Last Friday, Sept. 10, independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader received quite a bit of ink in the morning’s newspapers. The New York Times disclosed that on Sept. 9, Circuit Judge Kevin Davey in Florida had removed Nader’s name from the November ballot. I was relieved. With the most recent polls illustrating a statistical dead heat in Florida between Senator John Kerry and President Bush, the knowledge that Nader would be unable to tip the balance toward the president was most reassuring.
A second article in the Yale Daily News was a less enjoyable read. In an op-ed piece last Friday, Helen Vera (“Nader’s approach merits our respect,” 9/10) lauded Nader’s career accomplishments, arguing that Nader’s candidacy deserved more respect. While I appreciate Vera’s argument, I must disagree and state that Nader’s presidential candidacy in 2004 is not the act of a noble public advocate, but rather one of an egomaniac.
While I disagree that Nader’s approach merits our respect, I will acknowledge that he does merit our attention. Although Nader has been blocked from being on the ballot in Arizona, Virginia and more importantly the battleground states of Florida, Pennsylvania and Missouri, his name is still an option to voters in 20 other states. As the presidential election of 2004 promises to be as close as that of 2000, Nader’s place on the ballot could once again be most influential.
Although I acknowledge Nader’s career of public advocacy, I cannot comprehend his candidacy. It would seem that Nader’s ideals would cause him not to run, as the re-election of President Bush would go against many of the values he holds dear. Nader is a watchdog for the environment and a protector of consumers. Nader is the child of immigrants whose hard work afforded their son a better future. Nader should understand how families’ futures are built and that, at this moment in history, the American dream of opportunity and an honest shake for all citizens needs defending.
Nader knows he cannot win the election; he acknowledges through his hatred of President Bush that Senator Kerry would be a better alternative, and he realizes that the slice of the electorate that would vote for him is more likely to cast its ballots for Senator Kerry than President Bush when given a two-man race. The threat of another term of President Bush is too severe for Nader to be harming Kerry’s chances of victory. Arianna Huffington had it right last August: “when your house is on fire, it’s not time to talk about remodeling.”
In her well-argued piece on Friday, Vera answered Arianna Huffington’s charge, defending Ralph Nader as “a remodeler who can use a fire extinguisher.” While I agree with Vera that Ralph Nader has accomplished a tremendous amount during his career benefiting the American driver, consumer and environment, I cannot agree with her belief that his pursuit of the American presidency in 2004 is noble.
In fact, I would argue that Nader’s candidacies in 2000 as well as 2004 are an unfortunate tarnish on an otherwise courageous career of public service. In the 2004 presidential race, Ralph Nader is not the “remodeler who can use a fire extinguisher,” he is the arsonist who, after setting the American house ablaze in 2000, is now fueling the fire of his creation in 2004.
Nader’s candidacy thus far has not significantly altered the public debate. His core theme of stopping the practice of “putting the interest of the corporate paymasters before the interests of the people” has yet to gain momentum. Additionally, his hope of generating a third party of significance is largely agreed by political scientists to be utterly impossible according to the phenomenon of Durverger’s Law. Durverger’s Law explains that in a winner-take-all system where the candidate with the plurality wins the election completely (such as in the United States), elections will inevitably boil down to two candidates as voters will side with the lesser of two evils, preferring to side with a candidate they may not agree with completely in order to avoid electing a candidate they utterly hate. Nader’s candidacy will simply not accomplish any of his stated goals, leading me to believe his 2004 candidacy is largely motivated by ego.
In those battleground states where a vote for the independent ticket is most likely denying a vote for Senator Kerry, Nader is again threatening our future. His candidacy — one with no hope of provoking change, altering the debate, or establishing a third party — only serves to benefit the Republican ticket while weakening the efforts of the millions of Americans who seek a change from current foreign and domestic policy.
While I respect Ralph Nader for his career of public advocacy, I cannot help but be appalled by his 2004 candidacy as it exposes all Americans to a threat far greater than unsafe automobiles, discriminatory business practices or polluted water — four more years of George W. Bush.
Jonathan Menitove is a sophomore in Ezra Stiles College.