Green is Popular, Nader is Washed Up

Rumor has it that Ralph Nader is - surprise! -mulling another bid for the presidency. It goes without saying that the septuagenerian consumer-rights campaigner won’t get close to the White House; American presidential races don’t lend themselves to third-party politics, and more credible candidates than he have tried and failed. It’s faintly conceivable that Michael Bloomberg--a centrist with broad, cross-party appeal--could carve out enough votes to make it as a third party kingmaker, but it would be almost impossible for a left-wing, niche candidate to do the same.

Along the way, though, Nader could do considerable damage to America’s green movement. The political maverick’s on-again, off-again relationship with the Green Party isn’t the issue here: What really matters is that, thanks in large part to his spoiler campaign in 2000, Ralph Nader remains the public figure most closely associated in many people’s minds with green politics. Unfortunately, he’s also a relic of the bad old days, when grand gestures and eye-catching publicity stunts were the only way to keep green issues on the political radar. By launching another doomed campaign, he would only reinforce middle America’s lingering suspicion that environmentalism is a fringe issue reserved for quixotic ideologues with no place in the political mainstream.

For some environmentalists, Nader’s anti-establishment message is still seductive, but the truth is that greens have moved beyond tilting at windmills. Al Gore is enjoying something of a renaissance as America’s Great Green Hope; climate change is accepted as a reality by both voters and politicians; the Democratic Congress is finally taking environmental legislation seriously; even the Bush administration now pays lip service to the importance of saving the planet. These days, the green fight is less about getting noticed, and more about ensuring that our representatives have sufficient imagination and political will to implement real solutions.

That’s arguably a task best attempted from within the party structure. Just as Democratic anti-war activists have learned to twist the arms of wayward lawmakers, becoming increasingly effective shapers of the party line, environmentalists now have the potential to engage with and directly influence their elected leaders as never before. Bringing green politics into the political mainstream has been a long, hard slog. Now, at last, environmentalists have a shot at becoming a genuine political force. They shouldn’t squander their newfound credibility by pinning their hopes on an anti-establishment dinosaur like Nader.


The Democrats are hardly leading the way in environmental policy. Right here in Nancy Pelosi's home district, asbestos is being released at the construction site of the Lennar Corporation, a company with close ties to Pelosi. The people in the community have showed up at several meetings at City Hall to complain about it. Pelosi apparently doesn't care.
Pelosi has also presided over increased fares and cuts in service for local transit agencies. She made a rare public appearance in San Francisco to cut a ribbon and throw a taxpayer funded party for her cronies to announce the new T-Line, which was launched years late and millions over budget. Since then, riders have often waited over an hour for the train, making them late for work and other appointments. The launching of the T-Line meant the elimination of the 15 Third, which was more reliable.
Al Gore has been making some good headlines. Too bad he failed to do anything about the environment during his 8 years as Vice-President.