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Wednesday — February 25, 2004

Opinion Columns

No time for
whining over Nader

Commentary by PAT MURPHY

Political "spoilers" aren’t new to presidential elections, although Ralph Nader is one whose ego and hunger for attention are larger than most and not as easily sated.

Unlike candidates of other offshoot parties who came and went, Nader and his 97,000-plus vote tally in Florida is seared in the minds of Democrats as the reason for Al Gore losing the 2000 presidential race to George W. Bush.

Perhaps. At one time, however, Democrats were villanizing the U.S. Supreme Court (it ordered a halt to Florida vote-counting) and Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris (Republicans rewarded her meddling with a seat in Congress) for Gore’s defeat.

Post-mortems of the 2000 election suggest the possibility that many who supported Nader were political iconoclasts who don't vote for candidates of major parties and/or wouldn’t have voted for Gore in any event. Others found Gore less attractive with his silly campaign makeovers--shedding suits for earth tone frat boy T-shirts and adopting an artificially aggressive Alpha male speaking style.

With Nader now back as an Independent rather than Green Party candidate, Democrats either can spend months before the November election whining and predicting doom because of his presence, or get to work to turn out a more convincing vote than 2000 and let Nader indulge his eccentric and Quixotic folly.

Democrats shouldn’t feel so put upon. Republicans have endured their own spoilers. Former Nixon speech writer and conservative Republican Pat Buchanan’s 2000 Reform Party "pitchfork Army" campaign (less than 1 percent of the vote) and Illinois Republican turned Independent Congressman John Anderson (7 percent of the 1980 vote), come to mind. Some Republicans probably considered 1992 Reform Party candidate and conservative tycoon Ross Perot and 1968 American Independent Party candidate George Wallace, Alabama’s segregationist governor, unwelcome candidates on their conservative turf.

In the end, many of Nader’s 2000 followers will abandon him in 2004. They now know the consequence of their wasted votes.

The real damage to Democrats, ironically, may be from Democrats and their denigrating remarks about each other on the campaign trail. Their sound bites will find a place in President Bush’s ad barrages.

This is the sham of presidential politics--losers smearing their party’s frontrunner, then cooing that they’ll kiss and make up and support a candidate they described as utterly lacking just weeks earlier.

Ultimately, Nader will pay for his pointless candidacy. Instead of being remembered as the daring gadfly that founded Public Citizen groups to help create landmark consumer policies from the sidelines, history will footnote Nader as a blindly ambitious egocentric consumed by his wreck-and-ruin fetish.

Before this campaign is over, some clever and vindictive Democrats also will find ways of exploiting the name Nader, which sounds like "nadir" and is defined as "the lowest point of anything."


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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.