Ralph Nader announced this week that once again he is running for president. The recent documentary biography about him tagged him as an unreasonable man. The description is based on a quote from George Bernard Shaw, "The reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him... The unreasonable man adapts surrounding conditions to himself... All progress depends on the unreasonable man." Nader is clearly the most progressive choice in the race currently. There is also no denying that he has a substantial and well documented record. But his two previous runs have had the effect of making him a political pariah since many can't get beyond blaming him for being a spoiler who took the presidency away from Al Gore. Assigning blame, whether in politics or other areas of life, is always a tricky endeavor. Too often blaming another is nothing more than an effort to reject personal responsibility.
It would certainly be healthier for our nation if the Democrats and Republicans alike were to welcome all comers in all elections and focus only on their own responsibility in winning or losing elections. Perhaps that is too much of a simplification, for surely there are systemic issues that deserve attention when one party or another manipulates processes to gain an unfair advantage. Along these lines it is the other parties that have the greatest case. Ballot access for other than the two major parties is exceptionally difficult in almost every state. Both of the major parties have a vested interest in keeping it that way. Major corporate campaign corporations are the lifeblood of presidential campaigns and they work to maintain the status quo eliminating any real threat from a third party, keeping their messages silenced.
Some will argue that only those with realistic chances of winning should have an opportunity to be heard anyway. The national discussion is enhanced with a wider assortment of views. Nader cites scholars who show that his campaign was able to push Gore to more progressive stands (ironically getting Gore more votes). In the end, the majority of Americans may indeed choose between a Democrat and a Republican, but the presence of others in the campaign can certainly influence the positions those two parties take.
Before Super Tuesday, Nat Fortune and Merelice, Co-Chairs of the Massachusetts Green-Rainbow Party wrote the following, “Why do more Americans contribute to charities than show up to vote? Obviously we care about the world around us. And we believe one person can make a difference. And we trust that what we have to offer is not too small. Otherwise, we wouldn't bother with either charities or voting.” This is the logic of being unreasonable, insisting on being heard, hoping for change. Much has been made of change during this campaign. Senator Obama's recent book was titled after a sermon he heard, “The Audacity of Hope.” Whether through unreasonable insistence or audacious hope, change only comes when those on the margins refuse to be silent. This presidential campaign will be enhanced by the inclusion of as many opinions as are offered.