- Peace Garden: Ralph in the race

Ralph in the race

Sunday, February 24, 2008

How Much Space for Another Nader Run?

Nader has bid for the presidency in different ways in every election since 1992 -- as a write-in candidate in the New Hampshire and Massachusetts primaries of that year, as a Green contender in 1996 and 2000 and as an independent with support from some of what remained of Ross Perot's Reform Party in 2004. His most notable run, in 2000, won 2.7 percent of the national vote, along with anger from Democrats who thought he tipped Florida -- and the presidency -- from Al Gore to George Bush. In fact, Gore won Florida, only to have the results manipulated into Bush's column by the Republican nominee's many allies in state government, with an assist from the Supreme Court. In the intense 2004 competition between Bush and Democratic John Kerry, Nader's run won just 0.3 percent on 34 state ballot lines.
A problem today for Obama?
Unlike Gore and Kerry, Obama -- now the likely Democratic nominee -- has taken smarter stands on a number of issues close to Nader's heart, such as trade policy. This is not to say that Obama is as good as Nader on the issues. Far from it. But the savvier Obama platform, as well as the movement character of the Illinois senator's campaign, is likely to leave even less space for Nader to deliver a message. That said, Nader is a determined, sometimes unrelenting, truth teller. He worries far less about vote totals than about saying what he feels needs to be said -- and using the forum of the electoral process to say it. And he has already made it clear that he feels Obama should be prodded on issues ranging from labor law to corporate regulation to single-payer health care and Middle East policy.
Okay, I admit it. I voted for Nader in the past. This year though, I cannot (I could not bear a McCain presidency - 4 more years of W). But I welcome his presence and voice. I welcome him to keep Obama on course. As John Nichols points out:
Obama may be "the first liberal evangelist in a long time," says Nader, but the senator's "better instincts and knowledge have been censored" since he hit the nation stage. "(Obama's) leaned, if anything, toward the pro-corporate side of policy-making," Nader said of the senator from Illinois. The consumer activist also scored Obama on on foreign policy, noting that, "He was pro-Palestinian when he was in Illinois... Now he's supporting (right-wing Israeli policies that thwart progress toward peace in the Middle East)."

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