign kickoff and was not only surprised but impressed. The audience, made up mostly of George Washington University students, was as well, and clearly demonstrated that. Any thought that Nader is doing this for his ego (what ego, anyway?) – any more than any other presidential candidate does, that is – was simply not even present in the room. It was very interesting watching these young students, most of whom were likely seeing/hearing the man for the first time.

    The one lone anti-Nader protester was someone who appeared to be a student who walked through the auditorium after it was all over with a small sign that said “Not Again” on one side and “Got Gore?” on the other. Four years ago he would have been joined by quite a few other people and would have been a lot braver (go watch Nader’s speech at Harvard in October 2004; it’s archived at Harvard’s Institute of Politics website…..talk about a hostile audience). But I couldn’t help noticing that this time he was the one who looked ridiculous.

    There is something going on with the Nader campaign this year that wasn’t present in 2004 and I’m glad I caught a whiff of it last night.

  3. David Gaines Says:

    Regarding the “con” article, this person (and where is this piece from, anyway?) doesn’t even get his or her facts straight. “This is the fourth consecutive time he’s done it, each with exponentially diminishing response from the electorate.” A quick look at the World Almanac would clue this person into the rather well-known fact that Nader substantially increased his vote from about 600,000 in 1996 to 2.7 million in 2000. In 1996 he simply let the Green Party use his name and was not a full-out candidate. This person also seems to be unaware of the massive attacks on Nader’s ballot access at the hands of the Democratic Party (which I experienced firsthand here in Virginia), which was a major contributing factor to his being denied ballot spots in several states.

    “Mr. Nader is ruining his reputation and credibility.” Amongst whom? Political bigots like this person? Leaving aside the fact that Nader himself has made the issue of his alleged reputation irrelevant by declaring publically numerous times that he doesn’t care (of course, this person is unaware of that because I’m quite sure he or she has never actually heard or seen Ralph Nader), I’m not so sure other people care so much, either. A woman called into C-SPAN while Ralph was on this morning and identified herself as a Hillary Clinton Democrat. I was surprised to hear her continue to say that, if HC doesn’t win the nomination, this woman and her friends are going to vote for Nader. Whoa. Is there something going on out there with the DP grassroots? I don’t know, but it’s possible. We’ll see. And, sadly, these people aren’t turning to the Green Party as their alternative.

    My sense is that people who find out about it, hear about it, and read about it – people who aren’t political partisans, that is – are sick and tired of the backlash and venom against Ralph Nader, and equally sick and tired of how broken our politics is and how obvious it is becoming that neither major party is going to do anything about it. Sadly, it doesn’t look like the Green Party is going to be ABLE to do anything about it at the national level.

    By the way, Ralph has nothing but praise for Cynthia McKinney as a candidate. Would that her supporters would be as charitable in the other direction. And the hint he leaked out last night that his campaign will be morphing into a new political party was quite interesting and is only going to add to its appeal. I, for one, dislike independent, non-party affiliated presidential campaigns because they’re one-night stands that never leave anything lasting behind (McCarthy ‘76, Anderson ‘80, Perot ‘92). But I think Ralph Nader may have finally caught on that he needs to engage in party building.

  4. steve conn Says:

    The problems and issues which Nader lays out on votenader.org are what the candidates want off of the table. Nader is the messenger and that is why he will have a hard time finding space in the media.

  5. Jim Paprocki Says:

    I find the author’s use of the phrase ”siphoned off” votes to be personally offensive. This notion that only Democrats or Republicans are significant in elections runs contrary to our democratic process. If you believe in the democratic process, then you believe each American has the right to choose the best candidate.

    I supported Mr. Nader in 2000 because he best represented my hopes and aspirations for our nation. I do not regret that decision. The conventional wisdom that Ralph Nader is responsible for George W. Bush is utter nonsense. When Jeb Bush and Katharine Harris systematically excluded African Americans from voting in Florida, there was silence from the Democratic Party. We know today that 250,000 registered Democrats in Florida voted for George W. Bush. It is far easier to blame Ralph Nader than to take full responsibility for your own actions.

    The Democratic candidates are not speaking on the need for a living wage, single-payer health coverage, election reform, an immediate end to the Iraq war, extensive corporate influence, or a number of other significant issues. Americans should have the opportunity to vote for a candidate who raises these issues.

