I know I'm going to get it for this one, and it's all your fault, PoodleDoc. You got me started thinking about it when you posted that article by Ed Garvey. To anyone reading this who doesn't know, PoodleDoc is a good friend of mine. He's one of the most thoughtful and level-headed people I know, yet I've noticed that the N-word (Nader) can really get him going and, as we all know, he's not alone in that respect. Since reading that post and the comments that followed, I've been thinking a lot about the whole Nader question. I hope this won't appear as a post directed at you, PD, you just got me started thinking about the whole thing. Some of this has already been expressed in a comment on the aforementioned post, but I wanted to put it here, as well. Sorry about the redundancy. I just don't have so many ideas that I can afford to waste one simply because I've already used it.
So, here's the big question: Why is it that Nader is the target of so much anger from those who think of themselves as liberals, progressives or democrats? (See, it's a big question so I used a bigger font size. Clever, don't you think? Gods, sometimes I even amaze myself!)
Nader is a person who has spent his entire professional life working on the behalf of "the Little Guy." If you've ever been in a car accident, taken any prescription drugs, or even if you breathe air, you may well have Ralph Nader to thank for the fact that you're still alive. He has been tireless in his struggle against corporate control of the country. At age 74, he's still at it.
I realize many people feel Nader made it possible for Bush to steal the 2000 election, but I guess I don't buy it. This argument assumes that the votes Nader received rightfully belonged to Gore (or Kerry in 2004), logic that seems flawed to me. Nader didn't take votes from Gore or Kerry. Gore and Kerry failed to win those votes, and many of those who voted for Nader in all likelihood would not have voted for Gore or Kerry had Nader not been in the race. Officially, Bush "beat" Gore in Florida by 543 votes, but 12% of Florida democrats voted for Bush in 2000. That's a lot more votes than the 97,488 votes Nader received. Change that 12% to 11% and Gore, in the absence of further electoral shenanigans, wins Florida. Let's not even start with the intentional disenfranchisement of voters. Be angry at Bush for stealing the election. Have a hissy at Gore for running such an ineffective campaign (he didn't even win his home state!) that it was possible for the election to be stolen, and then giving in when he should have persisted in challenging Bush's "victory." Shake your fist at Kerry for giving in even quicker than Gore did. Get your undies in a bundle about those Bush-voting democrats. Anger toward Nader just seems misplaced.
Then there is the oft-repeated line "Nader has done some good things in the past, but what has he done lately? He just runs for president every four years, then disappears." Where does that come from? One person says it, a few more people hear it and repeat it, then, next thing you know, lots of people are saying it, yet, in my experience, none of them have actually bothered to check. That's what Stephen Colbert would call "truthiness." Well, a friend of mine told me she heard from her brother-in-law's neighbor that a person at his church said that, if elected, Obama will refuse to be sworn in on the bible and will swear on the koran instead (I don't think that would really be any worse than being sworn in on the bible, but that's another post.) I don't see the difference between the Nader comment and the Obama comment. Go to Nader's website and see what he's been doing. He's a very busy man.
The Democratic Party spent millions of dollars attempting to discredit Nader in 2004. A fair amount of "truthiness" was created, most, if not all, of which was not true. In fact, most, if not all, of it was fabricated by the Democratic Party itself. For example, a gay friend of mine told me he couldn't support Nader because Nader is homophobic. Where did he hear that, I asked? Everyone in the gay community knew it to be true, was the response. In reality, Nader was the only candidate in 2000 or 2004 whose campaign literature stated very clearly that he was in favor of legalizing gay marriage. So, where did that one come from? You guessed it! The Democrats.
Another knock against Nader is that he is an arrogant egomaniac. Is this true? I don't know, maybe it is, but if it's true does it make him unfit for office? What makes him egotistical or arrogant? It's another one of those things that I've heard many people using as a reason to dislike him, and "everyone" seems to know it without being able to say why. More truthiness. Are Clinton and Obama models of humility? Would any successful politician be successful if he or she weren't egotistical or arrogant? Give me arrogance over dishonest, evasive or in bed with corporations, please. Besides, if the egomaniac claim were really true, don't you think he would be resting on his laurels while everyone reminded him how great he used to be rather than putting himself in a position where he knows he will be attacked by those same people? Think about it.
