Indy Nader and the Greens
by Josh Frank

December 31, 2003

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Right before the Christmas holiday Ralph Nader, the alleged spoiler of the 2000 elections, announced he would not run for president on the Green Party ticket. Nader sent a letter to the Green Party Steering Committee informing them that he may instead run as an independent.

Following Nader’s announcement Ben Manski, co-chair of the Green Party said, “I think if he does choose to run as an independent -- and that's a big 'if' -- he will be a weaker candidate than if he had worked with the Greens.”

Nader may have been considering running as an independent back in 2000 when he declared that if he chose to run in 2004, his campaign would be executed in a much different fashion then either of his earlier two bids.

In his letter to Green officials, Nader remarked that he felt Green Presidential campaigns get started far too late in the election season. If Greens want to run an aggressive campaign Nader insists, they must be on the ground early and run hard in every state. If Nader does decide to contend as an independent, he will likely announce his candidacy shortly after the first of the year, as the Democratic Primaries kick off in Iowa and New Hampshire.

However as Manski pointed out, Nader will have a difficult time getting on state registers, as the Greens already have ballot access in many states.

Green members have had mixed reactions following Nader’s announcement.

Attorney David Cobb, a Green Party Presidential candidate from California, said that he now finds himself “in the position of being the clear front-runner in the Party.” Other Greens and former Nader supporters claim the consumer advocate has been relatively weak on social justice and war issues since his bid in 2000. They point out that Nader was virtually silent during the build-up to the Iraq war, and was late to criticize the infringements on American civil liberties following September 11th.

Current supporters of Nader’s independent prospects for next year say that the Greens would only hinder a full fledge Nader campaign. There is clearly less accountability running as an independent.

Nader would love to shake the stigma his 2000 campaign created, but it is unlikely Democrats will simply forgive and forget. To them, right or not, Nader is to blame for George W. Bush’s victory over Al Gore. So running as an Indy or Green is truly irrelevant, as long as it’s Nader, it will be a loaded campaign from the get-go.

Nevertheless, both a Nader and Green candidacy may be beneficial for front-running Democrat Howard Dean. Dr. Dean has been labeled by the Right as a fringe contender, outside the mainstream psyche. Conservative critics (Democrats included) see Dean’s anti-war talk as dovish and his anti-Bush speech as angry and spiteful. Many believe it will only hurt the Dems in the long run. A progressive third-party campaign may take some heat off of Dean, as his centrist posture shines while Nader and the Greens bait the true Left. But credit must be given to Howard Dean for attacking the DNC and their conservative stances. He knows the only way to beat Bush is to offer, only if rhetorically, a clear alternative. Voters don’t need a Bush-lite, they need distinctions.

Others simply say Ralph Nader’s bid is an ego trip that’s run its course.

They perceive no valuable outcome from a Nader candidacy in 2004. Most liberal observers claim neither a Green nor a Nader campaign will forcefully challenge the Bush junta; they see third party drives as divisive and hurtful to progressive causes.

Despite the in-fighting among Bush haters, it is unlikely that a progressive third party run will alter the course of the 2004 elections. Bush has so infuriated the Left that the 3% support the Greens and Nader received back in 2000 is unlikely to be repeated.

Nonetheless, wouldn’t it be exciting to see a Green candidate or Nader mix it up with the Democrats and Republicans in the national televised debates?

Bush hasn’t ruled alone. He’s had ample assistance from Democrats and Republicans alike, and the Greens and Nader would love to point this out.

It’d be wise for Democrats like Howard Dean to jump to the podium and apologize quick—accepting blame is the first step to recovery. It could also prove to be the first step to capturing the White House.

Josh Frank is a writer and activist living in New York City. He can be reached at frank_joshua@hotmail.com.


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