Columnists Earl Ofari Hutchinson Opinion

THE HUTCHINSON REPORT: Ralph Nader returns to campaign wars

Ralph Nader is at it again. He has been conveniently dredged up and trotted in front of a lot of cameras, microphones and reporter’s note pads in recent days.

He’s got fresh media shelf life in order to answer one question and beat up on one candidate. The question is can or will Bernie Sanders do a Nader presidential campaign 2000 act and run as an independent when he doesn’t get the Democratic nomination?

That won’t happen, and Nader knows it, for the simple fact that Sanders, unlike Nader, is a committed Democrat, and really believes that the key to reforming the political system lies in keeping the heat on the Democratic Party from within to move to the left, and stay there.

But it’s really the Hillary Clinton question that Nader has taken wild flight on. He incessantly bashes and harangues her for being as he gleefully puts it, “Hillary the hawk” and a bought-and-paid for shill for Wall Street. This is the etched-in-stone stock Nader attack on Clinton. Legions of Sanders’ more rabid backers just as gleefully parrot this line.

This can only go one place if it is left to mutate among more than a hard core few. That place is a beeline to the mortal danger of a Donald Trump White House.

Nader would be right at home on this stretch of the political highway. Despite endless efforts to rewrite the 2000 presidential campaign and absolve Nader of putting George W. Bush in the White House, history is having none of it. Nader elected Bush.

Every polling study done for the 2000 presidential election found that Nader snatched anywhere from 2 to 5 times more votes from the Democratic candidate, Al Gore, than he did from the Republican Bush. In both Florida and New Hampshire, the two states that Bush “won,” studies found that Nader voters would have been far more likely to have voted for Gore if Nader weren’t on the ballot than vote for Bush.

The much disputed and still hotly debated Florida vote that dumped the election onto the Supreme Court and virtually guaranteed a Bush White House, involved the microscopic 537 vote edge Bush held over Gore. Nader got nearly 100,000 votes in the state. If he weren’t on the ballot, Florida would have been a comfortable win for Gore.

But forget for a moment the volumes of studies that completely blow away the attempt to whitewash Nader putting Bush in the White House. How about just using common sense.

Now, what would be the likelihood of someone who votes for Nader, the consummate, prototypical, liberal-progressive-corporate-conservative gadfly, doing a complete about face and voting for a Bush? You’d have to go way beyond fantasyland to conjure up that happening.

The oft-heard counter from the Nader apologists is that well, if Nader weren’t on the ballot, his voters would have stayed at home. Yet, using the voter participation percentage index for presidential elections as a guide, there was a 50 percent voter turnout in 2000.

That would have meant that even if 50 percent of voters that voted for Nader didn’t vote at all, this still would have given Gore upwards of 10,000 more votes than Bush would have gotten in Florida.

OK, now we fast forward to presidential campaign 2016, and Nader’s drumbeat attacks on Clinton as just another deal-making, corporate beltway politician. It’s a short step from that to say that there’s not much difference, and little to choose from, between her and Trump other than that she wears the tag of “Democrat” on her resume.

The call is again for a Democratic palace rebellion. In making this claim, some stand the retort that this will further fracture, alienate and demoralize an already nervous, shaky and uneasy Democratic base, and could only work to the advantage of the GOP, on its head.

They claim that Sanders’ political revolution would force the Democratic Party to back the progressive line on everything from labor rights, poverty, battling Wall Street and the corporations, and ending the American war making under threat of losing thousands of votes.

That’s a thin reed to hang an election on. There’s much historical evidence to back up the grave peril that warfare within a political party fuels alienation and resentment. That actively aids and abets the other party. The many calls, petitions and pleas to write in Sanders, vote Green Party, or simply stay home are ominous signs that it could happen.

The eternal argument of not voting for the lesser of two evils, in this case Trump or Clinton, will almost certainly rage all the way up to Election Day. Nader almost certainly will be hauled out repeatedly to make the argument that progressive voters should reject all the exhortations from Clinton backers to jump on her bandwagon out of fear of the bogeyman Trump.

Hopefully, Nader doesn’t hold himself up as example of what happens when angry Democratic voters say no to a Democratic presidential candidate. That “no” elected Bush, and that same “no” could elect Trump.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His forthcoming book is “How ‘President’ Trump will Govern” (Amazon Kindle). He also is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One and the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on Saturdays at 9 a.m. on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.