The New York Times reported the other day that Ralph Nader was thinking of running for president this year and before anyone could holler "No Más!" Ralph went on "Meet the Press" and announced he is, indeed, a candidate, apparently without a party.
In the interest of disclosure, I have to tell you that Ralph campaigned for me in my Senate race against Bob Kasten in 1986 and he has been a role model for taking on the establishment. In my view he has done more for consumers than anyone. I like and respect Ralph. (But I feel compelled to deal with one issue: Florida. I guess he didn't cause the defeat of Al Gore because Gore won! But, had he not been in the race, the theft of Florida might have been too large to cover up.)
Ralph said some things in 2000 about Gore and Bush that made most of us scratch our heads. No difference between them? Whoa, Nelly! Had Bush not won, 4 million displaced Iraqis might be at home; thousands of American casualties would probably have been avoided; John Roberts and Samuel Alito would not be justices on the U.S. Supreme Court; and we wouldn't be talking about waterboarding or repeal of habeas corpus.
There was a big difference. A huge difference. Had Gore been elected, we would have a jump on global warming. With Bush we are the laughingstock of the world we should be leading.
It is a given that Ralph marches to his own drummer and will ignore my advice, but I'm giving it anyway. Stick to the issues. Don't fire at the Democratic candidate by telling us he is a younger John McCain. Raise all the issues, and propose your own solutions.
Ralph asked, "Who will raise the issue of single-payer health care if I don't"? The answer is: You can raise it every day -- you don't need to be a candidate to speak up. Dennis Kucinich raised the issue in almost every debate he was in and we will push Barack Obama in that direction. The 47 million people without health insurance will demand a workable solution. I'm all for single-payer because it is the most efficient, cost-effective and sensible way to deal with our broken health care delivery system.
Having said that, we could all have predicted that neither Obama nor Hillary Clinton would embrace single-payer. Had Ralph joined Kucinich in the primaries, the two might have forced the issue, but it's too late now.
And suppose Ralph would be the only one to raise the issue. Where would he raise it? He won't be in the debates, so did raising it on "Meet the Press," when Super Tuesday is a distant memory, advance the case for single-payer health care? I don't think so.
Suppose Ralph had a legitimate chance to be elected president. That could only happen if he won the nomination as a Democrat.
Ralph is right in pushing his issues, but if he would somehow be the decisive factor in electing John McCain, you can take it to the bank -- we would have no comprehensive health care for four and probably eight years but we would witness the tragedy of another Roberts, Scalia, or Alito going to the Supreme Court and we would endure four more years of Gitmo, torture, renditions, tax cuts for the wealthy while millions are kicked out of their homes. We might well bear witness to the bombing of Iran.
Let's face it. This is not 1968 but the stakes are very high. Single-payer vs. Obama's plan does not measure up to the Vietnam War as a moral imperative. As for Iraq, we will not have hawks leading the ticket. Clinton and Obama want to end the occupation. Had Clinton and Obama said, "McCain is right -- 50 or 100 years -- fine with us" then someone might be needed to take on the Democratic nominee. But I repeat, this is not 1968. This is not Gene McCarthy taking on Lyndon Johnson.
The time to take on the issues was in Iowa, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, and Super Tuesday. OK, I feel better.
Eyes on the prize!
Ed Garvey is a Madison lawyer, political activist and the editor of the fightingbob.com Web site.
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