Ralph Nader Appeals to Disenfranchised Liberals

“What,” editorializes U.S. News & World Report, “does Ralph Nader bring to the political dialogue this year? Answer: nothing except for his own inflated ego.” Dimestore psychoanalysis was the standard reaction to Nader’s third third-party presidential bid. “An ego-driven spoiler,” the Des Moines Register called him. “He seems to have a pretty high opinion of his own work,” jabbed Barack Obama.

You see, other politicians who seek the presidency are like the Dalai Lama, humble and self-effacing. Obama and Hillary? Two sweeties. Not an ounce of ego between them.

Even our former colonial masters put in their two pence. Nader’s “egotism and cult of left-wing purity has been an utter disaster for the values he affects to espouse,” railed the UK Independent. Nader’s values would fare better, apparently, were he to shut up and keep them to himself.

Is Ralph really a spoiler? To answer “yes,” you have to buy three assumptions:
First, that the two-party system is written in stone. But it’s not. There’s nothing in the Constitution about two parties, or about parties at all. (The Founding Fathers were dismayed when parties emerged around 1800.) Besides, the Democratic-Republican stranglehold ill serves a diverse population of 300 million. Because parliamentary democracies offer voters a wide selection of parties representing almost every conceivable ideology, voter turnout in Europe typically exceeds 80 percent. In the U.S., most registered voters stay home.

Assumption two: voters ought to vote strategically, i.e., for the lesser of two evils. Even for those who accept this curiously alienating concept, however, evil often comes in pairs. Most citizens think the U.S. has lost more than it has gained under NAFTA; neither Obama nor McCain want to repeal it. Most people want the U.S. out of Iraq; both men have repeatedly voted to prolong the war. How shall anti-NAFTA, antiwar voters divine which will prove least anathematic as president? Should they resort to a ouija board?

The third leg of the Nader=Spoiler tripod relies on a belief that opinions espoused by a small minority of a population are inherently worthless. But, as anyone who has successfully gambled on a business can attest, today’s fringe thinking becomes tomorrow’s conventional wisdom. After 9/11, nine percent of Americans thought George W. Bush was a lousy president. Seventy-two percent feel that way now. America’s greatest political achievements–emancipation, women’s suffrage, the 40-hour work week–were first espoused by tiny voting blocs led by figures on the political fringe.

But that’s not why Ralph says he’s running. His platform seeks to promote causes that are popular with an overwhelming majority of American voters, yet have been sidelined by the two major parties and their allies in the media.

Fifty-five percent of Americans believe that Bush deserves to be impeached, according to a November 2007 American Research Center poll. (Considering Iraq, Guantánamo, domestic surveillance and torture alone, it’s surprising the number isn’t higher.) But “impeachment is off the table,” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced as the Democrats recaptured Congress in 2006, and they haven’t mentioned it since. America’s pro-impeachment majority obviously can’t expect Republicans to prosecute their own guy. Aside from most voters, only Ralph Nader wants impeachment proceedings against the “criminal recidivist regime of George Bush and Dick Cheney.”

So who are the fringe weirdoes: the out-of-touch media elite, or the guy who agrees with most of the people?

The two remaining major Democratic presidential contenders think that repeatedly name-checking John Edwards is sufficient to draw votes from his liberal Democratic supporters. But liberals “don’t like Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama–for them, he sold out even before he was bought in,” the Independent mocks. Only Nader offers “left-wing purity.”

And what’s wrong with that?

While McCain, Obama and Clinton repeatedly vote for funding the Iraq War, at the same time calling for expanding the war against Afghanistan–a doomed effort that was lost years ago–Nader wants to slash defense spending, the number-one cause of our skyrocketing federal deficit.

Americans favor “socialized medicine” (43 to 38 percent, says the February 14th Harris poll); only Nader agrees with them. Nader would repeal the Taft-Hartley Act, which destroyed labor unions; the other candidates haven’t said squat about the single biggest reason real wages are shrinking.

What’s wrong with that, say Democratic Party officials, is that Nader’s first run attracted 2.7 percent of the vote in 2000. Nader drew support from liberals who didn’t think Al Gore had enough “left-wing purity.”