Then there is the bit about how he can't win and no one will listen to him. So, this means he should give in? If he gives up, then it's a certainty that no one will listen. The media does a wonderful job of ignoring or trivializing those people who actually work for real change (just look at Dennis Kucinich), but would we be better off if they gave up? We need more people speaking up and working for change, not fewer.
There is one statement Nader made with which I disagree. In 2000, he said that there would be no difference between a Gore presidency and a Bush presidency. I understand what he meant, but I think he was partially wrong on that one. Even though I believe Gore, at that time, would have been in the pockets of big business and would also have gotten us into a war if he were president when the World Trade Center was attacked (one could argue that it wouldn't have happened if Gore had been president, but that's another post), Bush has turned out to be even worse than I could ever possibly have imagined. Worst. President. Ever. Period.
Will I vote for Nader in 2008? I honestly don't know, but when I look at the issues, Nader always agrees with me, unlike Clinton or Obama. Nader sees the true causes of the problems our country is experiencing. It always boils down to corporate greed and power. Always. Clinton and Obama serve those same corporations. Does it make sense to vote for a candidate who doesn't represent your views or your interests? Nader is very clear about what he believes and what he will attempt to do. You know what a Nader presidency would look like (yeah, if he actually won, someone would have him killed.) Obama , Clinton and McCain only tell you what they think will get them elected, rather than what they truly believe. I want to know what a candidate believes, not what they think I want to hear.
While a McCain presidency is a frightening prospect, I know I can't vote for Clinton. She voted for the war. Reprehensible. Now she's doing the "if we only knew then what we know now" song and dance. I knew then what we know now, and so did a lot of other people, including Ralph Nader. While the truth wasn't being broadcast by CNN, Fox "News" or any of the other major networks or news outlets, it also wasn't too hard to find with a little effort. It's her job to know. I can only conclude that she's lying, incompetent or stupid. I don't think she's stupid and I'm pretty sure she's not incompetent, so there you have it. She has received big money from the pharmaceutical industry as well as other corporate interests. Who do you think she'll represent if elected? Would a Clinton presidency be much different from a McCain presidency? Do we really want four to eight more years of a Clinton? If she's elected, and assuming she serves two terms, that would mean twenty-eight consecutive years with a Bush or a Clinton in the White House; thirty-six if you count George H. W. Bush's years as vice-president. Do we really want to continue this dynasty? I don't think so.
I'm not sure if I can vote for Obama. Obama spoke against the war in the beginning, when he wasn't in a position to vote on it. Since becoming a U.S. senator, he has either been absent or voted in favor of continued funding of the war every time it has come up. He says he will leave around 35,000 troops in Iraq. He has said he would not rule out military action against Iran or Pakistan. I don't know where his money comes from, so I don't know to whom he is beholden. They say he has charisma. Hitler had charisma. I'm not comparing the two, I'm just pointing out that charisma isn't necessarily a good thing. It's certainly not a good reason to vote for someone.
Listen to what Nader has said. Read what he's written. Check out votenader.org. Be aware of the fact that much of what "everyone knows" about him could be the product of a very deliberate and well-funded smear campaign. Give the same treatment to any other candidate. Nader comes out looking pretty good. He's a very intelligent person and he's spent his life applying that intelligence to the struggle against corporate greed and power. He has the right to run for office. For this we vilify him? If you disagree with him, think a Nader vote is a wasted vote or just plain don't like him, don't vote for him. To those people who are angry with Nader and his supporters, remember, anger consumes a lot of energy. I respectfully suggest redirecting that energy toward something more constructive than tearing down someone who has done an awful lot of good.
So, once again, why is it that so many people that you would expect to be in agreement with Nader harbor such intense anger toward him? It's a conundrum, alright.