October 27, 2000


I had great hopes for Ralph Nader, really I did. Here is a man who denounces the two-party system as a snare and a delusion, and dares to attack the corporate domination of the electoral process. It looked, for a while at least, as if he would truly stake out his claim as America's insurgent populist, a Green David prepared to take on the corporate-mercantilist Goliath. But there is something a little strange about his "insurgent" campaign, ominous signs that many in the Green Party are caving in to the tremendous pressure from liberal Democrats to pack it in. The Greens, I'm afraid, are on the verge of turning yellow.


Say what? – Nader a sell-out? How about all those radio ads being run by the National Abortion Rights Action League, and the League of Conservation Voters, the statement by former "Nader's Raiders" that he is helping to elect George W. Bush and the fulminations of NOW pleading with him to get out of the race? They've got Gloria Steinem running up and down the West Coast, lecturing soccer-moms from San Diego to Seattle on the absolute necessity of voting the straight Democratic Party line. This flurry of consternation and liberal hysteria is fun to watch: I love it how Gore's shills gush over Ralph as an admirable guy, a principled crusader for liberal values with a track record second to none – and then try to tell us that it would be inadvisable to vote for such a man. Very convincing – not! – and very funny indeed. What is less than funny, however, is that it seems to be working.


The high-profile "celebrities for Nader" campaign – a group of Hollywood phonies and assorted limousine liberals, including Susan Sarandon, Phil Donahue, Tim Robbins, and the insufferable Michael Moore – which has been the real moneybags behind the Green party presidential campaign has apparently backfired. Now that Nader is actually beginning to pose a direct threat to Gore's rapidly dwindling chance at the Oval Office, these dabblers in third party politics are getting nervous, and are pulling back. Greg MacArthur – heir to the fortune behind the MacArthur Foundation, which gives out "genius" awards that have become the equivalent of the Academy Awards for politically correct academics and professional do-gooders – explains to an Associated Press reporter the decision to pull $320,000 in ads in California's biggest newspapers this way:

"California didn't appear to be 'the obvious slam-dunk that these other states were,' he said. . . . 'I still think Gore is going to win California, but if the perception is such that it's a tight race, then that's the wrong market for me to be advertising in."

The latest polls show Bush only five points behind Gore in the Sunshine State – and the decision to pull the ads came only hours after these numbers were announced. MacArthur says that the money will go, instead, to states like New York where the outcome of the presidential contest is more certain.


The Nader campaign has issued a rather huffy statement, disclaiming all connection with the decision to pull the ads and declaring that they intend to "fight for every vote." But since Nader could have presumably dissuaded his celebrity fan club from making such a blatantly pro-Gore move, or at least instructed them to frame their explanations in less obvious terms, the disclaimer rings a little hollow. What this underscores is that the Green Party, and the Nader campaign, do not represent an attempt to build a real third party in this country: This, of course, is not really news: Nader has himself stated on more than one occasion that he sees the Green Party as a way to drag the Democrats back to the Left. But the fraudulence of the Green campaign goes way beyond that. Aside from the unwillingness of the Greens (or their leadership) to challenge the Democratic party in key states, the Nader campaign is acting in concert with the Democrats to ensure a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress.


In California, the Greens have long played a subordinate role to the Democratic Party bosses, declining in most cases to run against vulnerable Democrats, or, indeed, against any Democrats: this year, however, they have taken the unusual step of running a candidate for US Senate – largely because Diane Feinstein is, unfortunately, a shoo-in. On the local level, however, they have continued their longstanding policy of running practically no one. This in spite of the fact that localism practically defines the Green sensibility. Now, listen to the arguments made by Naderite Jim Hightower, the Texas prophet of poor-white-trash populism, defending his candidate against the "charge" that the Greens will hurt Gore in a close race. After enthusing over the pretty impressive crowds at Nader's rallies on the Lehrer News Hour, Hightower tells his fellow Democrats not to worry, because:

"These are people who are not Gore backers. If you want to back Al Gore, I think that's what you should do. That's an honorable position. But it's just as honorable to be reaching out to the 60 percent majority, Gwen, who are not going to vote in this November 7 election or are going to vote for third party candidates because they don't believe they have a choice right now. I believe that it's irresponsible for us, particularly as progressives, not to be reaching out to that vast majority of people and offering them a chance to build a new political channel. I come to you as an old-time Democrat, elected here in the state of Texas as a Democrat, proud to be so. But now I look up at my national party, and the Al Gores and the Democratic Leadership Council; they've taken off the old Sears Roebuck work boots and strapped on the Guccis and Puccis that the Republicans strut around in."


