A lot of progressives who would ordinarily respect a man of Ralph Nader's accomplishments seem to be filled with venomous hate toward the man for his numerous bids for the highest office in the land.
'It cost us the White House twice," they all seem to echo. Despite the fact that it's not true, it's actually quite surprising coming from a group of intellectuals who pride themselves on seeing the truth, no matter how ugly. I mean, we all know the story of Al Gore's loss. A combination of his stiff political persona (which has since melted away into a form of super-stardom) and his similarities to the Republicans at the time caused one of the closest races in history. It all came down to Florida and the facts tell us that the Supreme Court stopped the recount even though Al Gore had more votes, with or without Nader.
Then, in 2004, John Kerry lost against George Bush. To lose against George Bush at the height of his unpopularity, you'd have to run an exceedingly poor campaign. And he did. And it wasn't just the swiftboaters, his campaign was weak. I think we can all admit that.
But because Ralph Nader was in the race and people voted for him, some believe it's his fault. "If Gore and Kerry could have just gotten those progressive votes from Nader, we wouldn't be where we are!" they all seem to scream.
But Nader stayed in the race because the people who voted for him weren't represented by the two mainstream candidates. It's easy for people to forget that voting for President isn't a popularity contest or voting for one of two choices. It's about voting for the candidate who is going to represent you and your interests and your values best. In 2000 and 2004, a lot of people, myself included, felt that Ralph Nader better represented us and what we felt our country needed.
Why should our presidential candidates take these votes on the far left for granted? They need to earn those votes. Why should we vote for someone we don't believe in?
A candidate should be willing to work hard to earn every vote, not just those in the middle and take those at the base of their party for granted. So, Ralph Nader is running again this year. And instead of pleading and complaining for him to leave the race, why don't we complain to the eventual Democratic nominee (Obama or Clinton) to fight just as hard for Nader votes as McCain votes?
We need a shift left in this country and everyone knows it. Maybe Ralph Nader running will focus the debate even further left, back to the politics of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. We need a new Roosevelt now more than ever after the Great Bush Depression and adding Nader to the race increases the chances of that happening.
If Clinton or Obama want to be president, they should work hard to represent everyone, not just the swing votes and I truly think Ralph Nader is the counter-weight that will force them to stay grounded.
Maybe then we can start taking care of our citizens again instead of the corporate elite.
Bryan Young blogs daily at This Divided State.