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government | political theory selection 2004

Why Not Ralph Nader?

Analysis of why a vote for Nader is a wasted vote.
Why Not Ralph Nader?

I. Competing with the Greens

Ralph Nader has done a great service to society through his work on consumer issues and other progressive causes. In 2000, he showed some commitment to fostering a progressive alternative to the Democratic Party. This election cycle is different. Ralph Nader is now putting the thrust of his efforts into building an "independent" alternative to the Democratic Party and the Green Party, but not necessarily one that is progressive at its core. Hence, he refused to engage in the Green Party's democratic process, and will be running against the GPUS in many states. The purity of Nader's left-leaning challenge to the Democrats can be called into question as he has engaged in the very sort of political expediency he himself decries. He has sought, and attained, the endorsement of the Reform Party. The Reform Party advocates halting all legal immigration, deporting all undocumented immigrants, and not providing schooling to American-born children of undocumented immigrants. Its chairman is adamant that we "put prisoners to work." In 2000, the Reform Party endorsed Pat Buchanan for the presidency. Ross Perot, the party's billionaire founder, endorsed George W. Bush in 2000. Nader's willingness to accept conservative groups' assistance in attaining ballot access is well documented. And so is the eagerness of those various conservative groups to help Nader get on ballots, as they believe that a strong Nader candidacy will hurt John Kerry and increase the likelihood of George W. Bush's reelection.

Meanwhile, Nader has taken a much weaker position on Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) than Democrats Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich, and even the Utah Republican Party, who adopted IRV for their primaries. His website states that he believes IRV is an "approach that needs to be tested at the local level and, if successful, applied to state and national elections as well." Nations like Australia already provide years of ample evidence of how IRV would help progressive and minor-party candidates, yet Nader seems to be more interested in preserving the power to threaten Democrats than in pushing for cooperative, democratic reforms. This signals to us that it is time to move on, as Ralph Nader has moved on from the Green Party.

GFI does not understand why an association with the Democratic Party -- though not ideal -- is more questionable or offensive than Nader's association with the Reform Party and right-wing activists. In 2000, Nader claimed that the differences between the Republicans and Democrats were so small that they could be dismissed, so as to justify his electoral "strategy." In the same breath he belied his own claims, as he credited himself with having helped bring out voters to elect Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell in Washington, despite the fact that Nader believes her party is not significantly better than the Republicans. David Cobb responds to this contradiction by stating that, "it is disingenuous and dishonest and inaccurate to say there is no difference between Democrats and Republicans.... The difference is incremental, but it is not inconsequential." As longtime Nader friend and progressive author, Micah Sifry has said, "There was a time when I could trust Ralph to be intellectually honest, but I don't feel that way anymore." Let us continue building a truly progressive alternative to the dominant parties in 2004.

II. Circumventing the Party's Democratic Nominating Process

David Cobb is committed to building the Green Party into an influential progressive choice for voters, but in a way that is organic and not top-down. Ralph Nader, on the other hand, was throughout the GPUS's candidate selection process content to go it alone in his bid, rather than actively work with GPUS officials and activists. In spite of this, he remained willing to accept the "endorsement" of the Green Party, in order to obtain the Party's ballot lines, without submitting himself to the party's democratic nominating process.

Nader's willingness to take the GPUS ballot lines without becoming the Party's nominee evidences a lack of transparency that has the potential to split the party in a manner similar to that which befell the Reform Party upon Pat Buchanan's takeover.

III. What Do Others Think?

Read on to see what other Green Party members and progressives have to say about Nader's candidacy:

Bernie Sanders (Independent - VT, U.S. Congress): "But at this particular moment, a moderate Democrat is a far better alternative than an extreme right-wing Bush administration. To the degree that Nader will be taking away votes from Kerry -- which despite what he says is absolutely the case, and what the polls show -- and to the degree that in states like New Hampshire or Florida which might be very, very close, the five percent or four percent that Nader gets could turn the election to Bush -- I think that that could be a disaster for this county. So I'm very opposed to what Nader is doing." - from Dartmouth Free Press interview (issue 4.12)

