- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 25, 2001

Consumer advocate Ralph Nader, once the darling of liberals,now finds he is rather unwelcome in the Democratic Party's big tent. Prominent Democrats are determined to ostracize Mr. Nader because he supposedly threw the presidential election to George W. Bush. Under this "logic," Mr. Gore would have won were it not for the whopping 2.72 percent of the popular vote Mr. Nader "stole" from him as the Green Party candidate. Of course, Mr. Gore also might have won if he were a more compelling candidate.

The Democrats' treatment of Mr. Nader is sorry testament to the party's skewed priorities and rank intolerance. "We're not going to touch him with a 10-foot pole," Rep. Robert Wexler, Florida Democrat, tells USA Today. Rep. Barney Frank, Massachusetts Democrat, a key proponent of the Nader blacklist, adds that "Nader can never admit he was wrong."

But who is really mistaken? A compelling speaker, Mr. Nader says Sen. Patrick Leahy, Vermont Democrat, who at the time of confirmation hearings was serving as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, ignored his hand-delivered and faxed requests to testify against John Ashcroft. Interviewed by this writer for the American Spectator, Mr. Nader quite literally laughed off the criticism, which he says does not reflect the views of Sen. Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, and other party leaders. He finds Mr. Frank's charge particularly hypocritical. "Can you imagine the apogee of self-righteousness accuses someone of being unable to admit a mistake? I admit my mistakes."

Perhaps, Mr. Nader's real sin is not the small number of votes he "took" from Mr. Gore, but his refusal to pay homage to the "lifestyle issues'' which animate Mr. Frank and most of the Democratic Party elite. Mr. Frank, of course, had previously grumbled that Mr. Nader is indifferent to gay rights issues. And feminists went ballistic when Mr. Nader suggested quite logically that abortion would remain legal even if George Bush won the presidency.

Still, some Democrats are a bit more tolerant than others. Former Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile declines to scapegoat Mr. Nader. "He did siphon off some votes but perhaps [some of those voters] would have stayed home." She suggests the Democrats are wrong to blacklist Mr. Nader. Yes, he used "dangerous language in the campaign" by saying there was no essential difference between her man and Mr. Bush. "But it's a free country."

Ah, free speech. Some speech is more free than others in Democratic environs. It's peachy keen to stand in front of the Democratic Convention as Jesse Jackson did in 1992 and compare George Bush to King Herod. But if you compare George W. Bush to Al Gore, the party cannot tolerate that kind of divisive and insensitive language.

But Mr. Nader continues to insist there is no appreciable difference between most Democrats and Republicans. He notes that Democrats have approved all of Mr.Bush's "right-wing" Cabinet nominees. Democrats, of course, hailed George W. Bush's effort to create a "diverse" Cabinet. But economics is more important to Mr. Nader than skin color. He says the "diverse" Cabinet members are just a bunch of corporate shills. "What George Bush is saying is diversity without a difference. The corporate government prevails."

A bit harsh, but Mr. Nader's criticism of the GOP and the Democrats is tame compared to how the left treats him. Recently, Hillary Clinton, with her usual good cheer and subtle wit, even "joked" that she wouldn't mind seeing Mr. Nader killed. The Washington Post reported that when Mrs. Clinton heard author Harold Evans say "I want to kill Nader" because of all the votes he stole from Gore, Mrs. Clinton replied with a big grin, "That's not a bad idea."

Does the left's foray into the politics of personal destruction worry Mr. Nader? "Only someone writing for the American Spectator could call them the left," he cackles. "They are frightened liberals."

Well, to borrow a phrase from a genuine liberal, who might be unwelcome in the current Democratic Party, for ostentatiously smoking cigarettes, among other offenses, there is nothing to fear but fear itself. The Democrats have alienated large swaths of the American electorate in recent years. They just lost the White House despite unprecedented economic prosperity. Mr. Nader is the least of their problems, which makes this latest outbreak of Democratic intolerance particularly misguided.

Evan Gahr is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.

Evan Gahr is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.

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