There's a line in the movie "My Fellow Americans" where ex-presidents James Garner and Jack Lemmon are discussing the money Lemmon makes from speaking engagements. Lemmon, in a dramatic moment in an otherwise funny movie, says: "Don't you understand? It's not about the money. I just don't want to be forgotten."
For Ralph Nader, it's not about the votes - he just doesn't want to be forgotten. The perennial third-party presidential candidate, Nader alas won't appear on Missouri presidential ballots this November. His campaign fell just short of collecting enough signatures to place Nader on the state ballot and the deadline to appeal that shortfall has now come and gone.
Nader will be on the ballots in 11 states and as many as 20 others remain in doubt for his campaign effort. The Democratic party has filed numerous legal challenges to keep Nader off state ballots because they know that Nader's handful of votes will likely come at the expense of Democratic candidate John Kerry. So the less successful Nader is, the more Kerry benefits.
Nader is not a dumb man by any means and he knows full well that his efforts are no more than getting his message - whatever that may be - to the American public. But those who seem to know what they are talking about say the Nader campaign is solely about Ralph Nader. Just like the character in the movie, Nader apparently just doesn't want to be forgotten.
Many Democrats still blame Nader for Al Gore's loss in 2000. The few votes Nader garnered were enough in some areas to give a slight tilt to George W. Bush. But that finger-pointing by disgruntled Democrats is just bitterness. And God only knows we have enough bitter Democrats to go around.
Ralph Nader is a dinosaur. His anti-business message played well in the 1960s when the consumer advocate first stepped onto the national stage. Time and circumstances have changed yet Nader remains mired in his antiquated message and virtually no one is listening. At least I give him credit for his determination, even if it is driven by an inflated ego.
I'd like to reassure Nader that he won't be forgotten. His name will linger through history as the first outspoken consumer advocate. But his memory is soiled every four years when he parades his tired message to a disinterested public and captures the few fringe voters who apparently want to send a message to the two major parties.
With no spotlight, Nader is just a relic of the past, sounding like a broken record. He's become a caricature of himself and a punch line of political jokes.
Some go gracefully into the night. Others don't.