My history with Ralph Nader goes back a long way -- my dad wrote his first
ads, pro bono, for Public Citizen and Congress Watch, which made me very proud; I
wrote a cover story about his almost single-handed deep-sixing of meaningful
automobile insurance reform ("Ralph Nader Is a Big Fat Idiot"), which has
likely cost you thousands of dollars in too-high premiums over the years (and God
forbid you should be badly injured in a car crash not caused by a wealthy
driver whose fault you can prove); and then of course there was "the election."
So it was with some interest I watched his announcement on Meet the Press
just now. And the truth is, I think much of what he has to say makes sense.
Under Bush, especially, it's all been about skewing the equation ever further
toward corporate interests and the rich. That's the main reason I have kept
annoying my friends year after year asking them to support the DNC -- so we can
elect a progressive Democrat and get the country back on track. I had fully
expected this to be a two-year gig... to go to Gore's Inauguration... and
then to stop shaving and being nice to people and return to my slovenly,
curmudgeonly, writerly ways. Thanks to Ralph Nader, I am still at it.
I strongly favor Instant Runoff Voting, which would let folks vote for a
third-party candidate like Nader as their first choice -- but specify a
second-choice candidate (like Gore or Bush), in the event their first choice failed to
With that system, you'd encourage more points of view, more vigorous
discussion -- all good, in a democracy -- and, especially, encourage more people to
remain engaged in the process.
Failing that system, Nader could still have run as he did in 2000 (and is
doing again now). But what he can't do is what he tried to do on Meet the Press,
and has been trying to do ever since the disastrous outcome of 2000: escape
blame for what happened.
He said on MTP -- how come people blame me? Why don't they blame Gore for
not winning his home state of Tennessee? Why don't they blame Katherine Harris
and Jeb Bush and the Supreme Court?
And there's a simple answer: On a planet with 6 billion people at the time,
there was only one person -- Ralph Nader -- who could with half an hour's
effort been reasonably expected to keep this disaster from happening.
All he would have had to do was issue a statement three days out saying, in
effect: "Listen, if you live in Texas or Massachusetts, vote for me. But if
you live in a swing state like Florida or Ohio, vote for Gore."
Gore would have won; Nader's stature and ability to make progress on the
causes he cared about would have been enhanced; there would be no war in Iraq; Bin
Laden would have been dead by now, if 9/11 had even happened at all; we would
lead the world in stem cell research and in the development of alternative
It's that simple.
Sure, Gore would have won if he had carried Tennessee -- but how, in half an
hour's effort, could he have done so? Does Nader think he didn't try?
Sure, George W. Bush could have had an epiphany and dropped out of the race,
or Katherine Harris could have asked to be indicted for crimes against
democracy. But those are not reasonable scenarios.
The Nader scenario was not only reasonable, it was urged on him, in some
form, by thousands of people, including many of his closest lifelong allies.
It's hard to imagine anyone in all of human history who could so easily have
made such a positive difference with so little effort.
So go ahead and run, Ralph. But when the time comes, you'd better beg your
supporters in swing states to vote for the progressive in the race, which will
be the Democrat. And, boy, did you ever blow your chance to be a hero, in
2000 -- and perhaps to extract a promise from Al Gore to support Instant Run-off