Senator Nader has a nice ring to it
If you’ve paid any attention to American politics in the past decade, chances are you’re familiar with the name Ralph Nader, the third-party consumer rights advocate whose presidential campaigns in the past three election cycles have left a good deal of controversy in their wake. Nader’s now-infamous presidential run in 2000 against was considered by many to be a spoiler for Al Gore, whose narrow loss to Bush in Florida, where Nader polled well, ultimately cost Gore the election.
While the attempts at the presidency have earned Nader the ire of many liberals, he has also become a hero to those displeased with a two-party political system and to the thousands of Americans who want a more transparent, progressive government. Nader’s White House bids have made him a household name and a staple of the American ballot since 2000, which is why the Connecticut Green Party has been so enthusiastic in pressing Nader, a Winstead, Conn. native, to run for Senate in 2010, a notion that isn’t too far out of the realm of possibility.
Given incumbent Chris Dodd’s vulnerability in his re-election campaign following scandals and criticism for his role in the national financial crisis as the Senate’s Banking Committee chairman, the atmosphere certainly seems right for a Nader bid.
A recent Quinnipiac University poll shows Dodd trailing former Republican Congressman and GOP front-runner Rob Simmons 38-49 percent and also shows him losing to former Worldwide Wrestling Entertainment executive Linda McMahon (also a Republican candidate) 41-43 percent.
While these poll numbers are premature (the election is almost a year away), they at least indicate that Dodd will have a hard time getting re-elected next fall. If Ralph Nader was to enter the race, it would essentially doom Dodd, whose core base of supporters are Connecticut’s liberal Democrats, a piece of the electorate that would also be highly favorable of a Nader candidacy.
When asked if he would consider campaigning for Dodd’s seat at a book signing for his new novel, “Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!,” Nader said “I’m just absorbing a lot of the feedback before I make a decision. It really depends on what kind of momentum there is and how much people are willing to roll up their sleeves.” At other times when Nader has been asked about running, he has described his feelings on the prospect as “agnostic” and “totally neutral.”
Nader has stated that he likes Dodd personally, but believes that Dodd’s efforts in tightening regulations on the financial industry are not strong enough. Nader met with Dodd earlier this year to try to persuade the senator to create an independent organization, the Financial Consumer Association, to watch over financial players such as mutual fund managers and pension executives to keep them honest. This measure, however, was not included in the bill introduced by Dodd earlier this month – a fact that Nader takes issue with. “I’m trying to get Dodd to do the right thing,” Nader said, “Right now, they are not serious.”
While it may not sound like Nader is particularly eager to run for Senate, he still has plenty of time to decide whether or not to throw his hat into the race. Given his disagreement with Dodd on the issue of financial regulation, Nader certainly has motivation to run against the incumbent senator.
I’m willing to bet that Nader will also find that he has a lot of support in Connecticut, a state where he won nearly five percent of the popular vote in his run for president in 2000, and will ultimately end up running. The fact that he is a third-party icon on the national stage would also be a boon to his campaign, as it would surely allow him to raise campaign funds from supporters outside of Connecticut.
After all, a Senator Nader would not just be serving the interests of Connecticut in the Senate, but would surely be continuing to advocate the causes of his life (such as government transparency, consumer protection, human rights and green politics) as well.
It seems strange to think that Ralph Nader would run for the Senate after numerous campaigns for the presidency, but it also makes a lot of sense. Nader has long been seen as an anti-establishment champion of the common man – which is just the kind of political figure a large portion of the American public seems to be looking for amid frustrations with both the Democratic and Republican parties.
The fact that Nader has spent his life standing up to corporate interests makes him a uniquely appealing candidate for major public office – there would be no question as to where his loyalties lie. This seems an especially compelling quality for Nader to possess, given the fact that Connecticut voters are unsure if they can trust Dodd after the shady political practices that have gotten him into trouble this year. As a Connecticut liberal who has always liked Chris Dodd, I must say that I would really like to see Nader for senate – and I am certain that I am not alone in this view.
Dan Rahrig is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.