Friday, February 29, 2008

Who's Afraid of Ralph Nader?


Pols, candidates, and party leaders, particularly those of the Democratic Party and their fervent allies, are expressing concern, ridicule, and even horror at the recently declared presidential candidacy of legendary consumer activist Ralph Nader for the 2008 elections.

We are reminded of his run in 2000 and the blame cast upon him for Al Gore’s loss, or by their standards – George W. Bush’s win. It all came down to Florida is the claim, and had Nader not been in the race (and not obtained 97,000 plus votes) Gore would not have taken the country into Iraq or committed an untold number of other sins rightfully attributed to the Bush administration.

Nader defends himself against such accusations with some of his own statistics, particularly, the embarrassing fact that some 250,000 democratic Floridian voters cast their lot with George W. That Al Gore did not even win his own state of birth and for which he had previously represented in the U.S. Senate, Tennessee.

In his 2000 presidential bid, Nader received 2.7 percent of the vote, less than 3 million, and in 2004 less than 1 percent. He was literally censured by U.S. corporate media during both campaigns and never allowed to participate in any of the candidate debates. His voice, and that of independent registered voters, was basically muted by the media. And, American democracy was not better for it, either.

Nader argues why blame him for the ills of the past seven years, instead of the Republicans, Bush himself, the Democrats in congress, or the 250,000 democrats who voted for Bush in Florida in 2000. “Why blame those who propose a progressive platform” in this campaign. “Get over it,” he dismisses his detractors, and “try and have a diverse multiple-choice multiple-party democracy the way they have in Western Europe and Canada.” He makes a good point.

The premise for his decision to run is two prong – one, that only 23 percent of the electorate are satisfied with the direction of the country and 69 percent express that both political parties are failing; second, that none of the most prominent presidential candidates – he names Clinton, Obama, and McCain – are addressing the most important issues of concern to a majority of Americans – the prospect of a single-payer healthcare alternative; Pentagon waste and the bloated military budget – a wasteful defense is a weak defense, he rationalizes; no commitment to labor law reform or repeal of the onerous Taft-Hartley Act; and corporate crime and greed that runs in the trillions, while the income of the average worker stagnates and continues to decline. He declares that Washington, D.C. is corporate occupied terrain. One feels compelled to do something to open up the system, pave a way for third parties, and other voices to invigorate democracy, he pounds.

On February 28, 2008, Nader announced that his running mate would be San Franciscan attorney and Green Party luminary, Matt Gonzalez. Gonzalez has expressed his own reasons for accepting the challenge as much to do with his own misgivings with the Obama candidacy. He actually describes his thoughts more thoroughly than does Nader. Check out his reasoning at the following link.

But, the real question for progressives, is who’s afraid of a Nader candidacy and why? What questions is Nader raising that are not being adequately addressed by the current candidates? Who is aided by his candidacy, and whom does it potentially harm?

The Democratic Party leadership is obviously the most fearful of the Nader candidacy and perhaps their leading candidates even if they don’t express as much in public. They don’t want a repeat of 2000. And while they cannot accuse him directly for the loss of 2004, literally millions of dollars was spent by the Democrats to keep him off the ballot in enough states to avoid a repeat of the 2000 electoral debacle.

And, why not spend millions of dollars to enlarge and embolden the natural and traditional Democratic Party electoral base with massive voter registration, education and mobilization campaigns instead of muting the voice of credible third party candidates?

A word of advice to the Democrats – take the issues away from Citizen Nader by addressing the issues that he poses in his platform. This is the best way to obviate his campaign and make irrelevant his critique.