Your decision to run for President as a third-party candidate in 2008leads me to resend our Open Letter to you, published in The Nation in2004.
As we wrote then, “you’ve been part of The Nation family for a longtime, from the day in 1959 when we published one of your first articles,the expose of “The Safe Car You Can’t Buy.” We think of you as PublicCitizen Number One–a courageous advocate for consumer rights who hasconsistently challenged predatory corporate power. But your greatstrength– and success–as a crusader has come from working outside ofelectoral politics.
Ralph, why run in 2008, when the stakes are clear, with John McCaincalling for continuing the war for 100 years and sustaining the Busheconomic policies that have ruined our country? To expose the issue ofballot access as a civil rights issue? It should be exposed. But why notuse your pulpit and street cred as Citizen Number One, not as acandidate, to drive this issue, and others progressives care about, intoour public debate and campaign? When the overwhelming mass ofprogressive voters have only one focus–beating back another disastrousfour or eight years of conservative rule–your perceived role as aspoiler is likely to attract far more attention than the valuable issuesyou raise. As we wrote in 2004, by running, “your efforts to raiseneglected issues will hit a deafening headwind.”
Then there is the generational issue. I suspect that millions,especially young people who have been energized and politicized byBarack Obama’s campaign, who might otherwise listen to (and benefitfrom) the issues you’ve championed as Public Citizen Number One will tune out andturn off Candidate Nader. For someone who inspired a generation ofNader’s Raiders and mobilized a new generation of voters to flock toyour “super rallies” in 2000, think of how much more you could do toinform and engage a new generation if you did not run for President thisyear.
Look around: no one, including former strong supporters, called on youto run this year. Doesn’t that deafening silence say something? In 2004,the last time you ran, in a year with the largest turnout of voters inrecent history, you received only 0.3 percent of the nationwide vote–down from 2.7 percent in 2000. And this year, as a result ofbeyond-the-beltway progressives driving their issues to the forefront ofthe Democratic agenda, both candidates pledge to bring the troopshome,to push for national health insurance, to reinvest in America, rollback tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations and use that money inthe drive for new energy, affordable college, investment in education.The stakes in 2008 are clear.