Third party politics

by YES! Weekly staff

Ralph Nader is a great American. He’s taken on the auto industry and the FDA. He started dozens of nonprofits, all designed to protect ordinary US citizens from their government and the corporations that increasingly influence it. He’s also run for president — and not just once, but five times, throwing in his current campaign.

Of course, it will never happen for Ralph Nader, even though he’s gone to the same Ivy League schools (Princeton, Harvard), served in the armed forces (US Army, 1959), worked in politics (assistant to Sen. Pat Moynihan, D-NY) and affected US legislation (1966 National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act). He’s also multicultural — the guy speaks Arabic, which could come in pretty handy for a world leader these days. It will never happen for Ralph Nader because he refuses to play party politics, choosing to run independently or as a Green Party candidate. Doing so ensures that he will not be invited to televised debates; he will not have access to the rivers of cash available to those with established fundraising channels; he will have no convention, no legion of staffers, no heavyweight endorsements and no serious television time. Ralph Nader is locked out. Which is too bad, because Ralph Nader is frequently right. He is the only anti-war candidate. He is the only candidate that supports single-payer national heath insurance. He is the only candidate dead-set on solar energy, who is serious about ending corporate personhood and who vows to strengthen the presence of unions in the American workforce through repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act. Whether you agree with Nader’s stances on these issues or not, it is indubitable that these are valid positions, worthy of consideration and debate. But because Nader, and others like him, have staked themselves so far apart from the two-party paradigm, they are pushed out of the picture every time, leaving most US voters with competing versions of the status quo. Why can we suddenly afford a $700-billion bailout but haven’t been able to afford universal health coverage? Why must we continually impose our influence on nations that resent it through generations? Why can we not shake the yoke of petroleum-based energy? Why? It brings to mind another third-party candidate, Ross Perot, who actually was allowed to participate in the 1992 presidential debates, but only after spending $65 million of his own money to convince people he had a chance. His policies were mixed-bag — a balanced budget, environmental protection, guns and the war on drugs. But he took his biggest stand against the outsourcing of jobs, what came to be known as NAFTA. He took 19 percent of the electorate in 1992 — more than 19 million votes. How many wish they could vote for him now?

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