I’ve been trying to figure Ralph Nader out. Sure, he has had an illustrious career, where he has served as a tireless crusader for the consumer. In 1966, he wrote the book Unsafe at Any Speed, which prompted Congress to pass many automobile safety laws. And he was just getting warmed up.
Throughout his career, his position on nearly every issue has been at odds with the Republican party. (And certainly today’s Republic party.) Yet, when he ran for President in 2000, he effectively tipped the Presidency over to George Bush by stealing votes from Al Gore.
That’s the conventional wisdom, anyway. He disagrees. Gore would have carried states such as New Hampshire and Florida if a portion of Nader’s votes had instead gone to Gore. It’s possible that the votes Nader
received in highly competitive states might not otherwise have been cast, or might have been cast for George Bush. Sure, anything’s possible. We’ll never know. And he’s correct in pointing out that he didn’t steal votes from anyone — each candidate earned his votes. (Ignoring, for the moment, those butterfly ballots.)
In the past four years, many of the protections Nader has advocated for his entire career have been unrolled by a party essentially in control of all three branches of government. A party governing from the far right, when most Americans are more towards the center. Agencies which are intended to protect the public good — such as the Environmental Protection Agency — have become quite chummy with big business.
One has to wonder what the world would be like today if the election played out differently in 2000. It would certainly be quite different.
But Nader says today that there is little difference between the two major parties. And that’s why, once again, he is running for President, this time as an Independent. He’s having trouble getting on the ballot of every state — some states have strict requirements for Independents, and Nader is finding many of his supporters from 2000 don’t — what’s the word? Ah yes — don’t respect him so much anymore. Because they realize there is quite a huge difference between the two parties, and they realize just how much is at stake this November.
But Nader’s running again, because he feels he can make a difference. He wants to shine light on some of the problems in the world, and what better way to do this than run for President?
His detractors argue it’s all about his ego.
I have listened to what Nader has to say, and he makes some reasonable points. But I can’t help but feel he is missing the forest for the trees. He is not seeing the bigger picture.
I’ve concluded it really must be about his ego. And what led me to this conclusion is the realization that Nader has been missing in action these past four years.
If he really was an advocate for change — and concerned about the injustices in the world — what exactly has he done since 2000, when he lost the election, and arguably made the party most closely aligned with his principles lose the election?
Did he continue to deliver his message? Did he caucus with members of Congress to lobby his views and the views of those that supported him in 2000? Sure, you can get things done when you’re President. But you don’t have to be President to get things done. Nader should know this firsthand.
Although Nader is polling in the low single digits in some states, my prediction is that, come Election Day, he will receive very few votes. (In a similar way, all bets were on Howard Dean until the very first primaries — when voters apparently sobered up and opted to vote for the candidate they felt was more electable, realizing just how much was at stake.)