Jewish World Review May 1, 2001 / 8 Iyar, 5761
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- 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
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