"If you feel that way about it," I replied, "Why don't you kill McCain?"
"Too well protected," was his honest answer.
* * *
I voted for Ralph Nader in 2000 and 2004. The first time, I agreed with his critique that Republicans and Democrats were more alike in their subservience to corporations than they were significantly different. Personally, I felt that George W. Bush could not ruin the country in four years. He did a good job trying to prove me wrong, but I don't regret the vote. I really don't think things would have been that much different with Gore in the White House. I annoy people when I suggest that Gore would have also invaded Iraq. It's easy for him to say he wouldn't as an opposition leader, or in hindsight, but there were too many influential forces demanding war, and Gore himself was chummy with the neocons, so much that he was once dubbed "the candidate of the Likud" [the right-wing Israeli party] for his foreign policy stands. And despite W's best efforts to prove me wrong, I voted for Nader again out of disgust with John Kerry's weakling campaign. Again, I'm not as certain as some are that Kerry would have gotten us out of Iraq by now. He seemed to lack the will to crush Republican resistance to any plan he might have. A Democratic president then would probably have had to wage a scorched-earth campaign against the Republican congress and their conservative talker friends, and Kerry's impotent response to the Swift-Boaters gave me no confidence in him.
This year, Nader shouldn't take my vote for granted. Once again, he'll present himself as the protest candidate, but this time a protest movement already exists and is coalescing around Senator Obama. I expressed my interest in and reservations about this movement a few days ago. For some readers, Nader will be the alternate candidate I suggested with a more specific agenda to realize the changes hoped for by the Obama crusade. But Nader will now find himself in the position he criticizes Democrats for taking. He will have to tell the protest movement that they owe him their votes, just as the Democratic party tells liberals and progressives that they all owe it their votes, because he's the real protest candidate. He can probably make a strong argument to back up his claim. The problem this time is that the Obama crusade is likely to look upon Nader as another personification of "the politics of the past." Obama himself has already accused Nader of being an egomaniac who believes that he alone is right on the crucial issues. Obama's followers are likely to see some resemblance between Nader's sense of entitlement and Senator Clinton's. Many of them have probably long been cursing Nader for his alleged role in W's ascendancy. In their minds, most likely, he'll have to go in the generational clean sweep that brushes Clinton and McCain onto the ash-heap of history.
The Obama crusade continues to put me in a difficult position. As noted, here is a massive protest movement that has formed around a person more than it has rallied around a party. Obama personally is no threat to the American Bipolarchy, and is fairly likely to prove less than meets the eyes of many followers today. But despite Nader's criticisms of the Senator, I still see an authentic movement which itself is bigger, arguably, than the Democratic party. The way things are going, we probably won't see a test of whether they'd follow a defeated Obama out of the Democratic ranks, but that doesn't mean that the Obama movement is just another Democratic campaign. Nader will attempt to prove that it is, and he'll be useful if he can present evidence from Obama's career to back his point. For that reason, without committing to vote for him, I welcome Nader's entry into the race. I will say that I am much more likely to vote for Nader if Clinton wins the nomination.
In fact, Nader may end up hurting Senator McCain more than he hurts Obama or Clinton. Nader is determined to run as the anti-war candidate, and will attack the Democratic candidate for the party's failure to end the occupation of Iraq. This will play into McCain's hands, or so it will seem, because he wants to run as the pro-war candidate, the champion of the Surge. He still works under the assumption that the Surge and his support of it have brought him to the brink of the Republican nomination, even while conservative analysts point out that the Surge was, at most, one of many nearly random factors that worked in his favor, and that the war is not really a unifying issue for conservatives this time around. If I were a Democratic strategist, I would eagerly invite Nader to the fall debates so that he and McCain can fight about the war, leaving my own candidate the moderate by default. Maybe moderation isn't a good thing this time around, but remember, I'm pretending to be a Democratic strategist.
Finally, the Democrats can still do a lot to darken my mood toward them. To the extent that they attempt to suppress Nader, they stand to lose my good will. To the extent that they try to ignore the issues he raises and dismisses him by saying a Nader vote is a vote for McCain, there goes more good will. And I don't have a lot of good will for the Democrats in the first place. Ideally, Nader's entry should force Clinton and Obama to authenticate their "progressive" credentials. Should either senator instead merely strike a pose on the assumption that the Democratic party is entitled to anybody's vote by virtue of its age and power alone, that would only prove the necessity of smashing the American Bipolarchy as soon as possible.