Sunday, February 24, 2008

Nader Runs, Again. Kinda Sad, Again

Ralph Nader is running for President.

Again.

I suspect he will attract few few votes this time. Five straight runs for President counting a 1992 write-in makes his effort this time really questionable.

Nader has been an important figure in many grassroots and progressive efforts.

He's iconic and has been influential.

But there's being strategic and smart and using your power to bring about awareness and change, and then there's marching too blindly to your own drummer, colliding with people with whom you'd be allies 95% of the time, but were too self-absorbed to see.

And in the worst of scenarios, sets up a repeat of the ugliness of the 2000 presidential election outcome, wherein Nader was credited or blamed with being the Bush-enabling spoiler.

And everything in its wake, from the Iraq war to years of environmental degradation.

Naderites hate that analysis, but that's a widespread perception, and unfortunately Nader can't help himself from having that all brought up again.

Kinda sad.

2 comments:

Dan Sebald said...

Plenty of disagreement on this one, Jim. And it is interesting that this post comes on the heels of your previous post wondering why Wisconsin is no longer the progressive "yes we can" state it once was.

Yes, I believed at the time that the Bush candidacy would be and did prove to be bad (more like disastrous) for the U.S. They were duplicitous in their platform, especially in the area of foreign policy. But recall several things about this.

Al Gore's campaign was simply bad. There was the baggage of the recent Clinton scandal, and Al Gore's poor performance in the debates. Recall the eye rolling and general lack of focus? Eight years in the vice-president chair didn't help Gore's political skill. Certainly didn't seem to be the politician he was when winning in '92.

The Florida election was in the area of uncertainty where it could have gone either way. The Republicans (including Tom Delay, if I'm remembering correctly) muscled their way into influencing state recount efforts.

Would Gore/Lieberman have been any less hawkish? I'd like to think so, but honestly I'm not sure. In other words, would a Democratic presidency have been much better at controlling industrial military complex? This is the main point, there isn't much but broken promises to get an independent to vote for the Democratic party. (Perhaps I exaggerate, but it's difficult to not feel that way.) The Democratic party is just as influenced by special interests as is the Republican party. One can't say that Democrats have been vigorously fighting things like NAFTAs, tax breaks, Great Lakes water compacts, etc. Dennis Kucinich and Feingold sure haven't gotten much thanks for their part in the last eight years. (Although I'm still holding out for a vice-presidential bid for Feingold.)

Al Gore didn't even win Tennessee. What's the deal with that? Gore/Lieberman can't win a state where Gore was elected Senator (a state-wide election) ten years previous? Perhaps the same thing happened in Tennessee that has happened in Wisconsin.

How does one know that Nader's campaign would be bad for Democrats and good for Republicans? Game theory suggests that 3+ way races aren't so straightforward. And if one has been around politics long enough, they witness the strange things that happen. If ever you've attended a Nader speech, you'll know he criticizes first and foremost those abusing the system. He's quite familiar with the Bush legacy and was highly critical in 2004. In 2004 if given a voice, I believe Nader would have moved independent voters from Bush to Kerry. Nader would have said some bad things about the Democrats, true, but he was livid about Bush and Cheney and just made some passing comment about Kerry. Same thing in 2008 might be true. Will Nader's primary criticism go toward Obama or McCain?

If one thinks it's all Nader's fault, how about supporting instant runoff voting so that those Nader votes fall to someone else when he comes up short? I've advocated instant runoff voting for a long time because as a side benefit it would give a chance for other parties to win. It's democracy Democrats and Republicans. There's no better way of seeing it "flourish" like instant runoff voting.

If one wants to limit the candidates to two, then progressives have to go back and denounce Ross Perot and Bob La Follette presidential bids. Same for the resurgent Progressive congresspersons of mid 20th century Wisconsin. Today we ostensibly haven't any choice, and this--I argue--ties into your question of why Wisconsin (and the Midwest) have lost its progressive stance. People are too quick to pick their horse in the race without listening to the political discourse. Too much Packers vs. Bears, not enough Turner Hall Forum.

Jim Bouman said...

As one who has never been a Democratic Party adherent, I am ashamed of the very first presidential vote I cast--six weeks after my 21st birthday, in a voting booth in Austin, Texas--for Elbie Jay. I didn't vote for another Democrat until 2004. Thus, the first and last votes I have cast for US President were for candidates who never should have had the job.

I made up my mind I would no longer vote for people who pass muster only as the least-worst of a very bad lot.

I don't apologize for voting for Ralph. In all his life in politics and leadership of citizen action/activism he has never done what every Democratic Party standard-bearer for the past thirty years has done--make the pilgrimage to AIPAC to swear that he/she will never deviate from the political program demanded by that organization in exchange for votes and campaign contributions.

As long as powerful quasi-external actors like AIPAC and CANF (Cuban American National Foundation) and their extortion routines continue to hold sway over all candidates in our presidential elections, I'm sticking with Ralph and Dennis.

Google "Obama, AIPAC speech". Listen to what he has promised to do. It is available on U Tube. Change? Obama's mantra is "Change'? Not on Middle East policy. As long as AIPAC has him on a leash there will be no change, just more of the same. And it follows Hillary Clinton's policy promises practically word-for-word.

And here's a trenchant analysis from AlterNet of strangle-hold of AIPAC on the entire Democratic Party:

"...during the 2004 campaign Dean called on the United States to be an "evenhanded" broker in the Middle East. That position enraged party leaders such as House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, who signed a letter attacking his remarks. "It was designed to send a message: No one ever does this again," says M.J. Rosenberg of the center-left Israel Policy Forum. "And no one has. The only safe thing to say is: I support Israel." In April a representative from AIPAC called Congresswoman Betty McCollum's vote against a draconian bill severely curtailing aid to the Palestinian Authority "support for terrorists."

Words to live by:
The only vote that is wasted is the vote cast for someone who should not have the job.