Ralph Nader Will Run For President Again But Faces Different Political Landscape
Onetime iconic consumer advocate Ralph Nader has announced yet another run for the White House — but past-campaign political hubris plus a loss of a big chunk of his previous voting constituency is unlikely to make him a major factor. Even so: his presence in the race threatens to siphon some votes away from the Democratic Party’s 2008 nominee.
Several factors have converted Nader from a onetime-youthful consumer advocate, idolized on college campuses, to what he is today: the modern Harold Stassen whose philosophy, resentment towards both major parties and apparent love of the national political spotlight probably means he’ll run again until his aging legs can’t carry him. The news reports give you some of the story and his prospects — but not all of it.
Ralph Nader said Sunday he will run for president as a third-party candidate, criticizing the top White House contenders as too close to big business and pledging to repeat a bid that will “shift the power from the few to the many.”
Nader, 73, said most people are disenchanted with the Democratic and Republican parties due to a prolonged Iraq war and a shaky economy. The consumer advocate also blamed tax and other corporate-friendly policies under the Bush administration that he said have left many lower- and middle-class people in debt.
“You take that framework of people feeling locked out, shut out, marginalized and disrespected,” he said. “You go from Iraq, to Palestine to Israel, from Enron to Wall Street, from Katrina to the bumbling of the Bush administration, to the complicity of the Democrats in not stopping him on the war, stopping him on the tax cuts.”
“In that context, I have decided to run for president,” Nader told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Nader also criticized Republican candidate John McCain and Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton for failing to support full Medicare for all or cracking down on Pentagon waste and a “bloated military budget. He blamed that on corporate lobbyists and special interests, which he said dominate Washington, D.C., and pledged in his third-party campaign to accept donations only from individuals.
The AP story also noted that Republican former Gov. Mike Huckabee said that GOPers will welcome Nader into the race, since he draws votes away from Democrats.
Consumer advocate Ralph Nader said on Sunday that he is launching another long shot independent campaign for president of the United States.
Nader, who will turn 74 this week, announced his presidential bid on NBC’s “Meet the Press” saying that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are addressing the problems facing Americans.
Nader also ran for president in 2000 when he got about 2.7 percent of the national vote as the Green Party candidate and played a role in deciding the final presidential outcome. He also ran as an independent in 2004 and got only a tiny fraction of the vote.
Many Democrats blame Nader’s participation in the close race between Democrat Al Gore and Republican George Bush in 2000 for tipping the election in favor of Bush. They believe that but for Nader’s name on the ballot in Florida, Gore would have been the clear winner and president today instead of Bush.
Nader called Washington “corporate occupied territory” that turns the government against the interest of its own people.
The MSNBC video of Nader’s announcement is HERE.
The Chicago Tribune’s The Swamp says times have changed — but that Nader could indeed play a role:
The days of a third-party candidate claiming a large share of the American vote — such as the nearly 20 percent that H. Ross Perot won in 1992, playing a role that many Republicans will never forget — may be gone.
Yet, with elections contested on the margins in many states — from Iowa to Wisconsin, and from New Hampshire to Florida in recent years — any active third-party candidacy could have an impact on the Electoral College balance.
And already this year, sizable numbers of people have voiced discontent with the leading candidates — discontent manifested in the campaign of Republican Ron Paul, for instance. So the question looms this year: Might Nader play the spoiler once more?
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports that current Democratic party primary front-runner Senator Barack Obama professes not to be concerned:
Barack Obama said today during a visit at the Ohio State University Medical Center that he wasn’t terribly concerned about the prospect of a Nader campaign. “I think the job of the Democratic Party is to be so compelling that a few percentage [points] of the vote going to another candidate is not going to make any difference.”
An email to supporters from Nader’s presidential exploratory committee ticked off a list of issues that have been “pulled off the table by the corporatized political machines in this momentous election year,” including defense budget cuts, opposition to nuclear power, and a single-payer national health insurance system.
Obama responded to criticism from Nader, who has suggested that the Democratic hopeful lacks substance, by noting that Nader has reached out to his campaign. “My sense is that Mr. Nader is somebody who if you don’t listen and adopt all of his policies thinks you’re not substantive,” Obama said, before praising Nader as a “heroic” and “singular figure in American politics.
So that gives a clue how Obama — if he wins the Democratic spot — will deal with Nader, respectfully but assertively. It sounds as if Obama won’t ignore the Nader challenge but won’t kowtow to it.
In realistic political terms, three party bids have been losing propositions in American politics because of our winner-take-all system. Third parties have (a) influenced the future policies of a major party, (b) didn’t have much of an impact, or in some close races (c) siphoned votes away from a major political party, often giving victory in some cases giving victory to the party the siphoning party’s voters agreed with the LEAST.
