Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Simple Art of Nader Bashing

Democrats are huffing, puffing, scoffing, snarling and cursing once more about Ralph Nader's (right) third party run for the presidency. The famous consumer advocate's latest comments (just days ago) that Obama is "downplaying poverty issues, trying to 'talk white' and appealing to 'white guilt' during his run for the White House" -- triggered an angry response from Democrats. Nader stirred the hornet's nest even more when he remarked, "There's only one thing different about Barack Obama when it comes to being a Democratic presidential candidate. He's half African-American. Whether that will make any difference, I don't know. I haven't heard him have a strong crackdown on economic exploitation in the ghettos. Payday loans, predatory lending, asbestos, lead. What's keeping him from doing that? Is it because he wants to talk white? He doesn't want to appear like Jesse Jackson? We'll see all that play out in the next few months and if he gets elected afterwards."

With the exception of Barack Obama, who was quite restrained in his response to Nader ("What's clear is that Ralph Nader hasn't been paying attention to my speeches," he said), most of the talking-head Democrats on CNN and the various political talk shoes really trashed Nader for his remarks.

Of course, Democrats are still angry at Nader for being a "spoiler" in the 2000 elections. They should get over it. Al Gore has only himself to thank for losing that election. Had he been more inspiring, had he been more successful in motivating and mobilizing voters, had he not been so intertwined with the scandal-ridden presidency of Bill Clinton, and had he articulated a clearer -- less muddled -- vision of the future, he would've beaten George W. Bush by a wide enough margin that it wouldn't have mattered whether Nader was running as a third-party candidate. Gore, like Jimmy Carter, evolved into a more decent person once he was no longer at the center of a presidential administration. His loss in 2000 was far from the worst tragedy in American history.

Democrats can't pride themselves on being small "d" democrats one minute and then trash Nader for running for the White House the next. A far better approach is to ignore the guy if you don't like him. As a longtime Democrat (both big "D" and small "d"), I'm thrilled that third party candidates such as Ralph Nader and Bob Barr are out there, running symbolic campaigns to give voters more options. They know they don't stand a chance in hell of winning, but they're running anyway, which is an onerous, time-consuming and thankless job. By doing so, they make the democratic process even more open. Too bad they are kept out of the national, televised debates. Ralph Nader and Bob Barr ought to be allowed to debate Obama and John McCain. In the meantime, Democrats would do well to ignore Nader. He is not going to be a spoiler for Obama, just as he was not a spoiler for John Kerry in 2004 (Kerry, like Gore, needed no help in blowing that election.) The White House, in all likelihood, will go to Barack Obama in November because he is the strongest of the candidates, especially when it comes to his vision of how to transform America into a better, more livable nation.

1 comment:

Michael Balter said...

Andrew, I completely agree with you on this--and especially that Nader had next to nothing to do with Gore's loss, which I have been arguing about with Democrats for the last 8 years! But too many of them have fixated on Nader. I am concerned, however, at how quickly Obama is moving to the "center" lately, and can only hope that social activists realize that it is they who must take advantage of this historic moment if an Obama presidency is to mean anything significant.