“This time I hope it doesn’t hurt anyone,” said Hillary. Nader “prevented Al Gore from being the ‘greenest’ president we could have had.”

Maybe the Dems and their pundit pals ought to get their story straight. If Nader’s “left-wing purity” is so fringe and wacky, how can he hurt them?


38 Responses to “”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    What ever America gets, it deserves. Fuck ’em all!!! The down-ward spiral we’re stuck in was brought about by our own hand. I’ve had enough of catering to the retarded fascists that populate this country. FUCK NASCAR, FUCK THE NFL, FUCK BASEBALL,FUCK TIGER WOODS, FUCK THE OSCARS, FUCK HIP-HOP,FUCK THE ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME, FUCK TMZ, FUCK THE DRUDGE REPORT, FUCK FOX NEWS,FUCK BIN LADEN,FUCK IRAQ,FUCK ISRAEL, FUCK THE DEMOCRATS AND MOTHER-FUCK THE ENTIRE REPUBLICAN PARTY!!! “WHEW!!” Now back to your regularly scheduled program.

  2. Sean C. Ledig Says:


    You said what I’ve given up on trying to tell Democrats for years.

    To me, their constant complaining about Nader is yet another example of Democratic wussiness. They’d rather complain about a minor, third-party candidate who got three percent of the popular vote, than about the real reasons they lost the White House.

    Among them: the Supreme Court illegally involving itself in the election; attempts to cage and disenfranchise voters in Florida through faulty felon lists; butterfly ballots which helped a neo-nazi like Buchanan win Palm Beach County, a county with the country’s second-largest Jewish population.

    I guess the Democrats are too chickenshit to go after the Republicans, so they pick on Nader.

    Their whole attitude toward Nader and their refusal to take responsibility for their own piss-poor candidates and their own refusal to stand up for themselves against the Repukes is a big part of the reason I registered as an independent.

    It’s also a big part of the reason I’m saving to buy some rural land and stocking up on provisions and ammo. This country’s fucked, folks!

  3. IrishUp Says:

    Dang Dang Dang –
    I made *almost* all the same points Sunday when I was talking to some other’s spouting the idiocy that Nader was ruining things. ALMOST.
    Didn’t include your last one, the icing on the cake really – and I needed it! My friend was saying that RN only represents the “extremist left”. I replied that I disagreed that such postitions are “extremist”, which to me implies unrealistic or unacheivable or goals that only benefit a small group of people. As I don’t beleive any of those things are *inherently* true about the progressive agenda, I didn’t think RN was “extremist” in any sense.

    Yours is way pithier. Or is that more pithy?

  4. Eric Xodik Says:

    I noticed that Obama “plagiarized” a few talking points from Nader’s “Meet the Press” appearance in a speech yesterday…It could be my imagination, but I think he lifted the bit about medical safety…maybe (unlike the two losers before him) O-bong-hit will adopt a few of Nader’s ideas and draw more from the left…which I think is the whole point of this exercise.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Ted, this is one of your worst columns. Nader can espouse his views without screwing the Dems. His run doesn’t give “voice” to anybody, it just increases the possibility of continued Republican law breaking. Also, NAFTA should be reformed, not revoked. Perhaps you’re of the mercantilist wing of Democratic party. Personally, I believe in comparative advantage, combined with strong unions.

  6. Angelo Says:

    I got into this one with my brother the other day.
    He still buys the line that Nader made Gore lose. But he also thinks that Gore actually won.

    After the election, will McCain actually look at how many people opted for the Naders and the Buchanans? Will it change his behavior?

    If so, everyone in blowout precincts should vote for Nader.

  7. Seth Warren Says:

    Nader has some good ideas, and perhaps he even means well, but these continued attempts at the presidency reek of excessive arrogance. The system is rigged and he will lose every single time due to not only said rigged system but the fact that your average American is a twit who’d rather pour over who to vote for on American Idol than which public servants we should be placing in power.

    The current system of scattered primaries and caucuses should be scraped in favour of a system where everyone votes on the same day to pick the representative of their registered party who win run in the general election. As for the general election itself, the simple majority system and Electoral College should be scrapped for Instant Run-off Voting. With IRV, there are no third parties or “spoilers,” simply choices.

