Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Nader Is Too Late to Play, and Stakes Are Too High

I find myself agreeing with much of what is said here. Yes, Nader raises some important issues, asks some tough questions. But I don't respect him for two things: not "bothering" to build a party, a viable third-party, and helping Bush steal Florida. Things would likely have been better if Nader had stayed out of the race in 2000. But I guess we'll never REALLY know. Thanks a bunch, Ralph.....

Published on Tuesday, February 26, 2008 by The Capital Times (Madison, Wisconsin)

by Ed Garvey

The New York Times reported the other day that Ralph Nader was thinking of running for president this year and before anyone could holler “No Más!” Ralph went on “Meet the Press” and announced he is, indeed, a candidate, apparently without a party.

In the interest of disclosure, I have to tell you that Ralph campaigned for me in my Senate race against Bob Kasten in 1986 and he has been a role model for taking on the establishment. In my view he has done more for consumers than anyone. I like and respect Ralph. (But I feel compelled to deal with one issue: Florida. I guess he didn’t cause the defeat of Al Gore because Gore won! But, had he not been in the race, the theft of Florida might have been too large to cover up.)

Ralph said some things in 2000 about Gore and Bush that made most of us scratch our heads. No difference between them? Whoa, Nelly! Had Bush not won, 4 million displaced Iraqis might be at home; thousands of American casualties would probably have been avoided; John Roberts and Samuel Alito would not be justices on the U.S. Supreme Court; and we wouldn’t be talking about waterboarding or repeal of habeas corpus.

There was a big difference. A huge difference. Had Gore been elected, we would have a jump on global warming. With Bush we are the laughingstock of the world we should be leading.

It is a given that Ralph marches to his own drummer and will ignore my advice, but I’m giving it anyway. Stick to the issues. Don’t fire at the Democratic candidate by telling us he is a younger John McCain. Raise all the issues, and propose your own solutions.

Ralph asked, “Who will raise the issue of single-payer health care if I don’t”? The answer is: You can raise it every day — you don’t need to be a candidate to speak up. Dennis Kucinich raised the issue in almost every debate he was in and we will push Barack Obama in that direction. The 47 million people without health insurance will demand a workable solution. I’m all for single-payer because it is the most efficient, cost-effective and sensible way to deal with our broken health care delivery system.

Having said that, we could all have predicted that neither Obama nor Hillary Clinton would embrace single-payer. Had Ralph joined Kucinich in the primaries, the two might have forced the issue, but it’s too late now.

And suppose Ralph would be the only one to raise the issue. Where would he raise it? He won’t be in the debates, so did raising it on “Meet the Press,” when Super Tuesday is a distant memory, advance the case for single-payer health care? I don’t think so.

Suppose Ralph had a legitimate chance to be elected president. That could only happen if he won the nomination as a Democrat.

Ralph is right in pushing his issues, but if he would somehow be the decisive factor in electing John McCain, you can take it to the bank — we would have no comprehensive health care for four and probably eight years but we would witness the tragedy of another Roberts, Scalia, or Alito going to the Supreme Court and we would endure four more years of Gitmo, torture, renditions, tax cuts for the wealthy while millions are kicked out of their homes. We might well bear witness to the bombing of Iran.

Let’s face it. This is not 1968 but the stakes are very high. Single-payer vs. Obama’s plan does not measure up to the Vietnam War as a moral imperative. As for Iraq, we will not have hawks leading the ticket. Clinton and Obama want to end the occupation. Had Clinton and Obama said, “McCain is right — 50 or 100 years — fine with us” then someone might be needed to take on the Democratic nominee. But I repeat, this is not 1968. This is not Gene McCarthy taking on Lyndon Johnson.

The time to take on the issues was in Iowa, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, and Super Tuesday. OK, I feel better.

Eyes on the prize!

Ed Garvey is a Madison lawyer, political activist and the editor of the Web site.


geo said...

I wish that Ralph would grow up and see that there are some things in life more important than his ego. Despite the fact that he did some great work years ago, he shouldn't be stupid enough to think that others will hear his issues. He may well be "better" in some ways, but his campaign is much more likely to either simply waste money - in the minute coverage it will get or otherwise be a waste of time and effort.

Ed said...
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Ed said...
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Ed said...

I don't understand all the animosity toward Ralph Nader. Why is he the target of so much venomous feeling from people, particularly democrats? The man has spent his entire professional life working for the little guy. We have Nader to thank for so many things, yet people call him arrogant and egotistical. Assuming it's true, waht does it matter if he is arrogant? Who cares if he is egotistical? It just isn't important. Besides, does anyone truly believe that Clinton, Obama, Gore, Kerry or any other candidate is not arrogant or egotistical? Nader has a constitutional right to run for office. He is not responsible for Gore or Kerry losing their presidential bids, since they both won but were too wimpy to stick it out and fight to prove it. In addition, most of the votes that went to Nader in both those elections wouldn't have gone to either Gore or Kerry had Nader not been on the ballot. Those people who voted for Nader did so in part because they couldn't bring themselves to vote for Gore or Kerry. Much, if not all, of the negative press he has received has been fabricated (and, just to emphasize the point, by saying fabricated I mean that it has been made up. Not true. Lies.) by . . . drum roll, please . . . Democrats who are angry with him for having the audacity to run against their candidates instead of supporting them. To those who say nobody will listen to him, I say that may well be true, but he's one of the only people who can get any coverage at all when speaking on issues that are not being discussed by the "major" candidates, and if no one talks about these issues, then it is a certainty that no one will listen. What we need is more people talking about these issues, not fewer. I don't believe Nader is a saint, but he is a very intelligent man who, most of the time, has been very good at identifying the real problems in this country. If you don't like him or don't agree with him, don't vote for him, but don't attack him for running. I think it's time for Nader-bashers to put their energy into something more constructive.

