Monday, February 25, 2008

Thoughts on (President?) Nader

He's baaaack. As everyone knows by now, Ralph Nader has thrown his hat into the 2008 Presidential ring, and is re-earning the wrath of disgruntled Democrats who blame him for contributing to Al Gore's defeat in 2000.

Red Tory has officially endorsed Nader's candidacy, and has graciously offered to headquarter his campaign in Victoria BC. Well, maybe that's a bit of an overstatement. But he supports Nader's run, and that's more than I can say of myself.

It's not that I'm a big fan of either the Democrats or their two Presidential candidates. The lines between the Repugs and the Dems has become increasingly blurred over the years, and the Democrats in Congress are largely a group of spineless nitwits. Nor do I lay the blame for Al Gore's defeat in 2000 solely at Nader's feet. He probably did take some votes away from the Democrats, but you'd have to be delusional to think that a handful of disenfranchised progressives singlehandedly sank a multi-million dollar Presidential campaign. Truth be told, I admire Nader's steadfast commitment to social justice and demilitarization.

No, the reason I roll my eyes at Nader is the same reason I roll my eyes at Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul. It's strictly a matter of practicality. The numbers are obvious. I wish that America had viable options other than the Republicans and Democrats. But no end of marginal independant candidates like Nader, Perrot or Buchanan is going to bring that about. So why bother? If we're encouraging people like Huckabee to drop out, we shouldn't be encouraging people like Nader to join in just because he's not a creationist wingnut. Call me crazy.


MD said...

The Republican/Democrat stranglehold on the political system seems unbreakable, but you never know. The closest I remember anyone coming to break it was Ross Perot, who won 19% of the vote in 1992 (and led the polls at one point). He was utterly insane and would have had a disastrous presidency, but I think people appreciated the fact the he was spending millions of his own money and wasn't beholden to anyone. At some point, politics has to become a more low-budget affair if you want to hear more voices.

Red Canuck said...

MD - At some point, politics has to become a more low-budget affair if you want to hear more voices.

This will never happen. At least not in the USA. There is immense machinery behind the Presidential elections, and the entrenched interests of big business, unions, lobbyists and politicians will ensure that "low-budget" campaigns never exist.

The only way for alternate candidates to gain legitimacy is, ironically, for them to become formal organizations with grassroots memberships and structural heirarchies. I realize that this will also make them more like the traditional parties they hope to unseat, but I think it's the only way they can actually get off the ground.

Random guys like Nader jumping in and grabbing 0.4% of the vote isn't going to cut it.

Bowler said...

I tend to agree with your realistic view of this, although one can't help but sympathize with RT's frustration with the two-party system and the apathy it engenders.

Brother MD also makes a valid point. Third party challenges can come from either the left or right. Some Repugs blame Perot for Bush Sr.'s defeat in '92.

The Nader candidacy is a sore point for a lot of Dems because they believe that he cost them the election in 2000. Keeping in mind the electoral college system used to elect the president, a third party challenger can siphon off enough votes in a close state race to impact the result. Florida was the best example. It was just so close that if Nader had not been running, then Gore would likely have taken Florida, and as a result Bush Jr. would not have become president.

Of course, one could blame Gore for running a "yeah, me too, I agree with everything my opponent said, but please vote for me anyways" campaign.

With either Billary or Obama that probably won't happen this time.

Given that no third candidate will ever win, and can at best only hurt one of the two mainstream candidates in a close state race, you will forgive me for actually hoping that the Christian Right will run their own presidential candidate!

Red Canuck said...

Bowler - Yeah, MD and RT are a bit more idealistic than I am when it comes to the Nader issue. I do sympathize with them...the Repugs and Dems are basically shades of the same colour, and people like Nader do offer a breath of fresh air.

But I just can't escape the burden of realism. Nader hasn't got a snowball's chance in hell, so what's the point? If he really wants to effect political change from the inside, he should consider running in lower profile races, at the local or even state level. To the best of my knowledge, he's never done this, and yet every 4 years he makes these ridiculous kamikaze runs at the Presidency. What a waste of time.

And yes, I agree that in the very specific case of FLA in 2000, he may have cost Gore the state. But really, if Gore and the Dems had run even a marginally more competent campaign in any of the other 49 states, he would have won. I mean, if he had just won his own home state of Tennessee, he wouldn't have needed FLA at all, but he couldn't even pull that off. So I can't blame Nader entirely for Gore's defeat the way that some Democrats do...he's any easy scapegoat for the Dems' own incompetence.

Red Canuck said...

you will forgive me for actually hoping that the Christian Right will run their own presidential candidate!

Hear, hear!

Buchanan '08!!

Red Tory said...

A bit of an exaggeration... Heh. Just slightly.

If I thought Ralph posed a serious threat, my feelings about the matter would be quite different.

Red Canuck said...

RT - I know... I was just having some fun with your Nader boosterism ;)