Thursday, April 21, 2011

2000: Nader for President

I know there are plenty of people who still blame Nader for the outcome of the '00 election, and will never forgive him (though Al Gore is not among them). As I predicted at the time, George W. Bush did lose that election, both nationwide and in Florida. That it was close enough to steal resulted from the ineptness of the Gore/Lieberman campaign, and blame for the outcome rests primarily on the shoulders of O'Connor, Scalia, Thomas, Kennedy and Rehnquist. 

As a result of that outcome, though, there is a broader consensus among progressives that third-party politics are not a viable option under the current rules. I continue to believe those rules should be changed to allow greater democratic participation, but I'm not optimistic. 

Nader continues to write and speak out for systemic change in his books and at his website. His critique of the Democratic Party has lost none of its salience. The truism continues to be true, that Republicans fear their base and Democrats hate theirs. Arguably, the '00 debacle led to a more progressive platform in '04 and '08, but keeping both the base and the donors happy continues to be a conundrum for the DNC. As for Democrats developing a spine, well, the results are mixed at best.

1912: Debs for President
Last week I had the honor of meeting briefly with Ralph Nader before his speech here in Tucson. It isn't every day you get to meet a future postage stamp, and Nader is one of the great political heroes of this century (it still being the 20th century, you will recall), along with folks like Eugene V. Debs, Robert LaFollette and Martin Luther King, Jr. Which reminds me: has Debs been on a stamp, and if not, why the hell not?

Just like Debs and LaFollette did (and as Dr. King planned to, had he lived), Ralph Nader is running for for president. This would be welcome news in any year, but it's hard to recall an election in my lifetime with such offensively mediocre candidates served up by the dominant duopoly. This time, Nader assures us, he's mounting a much more serious effort than he did in 1996, attempting to get the Green Party on the ballot in all 50 states, and to take at least 5% of the vote, in order to make the Greens a permanent force to be reckoned with in electoral politics.

The day after he spoke here, a Zogby poll showed Ralph at 5.5%, to Pat Buchanan's 3.5%. with the bozos running neck and neck at about 40% each. Many progressives will resist voting for Nader out of a quite justified fear of the damage that the fratboy from Texas can do to this country. Ralph addressed these qualms head on: in 1996, he took votes away from both Republican and Democrats in roughly equal measure - and like McCain and Ventura, he attracts a lot of folks who otherwise would not vote. This time, Buchanan will siphon off GOP votes, though probably not as much as Perot did.

But in the event that Bush were elected, says Nader, it might cause the Democrats to actually develop a spine. He cited a long list of abuses of working folks and the environment passed under Clinton - which a Republican president could never have gotten away with. Nader figures that the GOP won't have the nerve to overturn Roe v. Wade, thus getting themselves tossed out of power for a generation to come.

He may be underestimating the folly of the Lizards, or the supreme damage their court appointees could cause, but in any case. George Bush in not gonna win. He won't be as big a loser as Bob Dole, but come November, that smirk will definitely be wiped off his face. Either way, I'm going to vote for the only candidate in this race who opposes the death penalty, fights to end corporate welfare as we know it, would stop throwing insane buckets of money at the Pentagon, advocates truly universal health care coverage, and in the only real champion of campaign finance reform.

Every vote for Nader mode a powerful message that millions of Americans (okay, only 700,000 last time) are fed up with the status quo. Moreover, it helps to build a strong national organization to advance the goals noted above. Nader and the Greens face an uphill battle in many states, this one included just to get on the ballot. If you happen to meet me on the street in the next month or so, I’ll be carrying petitions to establish the Green Party statewide. We need to collect some 16,000 signatures in little more than a month.

 If you didn't happen to hear about Ralph Nader's visit to Tucson, I’m not surprised, The woefully inadequate coverage in the local news media is just a reflection of the woefully inadequate coverage in the mainstream media nationwide. Last time around, a majority didn't even know he was running. Thin time, he's hoping to make a lot more noise - but he can’t do it without our help.

One sign that Nader is starting to have an impact in that the Green Party's national headquarters were broken into a few weeks back, totally ransacked, with computer equipment carted off. And one indication that thus was no random crime is that the offices directly below were also broken into, with nothing at all stolen. Back in the Nixon days, this meant a surveillance attempt. So everything old is new again; with activism on the rise in the post-Seattle climate, so is counter-activism. Well, let's really give them something to be afraid of, shall we?

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