Ralph Nader: Super Hero or Uber Spoiler?

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[Thanks to Luigino Valentin for suggesting this show]

On Janury 22, 1968, a young Ralph Nader, clad in a suit of armor, starred as Newsweek’s cover boy. The headline read: Consumer Crusader, Ralph Nader.

And this was only one notch, among many, in his beltway legacy. By the mid 70’s Nader was an American icon: famous for saving millions of lives, famous as a public interest lawyer for having such a long, legislative record.

Imagine if you got into a car and the airbags said ‘Ralph Nader,’ or if the seatbelts said ‘Nader,’ or if you look up at the clean air and it says ‘Nader.’ If people could see that on a day-to-day basis, they would understand the effect that this guy has had on their daily lives.

James Musselman, Former Nader Raider, An Unreasonable Man, 2005

photo of ralph nader

Hero or spoiler?

[snowball / Flickr]

But in 2000, when Nader tossed his hat into the presidentail ring, nearly all that he had accomplished during his 40-year-career was forgotten. Having been marked as the man who handed George W. Bush the key to the White House, Nader was no longer America’s knight in shining armor — he came to solely represent the nadir of our political process. From President Jimmy Carter to Michael Moore, practically every liberal in America sent Ralph packing for the dog house.

Thank you Ralph for the Iraq war. Thank you Ralph for the tax cuts. Thank you Ralph for the destruction of the environment. Thank you Ralph for the destruction of the constitution…The man needs to go away. I think he needs to live in a different country. He’s done enough damage to this one, let him go and damage someone else’s.

Eric Alterman of The Nation, An Unreasonable Man, 2005

We jumped at the chance to have Ralph Nader, one the most influential and polarizing figures in America, on Open Source.

For those of you who want full Nader immersion, he has a new book out, The Seventeen Traditions, which is a personal history of the values and idealism that he was suffused with as a young boy growing up in Winsted, Connecticut. There is also an excellent documentary on DVD, An Unreasonable Man, which offers a non-partisan look at Nader’s life and enduring career.

What is your take on Nader? Are you more in sync with Nader’s Raiders or Nader haters? As the 2008 election heats up do you miss his presence on the campaign trail? Or his absence in the presidential debates? Do you see Nader as a selfless activist or as an opportunistic megalomaniac? What questions do you have for a man who has so firmly made his mark on our country?

Update, 6/18 5:18 pm

We had a long conversation this morning about this show. Although we will touch on the 2000 election we’ve decided that it will be more interesting to focus on Ralph Nader the man. Ralph Nader, the local boy from small-city Winsted, Connecticut, the small-d Jeffersonian democrat, and the child of purposeful immigrant parents who told him that “character” was “destiny.” We’ll also be reminded that Ralph Nader is a man with a sense of humor.

Extra Credit Reading

Ralph Nader, Let the People Make the Laws, CommonDreams.org, May 8, 2007: “Don’t expect Mike Gravel to show up in the money-raising sweepstakes. For he really believes in a government of, by and for the People. This proposal is not exactly a magnet for Fat cat money. No candidate for President from the two major parties has ever demonstrated such a detailed position regarding the sovereign power of People to amend the Constitution and make laws.”

Ralph Nader, Faith, Accountability and Protest in Utah:

Cheney and the BYU 25, This Divided State, May 1, 2007: “Could anyone have imagined that the major commencement protest at a University graduation thus far occurred April 26 at Brigham Young University (BYU)? Probably not.”

Seth Gitell, Ralph Nader Pays Tribute To David Halberstam, Dispatches from Seth Gitell, June 15, 2007: “I’ve always been struck by the coincidence that Ralph Nader attended elementary school with David Halberstam in Winsted, Connecticut. They also were at Harvard together. These two individuals, one the initiator of public advocacy non-profits, the other a journalist of titanic proportions, provided more scrutiny over American institutions during the latter half of the 20th Century than whole armies of others.”

aaraujo, Dems don’t let Dems vote Green Party, Daily Kos, June 18, 2007: “My fear is that a potential 2008 Democratic ticket will bring back the Green Party Nader voters. I see the turmoil on these message boards and I see the very real fear that liberals will once again spoil the 2008 race.”

David Kucinskas, A Gift From Ralph Nader?, Daily Northwestern, May 24, 2007: “Did Nader have an ulterior motive for giving me a book that obviously has an agenda? Probably, but that in and of itself didn’t appear that threatening to me. I can deal with people telling me what to believe politically.”

