I joined the Nader group on yahoo http://groups.yahoo.com/group/RalphNader2004/
so I could post this there.
Ralph Nader Does It Again
Published: February 23, 2004
Four years ago, when people told Ralph Nader that his Green Party candidacy might split the Democratic vote and elect George W. Bush president, Mr. Nader said Al Gore and Mr. Bush were so much alike that it didn't really matter who won. The worst that could happen, he sometimes added, was that Mr. Bush would turn out to be far more conservative than expected. That would then mobilize Democrats and create a healthy new sense of urgency about progressive issues.
Well, four years later the Democrats are nothing if not mobilized. Yet Mr. Nader isn't satisfied. He's running again, this time as an independent, to the horror of both friends and critics. It was Mr. Nader, they say, who drained votes away from Mr. Gore in critical states like Florida and New Hampshire, throwing the White House to Mr. Bush. The idea that he's prepared to do it again has made them both terrified and furious.
Their concern seems overblown. If Mr. Nader didn't learn anything from the 2000 election, the voters certainly did. People might have voted for him once under the impression that sending a message was more important than picking the next president. We doubt very much that they will make the same mistake twice.
So much has happened in the last four years that it's hard to remember how low the stakes seemed when Mr. Gore and Mr. Bush were running. The country was at peace and prosperous. The big issue in Washington was what to do with the budget surplus. Mr. Gore kept changing his message and Mr. Bush was promising to be a uniter, not a divider. Both men knew from their polling that victory would belong to the one who captured the affections of a small number of wavering voters in a few states, and both tried desperately to come up with the fuzzy, centrist message to win them over.
It's not surprising that in 2000 many people thought they could afford to express their irritation with a vote for Mr. Nader. If they did that again this November, it would be a repudiation of the Democratic nominee so thorough that the party would certainly have bigger problems than third-party candidates to worry about.
The most regrettable thing about Mr. Nader's new candidacy is not how it is likely to affect the election, but how it will affect Mr. Nader's own legacy. Ralph Nader has been one of the giants of the American reform movement. His crusades for consumer rights and product safety alone should earn him a place in history. But he has always been an outsider, and his candidacy in 2000 seemed fueled by bitterness at the way he had been marginalized in Democratic politics. His anger is understandable, but it would be a tragedy if Mr. Nader allowed it to give the story of his career a sad and bitter ending.