When I was an impressionable young man with a budding taste for politics, Ralph Nader was one of my genuine heroes. His selfless work on behalf of consumers and dedication to holding giant corporations accountable were inspiring. As he fought against impossible odds, his personal sacrifice at the time was a potent reminder to many of us that there were people who were willing to rise above their own needs and egos for the benefit of the public good. Nader trained an entire generation of advocates and taught them how to tackle the big shots of the day. Some interns went on to be very successful public advocates and others found callings in public service.
Then, as I got older, I noticed cracks - hairline at first, then more substantial - starting to appear in Nader's public persona. Initially, he was bad on rights for LGBT people. Personal attacks were leveled at those who dared oppose him. There was little room for debate and thoughtful dialogue. Increasingly, he moved from quiet, effortless advocating to grandstanding on issues. Though disturbed about the development, I still considered him one of my favorite people. The ties he created with so many of us in his early years held us with a strong bond. We did not want to let go of our teacher.
Then, in the 2000 election year, he lost me. In the name of purity on issues, he ran as a third party candidate which most likely cost Al Gore the presidency. Yes, it is easy to say that the Democrats lost the election all by themselves because of their failure to follow his line 100%. But really, Ralph, do any of us agree 100% of the time? Most irritating to me, however, was his total refusal to accept any responsibility for the votes that he drew from Gore. His attitude was one of "What? I had something to do with the results?"
Now as he enters his seventies, Nader's large and unchecked ego once again is in play. No matter who will be the nominee of the Democratic Party, we can expect a tough, hard fought and extremely close election in November. Every vote will count - especially those in historically problematical key states like Florida and Ohio. Nader has decided that none of the messages being given by the candidates is pure enough for him. Consequently, this weekend the man announced, for what seems like the thousandth time, his candidacy for President.
Does he really believe that there is no difference between Barack Obama's anti-war message and the 100 year war of John McCain? Does he really think that the interests of the LGBT community will be better served by McCain's embracing of the religious right as opposed to the documented inroads bridged by Clinton or Obama? Show me one article, one bill, one errant statistic that would make any voter believe that McCain will embrace the concept of aggressively counteracting global warming and help save this planet better than either Clinton or Obama. McCain jokes that a stop-gap remedy to counteract his ennui with economic issues would be to read Alan Greenspan's new book. Tell the hundreds of thousands of Americans living beneath the poverty line that just as soon as the good senator skims Greenspan's autobiography that he will take care of the country's poor better than the Democrats. Oh yes, and let's not forget Nader's favorite issue, we all know that corporate Republicans will monitor industry standards better than Democrats.
Lets be real. The only person this year that Ralph Nader helps is John McCain. Nader has every right to run if he wants to but we also have a right to call him out on his irresponsible and destructive behavior. Nader might as well sign on as McCain's running mate because this election year, that is who he will be helping the most.