    Ralph Nader has advocated for IRV, yet instead of educating people and pulling together a fierce grassroots movement to get such a reform passed (because, let’s face it, the republicans and Democrats won’t relent on a winner-take-all system that benefits them both until we peasants are storming the castle), he strokes his own ego with this fallacious presidential runs instead. He knows he’s going to get his ass handed to him, but there he goes again – “I need to run to give people a choice because the two mainstream parties are exactly the same!” The problem, of course, is that losing constantly is not such a great choice. Ultimately, all Nader is doing is making this about Nader, and diverting attention from the issues he claims to hold dear.

  8. Anonymous Says:


    Anonymous A, “FUCK THE ROCK N’ ROLL HALL OF FAME”? Don’t you think that’s carrying things a little to far?
    Ted, you could have been a carpenter the way you drive those points home. I think more people are considering Nader.

  9. AltWorlder Says:

    “First, that the two-party system is written in stone. But it’s not.”

    Er, yes it is. It’s called the winner-take-all system. It may not be in the Constitution explicitly, but it’s the law of the land, and until it gets amended, we’ll be having a two-party system for perpetuity. It’s not the fault of either party; it’s just the way it’s always been. Read some history.

  10. Sam Holloway Says:

    It may not be in the Constitution explicitly, but it’s the law of the land

    Eh? If it isn’t in the Constitution, then how is it “the law of the land”? As Ted clearly (and correctly) points out, the development of political parties was neither intended nor warmly welcomed by the founders. That is why it isn’t in the constitution. (Maybe you should read some history, starting with Madison’s writings on “factions” in the Federalist Papers.) Just because something has been around a long time, it doesn’t mean it is permanent; that should especially apply to things that aren’t working very well.

    On another note, is the intellect you display here the one you plan on taking into the voting booth? If so, then I hope you are in an infinitesimal minority. Otherwise, I’m with the first anonymous.

  11. Ted Rall Says:


    The two-party system developed organically at first. Then the two major parties colluded to make third-party runs difficult to impossible. In some states, for example, a party needs 5 percent of the vote its first time out in order to qualify for ballot placement in the next election cycle.

    But this is a matter of a series of rancid state statutes, not anything intrinsic.

  12. k Says:

    there is nothing in the US Constitution about a winner-take-all system, either. The winner-take-all vs proportional representation of (electors) is a decision made at the state level, and not all states have winner-take-all.

  13. k Says:

    also, there is something kind of ironic about someone telling Ted to read some history

  14. Aggie Dude Says:


    The thing I most look forward to with Nader is the concession speech. Few people can match Nader’s ability to go off on a 20 minute rant about how “shit ain’t right” and we should all be ashamed of ourselves for not supporting him. Damn society for not living up to the Nader standard!!!!

    Don’t listen to Anon or others who say you’re off the mark, because you are right on the mark. If Obama represented the right wing in this country and Nader the left, I’d say we’re heading in the right direction. He didn’t cost Al Gore the election in 2000, thievery did.

    You’re awesome.

  15. Anonymous Says:

    Yes, we are not legally bound to a two party system. So what? What does Nader accomplish with his doomed campaign? As Chris Rock says, just because you can do it doesn’t mean it is to be done. And I really can’t believe we’re even discussing the merits of this man’s crusade. Ted, your contrarianism in this case leaves me cold. Personally, I’ll saw my left arm off to keep the movement conservatives out of power, and I can’t fathom why Ralph’s not engaged in that quite serious battle.

  16. AltWorlder Says:

    (Maybe you should read some history, starting with Madison’s writings on “factions” in the Federalist Papers.)

    I’ve read of the Framers’ distaste for factions. I’ve also read Washington’s caution against “foreign entanglements”, and head Eisenhower’s warning against the “military-industrial complex.” Your point?

    Just because something has been around a long time, it doesn’t mean it is permanent; that should especially apply to things that aren’t working very well.

    That’s correct, but it also means that there will need to be a lot of effort and planning involved to change it. And it will take more than some quixotic third-party run.

    On another note, is the intellect you display here the one you plan on taking into the voting booth?