Even though his followers and third party advocates hate to hear it, there is
virtually no chance Nader can win. And his influence on the American electoral scene has waned from the days when he was an iconic young crusading lawyer taking on the car manufacturing corporations in his landmark book Unsafe At Any Speed.
I was then a student from Connecticut — his home state. Nader would be often be on the radio, on TV talk shows — he was the epitome of the serious, incorruptible, idealistic young crusader with his devoted “Nader’s Raiders” followers all over the country.
What has happened to him since is sad because he became overexposed politically and weighted-down with hubris — so the most he will gain in 2008 would indeed be siphoning-off Democratic votes if it’s a razor-thin-victory-margin election. He is not an up and coming force — or even as respected as he once was — any longer.
Some reasons why it has changed:
NADER HAS RUN IN TOO MANY ELECTIONS: American political history shows Americans aren’t receptive to the same faces constantly on the national political scene running for President. Voters seem to feel if you’ve had one or two shots at it and didn’t make it, it’s time to move on.
NADER HAS LOST A KEY CHUNK OF HIS ORIGINAL STUDENT CONSTITUENCY: Obama (if he gets the nomination) has some of his strongest support on college campuses — the hub where Nader used to draw much of his original support
NADER’S STYLE DOES NOT FIT INTO THE EMERGING EARLY 21st CENTURY STYLE OF POLITICS: Present politics seems increasingly influenced by the tone, images and packaging of entertainment and talk radio. Obama has sparked “Obamamania” due to his charisma. The deadpan Nader has always been charisma and even humor challenged. A comedian in the 1960s even used this line when a joke failed: “Who wrote these jokes? Ralph Nader?”
NADER LEFT MANY VOTERS FEELING BURNED: His big argument in 2000 was that there wasn’t much difference between the two political parties and that it wouldn’t really matter who won. Both Republicans and Democrats know that turned out to be wrong in in the areas of the Supreme Court, environment, foreign policy, the power relationship between the three branches of government, and other issues.
NADER’S IMAGE SUFFERED A HUGE BLOW IN 2004 WHEN HIS CAMPAIGN TOOK MONEY IN SOME STATES FROM REPUBLICANS who clearly were seeking to undermine Democrat John Kerry’s bid. Press reports documented some of these contributions. This shifted his imagery (except among his most loyal followers) to an idealistic third party candidate to one who was willing to be overtly used by members of a major party to help defeat another majority.
THERE WILL BE A CLEARER CHOICE THAN EVER THIS YEAR since the GOP’s likely candidate Senator John McCain will greatly differ on many issues from either Obama or Senator Hillary Clinton.
NADER WILL BE COMPETING MORE THAN EVER FOR INDEPENDENT VOTERS: McCain and Obama, in particular, have proven to have widespread appeal to independent voters who seem change.
NADER HAS NO CHANCE OF GETTING INTO THE NATIONAL DEBATES since his percentage of the vote from 2000 to 2004 decreased so much. His most likely opportunity: to become a punchline for late night comedians.
Could there be more third party candidates? If New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg gets in it’ll further complicate the race.
P.S. We’re saving this Nader post to update and run again in 2012.
A CROSS-SECTION OF WEBSITE AND WEBLOG REACTION TO NADER’S ANNOUNCEMENT:
– 23/6 offers THIS VIDEO from an anonymous Nader supporter (some adult language).
–Satirist Andy Borowitz immediately responded with a satire story (click on the link to read it all but here is part):
Nader Announces Plan to Wreck Election
But Prominent Crackpots are Cool to Bid
Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press” today, consumer activist Ralph Nader told host Tim Russert that he has officially decided to wreck the 2008 presidential election.
Mr. Nader had been huddling with prominent crackpots over the weekend to determine whether he had enough support among his natural constituency, self-absorbed whack-jobs, to mount an entirely meaningless campaign.
“If I wreck the 2008 election, I intend to wreck it in all fifty states,” Mr. Nader told Mr. Russert today. “I have no intention of being merely a regional spoiler.”
When asked if his candidacy could hurt the chances of the first African-American nominee for president, Mr. Nader put his fingers in his ears and started going, “Lalalalalalalala I can’t hear you.”
But across the country, significant numbers of crackpots who have supported Mr. Nader in the past appeared to be cool to his latest bid to wreck a presidential election.
“If I’m going to waste my vote, I want to be sure I’m wasting it on the right wingnut,” said longtime crackpot Stacy Klujian, who has supported Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex) in his 2008.
How much impact will Nader have this time? Probably none at all. Unless Hillary Clinton pulls off a miracle, the Naderites of 2000 have aligned themselves enthusiastically with Barack Obama. Having Nader attack him from the Left won’t hurt Obama’s prospects in the middle, where he needs to draw more heavily than John McCain.
