—Emerson, essay on "Uses of Great Men"
Ralph Nader has become a national joke, like Harold Stassen. Stassen sought the Republican nomination for president nine times from 1948 to 1992. Nader, announcing his fifth try for president as an independent or a third-party candidate, reveals his utter lack of class.
As Katha Pollitt of The Nation says, he will go down in history "as the world's most irritating vanity candidate." Or, as Scott Stantis, cartoonist for the Birmingham (Ala.) News, draws it: Nader is a bug perched on Democratic Party headquarters with a staffer shouting: "The four-year locust is back!!!"
Nader got 0.36 percent of the vote in 2004. He doubtless will get even less this year. Nader cost Al Gore the election in 2000, getting 97,488 votes in Florida, most of which would have gone to Gore.
The result: Nader changed the world for the worst and set the country back for decades. Yet Nader is unapologetic and even defiant about giving the nation the horror of George W. Bush.
Sure, if the November election were between John McCain, the GOP nominee-in-waiting, and Nader, there would be no question for liberal-left voters. The leading candidates of both major parties represent the status quo.
And, sure, Nader would use the White House as a bully pulpit, citing needed progressive measures, such as quick withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, slashes in the bloated Pentagon budget and passage of universal health insurance. He would rightly denounce corporate welfare and restore the Constitution that Bush-eviscerated.
However, the race is not between McCain and Nader. It is between McCain and the Democratic nominee.
The saddest part of the Nader fall from grace is that he was a hero. He was one of the few great Americans of the 20th century. As a consumer crusader he was magnificent. He spearheaded so many reform drives.
Nader attacked the unsafe Corvair in 1965. He brought the nation seat belts and air bags. He attacked tainted meat, water and air pollution and dangerous food additives. He was behind creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency. He pushed the Freedom of Information Act that is valuable to scholars and journalists. He founded and inspired institutions for social activism and research.
But now Nader is nothing more than a megalomanical bore.
Debasing American culture
Puritanical America has claimed another victim, destroying the political career of New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer. Spitzer resigned because of a sex scandal involving high-class prostitutes.
But so what? Sex lives of political figures are no more important than the sex lives of ordinary citizens. Sex is not the public's business. The only outrage is the hypocrisy of politicans who indulge in what they denounce or fervently prosecute like former prosecutor Spitzer.
This sexual obsession is one more example of the degradation of American mass culture. The real obscenity is the violence pervading society, not sex.
Movies and TV are full of gratuitous violence. Senseless killings on campuses or at work places occur with dismaying frequency. President Bush vetoes a bill banning the violence of torture. Even worse, this outrageous warfare state will spend trillions of dollars in Iraq alone.
Bush remains in office despite his fraudulent wars and constant violation of laws. Most people don't care. Spitzer is forced from office because of harmless sex. Everyone howled.
One of the myriad problems of the media is ignorance of even recent events. USA Today reports that the high-profile caseload of the Supreme Court this term is "certain to help reveal the direction of the Roberts Court." That direction was clearly established last term by the court's reactionary rulings.
The Associated Press reports that 470 seats in Congress are "up for grabs" in November. Not so. Of the 435 House seats, most are "safe" because incumbents usually win. In the Senate, one-third of its seats are at stake but most are safe.
More incumbents may lose this fall because of anti-war fervor. But a congressional landslide is most unlikely.
Tribute to Pete Seeger
PBS presented a moving documentary on Pete Seeger last Sunday. This viewer reflected that Seeger, 88, has more soul in his little finger than Bush has in his whole body. Bush exemplifies the sick soul of America.
Jake Highton teaches journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno.