Nader: Democrats’ nightmare

By on March 4, 2004

When consumer advocate Ralph Nader recently announced that he would again seek the presidency, it was as if a bubonic plague had wiped out every Democrat in America. They were horrified, stunned, disappointed, furious, and everything else all at once. They fear that Nader’s candidacy will somehow put them at a disadvantage in the November election.

Democrats claim that by collecting about 2.6% of the popular vote in the 2000 election, Nader effectively handed the election to George W. Bush. In the next breath, they claim the Supreme Court gave the election to Bush. Or it was Katherine Harris in Florida. Or those silly punch-card ballots. Or that some voters were turned away at the polls. It’s like a Rolodex of excuses, but the fact that Al Gore was simply an abysmal candidate appears nowhere on the list.

True, Nader did take votes that otherwise likely would have gone to Gore had Nader not been in the race. But instead of moaning and grumbling about Nader’s re-emergence, wouldn’t it be more useful for the Democrats to figure out why they couldn’t win those 2000 votes in their own right? Of course, that would first require them to admit that the election was not, in fact, stolen by anyone, and that Gore simply lost.

The fact is, Nader is one of many scapegoats from 2000. More infuriating to Democrats now is that Nader declared in 2000 that there was little difference between Bush and Gore, so it didn’t really matter who won. President Bush has been public enemy number one of most diehard liberals during his first term, so it is even more insulting to them that Nader would dare run again.

Following Nader’s announcement, the New York Times editorialized, “So much has happened in the last four years that it’s hard to remember how low the stakes seemed when Mr. Gore and Mr. Bush were running. The country was at peace and prosperous. The big issue in Washington was what to do with the budget surplus. Mr. Gore kept changing his message and Mr. Bush was promising to be a uniter, not a divider. Both men knew from their polling that victory would belong to the one who captured the affections of a small number of wavering voters in a few states, and both tried desperately to come up with the fuzzy, centrist message to win them over.”

Other than their knee-jerk jab at Bush’s unity skills, the point here is basically that a lot has changed in the past four years. Indeed, the stakes are astronomically higher in this election than in 2000. The differences between Bush and Democratic front-runner John Kerry are so wide that you could drive 50 hummers through the space. All the more reason for the Democrats to blame Nader for potentially affecting the election’s outcome.

In a laughable bit of commentary, the Times continued to say this: “The most regrettable thing about Mr. Nader’s new candidacy is not how it is likely to affect the election, but how it will affect Mr. Nader’s own legacy.”

Hogwash. While I’m sure Nader’s legacy is of deep, lasting concern to the New York Times, pardon me if I opine that it’s not the main reason for their opposition to his candidacy. It is certainly true that this campaign is not going to add anything to Nader’s “legacy,” and it could be argued that it’s simply an ego trip. But as one prominent Washington Post columnist recently wrote, if Washington, D.C. were removed of everyone with an ego, there would hardly be anyone left.

This is not about Nader’s legacy, and it’s not about the differences between the major parties this year. It is about the Democrats’ steadfast refusal to face the fact that a vote for Nader is a vote for Nader, not for Bush.

If the Democratic candidate wants those votes, he’ll have to work for them and earn them. That course of action is much more useful than whining about Nader’s candidacy.

I’ll close by quoting a rare New York Times editorial half-jab at the Democratic Party, to underscore the real issue surrounding the Ralph Nader candidacy. They opined:

“It’s not surprising that in 2000 many people thought they could afford to express their irritation with a vote for Mr. Nader. If they did that again this November, it would be a repudiation of the Democratic nominee so thorough that the party would certainly have bigger problems than third-party candidates to worry about.”

That’s for sure.


About A. J. Atchue