Sunday, February 24, 2008

Nader: Now The Slander Begins Again

SAM SMITH - AP started it in their lead story on Ralph Nader's announcement that he is running for president: "He is still loathed by many Democrats who call him a spoiler and claim his candidacy in 2000 cost the party the election by siphoning votes away from Al Gore in a razor-thin contest in Florida."

More on that below, but even if what the Democrats said were true, the behavior of the party in the years that followed 2000 did absolutely nothing to correct the situation. For example:

- The Democrats could have supported and worked for instant runoff (also known as ranked-choice) voting which dramatically changes the effect of third parties on elections and politics.

- They could have avoided gratuitously angering Green voters through such cheap tricks as redistricting Maine's one Green state legislator.

- They could have adopted some Green policies, much as European major parties do when pressed by from the left or right.

- They could have stopped being so consistently indistinguishable from the Republicans.

- Obama could have said he would add one or more Greens to his cabinet just as promised he might with one or more right wingers.

None of this happened.

I supported Nader's run in 2000 but, for pragmatic reasons, suggested he not run in 2004. In my memo on the topic, I argued that just because you had something righteous to say didn't mean that standing in the middle of an interstate at rush hour was the best place to argue it. The drop in returns for Nader and the Green candidate, David Cobb, supported my thesis.

At the same time, I believe that anyone who feels there is something wrong with their neighborhood, city, state or country not only has the right to run for public office but honors that office by doing so. To criticize someone for exercising this right is repulsively anti-democratic and, when the target is Nader or the Greens, reflects the political trust fund baby mentality of the Democratic Party, living off the hard efforts of its past and doing little or nothing for the present and future.

The party of denial needs to look at its own defects and not seek salvation in blaming others for exercising their constitutional rights. Deceive yourself once or twice and you can chalk it up to political error. Deceive yourself thrice and you really need therapy.

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