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Home arrow Opinion arrow Our View arrow RUN, RALPH, RUN AWAY FROM PRESIDENTIAL RACE



Sometimes the constant applause from partisans ends up deafening a presidential candidate from hearing reality. Ralph Nader is a case in point. Yes, he's almost baaaack!

The liberal curmudgeon whose Green Party candidacy cost Democrat Al Gore the presidential election in 2000 is back on the campaign trail again, however precipitous and poorly marked that trail is, visiting progressive states like Oregon trying to get on the ballot, this time as an independent. This move has extremely excited some of his people. These Naderites, who have apparently spent too much time sniffing their own Birkenstocks, say a Nader candidacy would help Democratic candidate John Kerry beat Republican incumbent George W. Bush in the fall election. Nuts.

The truth is, Nader's latest maneuver is a severe blow to his credibility. He's tried Door No. 1, a recent Portland gathering where he failed to collect the 1,000 signatures needed to get on the Oregon ballot — he came up about 260 people short. Oddly, he blamed the national collegiate men's basketball finals as causing too many Naderites to stay home. Apparently, these political junkies would rather watch Connecticut rebound for real than watch Nader make his futile attempt to rebound.

As a result of finding Door No. 1 locked, Nader now wants to try Door No. 2 to the Oregon ballot — collecting 15,000 signatures over three months. It could happen, but only if Naderites get tired of shooting hoops out by the garage.

Nader's candidacy, however, is no joke. It has long-term consequences that seem counter to where he says he wants the country to go. The question is, is his ego so large he no longer recognizes the political train wreck he is causing?

Sure, it's understandable that Nader wants to fix politics just as a consumer advocate and author of "Unsafe at Any Speed" he attempted to fix what ailed the cars. In today's hyperpartisan atmosphere and confrontational culture, politics needs a Band-aid — a large Band-aid. What's more, Nader's tirelessness and focus on bread-and-butter issues, when he isn't admiring himself in the mirror, is admirable.

And it's true, the presidential election seems to be devolving into a series of one-minute TV sound bites. Do we want to buy our candidates the same way we buy our laundry detergent?

Certainly, Nader, 70, has his merits. The consumer advocate, author and lawyer founded such worthy organizations as the Public Interest Research Group, the Center for Auto Safety and the Project for Corporate Responsibility.

Some people, in fact, will say Nader is being used as a scapegoat for Democratic frustrations, or that independent-minded Oregonians need more choices than just Republicans and Democrats. In a perfect world, choice is wonderful. But politics is not a perfect world.

Nader can withdraw from any attempts at clouding the waters of the presidential race and still propose ideas and remedies, and candidates Kerry and Bush should listen closely to what he has to say. But the November race would be better off without him.

This time voters want a fair fight, and even without Nader, voters have distinct choices. Nader may think he's scoring points with voters, but so far he's only shooting air balls.


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