    Oh, don’t worry, I’ll be sure to write-in a vote for Mike Gravel just for you. Screw Nader.

    If so, then I hope you are in an infinitesimal minority. Otherwise, I’m with the first anonymous.

    Unfortunately, I’m part of a very large and vocal majority. And what’s with the hate for Tiger Woods? Racism!

  17. AltWorlder Says:

    But this is a matter of a series of rancid state statutes, not anything intrinsic.

    But the issue is, if the two parties are in power, and neither wants to get rid of the statues, what can be done to get rid of them? I’m all for third party efforts, but spoiling presidential elections isn’t exactly the best way to bring about a true third wave. Look at the Reform Party and how it imploded after Perot spoiled it for Bush. If you want an honest-to-goodness third party to be successful, I’d think that getting local, state, and Congressional representatives elected are more important than trying to get your own president into office right away.

  18. nietzchuck Says:

    Has anyone considered that Nader neither wants/expects to win the presidency, nor intends to ‘steal votes’ from Democrats? Perhaps the intent is to put pressure on the Democratic candidates to live up to the expectations of their constituency. If he talks about Universal Healthcare (note, not universal insurance) and impeachment of the necon machine, and otherwise solid democratic constituents begin supporting him, the idea is that it would force Hillary/Obama to begin catering to their own party, not some imagined ‘moderate-center.’

    I could be wrong, but I don’t think his running has anything to do with himself at all. I agree with Ted, if the Democrats were actually acting on the demands of the majority, Nader wouldn’t be able to take any votes at all.

  19. Anonymous Says:

    If Obama isn’t selected, I am likely voting for Nader.

    IMHO, this is a “Hot Potato” election. The Republicans want to lose it, but lose it to insider Hillary who’ll keep tax cuts for the rich and protect Dubya from prosecution. There’s just a chance Obama is seriously progressive and perhaps holding back on a few things. Remember what happened to “End the War!” Dean?

    But if Hillary’s insider power pushes Obama out, I’d rather have McCain in, because then the Republicans will be blamed for Bush’s failures, giving a chance that the economic shock of another great depression will cause a major re-thinking of politics.

  20. G. M. Palmer Says:

    Way to ignore Ron Paul again — the man who agrees with you on almost all points of foreign policy. . .

  21. Anonymous Says:


  22. Cris Says:

    Assumption #1 is currently missing from the Yahoo! News version of this column. I know I should tell them, not you, but I figured you might wanna know as well, since it makes for a jarring non-sequitur.

  23. Angelo Says:

    At the very least, Nader is doing what we(read non-idiots) should all be doing. He is hacking the media in an attempt to get some real info out there.

    He did not cause Gore to lose.

  24. Anders Says:

    Gore caused Gore to “lose” (if we disregard the SC’s coup d’etat). Perhaps some Nader-voters would have voted for Gore if there was no 3rd option, but it’s by no means certain they would’ve voted Gore if not.
    If this was a popular election, Nader’s party would’ve possibly had the deciding vote on who’d be president. The only reason I can see that the US doesn’t by now, with today’s communication, have a popular election of it’s president is because the parties who gain from the current system are the ones in power.

  25. Sean C. Ledig Says:

    Hey Altworlder,

    The Reform Party did a lot of good in its short run. However, Perot was too much of a control freak to allow it to develop as it could.

    Specifically, he repeatedly dissed Jesse Ventura, the highest elected official in that party, causing it to fracture. Of course, Ventura’s antagonizing the press didn’t help.

    Still, people were hungry for a third party and I think Perot’s personal popularity in the early days of the 1992 Presidential Race proved it.

    Personally, I’m sorry I wasted my vote for Clinton. As much as Perot was an egomaniac, he gets props in my book for focusing attention on the national debt. Neither Clinton nor Bush, Sr. would have even mentioned it in their campaigns if it weren’t for Perot’s strong showing in that election.

    For now, that’s the main function of third parties. But if the Democrats and Repukes continue to lose touch with their constituents, more and more people will be disgusted and go with a third party.

    Changes don’t happen overnight. But if they don’t start now, then when?

    Lastly, Ted is right about something else in his column this week – two parties can’t possibly represent the diversity of 300 million Americans.

