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
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
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."