Ralph Nader got a lot of things right when he appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press and accused “Katherine Harris and Jeb Bush and their cohorts from Tallahassee to the Supreme Court” of stealing the 2000 election for George W. Bush, dismissed the President as “a giant corporation in the White House masquerading as a human being” and castigated the Commander in Chief for committing “high crimes and misdemeanors” when he misled the nation into war on Iraq.
But he got the important thing wrong when he announced he would run for President.
We have already laid out our reasons why we believe he should not be a candidate again (see “An Open Letter to Ralph Nader,” February 16). Stubbornness is one of Ralph’s most attractive qualities. If he weren’t stubborn (and principled and idealistic), he would have stopped writing about unsafe cars back in the 1950s when General Motors had him tailed by private detectives. Nor would the country have the public interest movement, which he more than any other citizen did so much to create.
But sometimes stubbornness can keep one from seeing changed realities. Given that this Administration has misled the country into an illegal, pre-emptive war; slashed taxes for the wealthy; trampled civil liberties; and assaulted labor, choice, gay rights and affirmative action, the difference between Republicans and Democrats is not a matter of “D minus” and “D plus,” as Ralph characterized it on Meet the Press. It is a matter of pass/fail, and the Bush Administration has failed abysmally.
On the Sunday- and Monday-morning interview shows and elsewhere, Ralph has said that those opposed to his run for President, whom he dubs the “liberal intelligentsia” (including this magazine), want to “censor” him and to block the American people from having “more choices and voices.”
Speaking only for ourselves, as a magazine that has always supported more voices and choices, we believe he has the right to run. The question has always been whether it was wise for him to do so.
The Nation has a long history of backing (and not backing) third parties. In 1920 editor Oswald Garrison Villard advised readers, “Don’t throw away your vote” on either one of the two major-party candidates. “The vote of protest is never a lost vote,” he wrote. But there are protests and there are protests. The magazine, for example, supported the Socialist Party candidate, Norman Thomas, in 1932 rather than the Democrat, Franklin Roosevelt. But in 1936, 1940 and 1944 it backed Roosevelt, because the editors considered him the best candidate to deal with the economic crisis and to prosecute the war effort.
The point is that such choices must be made on a case-by-case basis. We have no special ties to the Democratic Party, but the choice between it and the GOP this election is blindingly clear. Given the dangerous alternative of four more years of the most extremist Administration in our lifetime, is this really the year to cast a symbolic vote?
Citizen Nader’s critique of the corporatization of politics has much to recommend it. Candidate Nader’s request for your vote is a dangerous distraction.