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The Next Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader has come out directly with his desire for 2012.

Though he wouldn’t rule out another presidential campaign himself, Nader, 76, said he hoped a new face would take up the progressive cause.

“I’m not foreclosing the possibility … There are just other things to do,” he said in an interview. “And it’s time for someone else to continue. I’ve done it so many times. When I go around the country, I’m telling people they need to find somebody.”

Nader has run, in some form with some party, in the last five presidential elections: write-in bid as a Democrat in ’92, Green in ’96 and ’00, Independent in ’04 and ’08. The strongest performance of these was 2000, when he pulled 2.72% of the vote. Since then, a combination of progressive fury from potential vote-splitting with Democrats and the problem of  actual vote-splitting with the Green Party has limited his impact upon presidential campaigns.

Does the potential replacement for Nader exist? Most rumblings on the blogosphere would say no. If you are looking for an extremely viable candidate of the left, it doesn’t look like a Senator Feingold or Senator Sanders is willing to take the plunge. Former Senator Mike Gravel has publicly stated he may run, but his showing in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary was anemic.
Then there is the Green Party. An article at Green Party Watch has a nice summary of potential candidates for 2012, but the list isn’t very pretty. There are potential candidates like Van Jones and Cindy Sheehan who could be recruited to run on star power, but they are reminiscent of Henry Wallace’s 1948 Progressive Party run – well-known, but with significant negative baggage that could impede their viability.

Then there are former candidates. Winona LaDuke still has a bit of name recognition left, but I have seen little political will from her for a run in 2012 (she did endorse a Green for Minnesota State Auditor in 2010). Matt Gonzalez remains active in politics, but he was unable to translate name recognition in San Francisco into a strong showing on the Nader ticket in 2008 in that area and seems disenchanted with the Green Party. Then there is former Representative Cynthia McKinney, whose 2008 run floundered to 6th with 0.12% of the vote.

Finally, there is the potential for a strong Independent bid. Such a campaign would not necessarily be a progressive phenomenon, but on certain issues it could probably challenge President Obama from that angle. However, only two names stick out in this regard.

First is Jesse Ventura. He publicly declared in 2008 at Ron Paul’s Rally For the Republic that he was interested in such a bid. However, he has not returned to active campaigning in years, declining to run for Senate in 2008 despite strong poll numbers. He also may have a hard time consolidating some on the left; Ventura varies between a more progressive and libertarian line in interviews. In addition, he may want to focus on his TV show Conspiracy Theory, which has been relatively successful despite a few bumps.

The second possibility is Michael Bloomberg. The Independent mayor of New York City has been tossed around as a name to run for President since 2008. His ability to self-fund is infamous, only overshadowed by that of gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman. He has high name recognition for one not affiliated with the two major parties. He would likely have the support of Jesse Ventura (although Ventura oddly encouraged Bloomberg to also support his ambitions). He is at 11% in the latest polls, but he sports high negatives. Ralph Nader recently wr0te 21 reasons why Bloomberg should run while claiming it is not necessarily an endorsement. Still, that may not translate to liberal support for the man with strong ties to Wall Street.

Nader himself has a few options. It doesn’t seem like he plans to drop completely out of the limelight anytime soon, but he could return to his roots in public advocacy. He could also keep politicking in the third party world. In 2010 there was significant encouragement for him to run against Chris Dodd in Connecticut, which it seems he entertained. There has also been a bit of buzz about a 2012 run against Joe Lieberman f0r Senate. If Lieberman does run as an Independent again, Nader could leverage his national profile to turn the contest into an interesting 4-way battle.
All things considered, the left does not yet have its new Nader. But politics can be unpredictable; it only takes one story for the next big thing, or Nader, to emerge.

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  1. Best We Can Do? [Lake] Best We Can Do? [Lake] December 12, 2010


    “Elizabeth Edwards was first diagnosed with cancer in 2004, a day after the Kerry-Edwards ticket lost to George W. Bush in that year’s presidential election. Doctors declared her cancer-free after grueling treatments, but the disease returned in an incurable form in 2007. She died Tuesday.

    Her last years were tumultuous ones, made difficult by her husband’s affair and eventual admission that he’d fathered a child with the mistress. John and Elizabeth Edwards separated about a year ago. “

  2. Melty Melty December 12, 2010

    Gravel’s already past eighty. I think it highly doubtful he’ll run.

  3. Best We Can Do? [Lake] Best We Can Do? [Lake] December 12, 2010

    Gravel returned to business ventures and went through difficult times, suffering corporate and personal bankruptcies amid poor health.

    He is a passionate advocate of direct democracy and the National Initiative.

    In 2006, Gravel began a run for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States to promote those ideas.

    His campaign gained an Internet following and national attention due to forceful, humorous and politically unorthodox debate appearances during 2007, but showed very little support in national polls or in 2008 caucuses and primaries.

    In March 2008, he announced he was switching to the Libertarian Party to compete for its presidential nomination and the inclusion of the National Initiative into the Libertarian Platform.

    At the May 2008 Libertarian National Convention he failed on both counts and announced his political electoral career had ended.

  4. Mobert Rilnes Mobert Rilnes December 12, 2010

    In a word…no. Your computer has not been sabotaged. Please do not give the matter any more thought. Despite watching thousand of hours of porn since purchasing the computer, you have not contracted a virus. Do not be alarmed. Do not stop watching porn.