Noam Chomsky (Linguist & Political Philosopher): "My feeling is pretty much the way it was in the year 2000. I admire Ralph Nader and Denis Kucinich very much, and insofar as they bring up issues and carry out an educational and organizational function - that's important, and fine, and I support it. However, when it comes to the choice between the two factions of the business party, it does sometimes, in this case as in 2000, make a difference. A fraction." - from The Guardian (3/04)

Elizabeth Horton Sheff (GP - Hartford, CT, City Council): "I don't think Ralph Nader should run again.... Our message of grassroots inclusion did not get through with this candidate. His appeal is not broad enough to reach my community.... We should run someone only if they have a proven track record appealing to a cross section of America." - from The Nation (11/03)

John Rensenbrink (GP Founder): "[Nader will] have to spend a lot of time dealing with the 'spoiler' question, unfairly, but that's where it is. I'd add to that that he doesn't want to be a Green, he runs with his coterie rather than party organizers, he doesn't involve local Green leaders and he doesn't get the racial issue. I fear if Nader runs, he'll drag down every other Green in this country." - from The Nation (11/03)

Robert McChesney (President of the professors' council of the US Campus Greens): "I don't think Ralph should run.... It would be bad for him personally... And it would be bad for the Greens.... 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." - from The Nation (11/03)

Michael Albert (Z Magazine): "It was one thing for Nader to run as a Green with the explicit support of all kinds of progressive organizations. That was a reasonably democratic process at work. It is another thing for Nader to anoint himself to run." - from Z Magazine (2/04)

Micah Sifry (Activist, Author): "There was a time when I could trust Ralph to be intellectually honest, but I don't feel that way anymore" - from Common Dreams (4/4/04)

Harry G. Levine (Village Voice): ""...when I suggested that Nader could gain substantial influence in a Democratic administration by focusing his campaign on the 40 safe states and encouraging his supporters elsewhere to vote Gore, Milleron [Nader's adviser & nephew] leaned coolly toward me with extra steel in his voice and body. He did not disagree. He simply said, 'We're not going to do that.... Because we want to punish the Democrats, we want to hurt them, wound them'.... Gary Sellers has a simpler way of putting it. Although Nader was the best man at Sellers's wedding, the two are no longer close. After extensive discussions with his old boss in late 1999, Sellers created Nader's Raiders for Gore in 2000. He believes Nader hated Gore, he told me, because 'Gore wouldn't return his phone calls.'" - from The Village Voice (5/04)

Al Sharpton (Civil rights activist): "Many of us have said what Nader said in 2000. . . . There's nothing that I know of that Nader is saying that Kucinich and I are not saying in the primaries. So what does he need to say it in November for?"- from CNN (2/04)

homepage: homepage: http://www.greensforimpact.com

well put but, 03.Aug.2004 23:15

Indy Voter

I should be able to vote for the candidate that I want to. Thousands of Oregonians want Ralph on the ballot and so we should be able to vote for him.

Cobb/LaMarche don't want your vote in Oregon.

Support the Green Party, Support your activist causes, do all these things and more, and send a message that your vote for president is not given away but has to be earned.

Give it up 03.Aug.2004 23:38

Nader supporter

We were here first. And last. If the Greens aren't willing to fight the Democrats than just quietly get the fuck out of the way. We don't give a shit what you do. All your blah-blah-blah about process is just a diversion from the issues that Nader is raising. We're going to fight. It doesn't matter whether you like it or not. You don't have anything to say about it.

This Article Is Dated... 04.Aug.2004 10:27

alsis38 alsis35@yahoo.com

...in the sense that the sorry-ass coronati-- er, "convention" is now over. We now know (as if it was a big suprise) that Kerry & Co. don't give two shits and a fuck what Sharpton and Kucinich said in the primaries or how much of a following they might have amongst the base. Silly Lefties !! The base is for screwing over !! Swing voters and corporations are our gods !! They must be courted, placated, and boot-licked non-stop !!! Now get back in your closets, hippie peons !! We'll let you out again in time for Election Day !!!

Voices like Sharpton's and Kucinich's are tolerated, barely, by Democratic leadership. They lend the Party a certain unearned activist cache which in can drag out on the rare occasions in which they find it useful, but these voices are not listened to and they got nothing at all from the Party bigwigs for their efforts.

Seems like this is a distinction that needs to be repeatedly pointed out, despite the number of years this racket has gone on. [yawn]