Nader the Spoiler?

Ralph Nader
Ralph Nader’s decision to run for president as an independent candidate could be a huge obstacle in the Democrats' attempt to capture the White House. What does his candidacy really mean for election 2004? We turned to our resident liberal, Alan Colmes for some answers: Why is Nader jumping into this race?

Colmes: I think he genuinely believes he is a progressive voice that is to the left of where the other two parties are. A lot of people feel that the two-party system is old hat and that other voices need to be heard. I’ve heard a lot of people say, “ego” and that certainly may be a part of it; I mean anybody has got to have an ego to run for president. But a case can be made that the two big parties are the parties that get the special interest money. The Democratic Party for many is not as progressive as they would like it to be. What do you make of the timing of his decision?

Colmes: I think he was just really trying to figure out who would be the nominee. When it became apparent that it was not going to be Dean or Kucinich, I think he felt the only way a more progressive voice would be heard would be for him to enter the fray and get the media attention that goes along with that. What do you make of the criticism that he has not been more visible in the past four years? Has he been “invisible,” as some say?

Colmes: I think he has been visible. I mean he’s been on our show a number of times. Certainly you are not as visible as you are when you’re a candidate or an elected official perhaps, but there’s a lot of work that he’s done with his public citizens group — he’s been a guest on many shows, so I don’t think I agree with that premise. Will he succeed?

Colmes: I don’t think he’ll be anywhere near as successful as he was last time. He’s not running with Green Party backing; he probably won’t get on the ballot in all fifty states. His former supporters and even some of his best friends urged him not to run. They are so energized about not having Bush continue for another four years, that a lot of the Nader support from four years ago I believe will go to the Democratic nominee. His impact in my view will be minimal. Should Nader supporters vote their conscience or vote Democrat?

Colmes: I think a lot of people last time felt, ‘well I’m going to vote my heart, not my head’ believing that was the right thing to do and let the chips fall where they may. But I think when we saw how close the last election was, many people began to say, ‘well I know where my heart is, but I want to be pragmatic.’ I think people have seen how poorly this administration has conducted the war on terror, what it has done to the tax structure to help the wealthy — and now today Bush decides to amend the Constitution as if gay marriages are a big problem in America. I think the feeling against Bush is so strong that people are willing to overlook their heart and vote their head this time. Must one work within the system to change the system?

Colmes: I think a lot can be said for that. I think Ralph Nader would be doing a greater service to say “I don’t agree with the Democrats, but I think that’s our best vote to get a more progressive voice in there. I want to work with them and mobilize the people who believe in me and say here’s what I think the best thing is to do.” The fact of the matter is only a Republican or Democrat will get elected President. We are not going to elect an independent. It is going to be a long time before this country — unlike European countries where more parties get to be heard —elects a non-Democrat or a non-Republican. Do you think Kerry and Edwards will be forced to adopt a more progressive message?

Colmes: I don’t think Nader will be as impactful as he was four years ago, but I would hope the Democrats would consider some of what Nader has to say, because whether or not you care for the messenger, I think the message is important.

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