These people weren't going to vote anyway, according to Hightower: but Nader's going to bring them out to vote, many of them for the first time. Kind of like MTV's "Rock the Vote" campaign, clearly part of the Democratic Party's get-out-the-vote drive. For more is at stake this campaign season than the election of a President: when all these new voters get into the voting booth, after they cast their ballots for Nader how will they vote for Congress and on down the line? Surely they won't be voting Republican. The decision to put a lot of Nader's resources into New York that would have otherwise gone to California may have much to do with Hillary Rodham Clinton's tough fight against Rick Lazio for the Senate seat. Hillary is down in the polls, and some have even shown Rick pulling ahead by a hair – the infusion of a few hundred thousand Naderites, who might not otherwise turn up could well put Hillary over the top.


I hate to tell you lefties this, especially the sincere ones who want so much for Nader to be the Real Thing, but the Green Party presidential campaign is nothing more than a get-out-the vote effort on behalf of the Democratic congressional campaign committee – with not a few of the key personnel having strong links to both groups. Ralph Nader is an articulate, if occasionally wrongheaded, opponent of globalism, mercantilism, and the two-party monopoly, but he has either been duped, or is willfully blind to the sellout that is taking place before his eyes. Nader is no doubt sincere in his contempt for Gore's laughable stance as the populist man of the people, and he deserves credit for standing up to the arrogance of liberal mandarins, such as the editorial board of the New York Times, who insist that he is "stealing" votes that somehow rightfully belong to Gore. But the actions of his own supporters belie his rhetorical effusions: if you say you want to build a new party, why not challenge Gore in California, and indeed all along the Pacific coast, where the ecotopian crankery of the Greens has a cultural advantage as well as political appeal?


The answer is all too clear: this is Democratic territory, and, not so surprisingly, the "No Trespassing" sign has gone up in the final weeks of the campaign. While Nader himself may disdain this admonition, clearly his most prominent supporters – and financial backers – are taking it very seriously indeed. Ralph's s Hollywood friends were quick to jump on the Green Party bandwagon, eager to have a sandbox in which to play third party politics, assert their "independence" – and even their radicalism – provided no one took them too seriously.


The Nader campaign is not only selling out its supporters on the national level – their pulling back in the West could easily prevent the Greens from achieving the 5% necessary for federal matching funds in 2004 – but is also actively engaged in a gambit to help the Democrats wrest control of Congress from the Republicans. By failing to run candidates for Congress in any significant numbers, and doing "outreach" to non-voters, the Green strategy is to establish not a genuine third party but a quasi-independent "Green" auxiliary of the Democratic Party. If there were such a thing as a Political Truth in Labeling Act – and who can doubt that Nader, our foremost Public Citizen, has at one time proposed such legislation? – Nader and the Greens would be in clear violation. And I, for one, would be all in favor of prosecuting them – in the court of public opinion, at any rate.


Think about the real implications of the Nader Gambit, and the mindset of those who probably set it in motion: Gore was unelectable, in any case, and would have fallen on his own demerits – this is not a very hard case to make. In any event, the consolation prizes this election year may be worth as much, if not more than the big one. Without a Republican Congress, President Dubya's "compassionate conservatism" is going to merge, effortlessly, with the New Democrats' tough-minded liberalism. The Bush administration will then have the perfect out when confronted by conservatives outraged that Republican principles are being sold down the river: after all, the moderates will moan, it was the conservatives who lost control of Congress.


