Watching Ralph Ndaer in CSPAN this morning makes one remember just how elloquent he is as a consumer advocate, and how much the American public owes Ralph for his work from the 1960s to the 1990s. Especially these days,
However, Ralph's vanity campaigns for president in races that he could not win have undone almost all of the thanks and good will that he is owed. Something happens when an American runs for president. His or her motivations and goals become suspect. They are perceived as being partisan. And, because politics is a winner-take all sport (only one person gets to be president), his or her ideas are inevitably compared to the other candidates ideals, instead of on a more absolute scale of merit.
It is ironic that the model for staying out of politics to advance a non-partisan cause is none other than Al Gore. Think of what would have happened to Gore's environmental campaign had he run for president this year. (Whether the politicizing of his campaign would have been worth the cost is a worthwhile question for Gore; though not for Nader.)
Ralph Nader, this country has needed a seasoned non-partisan consumer advocate these past dozen years. Instead, it got a third party candidate siphoning votes off of the Democratic candidate whose ideas got lost in the presidential shuffle.
Does Ralph Nader bare all of the blame for the last 7 years of George W. Bush? No. Does he bear some? Yes. And does he bear all of the blame for turning himself from a spectacular consumer advocate into a vanity candidate for president? Yes.