Naderʼs Gamble

For whatever reason, Ralph Nader is trying to support the Democrats in 2012. He is working within that party to challenge the president on issues. His goal is not to challenge his nomination, but the direction itʼs going. One shouldnʼt psychoanalyze his motives, as many are wont to do. One should, however, look at the strategy and see if it will be successful or not.

First of all, no-one at this stage can say whether Obamaʼs a shoe-in or a long shot. Those who do are usually just those pundits who have their 5 minutes of air time fame with mainstream media like NPR or Fox (going from corporate center to corporate far right). Whether heʼll even be the nominee is only a guess. For those who want the Democratic Party to succeed in November 2012, having a strong nominee is essential.

One canʼt say whether Naderʼs strategy will work or not. Does he think moving Obama to the center (from the right) with strong philosophical and policy position challenges, but not electoral challenges, will beat whoever the Republicans nominate? Who knows now who thatʼll be. Weʼve seen examples where the Anointed One either falls flat along the trail or fails in his attempt: Howard Dean for the Democrats comes first to mind.  If one looks at history, especially all national elections since 1968, some patterns do emerge (yet not a prophecy for whatʼs yet to come).

In nearly all cases, when an incumbent president or vice president runs and is seriously challenged from within, he loses. (Humphrey, 1968, yet one could argue that Robert Kennedy could have pulled it off; Ford, 1976; Carter, 1980, Bush, 1992; Gore, 2000, but the election was recognized as stolen by many). In all other cases when the incumbent was not seriously challenged from within, he won.

So what Nader is doing is risky for the party he wants to win in 2012. He chose a hybrid approach to challenging the president, and quite innovative in this approach. How successful will these challenges be? Will it expose Obamaʼs faults to his partyʼs most loyal voters? Will these voters be turned off by being forced to recognize how his positions have not reflected their desires, hopes, and needs? Will it move him back to the center-right, rather than the far right, thus garnering support from Democratic voters who only see the ʻDʼ as the redeeming factor for any nominee? Will a willingness to accept liberals’ challenges expose him as being as unprincipled later as all his years as president leading up to the Primaries have shown him to be?

With so many variables one cannot yet write a computer program that will predict the next future president. Maybe Billie Beane of the Oakland Aʼs could have created one to determine the ʻwinningʼ team but like the title of the movie about him, “Moneyball”, itʼs not usually policies but who with the money selects the next CEO of the US. The challenges that we refer to as the Primary season only selects the individual.

Myles Hoenig is a teacher activist in Maryland. He can be reached at: myles.hoenig@gmail.com. Read other articles by Myles.