Progressives who imagine that Nader is building an independent movement, and conservative Republicans who cheer him on for entirely different reasons, had better ask themselves: who benefits from the Nader Gambit? Congressional Democrats, first and foremost, as we have seen; the Hollywood Left, which has a new platform to ply its tired act on; and the putative Bush administration, which will come into office with a built-in protection against conservative dissent. The only losers are conservatives – who will be told that their legislative initiatives are impractical and "extremist," and who will be consigned to watching the GOP drift inexorably leftward (along with the rest of the country).

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Past Columns

Nader Sells Out

America's Fifth Column

Bush, the Balkans, and the Bipartisan "Division of Labor"

Hilary, the War Goddess

Vidal's Valediction: The Golden Age

Norman's Narcissim: Podhoretz in Love

The Middle East: War Without End

Classic Raimondo: Isolationism for Beginners

Notes on the Serbian Revolution and Other Matters

Revolt of the Little Guys

The Clinton-
Gore-Milosevic Connection

Szamuely's Folly: Sympathy for the Devil

Slobo's Gambit: Will It Work?

Adventures in Cyber-Politics, Revisted

Curtains for Milosevic

Dubya's Kosovo Deception

The Return of Pat Buchanan


The Vindication of Wen Ho Lee

Against the EU: Danes Resist Assimilation

UN Millennium Summit: Globalist Dream is Your Worst Nightmare

Iraq and the US – Our Fantasy Island Foreign Policy

Classic Raimondo: Allied Vultures Pick at Iraq's Bones

Colombia – The Deja Vu War

Passage to Cargagena: An Inauspicious Visit

Invasion of the Party-Snatchers

Blowback: Read This Book!

Bush on Kosovo – Turning on a Dime

The Kosovo Fraud: Will They Ever Admit It?

The Outing of Ralph Nader, and Other Atrocities

Why Kosovo? Follow the Money!

Additional Justin Raimondo Archives

Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com. He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against U.S. Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adjunct Scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, in Auburn, Alabama, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Libertarian Studies, and writes frequently for Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (forthcoming from Prometheus Books).

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I have to give credit to Nader for speaking out – finally! – on the Middle East crisis. But the foreign policy section of Nader's website is filled with his palaverings about a "preventative" foreign policy – the idea is that we have to redistribute America's wealth to the rest of the world and thus solve the problems of poverty, illiteracy, disease, and overpopulation that are the "root causes" of war. This is a variety of hubris even more overweening than the Clintonians,' "humanitarian interventionism" on a much bigger scale than anyone in Madeleine Albright's State Department ever imagined. In principle, the world-saving crusaders of the Green Party have no quarrel with the Clintonian foreign policy of global interventionism – theirs is merely a touchy-feely version of the same imperial mindset.


In a previous column, I recommended a vote for Nader or Buchanan on the grounds that this is the only way for independent voters, as well as opponents of war and intervention, to register an effective protest. With the Nader sellout, however, this no longer holds: it is clear that, of the major-minor candidates, only Pat Buchanan is trying to build an organizational alternative to the two-party system, and not just another pressure group. To add real injury to insult, the Nader effort to elect a Democratic Congress is bad news for those who put foreign policy at the top of their political agenda: for the Democrats, as Al Gore and his running mate have made all too clear this election year, are the party of war. This sentiment is overwhelmingly reflected in the ranks of congressional Democrats: it was the Republicans, you'll remember, who protested the Kosovo war in the halls of Congress and refused to support it. Having put George W. Bush in the White House, Nader will retire from the scene, leaving the rest of us to reap the consequences – and it isn't going to be pretty.


With Dubya safely in the White House, his quasi-isolationist campaign rhetoric of the past few weeks – including Condolezza Rice's suggestion that we might someday withdraw from the Balkans – will be long forgotten. As the focus of the world shifts from Europe to the Middle East, and war clouds gather, the disaster will begin to unfold. We'll have a gung-ho interventionist Congress, and an internationalist Republican ensconced in the Presidency – and for this, the worst of all possible worlds, you'll have none other than Ralph Nader to thank.

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