History is the only laboratory we have in which to test the consequences of thought.
Good point, Etienne. So you tell me: What the hell is he thinking? I think we can all agree that Nader doesn't really expect to be elected. If he isn't running in hopes of being elected, why exactly is he running? Why is he going to expend all of that money and all of that effort in a doomed enterprise?
I have a few theories:
The Universal Theory: Ralph is a dumbass.
Whenever somebody does something astoundingly stupid, one must pause, at least briefly, to consider the possibility that they are astoundingly stupid. Sure. Wouldn't rule that out.
Pencil this one in unless we come up with something better.
Alzwhomer?: Ralph has forgotten what happened the last time he ran.
Another low-probability theory, but you know... Reagan. It could happen.
You Suck, Ralph: Similar to The Universal Theory, but subtly different.
Whenever somebody acts like an asshole, one must pause, at least briefly... I think you see where I'm going with this one.
One Ralph Left Behind: Ralph is not stupid, merely ignorant.
He's not dumb, he simply never learned how the electoral process works. Although Princeton and Harvard alumns must wail and gnash their teeth every time his curriculum vitae is cited, it is possible that he majored in speech comm, phys ed, or some other major that does not require one to take a basic American government class, and the guy is old. He probably doesn't remember his high school Constitution test.
While appealing in a cheesy sit-com kind of way, I don't think it's likely that either institution is currently drafting a letter to tell him that he has to come back and pass his final or they'll revoke his diploma. I'll rate this theory as highly unlikely.
The Charlie Daniels Option: Ralph has sold his soul to Satan.
He's running because he's eeeeeevil.
Because this is dependent upon the existence of a host of mythological beings, I'm going to say "Nuh-uh," even if it would explain a few things.
OK, now we're getting into the higher probability theories.
Sell Out: Ralph simply may have abandoned his principles.
The guy is old. He may no longer care about workers or the environment or fighting the man. He's running because he actually does want to help the Republicans.
This is a little bit Universal Theory, a little bit You Suck, Ralph, and a little bit Charlie Daniels Option, but more likely than any of them individually. It doesn't require a complete ignorance of the electoral process or amnesia. I wouldn't rule it out.
Buying His Own Bullshit: Ralph may have said it so often that he actually believes that there is no difference between the two parties.
He's old. He's crotchety. Old people believe lots of stupid shit. It's one of the reasons that so many of them vote Republican while they're living on catfood and going without healthcare.
This theory fails for a couple of reasons, but the big one is this: if he really doesn't care who wins, he can just watch the election. He doesn't actually have to run in it.
That said, I'm not ready to write this one off. When one gets far enough away from the visible portions of the political spectrum one finds oneself in the infrabatshit or ultrafundie wavelengths. Nader may be seeing the election so far into the infrabatshit (he's going to influence the debate and rescue the Democrats and the rest of the country from themselves) that he can no longer see what the rest of us see (he's going to be a spoiler candidate who benefits the people who are most opposed to the things he supports).
It's simple physics. Gotta trust the science.
Run Like An Egyptian: Ralph is in deep, deep denial.
I've saved the most likely theory for last. If you've ever seen Ralph interviewed, you quickly see that he just won't take responsibility for his own actions. I'm not sure I buy it. Nobody can maintain that kind of pathological delusion for this long without the occasional Britney moment.
Here's what I think: he's not really stupid enough to buy that "no difference" bullshit as anything other than a rhetorical device. He knows as well as I do that one boring old centrist party was led by the guy who wrote the Kyoto Protocol, the other was led by the guy who destroyed it. He knows that the neocons had been planning the war in Iraq well in advance of 9-11, but they only had the power to start it because he made it close enough for them to steal the election. He can look at economic data and see that the Republicans have destroyed the economy and sold out the poor and the middle class to benefit the wealthy. Again. He can see the continuation of corporate welfare and the erosion of workers' rights. He's seen the destruction of our civil liberties. And because he knows that the Republicans were running pro-Nader ads in swing states, he knows that everybody knew, well in advance, who his campaign would ultimately benefit.
In short, I think that deep down, he knows the last 8 years are his fault, I just think he's having a hard time accepting it.
So here's the theory I'm betting on: He desperately wants to run this election and lose big, and he desperately wants the Democrats to win anyway. If that happens, he can spend the rest of his life telling himself that his election campaign really was irrelevant, and that maybe it wasn't actually his fault after all.
Also, he'd probably like to go outside without people spitting on him.
Unfortunately for the rest of us:
History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.
-- Karl Marx