Ralph Nader enters presidential race

Nader said Thomas Jefferson believed that “when you lose your government, you’ve got to go into the electoral arena.”

“A Jeffersonian revolution is needed in this country,” he said.

Nader told NBC that great changes in U.S. history have come “through little parties that never won any national election.”

“Dissent is the mother of ascent,” he said. “And in that context I’ve decided to run for president.”

I am very undecided about Nader’s run. On the pro side of things, I think he will bring an important perspective to the race and will hopefully push the Democratic nominee to not drift as far to the center as he or she might otherwise do.

On the negative side, there is a major issue with the spoiler factor. We don’t have a fair system for electing the President, so it is very possible for a third party candidate to throw the race to dark side. In 2004 there was no real substantive difference between Bush and Kerry (both of them were pro-Iraq war, pro-patriot act and pro-Nafta… Kerry even wanted to institute a surge in troop numbers), but this year I think the contrast is more pronounced. Both Obama and Clinton are today opposed to the war in Iraq. I don’t think they are nearly radical enough in ending the war or bringing about real change, but the difference between them and McCain isn’t insignificant.

My hope right now is that Nader will stay in the race but will negotiate with the eventual democratic nominee for him to pull out of the race. For instance, he could get a guarantee that all troops will be out of Iraq in one year in exchange for dropping out. Or maybe Nader could agree to run a “safe states” strategy, in which he only campaigns in states that have no real risk of him being a spoiler.

However it goes down, I’m hoping that Nader will be yet one more factor to push the Democrats to not compromise on the war, universal health care, or any other critical issues of this election year. The Dems have nothing to fear from Nader, unless they play it safe and run a disasterous stand-for-nothing campaign like they have for the last few presidential electoral cycles.

Oh and one more thing… just to make it clear to my readers, Nader is running as an Independent and not as a Green. He also ran as an independent in ’04 (he sought the GP’s endorsement but they rejected him). While I like Nader in many ways, I think the GP should again choose a grassroots candidate in ’08. There are several promising folks in the GP race right now, and I think Nader has never been much into party organizing, so it would be better to chose someone new.