Party Crasher

Wherere you going to stand when Ralph Nader runs in 2004?

That Nader wants what most Americans want and still got only 2.7 percent of the vote can't be explained merely by the fact that his woebegone, wonky sexless personality doesn't project presidentially. (Nader isn't remotely egotistical, which, in politics, is a problem. If the Greens' Martin Luther King Jr. stepped forward, whoever he or she is, American politics would find itself in a fertile turmoil.) It always goes back to the way campaigns are financed and thus delivered to the electorate through the media. Nader couldn't get his message out. Why? It wasn't just that he couldn't afford the commercials. He was cut out of the all-important presidential debates, which, he points out, were put on by a private, bipartisan (not nonpartisan) committee sponsored by large corporations bent on preventing disturbing episodes like the 1992 Ross Perot candidacy from ever happening again. This private commission determined that no candidate could debate unless he held up at 15 percent in the polls—a historically prohibitive benchmark: no third party, save Perot's self-financed campaign, has won at least 15 percent of the votes since Millard Fillmore in 1856—and the major networks and we the people bought into it. Why? Because most of us are sheep, and the herd instinct is strong. The corporations need sheep; Nader and participatory democracy can't abide the species. Where you gonna stand, what you gonna be in 2004?

Crashing the Party by Ralph Nader; St. Martin's Press. Hardcover, 383 pages, $24.95.

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