WASHINGTON, DC–Concerned that the Green Party presidential candidate and lifelong bachelor is lonely, citizens across the country are trying to set up Ralph Nader on a date.
"This is a real grassroots effort," said Melissa Partridge, director of the Coalition To Find Ralph Nader A Special Someone, a D.C.-based matchmaking service for the 66-year-old consumer advocate. "Americans of diverse backgrounds are joining together for a common cause: to find Mr. Nader a nice female companion, ideally someone between the ages of 55 and 70 who shares his hobbies and interests. That would make us all feel a lot better."
"Poor Ralph just looks so sad out there on the campaign trail, giving his little speeches about the excessive concentration of power and wealth in a few hands," said reporter Georgia Barnett, who has been covering the Nader campaign for The Washington Post. "I really think he'd feel better if he weren't out there all alone."
Continued Barnett: "The date doesn't have to be fancy or anything. Maybe they can just go out for pizza. And if, for some reason, it doesn't work out, that's totally fine. There's absolutely no pressure."
Nader, whose support has been as high as 8 percent in recent polls, has helped reinvigorate the progressive left in American politics, bringing such topics as free trade, the environment, and campaign-finance reform to the fore and prompting millions of Americans to express concern for his social life.
"Ralph Nader wants to shake the Democratic Party out of its complacency and remind it that it was once the party of working families and organized labor," AFL-CIO spokeswoman Maria Nieves said. "He's very knowledgeable and sympathetic to the plight of blue-collar workers, most notably in his call for a substantial increase in the minimum wage. And he'd be just perfect for my Aunt Stella."
Nieves said that her aunt, Stella Hidalgo, is a 61-year-old San Francisco attorney who specializes in worker-compensation claims. "Like Mr. Nader, Aunt Stella is a lawyer, and her clientele is mainly made up of working-class Latinos who otherwise couldn't afford legal representation," Nieves said. "She also has this weekend free. Wink, wink."
Ray Kelleher, an unemployed Bowling Green, KY, autoworker who has become disenchanted with what he called the Clinton-Gore Administration's "kowtowing to big business," said he has an attractive, intelligent 55-year-old sister who is currently single.
"Mary Ellen was the first woman in our family to attend college, and she's extremely well-read and well-traveled," Kelleher said. "She's raised two terrific children, Patrick and Stacey, and she's a public librarian, so if Ralph ever needed research material on a given topic, she could get it for him in no time flat. Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself here, but I would be happy to provide the necessary introductions, should Ralph be passing through Bowling Green during his campaign."
The Coalition To Find Ralph Nader A Special Someone has also found some promising potential lady-friends for Nader.
"There's Dianne Panos, a Harvard-educated linguist and outspoken opponent of uranium mining on Indian reservations," Partridge said. "Jane Conroy embarked on a five-year crusade to keep a corporate hog farm from being built near her rural North Carolina town, and not only did she succeed, but she is a divorcee looking for friendship and maybe more. And though she is still coping with the recent death of her spouse, I certainly wouldn't rule out Washington, D.C. fair-trade advocate Midge Wollensky."
Continued Partridge: "And Mr. Nader, if you're reading this, Nancy Rosenblum, a Maricopa County bioethicist and leading critic of genetic crop modification, thinks you're really cute!"
Partridge also urged Nader not to look past Green Party vice-presidential candidate Winona LaDuke, saying, "Sometimes, true love is right there under your nose. Besides, what better life mate than a running mate?"
Yet the attempts to fix Nader up with a date may prove futile. On numerous occasions over the years, Nader himself has said he consciously forswore a family life to devote himself fully to the cause of consumer advocacy. A workaholic who lives ascetically, Nader has been compared to a monk by colleagues and critics alike.
"These matchmakers should throw in the towel," New York Times political columnist Maureen Dowd said. "Nader received a calling early in life, a calling to which he remains zealously loyal. Still, wouldn't that be just the cutest thing in the world if, at 66, he got his first steady girlfriend?"
Dowd sighed wistfully and gazed out her office window.
At a campaign stop in Olympia, WA, Nader spoke to reporters about the sudden attention being paid to his love life.
"Since the start of my candidacy, I have focused on the issues that genuinely affect the American people," Nader said. "This recent interest in my personal life is not surprising, given the media's love of shallow, tabloid-style celebrity journalism. Today's mainstream political reportage is more personality-driven than issue-oriented, to the great detriment of the democratic process. I thank the Coalition To Find Ralph Nader A Special Someone for its concern, and I'm sure all these women are terrific, but these efforts are misguided. People would be better off spending their time focusing not on me, but on the things I have to say."
Added Nader: "Did that bioethicist really say she thought I was cute?"