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Jewish World Review May 1, 2001 / 8 Iyar, 5761

Dale McFeatters

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Consumer Reports

Nader strikes out -- PUBLIC interest lawyer Ralph Nader is 0-for-3 in his attempt to overturn how the presidential debates are conducted, losing at the district and appeals levels and finally at the Supreme Court, which Monday refused to hear his challenge.

Nader had sought to reverse Federal Election Commission rulings that allow corporate sponsorship of the nationally televised campaign debates. Because the big-business sponsors have deep financial interests in government decisions, he claims their support of the debates puts them in a position to influence the candidates and parties.

Nader's real objection to the presidential debates is that he wasn't in them.

Third-party candidates like Nader, who was the Green Party's presidential nominee, argued that the two major parties have effectively monopolized the presidential campaigns. They contend, with some justice, that they are trapped by a political Catch-22. Without publicity and exposure, they can't become major parties, and they are denied that publicity and exposure because they are not major parties.

There's something to that, but the problems of third parties run much deeper than that. Third parties in this country have tended to revolve around a single, powerful personality, usually with a single, powerful idea. The parties tend to last only as long as the personality, and, if the idea is a popular one, it will be co-opted by the major parties.

Ross Perot got 19 percent of the vote in 1992, forcing the major parties to adopt his issues of the federal budget deficit and the deepening national debt. He got 8 percent of the vote when he ran again in 1996. His Reform Party collapsed in confusion after his departure, and its 2000 candidate, Patrick Buchanan, barely registered in the polls. Nader, who ran third in the 2000 election, got only 3 percent of the vote.

The American political system is hardly closed. Indeed, had he wanted to, Nader could have run for either the Republican or Democratic party presidential nomination. His frustration at not being a major-party candidate may be understandable, but the government is under no obligation to make him one.

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04/26/01: Does President Bush hate California?
04/13/01: Opening Day has come and gone on the first season of the failed Bush administration
04/06/01: Signs that an involuntary career change is nigh
03/30/01: Democrats hope for lightning
03/28/01: The fiscal fortune tellers
03/23/01: Bush's free lunch, or: Why Dubya worries about Japan's economy
03/21/01: Congress' growing nuisance
03/16/01: A new kind of layoff for the New Economy
03/09/01: Another snow job in the nation's capital
03/02/01: Bush either brave or naive
02/23/01: Long hours=great presidency? What our 'dim-bulb' of a president knows
02/16/01: Just what the spin-doctor ordered? Bush can't even get ridiculed on TV
02/09/01: A heartbeat from presidency, and both feet in obscurity
02/02/01: AlGore is continuing his fall from grace
01/26/01: "Fifteen Minutes in December"

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