Suzy said...

I have to say, I agree with Ed. I don't think that Ralph Nader is the problem. The DLC is the problem, overly cautious candidates are the problem,candidates who are in bed with big business are the problem, the "sheeple" are the problem. What evidence is there that Nader is arrogant -- any more so than any other candidate? Why would it be so much more important for him to frame the debate during the primaries than in the general election? And all of that aside -- Nader has the right to declare his candidacy, to run for president.

BTW, to those who say he disappears when it is not en election season ... look on Common Dreams, where his essays are frequently picked up. He is a tireless advocate for the common people in the face of Corporate America.

And incidentally, no one needs to try to try to convince me how important this election is. I am discouraged that here in Wisconsin, our choices were narrowed so quickly. It doesn't feel very democratic.

Suzy said...

Geo -- one more thing: Were the campaigns of Richardson, Dodd, Kucinich, et al simply wastes of time and money? A healthy democracy -- which hopefully is what we will strive for again once this nightmare is over -- is incumbent on having a spectrum of candidates from which to choose.

poodledoc said...

Suzy, posting on Common Dreams is not being around. I know a variety of left-leaning and not so left leaning people who have never heard of Common Dreams. So he's really preaching to the choir. Then he comes out every four years and says he wants to run for President. I consider him arrogant because it's pretty much "all Ralph all the time". I may be wrong, but I don't see him working with people, bulding coalitions, making democracy stronger. Instead, he's being a gadfly, which is easy, really. I would support him if I felt he was willing to build something. ....true, he's done some important work in the past

poodledoc said...

Suzy, I believe that 99% of these campaigns are a waste of money. And time. No matter who is running. And then the incredible amount of money the media spends covering this theater. That money could be spent on something useful. It's a spectacle, really. I don't really believe it has anything to do with democracy. That's an illusion. Most people are in it for the entertainement, anyway. They just want to know "who won the debate", "who's raised the most money", "did Hillary really forget to leave a tip", "is Kucinich really shorter than his wife". Sorry, I'm being a wet blanket.

Suzy said...

I agree with you that 99% of the campaigns are a waste of time and money, and yes, a spectacle. To be perfectly honest, I have not followed a lot of it this time around because those same candidates keep caving in to the White House again and again. They don't inspire. Even Obama.

As for being published on Common Dreams, Nader doesn't "post" things there -- Common Dreams is a progressive newswire service that gleans articles from wherever. The fact that they may be one of the only ones picking up Nader's writing, is not his fault. (They actually publish a lot of people who aren't necessarily carried in the MSM, including Sean Gonsalves, Naomi Klein, Ray McGovern and our own John Nichols.)

What evidence do you have of his enormous ego and being "all Ralph all the time"? He's not appearing on American Idle as far as I can tell (that was an intentional misspelling, by the way) and he isn't cultivating a cult of personality like certain presidential candidates.

I have a lot more respect for Nader than, say, General Wesley Clark, who was going to save the Democrats in 2004 -- except that he didn't -- and that great liberal Howard Dean, who has essentially become part of the problem ...

Don't get me wrong -- I will probably not vote for Nader, but I am sick and tired of having to hold my nose and vote for the status quo in some form or another. Maybe Nader doesn't appear to be forming coalitions because liberals and progressives have so thoroughly sidelined him. Maybe he IS running for president at this point to be cantankerous and get in their faces.

I say more power to him. HE didn't get us into this mess. The Democrats did in large part, by rolling over and pissing themselves like neurotic dogs every time the White House crooked their collective little finger. They could have made Bush's time in the White House a living Hell, and they did not. They sold us and our children's futures down the river.

That wasn't Nader's doing. That was the very people who want us to vote for them now, want us to "believe", want us to have "hope." And long after November 2008, no matter who is in the White House, Nader will still be working for the little people, these presidential bids little blips.

What do you want him to do? Shut up? Jump on the bandwagon and endorse Barack Obama, like everyone else is doing? Maybe the so-called progressive candidates should listen to what Nader has to say and adopt some of his rhetoric, instead of saying,like the great boring plagiarist Joe Biden after the 2000 debacle, "I'll never take a phone call from him again!".

I'm sick of being marginalized. The Democratic leadership courted people like me in 2006 and it was because of OUR votes that they won back the majority, but then they turned around and ignored us for the last 2 years. I doubt that it will be any different even if Obama wins the election in November.

I'm pleased to hear dissenting voices. If you'd care to see more of what Nader does when he's not running for president, check out the 1215 entries at He is working all the time; he is not just about seat belts many years ago.

poodledoc said...


Suzy said...

We'll make you a nice dinner and watch the documentary one of these days. I don't want this to be a wedge in our friendship.

poodledoc said...

No worries on wegdes! A dinner would be nice and I promise to be polite during the ducumentary. You raise some interesting, important points that I think we mostly agree on.