Nader’s nadir


First Posted: 1/15/2009

If there were any doubt, and there shouldn’t have been, it has been
erased by Ralph Nader’s decision to run for the presidency for a fifth
time. Nader isn’t interested in winning the White House, which has
proven to be an impossible pursuit, but is keen on feeding an ego that
appears to be insatiable. Nader fashioned a pretty good career as a
consumer advocate, first taking on the automobile industry in the late
1950s, launching lawsuit after lawsuit that claimed that cars being
built were not safe. More than anyone else he was responsible for the
unanimous passage of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act
in 1966, which shifted responsibility for automobile safety from the
consumer to the manufacturer, and brought us, among other things, safety
belts and stronger windshields. There is no telling how many lives Nader
has had a hand in saving with those safety enhancements alone. Nader
parlayed that into Public Citizen, an organization created in the early
1970s that took on a range of issues, from safe drinking water to
nuclear energy. Too bad Nader insisted on supplanting what would have
been an envied legacy. In 1992, he made his first run for president, and
tried again in 1996, 2000 and 2004. But it was his 2000 campaign for
which he will never be forgiven by many of like mind. That year, he
siphoned almost 100,000 votes away from Al Gore in Florida,
gift-wrapping that state and the presidency for George W. Bush. Nader
ran again in 2004 knowing that the consequence could be the same, but by
then, even his supporters were fed up, and his effect on the election
was nil. Let’s hope that is the case this time as well. Nader is running
even though the candidate that the Democrats are most likely to run,
Barack Obama, is among the most liberal in Congress — and should
therefore be enjoying Nader’s support, and not worrying that he will
steal away votes. If this were only about making a point, Nader managed
that long ago. Instead, he seems consumed by an effort to keep himself
relevant, which adds irony to the equation.

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