The 2016 elections may be a ways off, but at least one prominent American would like to see Siebel Systems founder Tom Siebel run for President. That American is celebrity political activist Ralph Nader. Nader is himself a five-time candidate for President, consumer advocate, and author. Nader has put forward the names of 20 Americans, including Tom Siebel, who he says could make a successful run for President and “break up the two party duopoly.”
His list has attracted attention since Nader is to mainstream politics what Burning Man is to picnics. He was born during the depression to hardworking Christian immigrants from Lebanon. Arabic was the language spoken in the home and Nader can still speak it today. Although his father worked for a time in a textile mill, Nader is a Gilbert School, Princeton and Harvard Law School graduate.
He first come into public prominence in 1965, when he wrote the book Unsafe at Any Speed. The first chapter “The Sporty Corvair - The One-Car Accident" interweaves a speech made on safety by GM President John F. Gordon with the description of an accident where a Corvair driver loses her arm. After publication, GM tried to discredit Nader by hiring private detectives to investigate his past, wiretap his phones, and engage prostitutes to tempt him into a compromising situations. Nader successfully sued GM over these tactics eventually settling with the company for $425,000.
Unsafe at Any Speed helped ensure the passage of the 1966 National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act which mandated safety features such as safety belts and stronger windshields be added to automobiles. In 1966 there were 50,894 highway fatalities in the United States. In 2013, despite a three-fold increase in the number of registered vehicles there were only 42,643 fatalities. In 1999, a New York University panel ranked Unsafe at Any Speed among the most influential 100 works of journalism of the 20th century.
Nader’s campaigns for President have been more quixotic. His best showing was in 2000 when he was the Green Party Candidate and received 2,882,955 votes – almost 3% - and was accused by some Democrats of resulting in the election of George Bush.
Yet according to a recent Gallup poll, six in 10 Americans believe a third major political party is needed - the highest level of support for another option since the polling firm began tracking disillusionment with Republicans and Democrats. What all the people on Nader’s list have in abundance are two resources in generally short supply – time and money. Perhaps one of them could be convinced to part with much of both to make a run for President.
My personal opinion is that Tom Siebel is unlikely to run. For one thing he is still recovering his health from the unfortunately accident he had in Africa when an Elephant stepped on his leg. He is also busy building up his new business C3 Energy. But the very idea he might be asked is inspiring to anyone in this business because it shows how far a career in CRM can theoretically take you.