- The Washington Times - Friday, November 10, 2000

Move over, Jesse Helms. "Consumer advocate" Ralph Nader could soon replace you as Public Enemy Number One on the left.

Despite his decades of playing handmaiden to Big Government and championing countless liberal causes, Saint Ralph now stands poised for eternal damnation. First, he trampled on feminist sacred cows in the course of his spirited campaign for president on the Green Party ticket. Now he's really in hot water.

If just a fraction of the 96,698 votes Mr. Nader won in the key battleground state of Florida had gone to Al Gore, he would have won the election. Instead, Mr. Gore finished behind George W. Bush in Florida by less than 2,000 votes in the first count. With absentee ballots still uncounted, and lawsuits expected, the state and therefore the presidency are likely to remain up for grabs for quite some time. Without Florida's 25 electoral votes, Messrs. Bush and Gore both fall short of the 270 needed for election.

No matter what the final outcome, Mr. Nader can expect even more abuse from the left. Even if Mr. Gore somehow wins, with a margin too close to comfort, Mr. Nader remains a convenient whipping boy. If Mr. Bush wins, Mr. Nader gets blamed for delivering the election to the Texas governor.

So far, liberals have impugned Mr. Nader's integrity, credibility and even his personal life. (This from folks who claim the GOP practices the politics of personal destruction and is otherwise divisive.) The day after the election, the liberal activist group Americans for Democratic Action suggested Mr. Nader, who looks like he hasn't bought a new suit in 20 years, is "narcissistic." These gratuitous personal attacks, including thinly-veiled sexual innuendo, speak volumes about the sorry state of the Democratic Party.

But Mr. Nader can give as good as he gets. At his post-election press conference in Washington, Mr. Nader laughed-off charges he played the spoiler. "Al Gore cost me the election. That's a far greater concern." After all, both the Democrats and Republicans take "marching orders" from their "corporate paymasters," Mr. Nader explained. No wonder he rejoiced that his strong electoral showing heralded "the end of a two party system."

What an optimist. Recently, even nasty innuendo about his sex life reportedly disseminated by the Gore camp left Mr. Nader unfazed. Just days before the election, the Nov. 1 Drudge Report recounted how an unnamed "Gore operative" told reporters, "Look, [Nader's] never been married. Who is going to be sleeping in his bed at the White House if he's elected president? I'm interested. Aren't you?"

A lifelong bachelor, Mr. Nader long ago said his professional endeavors didn't leave him enough time to be a good husband or father. Still, the whispering campaign is vile stuff especially when circulated by the kinds of people who claimed President Clinton's "personal life" was none of anyone's business. But Mr. Nader plows right ahead. He blithely enraged feminists when he said that even if a President Bush appoints enough conservative justices to the Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs. Wade, abortion would most likely remain legal. True enough abortion would be left to the states. But Mr. Nader's dispassionate legal analysis contradicts feminists who argue a Bush presidency would herald the return of back alley abortions. Worse yet, gay activists complain, to no avail, that he gives short-shrift to their concerns.

Class warfare remains Mr. Nader's abiding passion. He made his name in the mid 1960s, long before the heyday of feminism and gay rights. Today, he continues to evidence no use for the practitioners of identity politics who dominate the modern Democratic Party.

No wonder that at his post-election press conference Mr. Nader even spoke wistfully of past liberal giants in Congress, including the late Sen. Abraham Ribicoff. Mr. Nader even spoke favorably of the late Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater. In an apparent reference to Goldwater's failed but unabashedly ideological 1964 presidential campaign, Mr. Nader said Goldwater showed that sometimes the country needs a "fresh start."

In this case, the "fresh start" is a wholesale assault on the two-party system. So far, it's the Democrats who are running scared. The left's incipient whispering campaign about his private life suggests Saint Ralph has come full circle. Mr. Nader made his name and first fortune largely because of a similar effort by General Motors in the 1960s. Not long after Mr. Nader published "Unsafe at Any Speed," GM allegedly had private detectives trail and harass him. In 1966, Mr. Nader sued the auto giant for invasion of privacy. GM settled for $283,000, which Mr. Nader used as seed money for his various "public interest" organizations.

But the Clintonites don't buckle so easily. Recall that the White House rejected Paula Jones' reasonable proposal to settle her sexual harassment lawsuit. And, of course, no sooner did Monica Lewinsky become a household name than the White House allegedly told reporters she was unstable. Mr. Nader could soon learn that the most lethal power in this country is wielded not by Big Business but by his ex-friends on the left.

Evan Gahr is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.

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