By Suzanne Baroud
Media pundits can say what they may about Ralph Nader, but the fact remains that he is an upright man of political prudence, foresightedness, and principles rarely matched by the highly touted frontrunners in the two dominating political parties in America.
Of course, much of what is known about Nader, and tirelessly reiterated in media is that he is the great "spoiler" that cost Al-Gore the elections in 2000. The unfair depiction, which was meant to discredit Nader and taint his record — his unmatched efforts on behalf of American consumers against money hungry corporations, his humanitarian, anti-war stances, his record on the environment, and more — perpetuates to override everything for which Nader stands.
The first Arab American to ever participate in presidential elections in the US, Nader, has stood in five elections in past years: 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, and as of last Feb. 2008.
Despite earlier predictions that he will be running on the Green Party ticket — views cemented by the fact that he participated in the party’s presidential debates in Jan. 13, 2008, held in San Francisco — Nader will be running as an independent. He made the announcement on Meet the Press, in Feb.; and announced his running mate as Matt Gonzalez, former president of San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
Ralph Nader’s name has been affiliated with many important events in recent US political history. He was and remains a champion of the third party movement, which envisions an America that is free from the dominating grip of the two-party system. For example, both Republicans and Democrats, despite all allegations to the contrary, hold direct responsibility for the Iraq war and the hawkish attitude of the Bush administration against Iran, and other foreign policy blunders. When Hillary Clinton levelled more threats, this time warning to "obliterate" Iran if the latter dared attack Israel with nuclear weapons, it was hardly a deviation from her, or other Democratic presidential candidates, warmongering attitude. Not even Bush himself was such blunt in his violent intentions toward Muslim countries.
Nader’s name is also affiliated with both the Green Party and the Reform Party, the latter endorsed his bid for president in 2004, and he was the nominee of the former in 2000. But the consumer activist’s detractors, and they are many, blame him for costing Al-Gore the 2000 presidency by "siphoning" votes away from Gore in key states, especially Florida. Gore lost Florida by a few hundred votes to Bush, after an intense controversy, while Nader captured nearly 100,000 of the votes.
Democratic officials and their apologists however, conveniently overlooked the fact that Ralph Nader was merely one of several independent and small party nominees in Florida, most of whom captured more than the a few hundred votes that gave Bush an edge over Gore. More, and this is an argument that Nader himself has made, had Gore won his own home state of Tennessee, he would have won the elections. Instead of raising important questions such as why progressives, who often lean towards the Democratic party decided to disown Gore, Democrats jumped on the opportunity to chastise "the spoiler" whose tireless work for the middle class and poor Americans has done the country more good than most pandering politicians. It seems that for Democrats, as of late, someone must be blamed, but never their party’s own miscalculations, blunders, and increasingly militant attitude. (Similarly, Democrats who voted in 2002 to give Bush the needed mandate to invade Iraq, later blamed Bush for deceiving them.)
Nader’s affiliation with the Greens and Reform Party garnered them much needed attention. His 2000 bid received nearly 3 million votes (2.74 percent of the popular vote), not enough to qualify the Green Party for public funding, but enough to qualify it for ballot status in many states.
But Nader is not anxious over the ridiculous accusations resurfacing in the media about his role of "robbing" Democrats from their supposedly deserved place in the White House. "If the Democrats can’t landslide the Republicans this year, they ought to just wrap up, close down, and emerge in a different form," he recently told MSNBC’s Tim Russert.
But media is relentless. It is dreadful how such labels, coined so cleverly by self-seeking and heavily paid PR advocates can taint the reputation of a man like Nader. Critics of nominees of the Libertarian Party — which along the Greens and others hope to garner a sizable number of votes in 2008 — assert that Bob Barr and Mike Gravel — the two main nominees — could each become a "spoiler" like Nader was. The unfair label has morphed to define Nader. But "how can you spoil a system that’s spoiled to the core?" Nader said during a recent visit to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Not Only Anti-"Corporate Candidates"
But Nader stands for more than merely separating himself from the "corporate candidates" — his own label of Clinton, Obama, and McCain. During his presidential campaign in Chicago, on Apr. 15, Nader repeated the highlights of his campaign, as reported by Tim Jones in the Baltimore Sun: "universal health care, a minimum living wage of $10 an hour, slashing the Pentagon budget in half, and shifting more of the burden of taxation onto polluters and financial speculators."
Sadly, "when asked if he sees young people playing an influential role in Nov., Nader said no. ‘If there was a (military) draft they would. They sure would.’"
Of course, in the intense "debate" that is supposedly capturing America’s imagination, Obama and Clinton insist on avoiding issues of substance. Meanwhile, Nader, despite his serious and deserving concerns, continues to be largely ignored by the media.
When mentioned, he is often boxed, labelled, and challenged with accusations.
Nonetheless, his showings are thus far promising. He announced Apr. 15 that a Lansing-based poll shows him at 10 percent in Michigan in a three-way battle. "The EPIC-MRA poll has McCain at 46 percent, Clinton at 37 percent, and Nader at 10 percent," reports Christopher Keating. "If Obama is the Democratic nominee, the poll has Obama at 43 percent, McCain at 41 percent, and Nader in third place at 8 percent."
Nader’s campaign commented on the poll results saying "given the virtually total corporate media blackout, this is a remarkable result, and we are heartened by it. For Clinton, Obama, and McCain, 10 percent might seem like peanuts. But for Nader/Gonzalez, it shows we’re on our way up."
Although, judging by past experiences, Nader in the White House might be a long shot; but his persistence has given plenty of hope to third party candidates to take on the two main parties who seem to merely differ on their campaign slogans and symbols. He has ignited a healthy debate in America and has long championed causes that simply were not fit for the two main parties’ political agendas. More, he has alerted democrats in particular to clean their act and not to take the votes of progressives for granted. He is the only visible candidate who demands the impeachment of President Bush, and perhaps the only one who chose to take a principled stance on defence of the besieged and humiliated Palestinians in Gaza.
Few have the courage that Nader has, and, regardless of outcome of the vote in November, he has already made a difference.
-Suzanne Baroud is an American writer and editor of several books. She is the managing editor of PalestineChronicle.com, and a regular contributor to IslamOnline.net. (This article was originally published in IslamOnline.net)