Ralph Nader, Please Don't Run
By Jerome Grossman
Ralph Nader told Tim Russert of NBC on "Meet the Press" that he was running again for President of the United States. Why is he running? Certainly not to win or even to influence the result. Nader runs because he wants to talk about issues, to educate the voters about the problems the United States faces, problems that are virtually ignored in contemporary politics.
He wants to talk about a single-payer health plan, "full Medicare for all," about a national commitment to abolish poverty, about corporate crime, the bloated military budget, and the waste, fraud and corruption in government operations.
Nader has a track record for progressive change he has brought to American society: seat belts and air bags and safer automobiles; battles against tainted meat, air and water pollution and food additives; initiating and building agencies that protect the worker, the environment, and the consumer. And lots more over the last fifty years. In fact, a case could be made that he has improved the lives of more Americans than any other member of his generation including the presidents who led the nation.
But Nader should not run for president if his aim is to raise his issues with American voters. He should know that not many ballots are cast on issues. At the presidential level certainly, and perhaps at all levels, little attention is paid to detailed solutions of problems. Faced with complicated details requiring close study, faced with a shortage of time in our helter-skelter lifestyle, American voters put their trust in winning personalities who seduce them with their handsome appearance, attractive styles and lofty rhetoric. Promises of solutions are more easily accepted than the details of specific plans. And besides, who has the time to pay attention.
Barack Obama is the latest example of the personally attractive leader. But the phenomenon has appeared often in the history of the republic. After the emotion fades, it is difficult to remember the love and enthusiasm. In 2000, George W. Bush was the popular candidate with whom to have a beer. Bill Clinton was young and handsome. Ronald Reagan had the moves and looks of a movie star. Jimmy Carter presented himself as a saint who would never tell a lie. John F. Kennedy was a prince of the Round Table, young and handsome and dashing. Dwight Eisenhower was the war hero of the century; both parties wanted him to be their president. FDR charmed with his conversational style and aristocratic mannerisms. And remember Ulysses Grant, Gary Hart, Howard Dean and so many other heroes who made our hearts flutter.
Cynics may cry, if cynics cry, that the people are not supposed to get into the details. Leave that to the specialists, the experts hired by the lobbyists who are hired by corporate America who really run the country anyway. Presidential politics may be a form of entertainment, supplied by the management every four years as an emotional catharsis to the masses. And it is fun.
Ralph Nader, you are making a mistake. Stay with your successful act: hire lawyers, encourage the whistleblowers, sue the corporations, monitor the government, and make change, real change, not just in words but by demanding more improvements like those you made that have so enriched our lives. You and your painstaking work are the true hope and inspiration of our days.