[FOUNTAIN]Political farce may repeat in U.S. election

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[FOUNTAIN]Political farce may repeat in U.S. election

Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore lost to Republican candidate George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential election despite having won more popular votes. Democrats blamed Ralph Nader for the defeat. President Bush was elected when he was awarded Florida’s electoral votes after winning the election there by 537 votes.
Nader had 97,488 votes in Florida. If Mr. Nader, a liberal, had not run, Mr. Gore could have won more votes in Florida and been elected president. The “Nader effect” swayed the election result.
Mr. Nader is running again this year, but he is not likely to win as many votes as he did last time. In 2000, he received 2.84 million votes, 2.7 percent of all votes. But he is supported by only 1 percent of voters in 2004, polls say. Nonetheless, the “Nader effect” could decide the election result again because the two major candidates, President Bush and Democrat John Kerry, are in a close contest.
Mr. Nader was the youngest in a Lebanese immigrant family and a precocious child. While studying at Princeton and Harvard Law School, he was a bookworm. His childhood friend and college classmate, David Halberstam, inspired him. As a correspondent for the New York Times, Mr. Halberstam won the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the Vietnam War. Mr. Nader’s mother praised Halberstam and told him that a young man like him had changed the world.
Ralph Nader’s vehicle to change the world was the consumer movement. In 1965, he published “Unsafe at Any Speed,” a bestseller indicting General Motors automobiles and emerged as a star of the consumer advocates. As his indictment-oriented consumer movement caught on, he was joined by swarms of activists called “Nader’s Raiders.” Until the late 1970s, he targeted many corporate giants in the heyday of the consumer movement.
He never married, and devoted his life to indictments and struggle, but he created many enemies in the course of his crusade. The more isolated he became, the more self-assertive he grew. Running for president has become his new way to advocate his beliefs. Then in the 2000 election, his long-shot candidacy turned out to be decisive. If the leadership of the world’s sole superpower is again swayed by the “Nader effect,” it will be the biggest farce of our time.


by Oh Byung-sang

The writer is the JoongAng Ilbo’s London correspondent.

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