Nader's Nadir

An Open Letter To Ralph Nader

Dear Ralph:

Don't do it. It's not too late to drop out. You can say you were just kidding. Everyone knows you have a great sense of humor. I remember seeing you smile that time on television back in, I think it was 1998. Anyway, Ralphie Boy, I'm not asking you to drop out of the race because you might mess things up. I'm asking you to drop out because of your own legacy. You were an American hero for decades. Wouldn't you rather be remembered as the guy who saved countless lives by forcing auto companies to make safer cars than some guy who ran for President a bunch of times because of his ego?

You have every right to run for President. If the long primary campaign has proved one thing, it is that any person -- regardless of qualifications, philosophy, or lack of common sense -- has a right to run for president. And I don't think you're going to have a meaningful effect on the election as people feel you've had in the past. You seem to agree with me, because on "Meet The Press" you said you doubted you'd be a "spoiler" in this election. You went on to say that if the Democrats don't "win in a landslide... they should just close down."

So, even you don't think you're a serious candidate who can win. So, why are you running? And don't tell me it's because you want to publicize some issues that are important to the American people. You publicized important issues in the past without running for office.

Throwing your well-worn hat into the ring ranges somewhere between annoying and pathetic. It's not like a political group clamored for you to run. You don't even know what party you're going to represent. Ralph, admit it: most candidates know which party they belong to.

Years ago, when you pointed out the safety problems of the automobile in your book, "Unsafe At Any Speed," car companies and corporate heads said you were a "crank." They tried to characterize you as someone who should not be taken seriously. They claimed that what you had to say was nonsense, and you were just out for publicity.

Of course, they were wrong. You were one of the most selfless consumer advocates in history. But now it seems like those old charges might really apply to you. You seem like a "crank" running for President who isn't being taken seriously. When you declared that you were running for President, it wasn't even front page news. It was around page 10, next to stories like "Bush Says War Still Going Great" and "Icy Streets Are Slippery."

You deserve a better legacy than that. I think about schoolchildren in the next generation reading about you. I would hate for there to be only a sentence or two about all of your accomplishments, and then several paragraphs about your unfortunate runs for the Presidency.

I understand that you're not a young man, and perhaps you're looking for something to do with the rest of your life. But maybe after all these years of seriousness, you need to do something that's fun. Maybe go to a karaoke bar and sing a duet with someone you never met before. Rent a motorcycle and take it for a thrilling ride. Or maybe buy a tie that was actually made since the Beatles split up.

Lots of people from one kind of work and then do something totally different. Look at Jimmy Carter. Many people do volunteer work. Some teach. Some go back to school in a field that's completely new to them. But they don't all run for President just because they can.

I got an e-mail from someone I went to high school with the other day. He retired recently, and is about to embark on a new adventure in a completely different profession: he decided to be an usher at Wrigley Field. I have to say I respect his decision a lot more than I respect yours.

Sincerely, Lloyd Garver

A former admirer