Seeking Green Suckers

In October of 2000, when I dared suggest that Ralph Nader’s campaign would tip the election to George W. Bush, Nader supporters called me a “Whore for Gore” as well as all sorts of names not worth printing in a family publication.

I usually try to avoid name calling, but one nickname does come to mind for Nader supporters this year: “Tools for Bush.”

I say this because Nader is working with Republicans to defeat John Kerry in 2004.

Last time around he said he was trying to build a viable third party — the Green Party, I think. This year he shunned the Green Party until a few weeks ago when he figured out he needed their network to get on the ballot.

Some of Nader’s supporters are disaffected Democrats who hope Nader will inject more Progressive stands into the party’s agenda.

However, it’s clear that has never been Ralphie’s agenda. Right after the 2000 election — while the ballots were still being counted — Nader told reporters that he would continue to challenge Democrats no matter how Progressive a platform they adopted.

In short, Nader doesn’t care about his stated goals — about outcomes — only about punishing Democrats.

As Nader’s close adviser Tarek Milleron explained back in 2000, the reason Nader’s running is simple.

“Because we want to punish the Democrats, we want to hurt them, wound them.”

“Milleron’s words are so remarkable they bear repeating: Ralph Nader ran so he could hurt, wound, and punish the Democrats,” Harry G. Levine wrote for the Village Voice. “His primary goal was not raising issues, much less building the Green Party. He actively wanted Gore to lose.”

“Ralph Nader exploited his reputation as a self-sacrificing idealist to pursue an utterly selfish goal,” Levine wrote. “He claimed his purpose was to build the Green Party by drawing the 5 percent vote required for federal funding. But this was cover—a way of justifying his lust for revenge. Nader campaigned as the honest man who told the truth while lying about what he believed and wanted.”

Like many people, I’ve learned that with Nader you can’t trust what he says — he often contradicts himself depending on the audience and you have to look past his made-for-quoting one-liners that avoid answering tough questions.

Instead you have to watch his actions — and for close to a decade now all his efforts have been directed at punishing the Democratic party for following Bill Clinton. Gore took it on the chin, but Ralphie’s desire for revenge still simmers. This year he’s targeting his efforts in states like Oregon, Arizona, Florida and Ohio — battleground states that he knows he can tip in Bush’s favor — if he can get on the ballot.

It is not surprising that Bush and Nader are allies, but it took Peter Camejo, to help me realize why Bush and Nader make such a great team. They are two sides of the same coin.

“What I like about Ralph Nader,” Camejo told the San Francisco Chronicle, upon accepting the vice-messiah spot behind Nader. “Ralph Nader doesn’t bend.”

That’s right, Nader doesn’t bend — regardless of who gets hurt. In that way, he’s just like George W. Bush. Regardless of the facts, scientific evidence or political realities — regardless of who suffers — he trundles on repeating discredited arguments. His ideology is so strong that it doesn’t matter how many people are killed, or how much evidence points out the error is his actions, he will bulldoze on heedless of the consequences because others always pay the price.

Like Bush, Nader looks back on the past completely blind to the wreckage left in his wake. If asked — as Bush was asked — whether he’d made any mistakes, I’m sure Nader draws a blank too — he just wouldn’t be as humble about it.

The question now becomes whether the Green Party will submit themselves to the rule of Nader — a guy who refuses to even join their party — for a third time. Nader said he will refuse the Green Party nomination but will accept their endorsement. It’s not clear what the Greens might hope to get out of it.

“Ralph Nader has refused to participate in the Green Party’s democratic process,” said Green Party presidential candidate David Cobb. “I don’t understand what we would hope to accomplish by supporting Ralph Nader’s independent candidacy. He has the right to run as an independent, he has the right to create the Populist Party, but it does not help to build the Green Party.”

Not that Ralphie ever cared about the party — that’s just what he told people.

In contrast to Nader, Cobb said he wants to accomplish two goals — unseating George W. Bush and building the Green Party. Cobb is not so blinded by revenge as to lose sight of what’s best for the country and for his Progressive cause.

