Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Nader Conundrum

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 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.


Suzy said...

Excellent post, my dear. EXCELLENT writing! And, as you know, I agree with you.

I also don't know if I will vote for him, or who I will vote for, but he has a right to run ... and why not now when he can shape the debate in the general election? Why, as Garvey opined, should he have run only in the primaries? So his progressive message could become marginalzed like Edwards', Kucinich's and Richardson's?

Hey, and if readers can't bring themselves to go to the Vote Nader site, got to for a complete archive of his frequent missives.

Crayons said...

Good GOD Geranium. What have they put in your breakfast cereal? This is such a well-reasoned piece of writing. I voted for Nader the first time, and won't this time. This is the kind of beefy post that I will have to re-read in order to absorb it fully. I agree with so much of what you say, and I am scared to disagree with the other parts.

Also, thanks for that website. Here I go to visit it.

Ed said...

Thanks, Suzy and Crayons. One thing I failed to make clear is that there are two different Nader sites, and One is devoted to the work he's been doing and the other to his campaign. Crayons, why are you scared to disagree? I hope it's not because you think I might bite, because I won't. At least not very hard. It's okay with me if you disagree. In a way, that's part of my whole point. We need to be able to disagree without ire or fear of ire.

poodledoc said...

Mr Geranium: I promised Mrs Geranium that I wouldn't say ANYTHING negative about Mr Nader. Plus, I don't even know how to use such a big font in a comment. However, my question to you is simply this: if Ralph Nader goes on the campaign trail, as he has a right to do in this wonderful "democracy" called the USA, which musical star would he bring along? To me, this is a key question. One of the few angles not covered in your post (although I may have missed it). I was thinking Roy Orbison ("Only the Lonely"), but of course, he's dead. Abba? Motor Primitives? Or would he just sing solo? And, as Crayons asked, what DID they put in your breakfast cereal? And do you even eat breakfast cereal?

Ed said...

Ah, PoodleDoc. First, let's get one thing straight: contrary to popular belief, the good ol' US of A is not, nor has it ever been, a democracy; it's actually a republic, or so I was taught in my civics class several aeons ago.

Now, which musical act would he bring on the campaign trail? The Motor Primitives would be a good choice, but I suppose there are other possibilities, as well. Maybe Queen (We Will Rock You and We a Are The Champions) or Men Without Hats (The Safety Dance.) I'll have to ponder on that one for a bit.

No, I don't actually eat breakfast cereal. When I eat breakfast (not very often) I'm more of a bacon 'n' eggs kind of guy.

Ed said...

Doh! I forgot that Patti Smith is throwing her weight, scant though it may be, behind Nader. I've always liked Patti Smith.

Ed said...

Double-Doh! Assuming I even eat breakfast cereal, one thing that definitely isn't in it is Kool Aid; that's a dietary supplement reserved for the Nader-haters.

The Pagan Sphinx said...

I found your blog through reading a post at Luminiferous Ether,where I sometimes visit. Thank you for this post. Excellent.

I've been ruminating about Nader, not really clearly thinking, as you did in your post, but somewhere in my gut, feeling that he is a decent person who has done so much for people and the environment. Why make him out to be a demon???

Again, thanks for this. It's informative and clear and lacking in snark, which is a real turn-off lately in reading the progressive blogs.

Ed said...

Hello, Pagan Sphinx,

Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for your comment, too. What I find most disturbing isn't that people disagree with each other but that there is so much anger and blame wrapped up in it. But thanks again.

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

I'll be voting Nader if HIllary gets the Democratic nomination because unlike some folks I'm not going to bury my convictions at election time.

QuakerDave said...

Nicely said. You have really made me think about my own, rather hard-core position on this.

Ed said...

Dr. Monkey: Good for you! If I don't succumb to fear, that's how I'm leaning at this point in time, too.

QuakerDave: It means a lot to know that people are reading this and thinking about it. Thanks.

FranIAm said...

It has been said by all prior commenters, but I will add-
Brilliant piece of writing here! Holy cow, really, really excellent. This should be widely read.

As I just said in a comment over at Suzy's post, I do think there are tons of folks, otherwise well intended that have insane amounts of misplaced anger and prejudice around this topic.

This election season has turned my stomach in ways I did not think possible.

Honestly, for many reason I would have a hard time voting for Nader. That said, I will also have a hard time voting for either Clinton or Obama. The ennui I feel about this election is very powerful and I don't know what to do.

And I am a little tired of being bashed by so-called liberal lefty bloggers for this.

That is why your piece is so powerful. While I feel no further advanced in what I will do, this is truly one of the most thought provoking pieces I have read in a long time.

For that - I thank you.

As Crayons so aptly said - this must be re-read... I am off to do that.

Peace for all.

Ed said...

Franiam: I appreciate you reading and responding. Even though this post may come off as campaigning for Nader (I'm not saying you thought that, just further musing), I don't mean it that way. While I have a lot of respect for the man, if Wisconsin looks like it's going to be close and Obama is the nominee, I'm leaning toward an Obama vote at this time. On the other hand, if it looks like Wisconsin is going to be a blowout either way, I think I probably will vote for Nader. It gets even more complicated for me if Clinton wins the nomination. Still, there are months to ponder the issue before making a decision.

And as you said: Peace for all.