Run, Nader, run
Ralph Nader is the nation's top public-service champion and genuine servant of the people. His campaign for the White House is attempting to leverage this long and brilliant career. Unfortunately, campaigns are won not by public servants but rather by politicians - a strangely different breed far gone in self-delusion.
July 11, 2004
Politicians tend to no more represent the interest of the people nowadays than, say, prosecutors. The snickers loosed by a district attorney referring to himself as "the People" are the same ones heard when a politician speaks of the public interest. After campaigning as public servants, most politicians discover post-election that they are instead servants of the will of corporations, elite private patrons and a permanent ruling class with special interests.
Nader is the genuine article.
What mystifies is why exactly does this true public servant, a consummate outsider, aspire to wallow with politicians, the ultimate insiders. By outwitting these self-same politicians, Nader has dramatically changed America for the better.
Nader's juggernaut, according to the New Yorker, is chiefly responsible for such reforms as seat belts on cars, padded dashboards, air bags, non-impaling steering columns (though Robert S. McNamara takes some credit for this), and most dramatically "gas tanks that don't explode when the car gets rear-ended." He is also credited with MSG-free baby food, fire-proof kids' pajamas, and safer meat, X-ray tests and tap water. His government reforms include the Environmental Protection Agency and Occupational Safety and Health Administration. He put teeth into the Freedom of Information Act, founded aggressive research and lobbying groups and organized the Nader' Raiders.
Despite this spectacular track record of achievement as an indispensable citizen against government, Nader insisted on running for president in 2000 and is again running as an Independent this year. Overlooking Gov. Jeb Bush, the Rehnquist court and Al Gore himself, the New Yorker and many Democrats - inaccurately - blame Nader for getting President George W. Bush "elected." Undeterred, Nader, head down and barely lifting his knees, continues his run for the White House with all the stride and gait of a political streaker.
What exactly makes Ralph Nader run?
No one speaks for Nader better than Nader himself. Irate news people, so-called, have tracked him up hill and down the cable channels for an explanation this campaign season. Many come armed not so much with questions but veiled petitions for Nader to drop out of the race. The thinking seems to be that the forces of darkness occupying the White House would wither away if Nader would only disappear.
Incredibly, this notion persisted after a week in which John Kerry, the leading Democrat knight arrayed against the dragon, flirted with a fire-breathing Republican of the dragon's own party. Kerry's wooing of Arizona Sen. John McCain heated up after polls showed this war-veteran couple beating Bush, but still. Kerry might be advised to just get over his tendency to be a kept man. After McCain personally rejected Kerry's overtures publicly and privately, the suitor turned his swoon to his second choice, John Edwards.
"We're dealing with John Kerry, who wants Republican Senator McCain on his ticket, who has said he wants Republican votes. Let's get over this," Nader snapped at Andrea Mitchell when, on "Meet The Press," she pressed him to drop out for the sake of Kerry and the Democratic Party. He then lectured her on the demands for open races free to all comers.
"It's about the necessities of the American people. The Greek derivation of the word politics is 'of the citizens.' Instead it's become 'of the corporations.' Instead it's become thousands of fat-cat fund-raisers that are defining politics in this country against the people of this country."
Nader charged that the Democrats opposing his candidacy were afraid of democracy. "They're afraid of competition. They're afraid of the tradition of third parties in the 19th- and early 20th century pushing the two parties to pay attention to the needs of the people, instead of their own careerism, instead of their own dialing for the same corporate dollars."
Mitchell flashed 2000 popular-vote figures showing that Nader siphoned more from Gore than Bush and by margins that appeared to have thrown some states into the president's camp. "You say you're not a spoiler," Mitchell said. "Let's look ... Florida. You pulled 97,000 votes and Al Gore lost the presidency there by only 537 votes. So didn't you elect George W. Bush?"
"First, I think Al Gore did win Florida," Nader said without missing a beat. "I think a lot of Democrats know that. It was stolen from him. There are variety of ways before, during and after the election."
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