Ralph Nader’s “The Seventeen Traditions”, Cover to Cover, May 28, 2007: “As a Canadian, it was interesting learn about his early connection with cousins living in Ontario. This book made me think about my own family’s traditions. It could be a great conversation starter for any family interested in exploring its roots and shared values.”

Dana Milbank, Unsolicited Advice From the Far Left, The Washington Post, June 27, 2004: “The advice continues to flow to Moore from candidate Nader. ‘I’ve been at him for years, saying “you’ve got to lose weight,”‘ Nader said in the phone interview. ‘Now, he’s doubled. Private exhortations aren’t working. It’s extremely serious. He’s over 300 pounds. He’s like a giant beach ball.'”

Brett McKay, Frugal Tips From Ralph Nader, The Frugal Law Student, May 26, 2007: “You might not agree with his politics, but you have to agree that Ralph Nader is one frugal guy. While Nader has assets in the millions, he still lives like he’s a starving law student. Here are a few tips we can learn from Mr. Nader’s life.”

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  • rc21

    I like Nader. He brings his own ideas to the table. America needs more non democrats and more non republicans. Eric Alterman is a totalitarian.

  • Takumi Ken

    While I wasn’t a fan of him running for POTUS, his long career before hand still holds up and worth learning about.

    The real problem I see is that in the minds of America, there are two Naders. One is alive and blamed in part for Bush and his faults or complaints. The other is a dead and buried Nader that did all the good.

    Unfortunately one is talked about, the other is forgotten so some can have an easy target.

  • Dora

    It’s 2000 and there are four candidates: George W. Bush, Al Gore, Pat Buchanan, and Ralph Nader. Which one of these four men has done the most for the American people over the course of his career? More to the point, which one has done far more for the American people than the other three combined?

    And this person is the one who should _not_ be running for president? How exactly does that make sense? I live in a country that once elected Thomas Jefferson as its president. Am I really supposed to settle for the least offensive empty suit, as Eric Alterman and Todd Gitlin insist that I must?

  • It isn’t Ralph Nader’s fault that George Bush is a opportunistic megalomaniac who is destroying our nation if not the entire planet. It is not Ralph Nader’s Fault that a Supream Court that was nominated by George Bush’s Dad stopped the Florida vote count in George Bush’s favor. It was the Supream Court that handed Goeoge Bush the White House not Ralph Nader.

  • I have a high regard for all of Ralph Nader’s accomplishments. I voted for him in 2000. I did this as a protest vote against a two-party system. I live in Massachusetts where that vote was not going to swing the balance towards GWB at all. (If only we didn’t have the electorate system!)

    Still, I’m not sure Nader would be a good president. Mostly because he is used to fighting, not negotiating. His ethics are impeccable – though, his ego may be problematic – but he is a fierce defender. And that’s a great thing for the work that he’s done and that I hope he continues. And I hope he trains an equally fierce protegé to follow in his footsteps. In a President, though, I seek someone who offers me a grand vision of where we need to go and who can reach out and inspire everyone to work towards that vision. I heard Nader speak during his campaign. I donated to his campaign. I was not convinced by listening to him that he had the dynamism of light that it takes to lift us out of the muck. It felt as though he’s been wrestling darkness for so long, he may have pinned himself to the mat a little bit more with each victory. I was saddened to feel how hardened and stark he seemed.

    That said, I think I’d take him over any of the people I see running so far. I do trust his integrity and his willingness to push for radical change against all odds. He’s an archetypal Advocate. I don’t think he’d compromise anything while in service to others. Give me a better candidate and we can talk. Until then, we only epitomize our need for his kind when we vilify him.

  • I should add, that while I’m sure he has an inflated ego, I can’t think of anyone who runs for public office, particularly President, that doesn’t. You’d have to have one to think that you deserve to run the world! So, I’m not sure how calling him an egomaniac differentiates him from any of the other candidates he ran against. At least he puts his ego into a life of relentless service.

  • herbert browne

    Nader’s non-partisan integrity is still exactly what this country needs, ego or not. The slurs against Nader by acknowledged apologists for Israeli policies at The Nation was the straw that knocked them off my bookshelf, after a decade-long subscription. Blame the

  • Potter

    I can’t forgive Nader for running in Florida in 2000 where, if he had thrown his support to Gore, he would have prevented Bush from winning. I Nader has something to do with where we are now.

    I am with Dora.

    In 2000 we did not have the room to make statements in such a close race. You had to pick one major candidate or another or by your “statement vote” aid one or the other.

    Support for Nader in any state simply encouraged him. He had NO chance of becoming President.

    I don’t believe “statement votes” helped at all. What did it accomplish beyond shooting ourselves in the foot?

