Crashing the party once again

Ralph Nader's sudden cameo in the presidential race comes as a delightful surprise -- just not for Democrats.

Topics: 2004 Elections, 2000 Elections,

No, not Nader again. In an act of pure egotism, Ralph Nader — who has been largely silent on the main issues of the day, nursing his wounds since the last time he messed up an election — insists on another chance to play at electoral politics on the national stage. Does he have no sense of accountability or shame?

Yes, Al Gore shares responsibility with the U.S. Supreme Court for the fact that George W. Bush ended up as president. But without Nader in the picture in 2000, Bush’s narrow Electoral College victory would have been impossible to scam. The arguments that Nader made last time around seem absurd this time, when it is all too clear that there are significant differences between the Democrats and Republicans on the issues Nader has spent a lifetime effectively raising. The Republican Party marches lock step in a campaign against the environment, working people, the poor, civil liberties and world peace.

The vital issue in this election is that a Republican sweep may make permanent the damage to the constitutional principle of checks and balances. How dare Nader ignore the reactionary cast of Bush’s judicial appointments and the refusal of a Republican-controlled Congress to challenge the mendacity of this president on issues as varied and important as global warming and the preemptive, deceit-driven invasion of Iraq?

The two-party system has its shortcomings, but we are up against one-party domination. For Nader to cavalierly dismiss this concentration of power in the hands of right-wing ideologues attempting to roll back the clock on the bipartisan accomplishments of the last 50 years is dangerous nonsense. How glib to grade the difference between the two parties as that of a D-plus and a D-minus.

Like some faded chanteuse in a dingy nightclub, Nader played the old songs on “Meet the Press,” even hitting some of the high notes with his warnings about the obvious power of corporations. But he played it cheaper than he ever has, promising to appeal to conservative voters by attacking “corporate pornography directed toward children” and trade with “the despotic communist regime in China.” Was the first reference Nader’s obscene attempt to join pro-censorship forces in using the Super Bowl halftime-show controversy to return to the good old puritanical days of the 1950s, when “sex” was a dirty word? The reference to China was a pathetic attempt to revive the imagery of the Cold War, which is hardly relevant to America’s trade problems but does play into the hands of the neo-imperialists determined to redraw the map of the world.

Nader is not responding to a grass-roots demand that he run but rather is stoking his celebrity as a media curiosity. He has no mandate from those who care deeply about the causes he has championed. His sudden cameo appearance over the objections of many who have followed him, bypassing existing Green Party organizations, smacks of overwhelming elitism. Nader has done nothing of significance since the last election to organize popular opposition to the disasters of the Bush government, yet he now deigns to assert that he alone can save us.

His base is not among the people who have suffered most these last three years but rather in the mass media that finds him a diverting sideshow. He announced his candidacy on “Meet the Press,” rather than at a people’s convention of supporters, because he would not have been able to obtain, let alone survive politically, an invitation to such a venue.

His fans, and I once was one, know that too much is at stake in this next election to allow this out-of-touch old warrior to stumble into the fray determined to play leader. But play he will, and the Republicans will delight in his ability to blur the lines at a time of all-too-important electoral divisions. Sadly, Nader, like the products of those auto companies he did so much to expose, is now unsafe at any speed.

Robert Scheer is a syndicated columnist.

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