Nader’s entry into the presidential race — his fourth real try (he made a half-hearted attempt as a write-in candidate in ’92, but that hardly counts) — has drawn the predictable catcalls from “mainstream Democrats” and cheers from third-party proponents. His decision to enter the race raises several interesting questions:
1) Will the media take him seriously? Thus far, the Presidential Debate Commission has been adamant about limiting the debated to the two “major” parties. That’s sad, because third party candidates certainly liven things up. Compare the 2000 and 2004 Presidential debated with the debates in the California gubernatorial recall election. The latter were far more interesting, as well as being more informative. Third party candidates are more willing to go out on a limb, take chances, say something provocative or even outrageous. It makes great TV, but the corporate-controlled media isn’t interested. Why? Could it be because it might cause some people to become dissatisfied with the “Republicrats” pre-packaged candidates? At any rate, I’ll be pleasantly shocked if the major media give Nader more than a line a week in their campaign pieces.
2) Where will he be on the ballot? In 2004, the Democrats made a major deal of keeping Nader off the ballot in “swing” states like Ohio. It’ll probably happen again. If the green Party nominates him (he won California’s Green Party primary by an overwhelming msjority), he’ll automatically be on the ballot in quite a few states. Will the Democrats again try and keep him off, and, if so, how high a profile will this effort have? Conversely, will Republican “dirty trixters” try to get him put on?
Will the public pay any attention to him? Back in the mid-20th century, Socialist Norman Thomas ran for president so many times it became a running joke, kind of like SNL’s running reference to haw many days Franco had been dead. Will this be the election where Nader becomes the non-candidated candidate — the candidated nobody covers? On the other hand, with Kucinich and Edwards out of the race, Nader is the only remaining candidate aiming to attract the populist vote. It remains to be seen whether there’s enough to that vote to make it a worthwhile courtship object for candidates.
Will Nader again be a spoiler? Nader, in announcing his candidacy, pointed out that this election is the Democrats’ to lose. People are sick of higher inflation, higher unempoyment, and the Iraq War. They want universal, effective, affordable healthcare, an effective program to minimize the effects of global warming, and effective reform of the nation’s public school system — among other things. All these ought to be Democratic Party strong points. However, the DLC’s emphasis on splitting the difference with Republicans means that neither Clinton or Obama has been willing take clear committed stands on these (and other) issues. Nader’s run is, I suspect, at least in part an effort to goad the Democrats to pay some attention to their left wing, or risk losing it to Ralph. Of course, by turning Left they risk alienating those on the Right — so-called “corporate Democrats”. Given DLC control of the party, it’s conceivable the Democrats could once again self-destruct. If so, pundits will again point to Nader, but the truth lies primarily within the structure of the party.