“It’s a smart-growth strategy,” Cobb told Salon. “Smart growth means focusing resources where we are more likely to build the Green Party — the 40 states where the Electoral College votes are not going to be genuinely contested.” Such a strategy will help put the Green Party in a better position after the November election.

The Greens don’t need Nader but Nader needs them. Without their network of volunteers, he’s found it much more difficult to get on the ballot.

In his desperation, Nader is relying on the support of the Bush campaign to try and make the ballot in Oregon. In April he failed to find 1,000 Oregonians willing to forego a basketball game to support his campaign.

So as the Oregonian and Seattle P-I reported this week, right wing groups — including the Bush-Cheney campaign in Oregon — have been calling their supporters and asking them to help get Nader on the Oregon ballot. They make no bones about their goal — they know Oregon is a swing state that could go to either Bush or Kerry. They also know that if Nader is added, he’ll draw enough votes away from Kerry to send the Beaver state’s electoral votes over to Bush.

“Ralph Nader is undoubtedly going to pull some very crucial votes from John Kerry, and that could mean the difference in a razor-thin presidential election,” reads a script used by Citizens for a Sound Economy in its phone calls. “Can we count on you to come out on Saturday night and sign the petition to nominate Ralph Nader?”

In other words Nader is now officially a tool of the Bush campaign — and he doesn’t mind.

Indeed in Arizona — another swing state — Ralphie boy approached professional signature gatherers for Republican causes to aid his ballot effort. To gather enough signatures he piggy-backed his campaign on a right-wing anti-immigrant initiative, according to the American Prospect. The Protect Arizona Now (PAN) initiative would restrict access to public services for undocumented immigrants.

It’s not clear whether Nader supports the initiative, although some of his supporters in the state are fighting against it.

“We have to control our immigration,” Nader told the American Conservative Magazine. “We have to limit the number of people who come into this country illegally.”

PAN was funded by a Washington D.C. based anti-immigration group, but it’s not the only conservative cause he’s using to help buy signatures. Nader’s Arizona effort also involved piggy-backing with an initiative to ban public financing of candidates.

Meanwhile, Nader’s even picked up on Tom Delay’s trick of using his charity Citizen Works as cover to subsidize his campaign activities, as the Washington Post reported last weekend.

This time around, the Green Party is divided about supporting Nader. Some Greens see Bush as a big threat to all they hold dear — and Nader’s antics a threat to the future growth of the party. They hope to run their own candidate — someone who is actually a member of the party this time — but they want to run a “safe states” strategy– campaigning in states where there aren’t enough Green voters to tip the state to Bush.

Nader by contrast his focusing his campaign to have just the opposite effect. As we’ve seen in Oregon and Ohio — he’s aiming for states that are close enough for him to tip the election to Bush — just as he did in 2000.

Some Greens also know that Nader doesn’t listen to anyone, so if he does collect their endorsement, that doesn’t mean he’ll take their advice or tell them the truth about what he plans to do.

While Nader says he wants to attract disgruntled Republicans this time around his choice of Camejo demonstrates that he’s going to go after liberal strongholds where he can do the most damage to the Democratic party he has come to hate.

As for Camejo, he says he’s running because he got tired of liberals telling Nader not to run — which he sees as “silencing dissenting voices.”

Camejo knows better. He knows no one is trying to silence Nader, only trying to keep him from re-electing one of the most destructive Presidents in U.S history. Like Nader now, Camejo is eagerly becoming a tool of the forces of everything he once claimed to be against.

Moreover, it is Nader who always wants to eliminate any who would question that he is the messiah. He wants to be on the political stage but is convinced he should be above criticism by his opponents. It’s Nader who believes whenever someone attacks him — or questions the political wisdom of his campaign — they are “stifling dissent” and Anti-American. His ego and quest for revenge has turned him into an empty husk of what he once stood for.

If Nader were to sit this one out, he’d probably get more air time to dissent — and more people turning out to hear what he has to say. He’d probably even get more respect.

Dissent is not what Nader is interested in.

What he’s looking for, is a few more suckers like Camejo, willing to become tools of Bush.