The 2004 Ralph Nader campaign is a political watershed, but not because of Ralph Nader. What the Nader campaign is doing, I submit, is shaking out all the so-called "liberals" who secretly pander to the leadership of the Democratic Party and its mandate to present two Republican Parties to the public.
You can see it in their hatred of Nader and his campaign. After decades of supporting a political party, the Democrats, which has become incapable of doing anything besides nodding in assent while the Republicans offer the public what Vijay Prashad calls "cruel forms of nationalism" as they dismantle the welfare state, these same people hoist the banner of "opposing Bush" to demand further quietism from those who would really oppose the status quo. They know that their guilt for complicity can be shoved back into the unconscious if they successfully scapegoat those who would damage their real cause by revealing its complicity. They censor Nader with a ferocity that would abolish the First Amendment tomorrow were it given the power to do so, because they have chosen the posture of hand-wringing political losers as preferable to the posture of the complicit guilty. That's the true meaning of the "lesser of two evils" dilemma, those are the two evils of which the Democrats choose the lesser. This stance evinces no viable agenda. We are on the slippery slope to Bush theocracy, fastened in by the psychic double-bind of Democrat Nader-hatred.
The "A vote for Nader is a vote for Bush" argument is what Dr. Freud would call a "projection." After all, didn't the Massachusetts voters vote in Kerry, who then voted with Bush on the issues that matter? It isn't Nader who voted for NAFTA, the Welfare Bill, the No Child Left Behind Act, the war against Iraq, or the USA PATRIOT act.
There are indeed "differences" between the Democrat and Republican Parties. The Republicans, both leadership and rank-and-file, are just purely mean, whereas the Democrat leaders work on meanness by proceeding in the direction of well-financed corporate duplicity in their behavior toward a friendlier constituency. This difference shakes out in the financial sphere -- compare any of the Dem candidates' election funds with Bush's and you'll see David and Goliath. It will be more extreme in 2008, and even more so in 2012. That's the main difference between the Democrats and the Republicans. The problem is that, in the long run, a Democrat psychology of pro-capitalist liberal moral panic is an inevitable policy loser in its ongoing battle with a Republican psychology of financially-buttressed corporate theocratic mean-spiritedness.
That having been said, Nader hasn't offered the public anything, so far, that we haven't heard from the mouths of Edwards or Kucinich. We are as far away from socialism as we ever were. But fasten your seatbelts here, as the American political landscape is about to register something powerful enough to be logged into Freud's Index. As Darth Vader said, "Feel the hate."