The bigger worry for Obama is Michael Bloomberg. The billionaire mayor of New York City may still launch a vanity run for the White House, and he would challenge both McCain and Obama for the center. However, given Bloomberg’s nanny-state tendencies, he will likely draw far more support from Obama than from McCain. If both Nader and Bloomberg enter the race, Obama could get squeezed from both sides.
Nader had better not be permitted in any presidential debate. He is not a real candidate, his support went from meager to pitiful the past two times he ran for president – the fool does not deserve to be on the same stage with Barack Obama and John McCain. What has Nader been doing the past four years? You haven’t heard about a lot of consumer advocacy from Nader once he decided to be the herpes of presidential candidates. Talk about resting on your laurels. Nader handed us George Bush in 2000, and quite possibly George Bush in 2004, and now he has the nerve to complain about the Bush administration? What was that definition of insanity?
And the question is, who in their right mind would vote for him?
The man with a personality of my shoe has announced he’s running for president. I’m guessing because he was so successful in the past?
I want Barack Obama to be president; that’s why I am happy Ralph Nader is running.
Ralph Nader announced that he is running for president … again. On Meet the Press this morning, he basically called Barack Obama a corporatist. He insinuated that an Obama presidency would be no different from a McCain presidency.
McCain and the GOP are going to attack Obama as a liberal shill. They are going to call him a lefty nut who hates America. Having Ralph Nader – Mr. Liberal – attack Obama from the left will only help Obama’s cause (assuming Nader can get enough air time to have any impact whatsoever).
This line of attack could make Obama more palatable to independents and moderate Republicans.
Also, I know a few Greens and I don’t think Nader will siphon off enough votes on the left to have any impact. No one – including the Greens – can argue that Obama and McCain have not substantive differences. They will not facilitate more years of the Bush war machine.
Read it all.
That he stayed in the race in 2000 was tragedy. (See: Invasion of Iraq, 2003, and subsequent occupation.) That he came back in 2004 was unfortunate; his entry in 2008 is farce. Farce because it suggests detachment from political reality (the differences between the Republican and Democratic nominees are so faint that we can say, What the hell!) and, worse, narcissism. The fact that it won’t make any difference in the outcome actually is sad.
I will always like and respect Ralph Nader and will always admire the wonderful things he has done. But I wish to God that he had not made this decision, or will reverse it soon. (And, I am sorry that saying this will make me an enemy in his eyes.) He is a better man than his recent decisions indicate.
Democratic nightmare scenario: Nader siphons off the left-fringe votes again this year. There will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth today. And not a small amount of glee on the right.
Nader has a pending lawsuit against the Democratic National Committee on the issue and recently told Politico that he would make ballot access a central cause of a presidential campaign, which he restated on television Sunday morning.
He also said Sunday that he saw some overlap between his positions and those of libertarian-leaning Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul.
“His position on corporatism is taking some people who think the overriding political issue is corporate domination,” he said. “But he has positions which are not acceptable — like he wants to abolish the regulatory agencies I helped create.”
Nader can be expected to get a tiny percentage of the vote. But his maneuvering is crucial because of the potential stakes in a close election.
Running as an independent may prove difficult. We all know that the Democrats and Republicans will do their best to discourage or even prevent third-party candidates from appearing on state ballots throughout the country. Even if Nader can get the signatures, the election appointees, most likely appointed by a sitting Democrat or Republican will do their best to disqualify enough signatures to stop him.
Now, if Nader throwing his hat in the ring, how soon before NYC Mayor Bloomberg does the same thing?
I don’t think this will have much of an effect on the presidential election, primarily because Democrats believe that Nader’s third party run in 2000 cost The Goracle the presidency (well, they believe that and also that the USSC “stole” the election for Bushitler). Nader’s just doing one of the things he does best, and that is stealing a little limelight for himself and creating a few waves, generating a buzz that will (I believe) be shortlived.
I see him having even less impact than candidates from the Libertarian and Constitution Parties on the right. That would become considerably less impact if Ron Paul were to change his mind and make a run. Bottom line – few will buy Ralph’s no difference meme this time around.
In 2000, Ralph Nader pulled over 90,000 in Florida. After GOP manipulation of the election, GW Bush won the state by a margin of 537 votes. Had Gore had only 1/20 of the votes Nader siphoned from him with his candidacy, GW Bush would never have been president and the debacle of the last seven years would never have happened. I support Nader’s views on almost every issue, but he cannot win. The better he does, the more likely we are to have John McCain as President. I therefore oppose his candidacy.
Just a note from a native Floridian, I don’t know anyone who voted for Nader in 2000. In any case there goes the kook fringe of the democratic party, but will it have an effect? Hard to tell, but it’s sure going to make things interesting.
