Despite the criticism he’s faced since unveiling his presidential campaign last week, Ralph Nader has every right to run for president. The idea of him as a “spoiler” obscures more important threats to American democracy, such as faulty voting machines and a populace largely too apathetic and alienated from the political process to vote. The man is not a pointless candidate—he brings a diversity of ideas to a political arena often grossly lacking them.

As just one of many examples, Nader is the only candidate to promote single-payer health care, a model favoured by many doctors and nurses, but ignored by Democrats and Republicans. While Americans fear involvement in another catastrophic war with Iran, Nader is the only candidate willing to take military force off the table once and for all.

Though Nader may sound like a wacko conspiracy theorist when he talks about the “corporate” Democratic and Republican parties, he raises an issue that mainstream candidates aren’t even willing to debate. The reality of Washington politics is that politicians get most of their fi nancial support from powerful private sources, i.e. corporations. Their loyalty to working- and middle-class Americans, who cannot possibly compete with major companies’ financial influence, is cast into doubt. Barack Obama may be the recipient of more small donations than anyone else, but he still isn’t willing to level the playing fi eld by making a public fund for campaigns like John Kerry suggested in 2004. Nader is the only candidate still talking about it.

Candidates with similarly progressive views exist in the Democratic Party—Dennis Kucinich comes to mind—but are inevitably shelved for more moderate (read: conservative) candidates. Is it any wonder that many liberal Americans are fed up with the Democratic Party? If the Democrats want to gain more votes, they should use their Congress majority to stand up to Republicans, and nominate better candidates. Barack Obama’s current surge is a sign that the Democrats may have learned the latter lesson.

The idea of Nader luring liberal voters away from the Democratic Party is absurd. This denies a voter their right to choose, something that is sacrosanct for a reason. Americans may not always know what is best for them (the past eight years show that clearly enough) but they have the right to vote for who they want to run their country. Giving them one more candidate to choose from won’t spoil the election.

There are far greater threats to the electoral process. Take voting machines, for example. Experts say machines in many districts are faulty, and could be used to manipulate election results without leaving any evidence. There’s your spoiler.

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