Rampaging Ralph

The next three months, Ralph Nader says, will determine whether he runs for president again in 2004 on the Green Party ticket.Nader plans to announce his decision in January.He says meetings with Democratic Party offi cials to gauge how receptive they are to the Green agenda will determine his course.

Many Democrats bitterly assign full responsibility for Al Gore’s loss in 2000 to Nader.If that’s true,Nader says it’s a reason why the party should pay attention to him now.”If they are going to blame the Greens for 2000,why not reach out to the Greens,if they are really worried about them?” he asks.

Nader charges that Republicans co-opt the social conservatives and libertarians in their party more effectively than Democrats do progressives.He doesn’t think it’s fair,but sidesteps the question of whether he wants to be co-opted himself.

Nader points to the Texas Republican Party platform as exhibit A of the GOP’s skill at co-option.The document captures an austere and revolutionary fundamentalism worthy of an American Taliban.Included among its many grand acts are calls for abolishing the U.S.Department of Education,the Surgeon General,the Environmental Protection Agency,and the departments of Energy,Housing and Urban Development,Commerce,and Labor, as well as the Internal Revenue Service and most taxes.

In previous state conventions, grassroots Republicans have fought to make it mandatory that all Republican candidates publicly endorse each plank of the platform.(See “Elephant Wars,” July 15,2002.)Elected offi cials have always thwarted this effort.They and GOP corporate donors understand that widespread public dissemination of the platform would be fatal to mainstream support.(Indeed,Democrats running statewide in 2002 made half-hearted attempts to hang the platform on Republican candidates.)

In an open letter,Nader recently challenged President Bush to make his position on the Texas Republican Party platform clear.”I call on you,President George W.Bush,as the leader of your Republican Party,to engage in truth-in-advertising regarding the Texas State Republican platform,and let the voters of this country know where you and your fellow elected Texas Republicans stand,” he wrote.

Nader believes Americans should truly get acquainted with the radical GOP agenda.”The Republicans would incinerate the Democrats if their platform was so extreme,” he says.

In contrast to the GOP,Nader complains the Democrats are too timid.He notes that at the 2000 national platform conference,the Democratic Leadership Council knocked down proposed planks by progressives that were little more than what Roosevelt’s New Deal

included.That is how worried conservative Dems appear to be over the prospect that their party might actually stand for something.

Nader has long tried to battle the DLC for the soul of the Democratic Party.His three-month deadline to nudge Democratic offi cials in a more populist direction seems to be a signal that he is coming back to the party. It would be nothing short of extraordinary for Nader to run as the Green Party candidate for the 2004 presidential election.He is well aware that the Bush Administration is,at heart,just as radical as the Texas GOP platform.

What kind of welcome the former candidate might receive from those in the party he has opposed for so long is an open question.Will they be able to separate the message from the messenger long enough to honestly judge the validity of Nader’s critiques?— JB

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Published at 12:00 am CST