For those of us who want to see Bush removed from the White House, the name Ralph Nader can be quite frightening. It is understandable that people are angered by his decision to run once again in 2004. Is Ralph Nader an egomaniac and a spoiler as many have been claiming over these past few weeks? Or is he simply practicing democracy and exercising his right to stand up for issues in which he believes? Furthermore, should those of us who want political change be upset with Nader for trying to get his name on the ballot?
Purely based on theory, I do believe that Nader should run. We live in a democracy, and defaming a third party candidate because he or she may take away votes from a dominant party undermines the very principles on which our government is built.
Nader believes in universal healthcare, a more participatory democracy, a crackdown on corporate crime and a more progressive and fair form of taxation that will aid in our fight against poverty. He is an advocate for expanding workers’ rights, the living wage, fair trade agreements and bringing jobs back to America. So how is it that someone who appears to be looking out for the rest of humanity has become labeled as an egomaniac?
First, there is the issue of electability — a somewhat new buzzword that has taken a front seat in the Democratic primaries. For many, the primary goal of this election is beating Bush. When Howard Dean was the projected front runner, a significant amount of democratic supporters were nervous that he was not presidential material. Kerry has acquired the nomination largely on the fact that he is the most likely candidate to defeat the incumbent.
Second, if Nader is merely trying to shake things up and make people nervous, calling him a rabble-rousing egomaniac may be somewhat justified. This election is crucial in determining much of our political future, and many would say to Nader that now is not quite the time to be making a statement about our two-party system.
So what, exactly, are Nader’s motives? If Nader truly wanted to make a difference in American society, why haven’t we seen him run for Congress? Though nothing is impossible, the phrase “highly unlikely” does not even remotely articulate Nader’s chances of winning the election. Assuming he is aware of this, one would think a logical way to impact our political system would be to run for a more attainable position in which he could be extremely influential.
For those who are worried about a new Nader factor, a hopeful way to think about it is that people who voted for Nader the first time around may think twice (or ten times) before doing it again. As a result, some feel that a repeat of the 2000 election seems doubtful. Those Americans that truly want to see an administration change will use their vote for the more acceptable candidate because there is so much at stake.
Unfortunately, the Chicago Sun-Times reported information that indicates Nader’s ability to have the same impact he did in 2000. However, it was also stated that the Green Party is seemingly more reluctant to give Nader the go-ahead. Furthermore, Nader is facing serious challenges in even getting his name on the ballot.
Theoretically, I find no problems with Nader’s position. However, theory does not always match up with the reality of a situation. And here, the reality with which we are faced with requires serious assessment. We know what type of impact Nader can have on the upcoming election, and so does he. We also know that he has not tried to run for any other public office in order to exercise any political influence. Based on this, it seems that Nader’s motive is not to make a difference in the way things are run, but rather a statement about our political system. As voters, we need to ask ourselves whether we are voting for democracy in its purest form, or if we are voting for a practical change.
Debbie Miller, The Justice, Brandeis University