  6. paulie Says:

    Not a Nader fan (see his realchange.org file), but the canard that he cost the Democrats the election in 2000 is getting way tiresome.

    If Gore had won his alleged home state of Tennessee, he would have been president.

    If Gore, or any other Democrat in the senate, had stood up in the aftermath to contest the Florida results, he probably would have been president.

    I saw the summary of one study that indicated that, far from “taking” votes that Gore had not earned away from him, Nader caused more people to end up voting at all – who in the end decided to vote for Gore due
    to “lesser evil” calculations – than he caused people who otherwise would have voted for Gore to vote for him. In other words, he actually helped Gore come closer to winning than he otherwise would have.

    The only party that steals votes is the one that uses Banana Republic tactics to keep competition off the ballot.

    In 04 and 08, with a separate Green Party candidate on the ballot, there is even less cause for Democrats Against Democracy to bitch and whine that he is taking “their” votes away.

    Speaking of Democrats Against Democracy, anyone want to help me start it up as a faux-serious group? Republicans Against the Republic would be good too. Hopefully, Libertarians Against Liberty will not become necessary.

  7. Jonathan Cymberknopf Says:

    The Con is a myth perpetuated by the media. Go Nader !

    Nader has been consistent his whole life. He is a fighter !!

    How many times did Abraham Lincoln run for Government office and failed before being President?

  8. paulie Says:

    Not enough.

  9. Phil Sawyer Says:

    David Gaines wrote: By the way, Ralph has nothing but praise for Cynthia McKinney as a candidate. Would that her supporters would be as charitable in the other direction. And the hint he leaked out last night that his campaign will be morphing into a new political party was quite interesting and is only going to add to its appeal. I, for one, dislike independent, non-party affiliated presidential campaigns because they’re one-night stands that never leave anything lasting behind (McCarthy ‘76, Anderson ‘80, Perot ‘92). But I think Ralph Nader may have finally caught on that he needs to engage in party building.

    Phil Sawyer responds:

    David, you are incorrect.

    First of all, the Committee for a Constitutional Presidency/McCarthy ‘76 continued well beyond the 1976 election. In addition, at the national convention of electors (for McCarthy) in Madison, Wisconsin; a new “continuing party organization” was born. It was called the Progressive Coordinating Council.

    Secondly, the National Unity Campaign for John B. Anderson and Patrick Lucy later on morphed into the National Unity Party (that began in 1983).

    Thirdly, the independent campaign for Ross Perot and James Stockdale later developed into two, different, continuing organizations: United We Stand America; and the Reform Party of America.

  10. David Gaines Says:

    {{ First of all, the Committee for a Constitutional Presidency/McCarthy ‘76 continued well beyond the 1976 election. }}

    So what? I said “lasting.” This organization never had much influence at all and I don’t think it even exists any more.

    {{ Secondly, the National Unity Campaign for John B. Anderson and Patrick Lucy later on morphed into the National Unity Party (that began in 1983). }}

    And also went nowhere and no longer exists.

    {{ Thirdly, the independent campaign for Ross Perot and James Stockdale later developed into two, different, continuing organizations: United We Stand America; and the Reform Party of America. }}

    I don’t think I need to point out to anyone who reads Third Party Watch the sad and rather pathetic history of the Reform Party.

    Look, all of these examples resemble, at best, what happened to Henry Wallace’s Progressive Party (or Teddy Roosevelt’s Progressive Party, for that matter). None of them were lasting. Say what you will about the Socialist Party and the Green Party – they qualify as “lasting.” The various independent campaigns for president have essentially been personality-driven and do NOT leave long lasting, influential movements behind. That only happens when you methodically and intelligently set about creating a political party.

    Imagine what would have happened if the group that created the Republican Party in 1856 had, instead, backed John Fremont as an independent candidate that year. No Abraham Lincoln elected president in 1860, folks.

  11. Phil Sawyer Says:

    CCP/McCarthy ‘76 had a tremendous impact on progressive change for ballot access (as did the American Independent Party of George Wallace in 1968).

    The National Unity ticket of John B. Anderson and Patrick Lucy also greatly influenced ballot access laws for the better. The National Unity Party lasted at least until 1992 or 1993 and it was no fault of the Party that more people did not join.

    United We Stand America and the Reform Party of America both had a great impact on ballot access laws and such timely issues as the national debt, the national deficit, the campaign against NAFTA, etc.

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