    I’ve always wondered, where are the Libertarians in congress? Where are the Socialists? How about the Greens? How many independent congressmen are there? (I think only a couple). How about Populists, Whigs, Social Democrats and other political parties?

    Until we see more alternative party candidates winning office, there is no way that anyone can honestly say that congress is representative of the American people.

  26. Caradoc Says:

    Is running for President the best way for Nader to influence the direction of the country? By alienating the party that is most receptive to his ideas, doesn’t he actually harm his cause? We do not see gay rights, gun control, or pacifist groups trotting out candidates.

  27. Anonymous Says:

    Oh yes, hurray… elect another republican. After all McCain is a carbon copy of Hillary. I BELIEVE that Nader is on the Republinazi Payroll.

  28. Will Says:

    I think many of you, caught up in righteousness, are missing the point. It was best expressed in a recent Salon.com piece:


    But basically, under the current, antiquated and injust voting system we employ, third-party candidates like Nader wind up hurting the candidate 99 percent of those who vote for them would have preferred as their No. 2 choice. Tell me why it’s OK that a vote for Nader ends up rewarding a Nader supporter’s least preferrable alternative?

    Look, I understand as well as you that Nader brings a lot of good points to the table and would love to see him in a debate with the major candidates. I saw him speak once and it was one of the better, more important deliveries I’ve witnessed. But the whole “If Democrats are worried about Nader’s 3 percent, then they shouldn’t be winning elections anyway” is a bit immature.

    We live in very divided society, at least politically. I, for one, believe that change will come incrementially. Are you trying to tell me that you wouldn’t have prefered a Gore presidency to the past eight years? Come on.

    These are real stakes we’re talking about, not moral lessons and poignant statement votes. The Democratic party has mountains of hypocricies and problems, but right now it’s a better alternative than the modern manifestation of the GOP. Someday, the opposite may be true.

    But until we change the fundamentals of how we vote and how our vast multitudes are represented, someone like Nader only tarnishes his legacy by running in an election in which he can either grab such a small percentage it won’t even be discussed as a movement; or draw enough votes away from a Democrat that it swings a close state. (Yes, I know the electoral college is an embarrassment, but it’s the playing field we’re on).

    Rall, I like a lot of what you write, and I know it is your niche to make this kind of statement. But this time, I think you’re flat-out wrong.

    Unless a third-party candidate has both the funding and means to have a shot, without proportional representation it doesn’t do squat.

  29. Kurt Says:

    Ron Paul is a white supremacist. He wrote articles for skinheads. Many of his vocal supporters are skinheads. Why in the world would someone vote for him?

    Do me a favor… read some of these articles… http://www.google.com/search?q=ron+paul+white+supremacy&rls=com.microsoft:en-us&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&startIndex=&startPage=1

    Oh yeah… Look at how closely related he is and has been to the militia movement, including Militia Mike and the McVay’s.

  30. Angelo Says:

    We do not see gay rights, gun control, or pacifist groups trotting out candidates.

    If you want to get your message out and think the media would cover you, running for pres is an effective way to do it. If you have a lower budget, there are other ways, as demonstrated by the ELF, Raelian Pet Owners United To Stop the War, going all the way back to Edward Bernays. The concept is simple. Convince the media that something worth covering is going to happen. When they show up, cameras rolling, you put your message out. They get their story, you get your message out. In the case of the Raelians, they posted flyers all around town saying they were going to murder their pets at noon in the park unless the war was stopped. At the specified time, nothing happened, but the press had to cover the presence of the crowd, animal control law enforcement and themselves, and in the process get an anti-war message across. Sloppy, I know, but it is a start. If I were a senator, the media gave a damn about me, and I had money, you better believe I would run for pres, and I would probably lose my seat after all of the shit I would talk.

  31. k Says:

    Ron Paul has publicly and repeatedly disavowed racism, racial discrimination, and the support of white supremacy groups. He has stated that he takes moral responsibility for allowing racially inflammatory writings to be published in his name, but does not agree with them.

  32. Chris Adams Says:

    Why does it have to be Nader?

    Why can’t Winona LaDuke run for President, and get votes and attention? Or even you, Ted?

    Why are my no chance of winning options limited to one guy who’s already lost?

