Wednesday, September 22, 2004


Unsafe At Any Speed?

What's this Nader Thing All About?

Growing up in the industrial heartland, near many auto factories the name Ralph Nader was one that would be said in a whisper and followed by a curse. It held about as much reverence as say Madeline Murray O'Hare. After all it was his famous book "Unsafe at Any Speed" that helped expose the Big Three's disregard for safety and gave the Japanese a leg up in the small car market. But I digress.

In 2000 Nader's candidacy made sense. Al Gore, having served as VP in a very centrist Clinton administration, was running as a centrist/populist, although no one bought the people v. Powerful rhetoric. And President Bush ran as a moderate too. No terrorism war, no 9/11 and the slightly waning tech boom had us all thinking government and history were yesterdays news. As a result, the choice in 2000 was not as stark as it is in 2004. So, Nader tried to stake out the far left and actually succeeded in helping the far right.

This election is quite different than 2000. My liberal friend Midgie said it best. "I can see why people voted for Bush in 2000, but I don't see how people could vote for Bush in 2004." Her point being that Bush has governed from the far right, abandoned core republican values like accountable government, fiscal restraint and libertarian ideals of privacy. He paid lip service to the center and governed from the right. The next two weeks alone illustrate this, as Congress votes on a Flag Burning Amendment, The FMA and sends a bunch or pork laden spending bills to the president who will sign them without issuing one veto.

Kerry too seems to be more to the left of Gore. Although he's cloaked himself in his war service, his proposals are the sort that build up government as the benevolent guarantee-er of opportunity to all, with health care, child care and other domestic issues at the for front of his campaign.

So what's the need for Nader. I mean, what has he contributed to the national debate since taking on GM in the late 1960s? I'd love to hear any thoughts from Naderites as to his appeal, but I don't see him tackling any issues that aren't already subsumed by the Democrats. Could it just be, as un-shocking as it may seem, an ego trip?

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