Nader’s Harmful Run

Why should someone with politics to the left of Barack Obama suggest supporting Nader’s run is a waste of time?

(Note: Tom Tomorrow’s decision to not support a Nader run is significant.  He was an eloquent Naderite in 2000.)

After all, while both Hillary and Obama have the same take on universal health care (have people pay for it, don’t move to a single payer model as if we actually cared about our citizens), and Nader would without a doubt share my positions from health care onto the war and media reform, I still cannot support his run.


The spoiler effect, a condescending meme by which we blame people who voted their conscience for the inability of candidates to compete and fight, hides a valid reason behind it. Al Gore didn’t lose in 2000 because of Ralph Nader. He lost because the election was close enough to steal, and at the time he was too much of a coward to fight it. And we have paid the price. We don’t have to worry about Nader taking so many votes McCain wins. We must worry about Obama losing enough votes to Nader to allow the election to be stolen, and to then sit back and let that happen. If Barack Obama has the skill and the indomitable spirit to fight, he will not lose this election even if Nader campaigns like crazy.

Nader’s run, however, is problematic from a rhetorical standpoint. He knows he is going to lose. Very badly. And yet his run is supposed to be the voice of the left in this country? His run will undoubtedly point out that the Democratic party has brought this on itself, and that it deserves the consequences. Well, yes and no Mr. Nader. You see, the Democratic party will not suffer in a vacuum. If we lose to John McCain in 2008, then we will all suffer, greatly. Can’t he see another 4 to 8 years of endless war, unjust ideologues appointed to every court up to the SCOTUS, and further attacks on civil rights, liberties, and our economic stability? Doesn’t he understand how many people that will hurt, that will kill?

Nader’s run projects an image of callousness to the consequences of a loss, and it aligns the image of authentic left wing politics with that callousness, and loss on top of it all. That is the problem with Ralph Nader’s run.

So what should Ralph Nader do? I think he should begin by asking himself an old and familiar question. Why did liberals like Gravel, Edwards and Kucinich lose so damn badly in the primaries? Why did they lose when most of America has progressive positions on the key issues of our day? When we all share a left-wing legacy that fought the robber barons and established peace when our own streets ran with the blood of dissent? He knows, as do we: The media. Here’s a throwback to 2000. Note the section on the media (a Guerilla News Network Video):

And as long as that media stranglehold exists, a third party run for office is meaningless. Nader should be quietly meeting with Obama about the FCC. Remember, we own the airwaves.

But right now Ralph, you are in the race. So if a man who cast his first vote for President for you in 2000 can offer advice, stay in the race at least until there is a single Democratic candidate. Focus on attacking the destructive conservative policies of John McCain and the media oligarchy. Then when Barack Obama becomes the nominee, withdraw with a flourish. Use the rhetoric of the unexpected and the unorthodox to gain attention and push Obama’s campaign up while pulling McCain’s campaign down. We cannot afford to lose this one Ralph. The consequences for the country are too devastating to sacrifice for the sake of another wake up call to the Democratic party. A wake up call they will likely ignore once again. We need to find a new way to get through.


8 Responses

  1. I voted for Ralph Nader in 2000 and the thought of him running now gives me the heeby jeebies. This man must have an ego with it’s own zip code.

    Paulie11 from inside the Snakepit

  2. […] This  post from Fitness for the Occasion doesn’t exactly outline my position on Nader’s 2008 run for president, but it comes very close.  And I have voted Nader in the past and I am voting Obama in 2008. I do hope, however Nader does stay in the race as long as he wants because any candidacy, Obama’s or otherwise that can’t win in a field of all candidates, doesn’t deserve to to win.  And Obama better have the guts to demand that Nader be included in any and all debates. It will be good for the process and good for the country.  Once the process of exclusion stops, it will only help anyone involved in the process of inclusion, si se puede?  Or will we just be proving Ralph right, again? […]

  3. I have to say I am with you and not only am I also a Nadarite. I ran for Lt. Governor of Massachusetts as a Green in 2002. Have been registered Green for years and helped build the party here in MA. This fall I changed my voter registration to Unenrolled to vote Obama. A Third Way has to be built from the grassroots up at the local level, not from presidential and gubernatorial runs.

  4. Well, concerning the spoiler effect there is another consideration (at least) that you are not factoring into your equation: not only was the election close enough to spoil, but Nader was popular enough* to spoil it. Considering his abysmal vote tally in 2004 (continuing a rough downward vote trend one can see in nearly all third-party candidacies for President in the 20th century between their first and second attempts), I’m not really sure this is still a reason to cast a negative glance at a Nader run. There is, in other words, little to none evidence that Nader can still play the role of spoiler, especially with a charismatic figure such as Obama in the race.

    Why did liberals like Gravel, Edwards and Kucinich lose so damn badly in the primaries? Why did they lose when most of America has progressive positions on the key issues of our day?

    This is at the same time roughly correct and yet too quick. The media does indeed have a lot of power in influencing voters, if by no other mechanism than by imbuing a certain candidate with celebrity (by covering them) and then in turn by covering them in a certain way (the Gore Corollary).

    However, this ignores a little racist Senator from Texas who happened to poll pretty successfully for someone with odious policy positions, but, more importantly, to pull in millions upon millions of dollars. In other words–why was there no grassroots liberal Ron Paul? Paul, as well as Gravel and Kucinich, received little to none political coverage; and what he did receive mocked him and his run. And yet…those millions and even pretty respectable vote totals (he managed to outperform Rudy Giuliani in several states for instance).

    The answer to this question is an important consideration as to why those candidates lost and is necessary to fortify any analysis of the mainstream media’s role in helping decide who our candidate shall be.

    (*Alternatively, there is the “Bush in 2000 wasn’t unpopular enough to stem Nader’s popularity amongst potential third party voters;” this is the rationale behind ABB–Anybody But Bush. Had those voters who cast their votes for Nader in Florida known the nigh unparalleled idiocy, corruption, and disaster awaiting them with a Bush victory, or I suppose had they read the amazingly prescient Onion article on the matter, they may have felt that voting for Nader a bad decision.)

  5. This is excellent news, I will wholeheartedly support Nader’s campaign!


  6. John,

    Out of curiosity, as someone who once supported a Nader candidacy, why? I mean, what do you see his campaign accomplishing? What efficacy shall your vote have (something, obviously, that can be askd of any vote)?

  7. A vote for Nader isn’t a wasted vote, rather my vote will send a message to the other parties that people are sick and tired of the politics of Republicrat party.


  8. paulie11,
    I wonder if its really ego, or just being so fucking sick of the same mushy centrist vs raving wingnut. My problem with Nader’s run is the practical impact.

    Welcome! It did help build the party in MA. One of the reasons I voted for Nader was it was a “safe” vote (Gore won the state), and it got the Greens 5% (enough for some official state party swag). I think if we had power-sharing and instant runoff, we could have third party gubernatorial and persidential runs.

    Josh R,
    Well said. There is a paucity of evidence suggesting Nader could still be a spoiler.
    Hmmm. I’ll have to look at that. Why did Paul’s supporters generate so much more cash flow than others?

    Oh you silly little neo-nazi white supremacist. No one cares if you support Nader.

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