Sunday, January 13, 2008

William Blum sez

I recommend the new documentary about Ralph Nader, which was recently shown on PBS television, "An Unreasonable Man". Its primary focus is on Nader's argument for having run in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections despite the alleged harm done to the Democratic Party candidates. As I've written earlier: The choice facing people like myself was not Ralph Nader or Albert Gore or John Kerry. The choice facing us was Ralph Nader or not voting at all. If Nader had not been on the ballot, we would have stayed home. It's that simple. The film shows a clip of a TV network newscast just after the 2000 election in which star news anchors Katie Couric and Tom Brokaw are discussing this very question, and much to my surprise they both come to this same conclusion -- Nader did not cost the Democrats many votes at all. If he had not been on the ballot, the great bulk of his supporters would NOT have voted Democratic instead.
This escapes Nader's critics, such as the two featured in the film, Nation magazine columnist Eric Alterman and author and 60s icon Todd Gitlin. NASA should check them out -- just mention "Ralph Nader" and they go ballistic. They engage in an orgy of angry name calling, labeling Nader an egomaniac, irrational ... "prefabricated purity" ... "borders on the wicked" ... responsible for the Iraq war and the destruction of the environment ... They don't directly challenge anything of substance amongst the views of Nader or his supporters. They're not at all impressed with what I find most exhilarating -- the unique phenomenon of a noted public political figure consistently standing on principle. Nader's critics can't admit that there's principle involved in all this, for fear of revealing their own lack of that quality, as they cling to defending the indefensible -- the idea that the Democratic Party is a force for even liberal change, never mind progressive.
Defenders of the Democrats now ask: "Would Al Gore have invaded Iraq?" Maybe not. He might have invaded Iran instead; that apparently was the first choice of Israel and their American lobby. Remember that the Clinton-Gore administration imposed eight years of heartless and needless sanctions upon the people of Iraq, simultaneously bombing them hundreds of times, costing the lives of more than a million people, ruining the lives of millions more. Al Gore has already invaded Iraq.
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Just thinking back to 2000, the choices were pretty stunningly bleak. Al Gore had run a lackluster campaign, seeming to promise more of the same Clintonism that I had found unsavory even as he tried to distance himself from Bill Clinton. Oh, and having Holy Joe Lieberman as a running mate was a deal breaker under any circumstances. Bush the Lesser was already written off from the get-go. If it had not been for a Green or Libertarian party candidate on the ballot, I wouldn't have voted at all. Agree or disagree with Nader, but I can say that he managed to do something at his party's convention (televised on C-SPAN) that neither of the Dem or GOP candidates could do: actually articulate policy positions rather than the standard high-school popularity contest.

How refreshing it would be to do a couple things: one, shorten the election season (there is absolutely no reason for any candidate to be campaigning two years ahead of election day); and two, actually witness debates between candidates of multiple parties (rather than the two we're permitted) in which the participants actually are required to speak on substantive issues. As metastasized as our system now is, I doubt either wish stands a snowball's chance in Death Valley of occurring.

For now I would settle for laying to rest the urban legend that Nader or his voters were somehow "responsible" for Gore's 2000 election loss. Let's instead lay the blame squarely where it belongs: Al Gore himself, and the corrupt voting process in Florida (home to then Gov. Jeb Bush). Would I have voted for Gore in 2000 had there been no third party candidate? Hell no!

Make sure to check out the rest of Blum's latest newsletter. He takes Michael Moore to task for his own hypocrisy during the 2004 election cycle, as well as justifiably taking Moore to task for supporting war criminal Wesley Clark's failed presidential nomination bid, as well as Moore's gushing praise of Hillary Clinton. Much as I like Moore as a film maker, I gotta say that he's been known to say and do a few things that just make me wonder.

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