  5. Ribert Molnes Ribert Molnes December 12, 2010

    I have it on good authority from they guy who bakes my bialys that the Ukrainian mob has created a virus that specifically targets my computer and blocks my sites. They’re trying to ween me off the porn, but I will never stop. Never ever will I stop, the fools.

  6. Ross Ross December 12, 2010

    Great article. I think the whole idea of a progressive challenger is a bit misguided….progressives and socialists and radicals need to work on organizing before they can even dream of supporting a presidential challenger. Not to mention, a lot of these problems are more systematic than just with Obama himself. So I think a progressive presidential challenger might just serve to further weaken the progressive “movement” (more like a slump with a weak grunt than a movement) by distracting it from effective resistance and luring it into the more useless aspects of electoral politics, just like Obama’s run did in 2008.

  7. Brian Brian December 12, 2010

    Ventura will flirt with it for a while but in the end he’ll decide not to. Trust me he’s been doing this to us in Minnesota since he left office 8 years ago. The guy was a great governor but he sure loves the spotlight a little too much.

  8. Brian Brian December 12, 2010

    Plus just about any shred of credibility that he had is shot thanks to his TV show. He’d be the candidate of 9/11 truthers and tin-foil wearing, black helicopter fearing conspiracy theorists.

  9. Best We Can Do? [Lake] Best We Can Do? [Lake] December 12, 2010

    AND ON THE LOCAL SCENE (San Diego’s East County)

    “A reasonable person who read the papers or watched the news last week might conclude that murderous violence could happen anywhere, at any time, in any school in America.”

    Cue Ominous Music: “Many of us float our children off to school in a bubble, grateful to live in a wholesome town—”We are America,” Santee Mayor Randy Voepel* declared—and unwilling to admit that the danger could follow us no matter where we go.”

    Oh, Just Settle Down: Bizarrely, after running off an alarming string of school shooting anecdotes,

    Time acknowledges the ridiculousness of its own cover by slipping in the story’s only actual statistic: “youth violence is dropping…schools are getting safer” and “fewer than 1% of teen gun-related deaths occur in schools.”

    * Mayor Voepel has announced, just this week end, that he is no longer GOP, but an out and out ‘Independent’, and has a back ground of being ‘slightly right of Attila the Hun’ ……….

  10. Ross Levin Ross Levin December 12, 2010

    @10- credibility with whom?

  11. Jimmy Clifton Jimmy Clifton December 12, 2010

    I think Feingold would be the best shot but don’t think he will challenge Obama. The person who will challenge him will be someone who could care less if he or she is accused of helping damage or even defeat Obama in the final analysis.

  12. How about... How about... December 12, 2010

    …Howard Dean?

  13. Melty Melty December 12, 2010

    Thinking on the word “progressive”, I find I have no sense of what “progressive” is supposed to mean. Some kind of progress, I suppose, but progress toward what? Will anyone enlighten me?

  14. Brian Brian December 12, 2010

    Credibility with the non-truthers and everyone else that doesn’t listen to Alex Jones’ radio show.

  15. @8 Ross, you’ve got it wrong, the “progressives” ARE in power.

    If you’ll look at the Santa Cruz Action Network (SCAN) whose members are CIA Director Leon Panetta [Democratic], Congressional Defense Committee chair Sam Farr (CA 17th CD), CA state assemblyman Bill Monning [ Democratic], etc., etc….they are in power. The “progressives”, or Democratics, still control 100% of Santa Cruz city council.

    @16 Melty, the word progressive is code word for Democratic, sometimes Republican, and in Nader’s case, outsider socialists.

    But when I look at the Democratic Party’s oppressive grip on government…pretty much 100% of the power in Central California, I think “oppression”.

    I guess the word means different things to different people. If you like meanie men like MP Ralph Nader [Independent], maybe you’ll like “Progressives”, or at least to what he’s referring to as a progressive. To him, I guess it’s a good thing, progressives.

    And I’m sure other people see progressive as a positive label.

    It sort of means if/when he’s in power, he’s all things to all people; he’s the environmentalist, he’s the independent, he’s the progressive, he’s the proportionalist…it’s just a label.

    It’s like a fight over words. It sort of means he’s trying to start a fight over that word, he wants that word, progressive. Like a three-party system; Democratic, Republican and MP Nader [Independent]/ progressive.

    It’s just him causing conflict, and not working together under pure proportional representation.

    Some people think you gain power through conflict in politics. Not me, I think we gain power through working together.

    That’s why I promote the elections for The USA Parliament.

    So although the word progressive has bad connotations to me and leaves a bad flavor in my mouth, I’m all for anyone being self categorized however they wish.

    For MP Nader, it’s just an opportunity to start conflict, to announce that he’s “progressive”…or maybe it was the author of the story trying to create conflict over the word progressive.

    The author mentions the Progressive Party, but there’s no attempt to work within the open invitation of the USA Parliament, a tool for Progressive Party members to coordinate with others.

    It’s more like they’re trying to be a propaganda outlet, to create some political rift for a story.

    But it’s from a frivolous, selfish and dictatorial position of manipulating the press for the sake of a story, not from a position of constructive coordination to actually accomplish anything like voter registration or decisions though voting.

  16. Jimmy Clifton Jimmy Clifton December 12, 2010

    I think Dean is too “establishment Democrat” but I could be wrong. I actually wouldn’t be surprised if Cynthia McKinney challenged Obama in the primaries.

  17. Robert Milnes Robert Milnes December 12, 2010

    Whoeverposted 6&7is an asshole and/or a lackey.

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