A Quick Education on Ralph Nader – Unsafe at Any Speed

Oregon Ballot Series

Today, we start a series of posts that looks at the candidates and ballot measures on this November’s ballot in Oregon. We’re starting at the top of the ticket, but since we’ve been discussing Barack Obama and John McCain pretty exhaustively, we’re going to begin first with Ralph Nader. He is one of three 3rd party candidates on Oregon’s ballot, joining Bob Barr of the Libertarian Party and Chuck Baldwin of the Constitution Party.

Ralph Nader, in many ways, needs little introduction. Now 72, he first started his activism in the 1960’s and is an acclaimed consumer and environmental advocate who became well-known with the passage of laws to increase automobile safety. He then founded or helped found not only Public Citizen, which exposed government corruption, but also dozens (yes, dozens) of other organizations that now fight for justice, push for environmental protections and empower consumers. Among the most powerful organizations he helped to found were the PIRG’s, Public Interest Research Groups, which now have chapters in every state. I am and have long been an extraordinarily proud supporter of the PIRGS. They rock.

Today, what does he stand for?

On Abortion:

Nader has been rather laissez-faire on the fight for abortion rights. He has said, “Even if Roe v. Wade is reversed, that doesn’t end it,” he said. “It just reverts to the states.” Not exactly fire and brimstone passion to stare down the Far Right wack-jobs. He calls the electoral issue of Supreme Court Justice nominations a “scare tactic.” Well, it worked – Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas rightly scare the beejeezus out of me.

On Gay Rights:

Nader’s stand on gay marriage has not always been clear, he now says that he supports full gay and lesbian rights (employment, housing, marriage) and his stand is exemplary.

On Iraq:

While some Nader supporters firmly say otherwise, Nader supports the same idea that Obama does – a rapid and responsible withdrawal from Iraq. Like Obama, he has opposed the war from the start.

On the Environment:

Nader has done far more than any major candidate on issues of environmental protection. He is opposed to mining, loggings, drilling and subsidies for any corporate farming or oil industry. If he had always been in charge of the environment, global warming would simply not be.

On Education:

Nader is similar to Obama – get rid of No Child Left Behind, no more testing, fully fund early childhood education and K-12 education and teach our young people about their vital role in democracy. All good.

On Health Care:

Nader supports universal health/single payer (only candidate to do so) and wants to end corporate insurance industry abuse.

I agree with Ralph Nader on nearly all of these issues (abortion, not so much). So, why won’t I vote for him?

Ralph Nader does not have a serious strategy to win.  Because of that, he is not doing justice to these issues which I hold so dear. For example, despite the potentially ripe market for his ideas here in Oregon, he was able to organize just three people to attend the Oregon Peace Party’s nomination convention. Three! There has been no ground campaign and no attempt to reach a broad cross-section of voters.

In fact, it seems as though he is almost trying to loose. A June, 2008, article in the Washington Post describes an incident where a supporter wanted to approach him, but, as the article tells, “He seems distracted rather than pleased by the occasional interruptions of admirers. When an aide relays a young woman’s request to stop for a picture, Nader has had enough. ‘No!’ he snaps, walking away. ‘It’s always ‘one more’!” A candidate who doesn’t like his fans?

If Ralph Nader can’t be bothered even with his supporters, how would he organize Congressional coalitions to bring about change on vital issues? If he can’t get more than three people to a nominating convention, how could he inspire partners in international cooperation?

If Ralph Nader can’t organize a serious campaign, I can’t trust him with organizing the presidency. Not this time.

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