Nader created a good deal of the antipartisan organizational apparatus of the 1970s and 1980s. What he did in his career was remarkable, and yet, now on TV he’s taking no responsibility for his lies during 2000. Watching him on TV, it’s clear he hates the Democrats and just won’t recognize that it’s a different Democratic Party, one that is much more movement-based, than it is when he ran in 2000. Nader is part of the TV cult of personality model of politics, similar to Dennis Kucinich, and he sounds kind of pathetic.
Nader’s not wrong on a lot of his charges, but he’s also in his own increasingly irrelevant way part of the problem.
The funniest thing about Nader’s appearance on MTP this morning is that he once again couched his rationale for running in this idea that the American people view the two parties as equally culpable in the ills of society. Sure, it’s true the Democrats didn’t stop Bush on the war and on many things; as I’ve said many times, the worst initiatives of the past 7 years were bi-partisan, so by definition at least some Democrats supported them, which is exactly what we’re trying to change from within the party. But this year of all years to paint the perception of both parties as equally bad is such a joke and so out of touch with reality; look at the discrepancy in turnout in the primaries, the discrepancy in the amounts of money being raised by the parties, not just the presidential candidates but also the committees, the enthusiasm for the Democrats is the big story of this year. So this argument that people are disillusioned by both parties equally is a joke.
But I don’t blame Nader for running this year. Why wouldn’t he, he sees an opportunity. What he won’t say, because it would undermine his entire reason for running, is that stuff that he was advocating for years ago, things like universal healthcare and withdrawal from Iraq, are now on the lips of each Democratic candidate. He sees the Democrats inching to the left and that it’s been the Democrats who’ve mainstreamed his message so he sees the chance to inch them even further and mainstream it even more.
I’m sorry, but this is getting as bad as when George Romney (Mitt’s dad for you youngin’s) was always running for President every four years. Nader is becoming a joke. In 2000, three million people voted for him. In 2004, only 463,653 gave their heart and soul to him. There is no chance that this year he will attract even that many people to his campaign. His sell by date was over in November 2000. I wish he had the sense to realize that and work for change in other ways. He could be a force for the adoption of a more progressive agenda by the Democrats, but not as a Presidential candidate.
His presence also diminishes the potential for truly new progressive voices in the Green party or elsewhere to arise. As long as he persists in his Quixotic fantasy that his is the only true progressive voice in US politics, he stifles the potential development of the Greens into a truly national party that can compete with Democrats and Republicans. Especially now with the cratering of the GOP, there is an opening for growing the reach of a progressive third party from the left that could influence the national conversation, particularly on environmental and economic issues, but not with Nader as it’s spokesperson.
Ralph Nader to hop into the race. After all, there’s not a dime’s worth of a difference between a candidate promising tax cuts, pushing more health risk onto individuals, a re-invigoration of George Bush’s campaign to dominate the world through military force, and an industry-friendly approach to environmental issues and his rival who’s promising substantial socialization of medical risk, a 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions, and end to the war in Iraq (and to the mindset that led to war!), universal preschool, etc. Well, sure, there’s judicial appointments — abortion, gay rights, etc. — and some small fry stuff about whether or not the NSA will have unrestrained surveillance powers. But basically it’s just the same two corporate clones running on virtually identical platforms.
Nader’s participation is, in my opinion, a very good thing. All too often members of the two mainstream parties think that it’s always between the two of them and they seem to believe that no one else has the right to run for office. Nader’s run is healthy for American democracy and it offers American voters yet another choice. There’s nothing wrong about that.
Instead, perhaps Democrats will learn a valuable lesson this time around; humility.
Ralph Nader apparently feels the need to save us from our corporate overlords, just like he did in 2000.
My guess is that there is very little chance that Nader will decide the outcome of the 2008 election; he will probably have very small numbers, as he did in 2004. Third parties who do not quickly displace one of the two major parties (as the Republicans displaced the Whigs in the 1850s) tend not to wear well on repeated attempts.
Rather, if Nader has any significance in this election, it will be to push certain issues on the table, and force the candidates to address them. To do that, he would have to be a much more significant presence than he is likely to be. Nader is quite interested in pushing the corruption issue– and the connections between corporate lobbying and Washington politics– but public interest in that issue is by now overdetermined.
UPDATE: skippy (who writes in lowercase and invented the word “blogtopia”) has mixed emotions:
readers who follow skippy know that it is our learned opinion that it took more than ralph nader’s candidacy to get the country in the mess it’s in now. (we also credit a lazy, snide press, a crapload of money from special interests, a dem leaders more interested in preserving individual jobs than doing well for the country, a well-financed gop infrastructure at key local positions, a couple of dem prez candidates who refused to respond to coordinated attacks, not to mention a supreme court well-stocked by former gop presidents.
Click on his link to find out his conclusion about Nader.