Third Party & Independents Archives

Third-Party Nadir

Blamed for a chain of causality that has Bush in office and us in Iraq, Ralph Nader justifies himself in a Salon interview today, “If we all have an equal right to run, no one would use the word ‘spoiler.’” Howard Dean lambastes back on the Times’ op-ed page saying Bush can be beaten, but “only if we join together — and don’t repeat our last mistake” of dividing in 2000.

The spoiler comment is truly telling: Anyone could run -- Hillary and Bill Clinton, could make their own ticket; Howard Dean could have spilt-off and ran as an independent, but they aren't and he didn't. The spoiler isn't anyone who can spoil, it's someone who spoils.

It's hard to tell if Nader is being egotistical, ignorant or supremely idealistic. The last, it seems, is most probable, but it's hard, even as someone ambivalent about the direction of both parties, to endorse Nader's course in the context of re-electing Bush.

Third-parties need a boost in this country. The two-party system seems so innate, so natural--two banks of a river steering the course of the country--but it's more inertia than ingenuity, especially in the primaries.

It’s hard to say what can be done--a strong third-party candidate with good (but not so especially interested) backers could evolve the system substantially. And, it seems, both parties could use a shake-up. Some fiscal conservatives have reason to grumble about Bush, and some churches (in states like West Virginia, where I live) have reason to turn-tail on their traditionally Democratic roots. There are all sorts of combination--hawkish democrats; Republicans who want semi-entitlement programs like MediCare--that aren’t finding expression in the national mainstream because of the two-party system.

But, it seems, Nader isn’t the person to change this. Because of Democratic nightmares over 2000 and because of the feeling of Us vs. Them from both sides of the aisle, this just isn’t the year for a break-out in the third-party.

The troubling question is: When will there ever be such a year? The nation seems increasingly divided politically, how can it untangle from these divisions?

This is a question I can’t pretend to answer. Though it seems there is heightened sense of divide over some issues—homosexuality; how to use U.S. military force, where and when; and government privatization—it isn’t like the country just stopped agreeing on what it wants: liberty, life and the pursuit of happiness, to name a few things.

But either way, this doesn’t seem to spin back to Nader. Four years ago his popularity was a product of less intense times (not that Republicans weren’t torn-up at Clinton), but it just seemed, to me anyway, more of quiz, “Bush or Gore,” than a litmus test of your whole character. Nader had trouble working in even then--he didn’t even get to debate--so, now, it’s unsurprising, but a bit disenchanting, that three’s a crowd.

Posted by Ry Rivard at April 12, 2004 9:02 PM