    I suppose to some bought Nadar’s cry that a vote for Bush or Gore made no difference.

    What has Nader accomplished???

  • Blaming Nader for all that has gone wrong in the last 6 years is just a sign of the establishment unable to come to terms with their failure. Someone threatens to peel off some of the voters with a better platform and message and the pundits start whining.

    If Gore had done a better job, the election would not have been so close. The economy was great and he had everything going his way. Also, who is to say that the Democrats wouldn’t have led the US into some kind of war. They have before and they didn’t put up much resistance to Bush, and have not moved in any serious way to end the Iraq war. The US war machine is bigger than any one political party, sad to say. Also, from an outsider’s point of view, those parties appear as only slightly different shades of right.

    Of course the US needs more than just independent candidates; it needs a legitimate third or fourth party that could properly represent more of that political diversity that now seeks shelter under those two big tents. At the very least, a different voice at election time adds some spice to the campaign, and with the merciless hours involved in the preamble, the big show and the post analysis, we desperately need this.

    Let’s hope for more Naders.

  • Potter

    Sorry Sidewalker but peeling off some voters when all the polls showed a very close race makes Nader culpable. It was clear which voters he was going to peel off. If a Republican spoiler ran as well it might have been a more palatable situation.

    It’s very clear that Gore would not have lead us into Iraq. REgarding “if”‘s, perhaps Gore would have done something with regard to the genocide in Darfur. Perhaps ( or certainly) his leadership would have been more multilateral-less unilateral. Certainly we would not have the Supreme Court that we have today.

    One person makes all the difference in the world and here. One irresponsible candidacy in such a close race made all the difference.

    I agree many independent voices are a good thing. The time for those voices are during the primary and nominating processes. And third and fourth parties need to start from the ground up and build themselves that way NOT by spoiling elections and garnering bad feeling, splitting us further apart.

  • enhabit

    i am am fan, the man is for real in a world of stage sets…

    even so, i will never quite forgive him for his role in helping our glorious leader..whatever the reason.

  • tbrucia

    This all sounds like seventy-something baseball fans discussing the 1969 World Series. It may be interesting to them, but the world has moved beyond them. Much as ‘would-have, could-have, should-have can provide some fascinating alternative presents, there’s a much more pressing need: to imagine alternative FUTURES, given the cards that have been dealt us. Perhaps lessons from Nader’s presidential run can be extracted from the past. The lessons need to be applied now, since we have escaped from the past (we’re all here, right?) but we are all condemned to live in the future, barring death.

  • bushiswmd

    The Potter argument is so tiresome!

    I ran for Congress on the Green Party ticket in 2002 for Congress. Both the Dem and Repub were for bombing the shit out of Iraq. I was for more inspections. I received 3.5% of the vote. Then the Dems and Repubs bombed the shit out of Iraq. That’s the “state of the nation.” Whatever’s good for business and Israel is good for the rest of us. Spoilers need not apply. Get in line and shut the fuck up!

    Potter’s ignorance and complicity is overwhelming but sadly comports with typical Democrat excuse-making.

    Florida 2000 was indeed a tragedy, but Nader was a minor sidebar, if one is serious about the factual history. Frame it any way you like, but the Dems of the last 40 years have been a disgrace – and I believe each of us is partly to blame for that fact.

    Next question, please?

  • enhabit

    potter is no ignoramous..nice language too candidate “b”!

    right or wrong..can we be civil please?

  • rc21

    Not to mention it was the liberal florida supreme court that disregarded the Florida state laws in an attempt to steal the election and give it to Gore. Something my liberal friends always seem to conveniently forget in their attempts to lay the blame on Nader.

  • hurley

    bushiswmd: I also disagree with Potter on this score, but on the evidence she’s anything but ignorant, and likely complicit in nothing more nefarious than a different opinion. Check out her posts and see for yourself. 3.5% sounds about right so far.

  • In spite of Ralph Nader Al Gore DID win the 2000 election. Why weren’t the American People in the streets demanding that all of the votes be counted? Why did the democrats so spinelessly refuse to stand up against Bush’s coup? Nader became the democrat’s sacrificial goat as if that could make up for their own culpability.

  • Sutter

    I strongly hope the bushiswmd comment will be deleted shortly.

    Even putting aside the ad hominem attack, I agree with Potter here. Nobody’s saying Nader didn’t have a right to run, or that Gore should have campaigned better on his own, or that Nader voters did something evil. But the fact is that 75000 Floridians voted for Nader. Even if those voters had otherwise split only 51/49 for Gore, Gore would have won the election with ease, and our country would be in a much, much different place today. People have a right to vote for whom they wish, but the argument that one bears no responsibility for looking at how the system actually works and acting accordingly — however objectionable that system is — holds no water for me. I respect the old Nader, but the Nader of 2000 helped to send our nation on a disastrous course. He may have been acting in accord with his conscience, but the effect he had is the effect he had.

