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Great Campaign; Now Where's the Movement?

A Plea to Ralph Nader


Ralph Nader wrote an intriguing assessment of Michael Moore’s movie "Sicko" some days back on CounterPunch entitled: "Good Movie, Now Where’s the Movement." He praised Moore’s movie "Sicko," for advocating Medicare for all, aka "Single-payer" health care. But then Nader suggested that Moore could do more given his fame and fortune.

As Ralph put it to Michael,

"Great movies and documentaries raise people’s latent indignation levels-for a short time. Norma Rae, The China Syndrome and The Grapes of Wrath had this effect. But films do not usually move either people or legislators to action. Their effect does not reach enough people. Their urgent 2 hour impact tends to diminish quickly, as compared with the omnipresent and powerful corporate or commercial interests determined to preserve the status quo."

But the same thing can be said of presidential campaigns and presidential debates. In 2000 and 2004, Ralph made a valiant effort to appear in the presidential debates and to influence the discussion of national issues. And I believe his impact was substantial but misunderstood. In 2000 when Nader’s influence was felt, Gore clearly won the popular vote, both nationwide and in Florida. Unfortunately Gore’s lack of backbone and the Dems’ failure to use a filibuster to prevent the packing of the Supreme Court with right wing theocrats resulted in the theft of Gore’s victory. Then in 2004, when the Democrats and their lapdogs like Katrina Vanden Heuvel at The Nation managed to marginalize the antiwar Nader while endorsing the prowar Kerry, Bush actually won the popular vote!

But the story does not end there. One might comment to Ralph, paraprhrasing his words to Michael quoted above: Great campaigns but where is the movement? Great campaigns and talking points raise people’s latent indignation levels-for a short time. Nader’s efforts of 2000 and 2004 gave hope to many people and introduced them to a man of great stature, intellect and integrity. The effect of campaigns does not reach enough people. Their urgent 2 month impact tends to diminish quickly, as compared with the omnipresent and powerful corporate or commercial interests or those of AIPAC determined to preserve the status quo.

So as we approach 2008 and another presidential contest, will Ralph run again – this time in a way that builds a movement that stands against war, empire and the police state, overwhelmingly the major issues on the mind of the electorate. Greens, libertarians, many paleocons and disaffected Democrats and even Republicans deeply yearn for such a movement-building candidacy. So far the Greens have not succeeded in doing so and a different vehicle may or may not be needed. But the doors are as wide open to a new party and a new movement as they were in 1854 when the Republican Party was born, winning its first presidential election six short years later.

As the elections of 2008 get closer a plea from many of us goes out for Ralph to run early and to build a real organization or a party which can endure, grow and eventually win. But why Ralph Nader? Because he is one of the few who has consistently opposed the war and exposed the Democrats as the other party of war and corporate welfare. He is one of the few who has the stature, the intellect and the integrity to begin such a mission. And he would make a truly great president should he win – not beyond the imagination given the disaffection and despair of the voters.

But Ralph Nader is not alone in the stature and integrity department. Ron Paul and Cindy Sheehan are right up there with him. So this appeal goes out to them as well. There are bright prospects for us if you will take on the leadership role–not just of mounting a campaign but building a lasting democratic movement and party. Nature has given you the talents and your work has positioned you for this moment. Might I go so far to suggest that it would be an ethical lapse of major proportions to refuse this plea?

John Walsh can be reached at He has never voted for a presidential candidate other than Ralph Nader who will speak at the Green Party National Convention this coming weekend.