The all singing, all dancing blog of Alex Guite

Sunday, February 24, 2008

A kick in the Nad(er)s

Ralph Nader has just announced he's running for US President. Hey, the year 2000 just called and they want their third party candidate back.

The thing is, when you read about Nader it's hard not to get inspired. He fought for safer cars when he was just out of Law School despite General Motors hiring private detectives to tap his phone and dig up dirt about him. He made car safety the responsibility of the manufacturer, not just the driver, and so we got seat belts and tougher windscreens. Amongst a whole bunch of achievements, his activism bought the USA a government agency responsible for ensuring safety at work and another one to protect the environment.

But the inspiration starts to run dry in 1996 when he became a serial candidate for the US Presidency. Of course it's his right to stand, but as the Guardian's Richard Adams points out, when Nader stood as a Green Party candidate in 2000 he took the handful of votes that denied victory to "the world's most famous environmentalist", Al Gore. (The figures make a compelling case that Gore could have won without a Nader candidacy. Even though many of Nader's supporters would have stayed at home in 2000 if he hadn't run, polling shows that almost half would have switched to Gore whilst only one in five would have voted Bush. In Florida, where Nader polled 97,421 votes, that would have been enough for Gore to take the state with a comfortable margin of over 25,000. In the event, Bush won in Florida by 537 votes and with it, the presidency.)

Nader's claim, made in 2000, that Democrats and Republicans are essentially the same, or "Tweedledee and Tweedledum" as he put it, looks disastrously wide of the mark after eight years of Bush. It's hard to see how he advances his many causes by becoming a perenial presidential candidate and I thought that this time, when Democrats have a real chance to take the White House, Nader wouldn't risk jeopardising that prospect by standing.

On that note, this video makes some good points:

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