Saturday, March 17, 2007

Obama, Nader and Lapp

Mikeswanson called me out recently on calling Ralph Nader "an unreasonable man" (see here), which I feel contrained to point out I never did but can respond to nonetheless.

Without rehashing the dreaded Nader Wars of circa 2001-02, when the entire leftern half of the political spectrum joined the circular firing squad and emptied its barrels until everyone was dead, I will say that Nader can be very right when he is right and very wrong when he is wrong. His being admirably acute in calling a spade a spade when Democrats fail to live up to their potential cannot make up for the fact that even during the 2000 campaign, when I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, he ran on the dubious claim that there was no difference between (center-left) Al Gore and (zealous corporatist) George Bush, which has been shown to be so spectacularly wrong that Nader has to work doubly hard to get any respect from me these days. He sold his supporters on the idea that it didn't matter who won in 2000, that the candidates were two sides of the same corrupt coin; this was implausible enough at the time, and at this late date, anyone who believes it isn't worth debating. So why listen to him?

He speaks the truth on some issues, such as health care. But a lot of other candidates are doing that as well these days. (Obama has called loudly for single-payer, including in his book, which I just finished.) He served a needed purpose, in some capacity, in reminding voters that triangulation isn't the be-all end-all of politics, that there are serious issues at stake that cannot honestly be ignored or poll-tested. I have always admired his dedication to workplace and environmental issues. I find him persuasive when he talks about the military budget. But when he starts talking about almost anything else, I start to chafe and wonder why he's still rehashing his 2000 campaign themes. I also don't like his style and think his supporters ought to get off their high horse. This theme was expounded well by Joshua Micah Marshall (of the very good, and journalistically ambitious, TalkingPointsMemo) in his review of Nader's book "Crashing the Party":
Nader's supporters (invariably described as "thoughtful") are set against a pitiful cast of sellouts, hacks, turncoats, and cowards, which constitutes more or less everyone else on the leftward side of the political universe. To be sure, Nader and his crew were treated to no small amount of derision by Al Gore's supporters in 2000. But none of it matches Nader's intensity of denunciation, the facile opportunism of many of his political gambits, or the breezy thoughtlessness of many of his attacks.
Ultimately, Marshall echoes my own feelings about Nader:
Nader's supporters will no doubt argue that these recent revelations [about the Enron scandal] show that we very much need the Ralph Nader who first sounded the alarm against corporate malfeasance in the 1960s and 1970s.

They're right. We do. Too bad the 21st-century Ralph Nader is the one we're stuck with.
I think it's fine to defend Nader as a man who was right about a lot of things at one point or another in his life. But if you're looking for someone to trust, someone to support -- in short, if you're looking for a candidate -- it's time to look elsewhere. Ralph Nader is essentially a spent force, and it's not worth it to keep wishing he'll make a comeback.


Anonymous Mikeswanson said...

His point is that essentially the top two political parties are the same because Democrat or Republican, they both are for centralization, the military, intolerable levels of corporate power, colonial foreign policy, etc., etc. which all of which the Green Party is rightly against. It may be legitimate to call the Greens naive in attempting to govern a cacophonous country of 300 million rabid consumers with such a view, but if so, then you must also admit that the Executive branch is broken, or perhaps never worked to begin with. If the sterling platform of the Green Party won't fly in this political climate, then there really is no reason to talk about political solutions because the Green Party has the best platform. There are so many alarming issues that the Democrats and Republicans are in total agreement with each other, so much so that Nader's statement about the sameness of the duocracy makes perfect sense. For instance, we all know what's happening in Palestine (I hope). And we all know that the number one country we give money to is Israel. Simple solution, right? Stop our country's complicity by ceasing funding! Yet this escapes both the Republicans and the Democrats. If you care about the fate of all those Palestinians in the west bank, then it doesn't matter which of the two parties you vote for, Israel's still getting billions a year in aid to their apartheid government and bomb shipments from us to use on Lebanon. I could go on about many more issues with which the Democrats and Republicans are criminally completely allied. If you're going to bother voting, why not vote for the best platform? And if you're going to pay taxes, then vote for the party that would best use your tax money. Can you imagine what Thomas Jefferson would say if he found out that because of two-party entrenched dominance, the average citizen must be complicit in warmaking? He'd shit! Wait, wait, I know why you don't like Nader or the idea of a Green House, 'cause it'd crash the economy. Agreed, so what's your point?

12:23 AM  

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