Fleeing the Greens

By Nichols, John | The Nation, January 12, 2004 | Go to article overview

Fleeing the Greens


Nichols, John, The Nation


Ralph Nader has finally figured out how to unite Democrats and Greens. After Nader notified Green officials that he would not seek the party's presidential nomination in 2004 and let it be known that he might stand as an independent, it can safely be said that a number of Green activists were every bit as upset with Nader as those Democrats who believe the votes he won in key states cost Al Gore the presidency in 2000.

In a sense, however, both the Democrats and the Greens are wrong to worry. A Nader candidacy in 2004, either as a Green or as an unaffiliated independent, was never likely to win as many votes as the 2.9 million the consumer activist secured in 2000. The determination to prevent George W. Bush from securing a second term is so strong on the left that it has caused a great many voters who backed Nader, and even some who consider themselves Greens, to grudgingly accept that they will be voting for a Democrat in 2004. If you scratch a Dennis Kucinich backer, you will usually find a Nader enthusiast. And if you attend a Howard Dean meet-up, you'll see plenty of students with Green Party pins still attached to their knapsacks. I've talked to a lot of them; they haven't necessarily given up on third-party politics, and many of them still revere Nader, but they are passionate about beating Bush this time around.

The best bet is that the field of likely voters for the Greens or an independent Nader candidacy has shrunk significantly. Unless the Democrats destroy themselves, either with a fratricidal fight for the nomination or by selecting a pro-war, pro-free trade candidate like Joe Lieberman, 2004 is not shaping up as a particularly good year for breaking the grip of the two major parties. Polls and anecdotal evidence tell the same story: With his pre-emptive wars abroad and pre-emption of civil liberties and civil society at home, Bush has made the choice so stark that voters are unlikely to feel very adventurous come November.

But that does not mean that Nader's move outside the Green fold is insignificant. If Nader runs as an independent and splinters the already small number of potential voters for a progressive alternative to the Democrats and Republicans, he runs the risk of doing serious damage to both the Greens and himself. Does anyone seriously think that Democratic, Republican and media insiders who kept Nader out of the 2000 presidential debates will accept him in 2004, or that they would possibly let Nader and a Green who is little known nationally--such as Texas lawyer David Cobb or 2003 California gubernatorial candidate Peter Camejo--take podiums opposite Bush and the Democratic nominee? …

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