RURAL ROUTES/Margot Ford McMillen

Re: Ralph Running

Feb. 22 dawned as one of those everything's-going-my-way mornings, driven, I suppose, by a release of endorphins after a KOPN community radio concert the night before. In the week prior, there'd been two pieces about the narrowing of the news system: First, a note from Common Cause saying that Congress is considering cutting funds for public broadcasting, then a little blurb that Viacom, owner of CBS, MTV, Infinity Broadcasting, Simon & Schuster, Blockbuster and Paramount Pictures had refused to run the Missouri Democratic Party's billboard ads -- yeah, they own the billboards, too.

As the media narrow, community radio becomes even more important. Our fund-raiser hadn't made much money, but it was timely, and it was an event where the home-made ingredients of good music, good food and good friends blended to leave us feeling really full and brave. So I was happy and washing last night's coffee cups with the radio on when my husband rushed into the kitchen with the news that Tim Russert on Meet The Press was about to interview Ralph Nader and learn whether Ralph was running for Prez.

I sent Ralph a quick ESP message: Please don't.

But my mind control rarely works and Ralph is running.

And now, after days of reflection, I'm glad.

The interview with Russert wasn't groundbreaking. In fact, if you look it up you'll recognize the themes ( But it was great to hear Nader -- or anyone -- answer questions by connecting the dots of context and history rather than falling for the accusatory, frenzied, angry hollering that passes for thoughtful discourse these days.

For example, instead of the apologies that Democrats keep making to our boys in Iraq, Ralph told the truth: "It was oil. And oil has ruined so much of our foreign policy and antagonized so many people in the Third World ... we should be converting to renewable energy and solar energy and energy efficiency, all of which creates jobs in this country."

And, on the subject of getting out: "We need to get out of there as fast as possible because we are the magnet for increasing guerrilla warfare and increasing entry by al Qaeda and others ... So we need to get the UN in there ... We need to provide well-supervised elections ... And we need to continue humanitarian assistance to those people in Iraq."

We need to hear Ralph, or someone, calmly declaim about oil, NAFTA, the Federal Reserve, the living wage. We need to have someone who lays this solid block of history and economics on top of that one before we begin the summer maelstrom of ego-driven candidate bashing that's sure to come. We need to be reminded of the lines of reasoning that form the basis of correct thinking. And, for the candidates, they need to remember, too.

We're heading for a campaign where two Washington insiders, Bush and Kerry, go head to head. Yes, there are major differences between them. But, also yes, they're both adept at the blame game and the blame game works. Listen to the buzz -- it's all ABB. Where are the issues?

I can guaran-damn-tee you that whoever gets in the White House will continue to build power for the major corporations, especially the transportation industry, even if he gets our troops out of Iraq, brings back environmental regulations, and appoints liberal judges.

Let's give credit to Ralph -- and other third-party candidates, like Buchanan and Perot -- for sincerely pushing agenda that put people first. Listening to the most progressive democrats in the primaries, Kucinich and Sharpton, you hear the arguments that started with these third-party trailblazers.

Why, then, didn't Ralph get behind one of these guys and endorse a Democrat? Good question, but where did making endorsements get Carol Moseley-Braun? Michael Moore? Al Gore? Endorsements are forgotten as soon as the endorsee loses.

Almost everyone is mad at Ralph. Democrats think he'll split the party. Greens lament that he's not helping them build an alternative. Republicans don't like to hear him say he's going to steal some of their base.

Keep your shorts on, dudes! Ralph can't win the presidency running as an Independent. He has no organization to carry petitions to get him on the ballot. He has no war chest. Check it out -- he needs 1.5 million signatures before July 15. Some folks have said the Republicans will line up at every mall in America to get Ralph on the ballot. In your dreams, maybe.

If he can't get on the ballots, what does he want? More chances to get his issues on the table. He wants the talk shows. He wants the press. He wants to put planks in the platform.

To those who think Ralph's candidacy will throw the election: It won't. Anyway, I doubt that Ralph really wants to be president. He's much too smart for the job.

Margot Ford McMillen farms and teaches English at a college in Fulton, Mo. Email

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