  33. Angelo Says:

    someone above asked:
    Tell me why it’s OK that a vote for Nader ends up rewarding a Nader supporter’s least preferrable alternative?

    It doesn’t It doesn’t It does not

    Why are my no chance of winning options limited to one guy who’s already lost?

    Few are dedicated enough to do what Nader does. It is costly and humiliating. Not exactly an ideal ego feeder.

  34. Will Says:

    “It doesn’t It doesn’t It does not”

    What does that link do whatsoever to back your logic? Even if he didn’t intend for his campaign to draw votes away from Gore in a razor-close election — IT STILL DID. Who cares where he campaigned? The point is, why do it again?

    A third-party candidate will need major private funding to be viable. You can pick daffodils and dream of utopia, but jesus, if you think: 1. The Green Party will get 5 percent; or 2. By doing so will slowly gather force in our political spectrum, you’re sadly mistaken. And he’s not even running on the Green Party this time!

    You’re missing my point entirely if all you took out of it was to show me some link about where and how Nader campained in 2000. I like Ralph Nader. I think proportional representation has merits. I think our political process needs overhaul.

    However, his campaigns aren’t going to bring on any of this.

  35. Angelo Says:

    1)Nader voters are not would-be Gore voters. His campaigning brought new voters into the arena which would not have been there otherwise. Remember, the bigger problem for dems is low voter turnout!
    2) Nader may have actually increased Gore’s overall votes by publicizing democratic values.
    3) Nader did not take one electoral vote from Gore.

    Gore’s campaign tacitly admitted this in their last minuite attempt to win over some Greens in Florida.

    If you still want to blame the Greens, however, Clinton alienated many progressives by being a conservative. Thus, we can really blame him for the existence of the Greens.

  36. nietzchuck Says:

    At first I was happy that Nader was running, given that it will put pressure on the Dems to actually stand up to the demands of their base. Then I remembered the 2000 fiasco; then I remembered that Nader doesn’t run to win, but to put issues in the spot light; then I remembered he said he ran to build the Green Party, that they would start a movement, and that after he inevitably lost the election, they would take that movement to the streets of Washington. Then he lost, and went quietly back home.

    I genuinely respect Nader, the man has done more for us than most people will ever know. But if Pat Robertson can turn a failed presidential run into the Christian bloody Coalition (these due-paying zealots can round up a stadium of supporters before lunch), why can’t Nader? What’s the holdup?

    If he’s running to bring positive attention onto an issue or movement, and only brings negative attention to them, then it’s time to pull back, re-evaluate things, and change the way people think about these things, before you pull a publicity stunt.

  37. Angelo Says:

    Nader is famously spead thin. It is easy to imagine him becoming overwhelmed shortly after the election. that said, It is not hard to believe that the Greens were a means to an end for him.

    he did not make Gore lose.

  38. Sean C. Ledig Says:

    I have a question for the Democrats out there.

    First of all, you like to bitch and moan that you would have won the White House if Nader’s Florida voters had only voted for Gore. You like to point out that in a close race, that it made all the difference.

    Well, if we were so important to you then, and if we’re so important to you now that you fear losing the election if we don’t vote for you, they why are you always giving us shit?

    It would seem to me, that if we were so important to you, the smart thing to do would be to try to woo us back into the Democratic Party. A smart Democrat would try to find out why people were willing to vote for Nader and work to give us what we want if we’re such a crucial voting block.

    It’s what the Republicans did for the Religious Right and it’s worked pretty damn well for them for more than 20 years.

    GET A FUCKING CLUE!!! Your constant blaming us for Bush when it was the supreme court’s illegal intervention and Gore’s shitty campaign and congressional record doesn’t make me want to rush out and vote for a Democrat again.

    It only convinces me that there the Democrats are a bunch of damn fools who can offer nothing better for the country than the Republicans.

    One last piece of advice for the Democrats – It’s one thing to talk shit about us “Naderites” online. I wouldn’t advise it face to face.

    I may be a liberal, but I’m no pacifist. The last time some asshole blamed me for Bush to my face, he was last seen, blood streaming down his face, running through a parking lot screaming for help like the little pussy he was.

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