(Ralph Nader said on “Meet the Press” that he will seek the presidency for a third time in 2008. He plans to announce a running mate later this week.)
IS NADER NUTS? OR THE BRAVEST MAN IN AMERICA?
Let’s face it – to run as an independent candidate in this year’s political climate, you’d have to be either richer than Bloomberg, crazier than Mary Todd Lincoln, or The Bravest Person In America.
Since Ralph Nader’s bank account doesn’t come anywhere close to that of Mayor Bloomberg’s, that pretty much leaves us with the latter two possibilities: he must be nuts or just really, really brave. Which is it? Well…that depends on who you ask, of course.
Ask any “good Democrat” and they’ll likely start sputtering obcenities about how Nader cost them the White House in 2000. Watch the veins pop out of their foreheads as they rant and rave “how dare he run again?” Simply bring up Ralph Nader’s name in their presence, and you’ll start to wonder who really is crazy around here, anyway.
Ask the Republicans, and you’ll get a more polite answer. Naturally. They seem to benefit nicely every time Ralph Nader throws his hat into the ring. Que Sera, Sera, they say with a shrug…whatever will be, will be.
Ask a progressive, and they’ll tell you that Nader is a hero for the common man, a real Democrat in an age of lost liberal principles. They’ll also tell you he’s got balls of steel to take on these corporate-controlled major party candidates. And you know, they’re right.
FEAR AND LOATHING ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL
Maybe this is why Nader scares the Democratic party so much. He’s a tireless crusader, unafraid of speaking his mind to anyone. He never played political loyalty games or sat silent on any issue. Whether it was the President of General Motors or the President of the United States (Republican or Democrat), he held them accountable.
The truth of his record over the past 40-plus years cannot be denied. Nader fought for the little guy against big corporate interests and whupped `em time and time again. He was an environmentalist long before it was hip to be green – but never was he yellow. He’s been stabbed in the back by his own Democratic fellows so many times, he could be Swiss cheese with legs.
But that’s not the way it used to be.
Nader was once the Democrats’ Golden Boy in the 1960s; memorably taking the auto industry to task alongside Senator Robert F. Kennedy in nationally televised Senate hearings. He made headlines with his groundbreaking book, Unsafe at Any Speed, exposing those automakers who knowingly put profit above safety.
Nader became an American folk hero when executives of General Motors hired private detectives to try and entrap him (unsuccessfully) in a sex scandal – they later apologized publicly and admitted they could not dig up even a speck of dirt on the man.
As a consumer advocate, he went on to create an organization of energetic young lawyers and researchers (known as “Nader’s Raiders”) who produced systematic exposés of industrial hazards, pollution, unsafe products, and governmental neglect of consumer safety laws. Nader is widely recognized as the founder of the consumers’ rights movement.
He played a key role in the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Freedom of Information Act and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. For the last three decades or more, Nader has continued to work for political reform through his watchdog group Public Citizen.
(Nader testifies before the Senate Commerce subcommittee in 1966)
And now, the unyielding consumer advocate who ran for president in 2000 and 2004, says he’s going to make another bid for the White House this year.
“I have decided to run for president,” Nader announced Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press.
Although he isn’t getting any younger (he’ll turn 74 on February 27th), Ralph Nader says he feels a duty to enter the race because the major party candidates aren’t adequately addressing the influence of lobbyists and wasteful spending in government.
In other words, the real issue, the 800-lb. gorilla in America’s living room. The corporate cancer that is eating our country alive. But how can voters expect the two-party candidates to address the issue of corporatism when they themselves rely on corporate money?
“When you see the paralysis of the government, when you see Washington, D.C., be corporate-occupied territory, every department and agency controlled by overwhelming presence of corporate lobbyists, corporate executives in high government positions, turning the government against its own people, one feels an obligation to try and open the doorways,” Nader said.
IT’S A TOUGH JOB, BUT SOMEBODY’S GOTTA DO IT
When Nader formed a committee to consider a White House run last month, he said he believed the current contenders weren’t standing up enough to corporate interests.
“Look at the major areas of injustice, deprivation and solutions that are not being addressed by the major candidates,” Nader said in a Jan. 30 interview with Bloomberg News.
Among other issues, he cited the need for a “practical timed withdrawal” from Iraq, programs to crack down on corporate fraud and a rearrangement of the U.S. tax system.
Nader said last month that he would want to raise $10 million over the course of the campaign. By comparison, Clinton and Obama each have raised more than $120 million in political contributions.
“I offer the prospect of a competitive discourse over major areas of public policy that are being totally ignored or opposed by the major candidates, Obama, Clinton and McCain,” he told Agence-France Presse.
Nader said he expects his candidacy to do better this time around and will work to get his name on the ballot in all 50 states.
“This time we’re ready for them,” said Nader of the Democratic Party lawsuits that kept him off the ballot in some states.
