Candidate Ralph Nader, meet candidate Dennis Kucinich
Nader is running, Nader says, because none of the Democrats are doing what Kucinich, one of the Democrats, is doing. Maybe you have to have an I.Q. like Nader's to get that one.
Eric Ringham: Candidate Ralph Nader, meet candidate Dennis Kucinich
Eric Ringham, Star Tribune
Published February 24, 2004
To hear Ralph Nader dismiss the Democratic field, as he did in announcing his presidential candidacy Sunday, you'd think he'd never heard of Dennis Kucinich.
The Kucinich camp would blame the media for that. Campaign workers accuse the major media of "censoring" Kucinich, and it's true enough that he doesn't get much coverage.
But Nader is not your average media consumer. He's smart and well informed. He knows well that Rep. Kucinich addresses many of his own issues, heaps similar scorn on corporate interests and finds followers among the same groups of people.
Same groups of people? Heck, the same people.
One was on display Saturday. Among the performers at the Kucinich rally in Northrop Auditorium was Papa John Kolstad, whose Minneapolis lawn sported a Nader/LaDuke sign in 2000.
"I think you probably saw three of them," Kolstad corrected when asked about it Monday. "I had one in the back yard, one in the side yard and one in the front yard."
Kolstad took his share of grief for having supported Nader in 2000 because of the perception that Nader helped elect President Bush. "People are still attacking me publicly for that," he said.
So does he now regret that vote? "No, I don't think so. My opinion, Nader should have been the Democratic candidate. He would have won. And Al Gore did win."
This year, though, Kolstad -- a longtime activist, health-care reform advocate and music distributor -- plans to caucus as a Democrat and stick with Kucinich. "I'm glad there's actually a Democrat running for the Democratic endorsement," he said. "Some of the others seem to be more like Republicans."
The rhetoric recalls Nader's 2000 pronouncement that Bush and Gore were as different as Tweedledum and Tweedledee, or Howard Dean's denunciation of the "Republican wing of the Democratic Party." No doubt, many Kucinich supporters feel the same way about the current front-runner, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, especially in light of his Iraq war vote.
There's a fundamental difference, though, between the Democratic field and Nader. Dean has pledged his support to the Democratic nominee. Kucinich has done the same -- insisting that the pledge means he'll be supporting himself. In fact, all the Democrats made the pledge, long before the first votes were cast.
Nader won't do that. Some imagine a scenario that involves a last-minute throw of support to the Democratic nominee -- but they imagined that scenario in 2000, too.
Nader's Web site says he's running in part because neither the Democrats nor the Republicans responded substantively to a 36-page letter he'd given them, a "request for views." (Now, honestly: Imagine that you are the campaign staffer assigned to craft a "substantive" reply to a 36-page letter from Ralph Nader. Boss, you don't have the budget for this.)
In fact, at least some of the issues on Nader's list -- universal health care, for example -- are at the core of Kucinich's platform. Nader is running, Nader says, because none of the Democrats are doing what Kucinich, one of the Democrats, is doing. Maybe you have to have an I.Q. like Nader's to get that one.
So what will Kolstad do if, somehow, Kucinich fails to win the nomination?
"I don't really know," he said.
Eric Ringham is the Star Tribune's commentary editor.
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