Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader spoke to a welcoming crowd of about 400 at Abe and Jakes Landing in Lawrence, Kan., Oct. 9. He was introduced by Adam Wood, a candidate for student body president this past April at the University of Kansas and an avowed Ron Paul aficionado.
Weve had enough of Democrats, he insisted. Weve had enough of Republicans. They do the same things. Theyre the same thing.
Every third party candidate must rehash the obligatory rhetoric of our nations bankrupt two-party system. But this year, Americans actually do have a significant choice between the two major party candidates. The quadrennial ritual of Naders candidacy seems ineffectual and strikingly out of place.
About 40 minutes into Naders meandering speech, the large projection screen behind his lectern reverted from the Nader-Gonzalez logo to the soothing constellations of a Windows screensaver. It was a tragically appropriate symbol of his latest campaign for president.
His passion for consumer advocacy and political reform has become an admirable but unrealistic endeavor. This years campaign will have even less of an influence than it has in the past. Naders relentless insistence on the two-party dictatorship detracts from the more plausible and practicable positions he advocates.
All of us owe Nader for introducing crucial political issues into mainstream discourse. His challenge to the pernicious influence of corporations in politics remains as relevant today as it ever has been.
And this is precisely the positive role that third parties can play in American politics. They have been able to introduce new issues into the national discourse that the major parties have neglected. Take, for example, Eugene Debss socialist party with its demands for workers rights, many of which were eventually implemented in the New Deal.
The problem is that Nader advocates the dismantling of the two-party system, not simply a change in the two parties policies. It would take a drastic reworking of our government to achieve the type of European-style proportional representation that he champions.
The two-party system is inextricable from the type of single seat plurality and winner-takes-all elections that we have used in the United States since this nation was founded. This wont change now. It wont change in 100 years.
I disagree with Adam Wood: Democrats and Republicans are not the same thing, and certainly not in this election.
But even if he were correct, he should challenge the two parties to change instead of challenging the premise of the system.