Nader on GOP life support

If Ralph Nader had any shame left — already a big if, and waxing — he would quit his presidential run in embarrassment. Increasingly, it owes its thin breath of life, not to any popular groundswell, but to cynical resuscitation by Republicans — and often by the most conservative Republicans at that.

Is this any way for a hyper-liberal to act?

Shunned this time around by the Green Party and left, in thinning hopes of any sort of imprimatur, only with potential nomination by a Reform Party rump that once embraced right-wing political buccaneer Pat Buchanan, Nader has been scrounging for petition signatures that would enroll him on state presidential ballots.

And are the idealistic young, perhaps, or aggrieved consumers or short-changed workers rising in any numbers to his cause? They are not.

Instead, where the issue is in the balance, the state parties of the GOP are out beating the bushes for signatures on Nader’s behalf.

They seemed in fact to have put him over the top in Arizona, but when Democrats challenged a number of the petitions, Nader abandoned the state.

In Oregon, the anti-tax, indeed anti-government Citizens for a Sound Economy and the religious-right Oregon Family Council, otherwise vivacious mainly on behalf of forbidding gay marriage, have hustled signatures for him. In Michigan, the Nader cause is championed, for the moment, by the state Republican Party and egged on by conservative talk radio.

Some notable number of Nader’s financial supporters appear to be major Republican contributors.

Their contributions would make them lean kitties to either major party but on the threadbare Nader ledger they loom as relative fat cats.

All of this Nader more or less acknowledges but then shrugs off with a lot of excuses that just boil down to the end justifies the means. This from a fellow who was once a fair paladin on behalf of the nation’s weakest and least enfranchised but who now seems like the political equivalent of those sorry homeless folks you see walking along the streets muttering to themselves.

Nader plainly cost Al Gore the 2000 election. Gore won the popular vote and would have won the electoral vote as well if Nader had not put himself into the game. (Considering the Florida mess, Gore may even have won the electoral vote but, OK, that’s muttering over the dam.)

Republicans are pushing Nader onto November ballots wherever they can in hopes he can repeat the trick for them. The possibility will became increasingly important if the race ends tightly.

The electorate deserves clean up-and-down votes on the major candidates, not another muddled, disputed election with no mandate to issue.

In 2000, Nader could argue, implausibly even then but respectably, that he was running in the grand tradition of the progressive third-party candidates of the early 20th century — to put into serious play a neglected but necessary agenda, in the progressives’ case workman’s comp, the 40-hour week and so on.

Then, Nader could be passed off as quixotic. This time, he just seems delusional.

Tom Teepen is a columnist for Cox Newspapers and is based in Atlanta. Write him at