Challenges to his ballot access would not be surprising, he says, given that both political parties typically treat third-party candidates as “second-class citizens.” Nader said he will decide in the coming days whether to run as an independent, Green Party candidate or in some other third party.
Pointing a finger at Republicans, he described McCain as a candidate for “perpetual war” and said he welcomed the support of Republican conservatives “who don’t like the war in Iraq, who don’t like taxpayer dollars wasted, and who don’t like the Patriot Act and who treasure their rights of privacy.”
So if McCain becomes the Republican nominee, expect more Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul Republicans crossing party lines to support Ralph Nader this year. Picking up these populist conservatives will certainly help Nader’s numbers, but will it make any difference against the Democrats in a general election? Even Nader thinks not.
“If the Democrats can’t landslide the Republicans this year, they ought to just wrap up.”
WILL NADER BE THE RAIDER IN `08?
Nader risks the wrath of Democrats, many of whom blame him for spoiling former Vice President Al Gore’s bid for the presidency in 2000. Nader got 97,488 votes in Florida, the state that decided that election; President George W. Bush ended up winning the state by just 537 votes.
Nader rejected the suggestion that his campaign cost Gore the election.
“If you look at it analytically, Mr. Gore would tell you that if he’d won Tennessee, everything else being equal, he would’ve been president,” Nader said. “It’s his home state.”
Nader won 2.7 percent of the national vote in 2000 when he was the Green Party candidate. In 2004, his independent presidential campaign drew 0.3 percent of the vote nationwide.
Nader dismissed Democratic criticism of his latest bid for the White House.
“For anybody who thinks that the third try is something that should be demeaned, it represents persistence, it represents never giving up the struggle for justice,” Nader said. “The forces of injustice never take a holiday.”
(Ralph Nader at a Public Citizen press conference, 1976)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton Sunday called Nader’s decision “unfortunate.”
Senator Clinton said aboard her campaign plane on the way to Rhode Island that Nader’s candidacy is “not helpful to whoever the Democratic nominee is.”
Illinois Senator Barack Obama, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, said that while Nader is “a heroic figure” for his work on behalf of consumers, “Mr. Nader is somebody who, if you don’t listen and adopt all of his policies, thinks you’re not substantive.”
Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee said on CNN’s “Late Edition” program Sunday that Nader “would probably pull votes away from the Democrats, not Republicans.”
“Actually, Republicans would welcome his entry into the race,” Huckabee said.
Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, a Democrat who supports Obama, said on “Fox News Sunday” that he doesn’t think Nader’s candidacy will affect the presidential race.
Well, that’s not exactly the way they felt eight years ago.
After Democrats lost the 2000 election, the party faithful’s first response was to clobber their old pal Ralph. Even the mainstream media got into the act, blaming Nader for everything from spoiling the election to the invasion of Iraq to the horrors a George Bush presidency has inflicted upon us all. Nader responded with some equally harsh words in a 2000 Village Voice interview, saying:
“By the way, not one of these critics called me to interview me or to get my views. And they’re reporters? They don’t want to have their fixed mindset challenged.
…And Katha Pollitt, I called her. In my view, she was making incorrect assumptions. I mean, I’ve fought for women’s rights since the ’50s. I’ve been a leader in documenting marketplace discrimination against women that jeopardizes their health, safety, and economic rights. Women pay more, whether for dry cleaning or unnecessary operations. This is something we could never get Ms. magazine and Gloria Steinem to take an interest in. She never called me either, and she said false things about me—that I only called her about platform shoes (which, by the way, broke a lot of women’s ankles). But we’ve talked about the WTO, about the plight of African women when they come down with malaria.
Bobby Kennedy Jr. never called me. When they don’t call, you realize there’s something less than authentic at stake.”
So I take it this means a Nader/Kennedy ticket in `08 ain’t gonna happen?
It’s really too bad, you know. If party loyalty weren’t always in the way, these two men should be natural allies. No doubt they would make one hell of a powerful ticket, a force to be reckoned with in November.
Seems that on every substantive issue, RFK Jr. and Ralph Nader are on the same side of the barricades. They’ve fought for the same causes all their lives and share core beliefs. Then there’s that connection to Bobby’s father, dating back more than 40 years.
But that was then, this is now. The party, and indeed it’s principles, have changed drastically over the past four decades – and some might argue, not for the better.
INDEPENDENTS FINALLY HAVE A CANDIDATE
I rather doubt that Nader, at the age of 74, really wanted to run again. He most likely had hoped someone else would do it this time so he wouldn’t have to. But no viable independent or third-party contender came forward.
Millions of progressive, independent, Green Party and Libertarian voters cried out for a candidate to represent them – Ralph Nader listened. He took the risk one more time and threw his hat into the ring because…well…no one else would.
Love or hate Nader, you gotta respect the man for standing up again and going to bat for us. He’s doing what no one else dared to do in 2008 – and for that alone he deserves unqualified praise, not ridicule or scorn.
For more information about the Ralph Nader for President campaign, visit the official website: VoteNader.org.