Ralph Nader is back on the ballot in Florida. But what may appear as a triumph of the electoral system in an attempt to give so-called third parties a voice is actually a partisan attempt to skew the outcome of the presidential election. This, sadly, undermines the efforts to establish a viable alternative to the two big parties.
Nader has been ridiculed for even daring to run for the presidency and blamed for Al Gore losing the 2000 election in Florida. Considering his longtime service as a consumer rights activist, he does not deserve such criticism.
Nader is partly responsible for countless consumer rights advances, such as the system that auctions off seats on airplanes to the highest bidder in case the airline overbooked the flight. He also spearheaded the implementation of safety guidelines in cars, such as seatbelts.
In short, Nader has done a lot for the rights of the average American and does not deserve to be vilified in such ways.
Nevertheless, Nader should contemplate that he may be hurting the very causes he has been advocating for more than 40 years.
His ticket has been receiving financial, as well as legal, backing from groups associated with the Republican party. The GOP apparently hopes to siphon off votes in important battleground states such as Florida that may otherwise be cast for the Democratic party candidate John Kerry.
Only time will tell if the plan works, but Nader should decide if such a gamble is worth the risk of further scaring people away from third-party options, as well as aiding the re-election bid of a president whose values could not be further from his own.
In the end, though, the decision should be Nader’s. If he chooses to run for president, it is his right. To throw out the electoral rulebook whenever it seems convenient is hardly a good way to operate the U.S. electoral system.