Will Ralph pull a Nader?


Geraldine Sealey
February 17, 2004 9:57PM (UTC)

The New York Times, taking the temperature of grass-roots support for a Ralph Nader presidential run this time around, put it politely: "So far it is not easy to discern a groundswell." The man many Democrats see as the egomaniacal spoiler of the 2000 election, and the person most responsible for the Bush presidency outside of a certain five-some on the Supreme Court, will decide in the coming days whether to spring himself on the general election field once again.

As the Times said, there doesn't appear to be a clamoring for Nader so far from voters in search of a protest candidate. Nader's own online poll asking whether he should run was apparently overrun by negative votes coming from an anti-Nader site RalphDontRun.net, which has seen its traffic spike in the last two weeks to nearly 9,000 visitors a day.

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The Times looked to meetup.com, that modern arbiter of grass-roots popularity, to see how a possible Nader run is playing on the local level. As of Saturday, there were more than 188,000 registered supporters for Howard Dean, 45,000 for John Kerry, 23,000 for Dennis J. Kucinich, 9,000 for John Edwards and a grand total of 375 for Nader, the Times said. Nader was nonplussed by his standing with the Meetup crowd, dismissing in comments to the Times the whole phenomenon of Web-based organizing that energized Dean's candidacy early on and continues to be a defining characteristic of the 2004 campaign. "I really don't deal with the Web. There isn't enough time in the day to go into virtual reality," Nader said.

What will make Ralph run, if Ralph runs? "Mr. Nader said his decision would depend mainly on the returns from a fund-raising appeal he recently mailed, and to a lesser extent on whether Dr. Dean remains in the race," the Times says.

So, the speculation is on. Micah Sifry, a 2000 Nader supporter and author of the book Spoiling for a Fight, says he thinks Ralph is running, and all he can say is: "What a shame."

Sifry: "[Nader] doesn't see a logical difference between the major-party contest of 2000 and the major-party contest of 2004 ... The problem with this line of reasoning is 2004 isn't 2000. President George W. Bush is much more of a radical rightwinger than Candidate George W. Bush You can't make a Berry v. Kush claim stick the way you could a Gush v. Bore But not only that: there just doesn't seem to be much demand among small-d democrats and progressives for another Nader run, after years when activists tried time and again to draft him. This is probably the most important point. It just doesn't make strategic sense to put forward a candidacy that will, in all likelihood, fall flat on its face."

As the Wisconsin returns come in and Dean goes back to Burlington to huddle with the aides who haven't left already, many eyes will be on Nader.


Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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