WASHINGTON, D.C.—If the DLC wonks, unimaginative leftists, and others devoted to the “Beat Bush” agenda can manage to stop gnashing their teeth over Ralph Nader’s “betrayal” long enough to really think about it, they might just find that the consumer advocate’s candidacy can help, rather than hurt, their cause.
As a practical matter, until Nader gets on the ballot, his independent bid for the presidency doesn’t have much potential to affect those all-important electoral votes. That’s not to say, however, that Nader won’t affect the overall political debate. Just as Michael Moore ignited the issue of Bush’s National Guard service with his “deserter” joke at a Wesley Clark rally in New Hampshire last month, Nader could bring attention to bear on another damaging angle: On Sunday, during his Meet the Press interview, he raised the question of whether Bush should be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors—lying the nation into war in Iraq.
From both within and outside a presidential run, Nader has the ability to push issues into the limelight when they are ignored by other politicians. For example: Universal health care has been spearheaded by the Nader groups since Hillary Clinton made her famous flop. Likewise corporate crime—it was the Nader groups in Washington and their allies in California who were most responsible for exposing Enron. It wasn’t anybody in the Democratic Party, that’s for sure.
The mainstream Democratic insiders in Washington, maintaining camaraderie with Republicans who are shredding the Constitution, have attacked Nader over the past four years as the man who cost Al Gore the election. Meanwhile, Nader has been developing and handing them the real political issues for the campaign.
Somewhat more surprising, on the surface, are the lefties huffing and puffing about what a horrible thing Nader has done to them. But they ought to remember that the left, especially the New Left, never cared for Nader. He actually comes out of the conservative, small-town, family-values world that politicians love to talk about. Nader has this in common with Edwards, another lawyer with whom he shows some affinity, and Kucinich.
Nader always has been attacked on the left as just another liberal because he put his faith in the court system as a civilized way to seek fairness and equality. Not only did Nader not run around making bombs and yelling at the cops during the 1960s, he—unlike a good number of the former lefty leaders—has not changed his course one iota.
The Republican political strategists apparently believe that the election could be decided by the base supporters of both parties. If the Democratic candidates want to lose more of their base than they already have, then they should go ahead and attack Nader for being a spoiler.
Additional reporting: Ashley Glacel and Alicia Ng
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on February 17, 2004