For those of you who didn’t spend your vacations reading bookmarked, back-logged New York Times articles while listening to MSNBC, you may have missed Ralph Nader’s recent announcement on “Meet the Press.” It made my heart leap – he’s running for president. Again.
Then came the collective disgruntled sigh from the Democratic camp. Even Barack Obama, the apparent golden boy of this year’s election waltz had some less-than-Boy-Scout-like things to say about the notable consumer activist. The reason the left-leaners are all hot under the collar because of Nader harkens back to the 2000 election. Many Democrats still blame Nader for stealing liberal votes from Al Gore, ultimately costing him the election.
As a Green Party supporter, the 2000 election is a sore subject for me. You think your life is tough, Dems? The Greens were able to win a miniscule 2.74 percent of the vote, and that was heralded as a feat for the ages by experts. So, remind me again why I should have sympathy for a party with millions of dollars, unlimited media access and every resource needed to seal the deal. Gore didn’t even win his home state. As easy as it is to blame the underdog, the Democrats have no one to blame but themselves for their historic defeat.
I was ready to go to the mattresses to defend my man – and then came Thursday. On the 28th of last month Nader announced he does not plan to run on the Green Party ticket this time around, despite the fact that he would be virtually guaranteed the nomination from the party that has always been loyal to him. That was the news that crushed my 2008 election dreams. Nader and the GP would have been an ideal pairing. They would have mounted a stronger campaign than either standing alone.
I like Nader because he’s the political equivalent to giving the middle finger. He’s been criticized as having tunnel-vision, being egotistical, stubborn and an all-around a pain in the ass. That is, among other reasons, exactly why I love him. If Nader took the election, he would stomp into the Oval Office, bury his nose in work and not look up until he was dragged from office, re-election be damned. And I’m a big fan of the Green Party’s ten-point platform (check out www.gp.org). This would have been the perfect pairing between the man who strives for change and a party with a fresh vision of what that change should be.
Going it alone is a bad choice for Nader. Third parties and independent candidates already have it tough enough. They get very little street cred. The major parties argue that filling out some forms, getting some signature and throwing together a ticket does not make you a legitimate party. That’s pretty condescending – exactly the type of big-headed sense of entitlement that makes Democrats claim that Nader “stole” their votes in the last election. That lack of respect works to prevent voters from seriously considering alternative party platforms. The common sentiment is that third parties are a waste of attention and votes.
That prejudice is unfortunate because it’s exactly what hinders true change. Lots of people during elections sit around and whine about how they don’t like their choices. Then they wait for November and check a box for whomever they dislike the least. One of the biggest problems with the American political system today is the domineering of the two major parties. I’m sick of choosing between two parties and two candidates that will begin to sound more and more similar as Nov. 4 approaches. In a country as diverse as America there is no way every voice can be represented by just two platforms, especially when it has taken so long for one of them to nominate a minority candidate for president.
People tell me voting Green makes me a romantic idealist, and that I’m throwing my vote away. But I’ll continue to vote on principle because I believe that it’s the only way change can begin and because I believe eventually America will join in my frustration and realize the need for more players in the political game. I still believe a vote for third parties is a vote for choice.
In the face of all the challenges third parties already face, if anyone has a right to be pissed about Nader splitting from the Greens, it should be people like me – who actually believe in an independent challenge to the monotony of the two-party system. Nader’s 2.74 percent is closest thing we’ve had to a serious third-party challenge as long as I’ve been old enough to follow politics – and I’d hardly call that anything close to a serious threat.
It’s true that independent candidates like Ross Perot have had more successful campaigns as recently as 1992. But that 2.74 percent represents the most successful campaign by a third party in recent years. Nader’s distancing himself from the Greens is another setback for the little-party-that-could, which is already having enough problems huffing and puffing up the hill.
And this added division has crushed my election dreams.