With Ralph Nader announcing his new bid for the White House I decided that I need to return to I’dDream.com. I’m glad to be back!

Lets get right into it….

Nearly 5% of the voters in the 2000 presidential election (including myself) chose Ralph Nader over Al Gore or George W. Bush. Yet, as Cas hinted at in a prior post, in 2004 many of those same folks lamented the fact that Ralph chose to run for the presidency again in 2004. For example, despite their support in 2000, Michael Moore and Bill Maher went to their knees on live television to beg Ralph not to run in 2004.

What happened? The simple answer is that George Bush turned out to be the most anti-humanitarian president in the modern era and, through an extensive smear campaign, the Democratic Party tied Bush’s victory in 2000 to Nader’s successful campaign to capture 5% of the vote. The Democrats did not want to take responsibility for failing to run an inspiring campaign, and passed the blame on Nader. At that time, most folks on the left saw through this blame game, and acknowledged that Nader was not a spoiler and that his campaign had provided a meaningful choice for the left, who had been taken for granted and ignored by the Democratic Party for many years.

However, in 2004 there was a very different political climate on the left. Many folks were so sick of Bush’s pandering to corporate interests and the military-industrial complex, that they were willing to unify behind “anyone but Bush.” Again, I’m guilty of following this line of reasoning. The Democratic Party’s answer to Bush was the most moderate and uninspiring candidates possible, John Kerry. (Do you remember Kerry during the debates talking about hunting down terrorists, playing right into Bush’s hands? Ughhh…) Seeing this charade, Ralph decided to run again. However, 4 years of Bush had beaten the spirit of the left and instead of backing Ralph, the “spoiler” argument began to creep into the political will of the left.

Ralph ignored this trend and chose long-term electoral strategy over the political spirit of the movement. This decision has had devastating effects on Ralph’s image and credibility. If you look at the folks who are against Ralph’s current presidential bid, many of them lament over the fact that he ran in 2004, not the fact that he took 5% of the vote in 2000. People (including both Obama and Clinton) tend to criticize him personally over his “arrogance” to run a campaign based on idealism despite lack of political support from his base.

Maybe it was arrogant for Ralph to run in 2004. I didn’t support him then, and I think his campaign may have done more political harm to the left than long-term strategic benefit. However, this is purely speculation and only time will tell what benefits Ralph’s presidential bids will have on our society and democracy.

What I call the “Ralph Nader Dilemma” is the fact that Ralph’s policy is still absolutely correct, yet he chose to force his solutions on an unwilling constituency. How can we hold a grudge against a man who has arguably done more good for the people of this country than any other living American? Ralph may truly believe that his ideas are more important than the political will of those he claims to represent. If so, this is arrogance plain and simple. However, nearly everything that comes out of the man’s mouth is inspired and accurate.

So, how are we to react to Ralph’s announcement that he is running again in 2008? Personally, I forgive Ralph and I fully invite his new bid. He has already pushed Obama and Hillary to address issues which had been completely shut out by their campaigns prior, including their own corporate backing. That in itself is a victory.

However, Ralph must be careful not to step on the toes of the people whose interests he claims to represent. What if the Green Party selects Cynthia McKinney as its presidential candidate? If Cynthia is to be regarded as a true leader of the new left and the people’s interest, then how could Ralph possibly justify running against her?

We’ve seen the power of Ralph’s 2000 bid and the good that it did for the country. We’ve also seen the bitter results of the “anyone but Bush” failure in 2004. My own sense of the current political spirit of the left is that folks are ready to return to a spirit more akin to an “anybody but the Republicans or Democrats” strategy of 2000. However, unless we can all forgive him for whatever arrogance he may have shown, Ralph may no longer be the figurehead in that movement.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts and comments….