27 February 2008


By now you've certainly read/heard that Ralph Nader is again running for President, right?

I'm disappointed that he has chosen to do this. In fact, this action seems to underscore that Ralph Nader is all about Ralph Nader, and not necessarily about the advancement of a 3 (or more) party system. It's sad, really, since he has such a strong legacy in the consumer advocacy arena.

First of all, he's running as an independent, not as a member of the Green Party. Why? Well, perhaps it is the Green Party already has a candidate that is running for president (of course, most people wouldn't be aware of this because of the lack of acknowledgment by major news outlets, but I digress...). No, Nader is running as an Independent.

Now, I certainly agree that our country would do well to move beyond a 2 party system but I also feel that there are a quite a few flawed arguments in the current approach that I can not support.

I believe and support US citizens' right to vote for whomever they choose. This is a major point that Nader-ites often make...that encouraging voters to overlook him on the basis of practicality is an effort to influence their voting decisions. Hmmm. I guess that technically they are right, however, the idea that we each have an equal vote is based on the idea that we all have access to the same accurate information about candidates. Unfortunately, this is not currently the case. In fact, We The People who actually make the effort to educate ourselves about political issues and candidates are largely in the minority. Education is not equally distributed in this country.

We all already know what happens in a hotly contested presidential race (where the Republican option is repulsive) when a minority votes with their hearts and their heads, and everyone else votes based on information provided by the media (or based on no real information at all). So, the question becomes, how do we move toward the change that Nader (and others) embody?

I would argue that dropping someone like Nader into the presidential race as either a Green or Independent candidate is not ever going to accomplish the job of moving our country more progressively forward. For one, said candidate will continue to get pummeled, though they likely will throw the balance off in favor of the less savory candidate.

Certainly, if our primary process was more democratic, lesser known candidates would have a chance of at least making it to the general election. This year's primary has underscored the lack of equity, what with candidates being excluded from debates, etc. So, there's something we can do to improve the 2 party situation: democratize the primary system.

Secondly, I think there is a much greater opportunity to influence national politics by starting small and working up. If there is a strong base of politicians around the country, holding a wide variety of seats, there is a much greater chance that, come some future Presidential election there will be 3 (or more) viable parties running. Already there are a number of very liberal democrats either taking or hotly contesting seats (both local and national) through out the middle of the country. We need to stick with these people and support them NOW so they have a constant awareness of who the people are and what they want from their government. We have to change the dynamic so that the question is not Can Mr. Smith Get To Washington Anymore, but rather, which Mr. Smith do we want? In other words, We The People need to start showing up for more than the presidential races. Heck, it probably wouldn't hurt if we knew what was going on politically in our home states. Incidentally, this requires a serious commitment on the part of the People.

Finally, and for me this is the real trump card, we have GOT to work on the education issue. I think a big first step is teaching kids how to pick apart advertising campaigns. Just having the knowledge that nothing in that TV/Print/Internet ad is an accident is very empowering for consumers. Ultimately, this ties to the skill of being able to ask questions and make up one's own mind. I mean, that's what we are really talking about here, right? We need to give people the tools they need to cut through the hype and spin of political campaigns and decide for themselves who they want to run the country.



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