Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Ralph Malph

On Sunday, Ralph Nader announced on 'Meet the Press' that he will be running for President, putting nary a ding in my own pseudo run for leader of the free world. Details are sketchy at the moment. He isn't sure what party he will be affiliated with or whether, at the ripe old age of 74, he will actually live to see the election.

It's typical Nader. Screw the details, let's just make some waves. We'll figure it out as we go.

For those of us who grew up admiring Nader and his 'take no shit and give no ground' attitude, it's a sad day. For those unfamiliar, Nader made his name and reputation fighting corporate greed and cost cutting at the expense of consumer safety. He was a one man army that every consumer rights group wanted on it's side and every corporation feared.

In 1965, he wrote 'Unsafe at Any Speed' - a scathing indictment against the auto industry that led to the formation of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and placed the responsibility for safe cars squarely on the shoulders of the auto industry. All these new fangled air bags, computerized braking systems and all wheel drive cars originated from Ralph Nader and his bulldog approach to making corporations accountable.

Since the auto industry, he has taken on (with the help of assistants known as 'Nader's Raiders' - young people inspired by his work who wanted to help out on his new projects) air and water pollution, airline travel, corporate executives (something that needs to be revisited), the Food and Drug Administration, nursing homes, and (of course) Congress.

His work has helped him make the list of the 100 Most Influential Americans in Life, Time and Atlantic Monthly.

Depressingly, his legacy is quickly morphing from consumer rights legend into 'that strange guy that keeps running for President'. Starting in 1992, Nader has declared his run for President in every single election year. Often as an Independent, but also as an affiliate to the Green or Reform Parties. Many Democrats point to Nader running in 2000 as one reason Gore lost to Bush. Typically, people that vote for Nader would vote Democrat. Considering Nader received almost 97,000 votes in Florida that year many thought most of those votes would have gone to Gore.

Thanks, Mr. Nader. You may be responsible for the George W Bush legacy. Influential American indeed!

Nader, for his part, seems to relish his role of spoiler. He claims to be running this year because of the way he was treated in 2004. I shit you not! He's running because many Democrats blocked him from appearing on some ballots because they were afraid he would steal votes meant for John Kerry. If things worked out in 2004, you choices would have been Kerry, Nader, and Bush. Christ on a cracker, the charisma would have been too much to bear during those debates.

I actually agree with Nader that we need to fine tune our election process, but running for President as a wild card doesn't help the country or get his point across. It just mucks up the works even more. I appreciated Nader's point back in 2000 that both Gore and Bush were backed by corporate lobbyists, but running a maverick campaign did nothing to bring that to the country's attention. You want to take on the lobbyist network, then go after the fucking lobbyists. Running for President does nothing but get your name in the news and confuse your message. It makes you look like a publicity whore and not a consumer advocate.

I'm beginning to wonder if Nader is a closet Republican and runs just to prevent the Democrats from being elected. Or more to the point, maybe he wants Republicans in office so he can keep digging up dirt on corporations and government agencies. Republicans traditionally free up corporations from government oversight and prefer to push a free market economy. With Republicans in office he has a better opportunity to expose corporate fraud or abuse. It's job security!

I truly hope Nader and his Raiders keeps doing important, necessary work and he becomes relevant again, but right now he's coming off as the awkward, nerdy kid who keeps trying to wrangle an invitation to the cool kids' lunch table. You have an important message to deliver, Mr. Nader.

I would suggest attempting to deliver it an less off putting way.

Today's distraction: 30 quotes by Ralph Nader. Should give everyone a glimpse into his quirky intelligence ('The use of solar energy has not been opened up because the oil industry does not own the sun'), common sense ('Your best teacher is your last mistake') and downright confusing ('John D. Rockefeller wanted to dominate oil, but Microsoft wants it all, you name it: cable, media, banking, car dealerships').

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