Sunday, February 24, 2008

Give it a rest, Ralph

By Nancy Jane Moore

The Washington Post informed me this morning that Ralph Nader is running for president again. Oh, please.

It's way past time Ralph got over himself. I won't waste much space on his spoiler role in the 2000 election, except to point out that anyone who still thinks there was "no difference" between Bush and Gore hasn't been paying attention to the extraordinary damage Bush has done to our country over the last seven years. (I note that on Balkinization, Jack Balkin has observed that the disastrous Bush presidency has given the Democrats "an enviable political position," something he suggests might be credited to Nader. Forgive me Prof. Balkin -- I'm a fan of yours -- but I'm not sure this country is going to recover from the Bush years no matter how many competent and progressive candidates we elect to office.)

Even if Nader were substantially more liberal than either of the Democratic candidates -- and I've personally always had trouble seeing a consumer advocate as a serious radical (consumer rights are important, but they are basically a middle-class issue) -- why would I pass up the opportunity to elect the first woman or black president by throwing away my vote on a white man who can't see further than his own ego?

Although I agree with the principle that the U.S. could use more political parties, I wouldn't vote for Ralph Nader even if the Democrats didn't seem poised to give us a decent candidate, for one basic reason: He's a purist who is absolutely convinced he's right. No one will get him to change his mind.

That could be a useful stance for an activist. Such rigidity can keep people from selling out. And Nader has certainly never sold out.

But you don't have to look farther than the current occupant of the White House to see the dangers of rigid thinking. Bush is famous for never second-guessing his own decisions, for his determination to "stay the course" no matter how idiotic the course may be. It's not just the political ideas behind Bush's presidency that are the problem; it's the fact that he thinks so rigidly that he cannot change course even when it's obviously required.

Nader is at least as rigid as Bush, and maybe more so. I may agree with a lot of Nader's opinions, but presidents who cling to their positions no matter what do much more harm than good. The world is constantly changing, and world leaders need to adapt to circumstances. Rigid thinking is perhaps the most dangerous weakness a potential president can have.

Before he started running for president, Nader did a lot of good for this country. I've watched Public Citizen, which Nader founded, do a great job over the years of holding public officials' feet to the fire. But his political aspirations threaten to destroy his legacy as an activist who actually brought about some real change.

Nader may kid himself that he's trying to build a third party, but his candidacy just shows that his ego is completely out of control. He thinks he's the only person who is good enough to run the country. He's wrong.

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