Ralph Nader’s Plan to Primary Obama Hits a Granite Wall

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 16: Consumer activist and independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader speaks to a crowd in front of the New York Stock Exchange October 16, 2008 in New York City. Nader denounced the Wall Street bailout plan and urged drastically increased regulation of the nation’s financial system. (Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images)
Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Six weeks ago, word got out about a progressive project that could have Ralph Nader playing a familiar role: Electoral scold. He was the best-known member of a coalition to recruit five progressive candidates to run, as Democrats, against Barack Obama. At 4:30 p.m. today, the coalition was going to face its first deadline: qualifying to enter the New Hampshire primary.

Nader’s group won’t make the deadline.

“[Secretary of State] Bill Gardner switched the days on us,” Nader says. “He threatened to change the primary date after Nevada moved up its caucuses, and in the process, he moved up the filing deadline. So he’s pulled the rug out from under us – you think it’s late November, and all of a sudden it’s October 28.”

Nader is annoyed, and understandably so. “You ought to have one federal standard for every state’s elections,” he says. “Do you know why he moved the filing date, just because the primary moved?” (Actually I don’t know.) “We were pulling something together quite nicely, but New Hampshire – that’s the big one, isn’t it? Between the size of the state and the fact that the press is up there, it was a good place to make this statement.”

Perhaps it wasn’t meant to be. The project was announced at a particularly low ebb of progressive enthusiasm. Days later, the Occupy Wall Street really took off. Two prominent members of the primary challenge coalition, Cornel West and Chris Hedges (both professors at Princeton), have pretty much thrown themselves into Occupy, one sign that the progressive scene is more interested in grassroots protest than in an immediate challenge to Obama.