02/24/2008 03:04 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Nader Runs, Nation Ralphs

I guess even Republicans deserve a bit of good news once in a while, however small:

Ralph Nader said Sunday he will run for president as a third-party candidate, criticizing the top White House contenders as too close to big business and pledging to repeat a bid that will "shift the power from the few to the many."

"Shift the power from the few to the many," huh? Gee... I thought that's what I'd been doing this past half decade or so, along with a few million of my neighbors in the netroots community? Way to give us the finger, Ralph.

No, I guess instead of dedicating our lives to blogging for little or no money, creating new media infrastructure from scratch with zero resources, and struggling to build a new progressive movement that has empowered millions, actually won a few elections, and has started to change the way politics is conducted nationwide... the real way to shift the power from the few to the many is for a single, cranky, dried up, arrogant, old white guy to go on national television and declare that he is running for president. You know... for us. Because apparently, we're too stupid to do it for ourselves.

There was a time, decades ago, when I dreamed of a viable third party that might duplicate the success of the Greens in Europe, but then, there was a time when I once looked up to Ralph Nader, consumer protection crusader, as a genuine American hero. I was young. What the fuck did I know?

Over the years, my understanding of electoral politics matured into a deep appreciation for the nuances of our two party system, long before Nader's tragic 2000 campaign destroyed what little credibility the American Green Party had left. There is a genius to our system, that for the first time in history not only legitimized dissent, but institutionalized it. Yes our system is profoundly conservative at its core in that truly big, abrupt changes are exceedingly difficult to achieve, but this institutional sluggishness is not insurmountable and it has served to maintain the political and economic stability on which past generations have built our nation into the most prosperous and powerful on earth. And when cranks like Nader critique the Democrats and the Republicans as providing little or no choice to voters, they focus solely on the competition between the two parties while ignoring the competition within them.

It took thirty or more years for the forces of the far right to firmly seize the reins of the Republican Party and the institutions that support it, and it will take at least another decade or two for our "people powered" progressive movement to do the same with our party. That Nader can't see the slow motion political revolution unfolding before his eyes reveals him to be as much a part of the ossified political establishment as the politicians he reviles... his third, futile campaign a last gasp of the status quo fighting to retain its own relevance. The old crusader appearing before the old media, challenging the declining power of the old guard; it is a scene that would be comic if it weren't so tragic: Nader cast as Lear, railing against a storm of political change that threatens to sweep both him and his foes into the dustbin of history.

David Goldstein blogs on WA state politics at