Is Ralph Nader dumber than we thought? Could he perhaps be suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer's? He's 70, after all. You've got to wonder after reading the absurd things he's been saying since announcing on Sunday that he would run for the presidency.

Despite the fact that he cost Al Gore the 2000 election--and thus put George W. Bush into office--Nader is angrily claiming he's not a "spoiler" this year. He had the gall to tell "the liberal establishment" (whatever that is) that it should "relax and rejoice" over his candidacy, since he will draw more Republican votes than Democratic ones. Sure, Ralph, I'll relax--and ignore the fact that 45 percent of your voters said they would have voted for Gore if you hadn't been on the ballot in 2000, while only 27 percent would have voted for Bush, as the New York Times reported on Tuesday. The only charitable response to statements like these is to assume Nader is lying, because if he actually believes the crap he's saying, he needs to be institutionalized before he pulls a handgun out of his lapel pocket and starts blasting away to silence the voices in his head.

It's obvious that Nader will not do as well as he did last time, but it would be foolish to underestimate the idiocy of the disaffected lefties who flocked to him in 2000. The hard nub of the far left--you know who you are--is a province of overeducated, overintellectualized fools lacking in basic common sense. Recent history makes plain that these fools are so locked in the steel cage of their own moralizing utopian purity that they have no qualms about sacrificing the well-being of the country to preserve their own precious sense of self-righteous superiority.

Which means they see nothing wrong with throwing another election to Bush by throwing away their votes on a vainglorious spoiler. As sane readers no doubt recall, in 2000 a ridiculous amalgam of hapless hippies, clueless college professors, and fanatical activists slid so far off into la-la land that they rewarded Nader with 2.74 percent of the nationwide vote. Here in Washington State, which is a stupider place in this respect than the rest of the country, Nader got 4.1 percent of the vote. In King County, which is the stupidest part of an already stupid state, Nader took a full 4.7 percent of the overall vote.

Guess who came out on top in 2000? I'll give you a hint: His name isn't Gore. It's true that Gore was an execrable candidate who ran a wretched campaign, and so bears much of the responsibility for his (ostensible) defeat. But it's also irrefutably true that had Nader's name not been on the ballot in either Florida, where Bush was declared the victor by 537 votes (Nader received 97,488), or New Hampshire, where Bush outpolled Gore by 7,211 votes (Nader drew 22,198), the history of the last three years would have been very different. No Iraq war, no Orwellian--in name and substance--USA PATRIOT Act, no irresponsibly massive tax cuts unconscionably tilted to the wealthy. No out-of-control deficit, no right-wing judges. And no smirking, strutting faux cowboy mangling the English language on the nightly news.

Now Nader, in a fit of stubbornness, has decided to run once more. Therefore, the intelligence of the left will again be tested. Think of it as a classic rat-in-a-maze experiment in which we will learn whether lefties can learn from their past mistakes. And, we have to assume, some portion--perhaps enough to again throw the election to Bush--of those 2,882,955 holier-than-thou fools who voted for Nader in 2000 are going to fail that test. Already, a press release has landed on my desk announcing the formation of a group calling itself University of Washington Students for Nader. The group is an offshoot of an organization named Socialist Alternative and a cursory examination of its website reveals it to be a Leninist organization that calls for "an end to the rule of profit" in favor of "a socialist society to meet the needs of all." Ah, what company we are reduced to keeping these days, Ralph.

I chatted with Jeff Moore, a representative of this pro-Nader group. I found him bright, articulate, and deeply misguided. If the election is Kerry versus Bush, "all we will have is an opportunity to vote for occupation, for NAFTA, for preemptive war," Moore explained. He conceded there are differences between Democrats and Republicans, but contended those differences are outweighed by the parties' similarities. Rank-and-file Dems may lean left, he said, but their leadership in Washington, D.C., has a toehold on the far right with the Republican National Committee: Without Nader, "we're stuck with a choice between Tweedle-light and Tweedle-heavy."

Aside from the fact that Tweedle-light would be a major improvement on Tweedle-heavy, Moore misreads the Democratic Party. His criticisms would have had some merit in 2000, or even 2002, but in the sharply partisan Anybody-But-Bush atmosphere of 2004, Moore's criticism is groundless. Even the wussbags of the Democratic establishment, as craven as they have been, have started to figure out the score. These days, John Kerry is Howard Dean without the Scream.

Anyway, if obvious fringe types like Moore are all that remain of the Nader base--and in truth it is hard to imagine there is a reasonably well-adjusted liberal left in America who still believes Nader's absurd claim that there is no difference between Democrats and Republicans--then perhaps we have nothing to fear. Even the editors of the Nation, a journal of the left not always known for its pragmatism, published an open letter to Nader urging him not to run. Websites like have been set up by repentant former Nader supporters. Nothing has better succeeded in unifying much of the left than the nakedly anti-egalitarian corporatism crossed with closed-minded Christian fanaticism that Bush is foisting on America.

And this time Nader is running without the backing of the Green Party (although it appears that those deluded hippies intend to field their own candidate). He may find it impossible to get on the ballot in anything close to the 43 states and the District of Columbia that he attained in 2000. It will take some 1,000,000 signatures to get on the ballot in every state, and I somehow doubt Socialist Alternative is going to be able to carry the freight locally or nationally.

Still, if the election turns out to be as close as pundits predict, Nader may get on enough ballots to again tip the balance. Let me make this absolutely clear to those of you who thought there was no difference between Democrats and Republicans in 2000: In 2004, there is no difference between voting for Nader and voting for Bush. A vote for Nader in 2004 = a vote for George W. Bush.

So, to all my patchouli-dabbing, potluck- attending, dope-smoking, protest-loving, rationality-avoiding friends out there in goofball Seattle: Remember, this election is a test of your mental acuity. In case you can't figure this election out by yourself: It's about beating Bush, stupid.