  • Sutter

    Good point, Peggy Sue. Doesn’t change Nader’s culpability from my point of view, because it wouldn’t have been an issue if Nader hadn’t run the way he had run, but Gore did win notwithstanding Nader.

  • While I disagree with Potter on this particular issue I agree the bushiswmd post is out of bounds when it comes to civil discourse.

  • hurley

    Sutter: Unpack this, please:

    “Doesn’t change Nader’s culpability from my point of view, because it wouldn’t have been an issue if Nader hadn’t run the way he had run, but Gore did win notwithstanding Nader.”

    “Gore did win nothwithstanding Nader.” Yet you’re blaming Nader for Gore’s loss? And what do you find objectionable in the way Nader ran?

  • Sutter


    Nader consistently misrepresented the distinctions between Bush and Gore, and campaigned hard in swing states that wound up mattering. If he were running to win, of course he would do this. But Nader knew he wasn’t going to win. He was going to send a message by earning popular votes. I would have strongly preferred that he rack up those votes in places like Massachusetts and Texas, where he would know he wasn’t going to change the outcome. He ran in a spiteful manner designed to make himself a spoiler. And he succeeded.

    Of course, one might reply that he sent the best message he could have sent precisely by running hard in swing states and demonstrating that the concerns he represented need to be addressed if Democrats want to win. And he did send that message. For me, though (and for Potter, I suspect), the price was far too high, and a man as smart as Nader could and should have found a better way to make that point.

  • Sutter

    BTW, for what it’s worth, I emphatically reject the notion that we live in a world with single causes for specific events. Almost everything that happens happens because a variety of factors conspire, making each a “but for” cause. So, to say I blame Nader for the fact that Gore didn’t assume office is not to say that I don’t blame Bush, and Baker, and Gore. It’s just to say that had Nader not run, Gore would have assumed office, notwithstanding all the rest. And this would have been true even if 90% or more of all Nader voters had stayed home.

  • Nader is one of the most important influences for change the country has ever known. Unfortunately our world today is one of sound bites and disdain for intelligence.

    The problem in America, be it in the year 2000 or the year 2007 is not Ralph Nader… the problem is America.

  • hurley

    Sutter: Thanks for the clarification, though I’d be pleased to know how Nader misrepresented the distinctions between Bush and Gore. By the way, as you know, I’ve been conducting a campaign of sorts of my own here to advance the cause of Bush’s impeachment, so presumably I needn’t establish my anti-Bush bona-fides. As for Gore, at the time he blurred what should have been an important and prophetic distinction between Bush and himself when he refused Nader entry to his campaign event in Boston. Never mind principle, never mind that Nader had bought a ticket. What do you make of that? I made something different. Question for Nader: Did you ever get your money back? My bet is that Gore owes Nader at least the price of admission. Your objection to your version of his campaign strategy seems to me entirely to his credit: “He was going to send a message by winning popular votes.” What’s wrong with that? As opposed to what? What’s wrong with popular votes? Better the tragedy of the Electoral College? You’ll recall that Gore won that apparently miserable thing called the popular vote. Furthermore, why must people be compelled to vote for x as opposed to y at the point of liberal opprobrium? I don’t remember the Democrats rising up on their principled hind-legs when Ross Perot split the Republican vote and ushered Clinton into the White House. People cast their votes for varied and often complex reasons, and who is anyone to tell them how they should? As for Nader, he offered what might have been the last best chance for a better America. Nader didn’t fail his country, his country failed itself in not recognizing what he’s done and and what he might yet have accomplished.

    I’m probably running over the guidelines, so leave it there for now. Best.

  • hurley

    Sutter: Something else: If you say, as you do, that Gore won, how can you fault Nader for Gore having lost? And why would you deprive those 75,000 Floridians the right to vote for the candidate of their choice? The notion that Nader cost Gore Florida a canard he’ll be only too happy to dispel, however wearily, with exit-poll data, footnotes, and all. In the so-called final analysis, Gore lost the election via the corrupt decision of the Supreme Court, a decision he signally, and to his everlasting shame, failed to contest.

  • Potter

    Hurley to bushiswmd 3.5% sounds about right so far.

    So how has Nader benefited the Green Party cause, much of which I support?

    bushiswmd asks “Next question please?”

    How about this: How does a candidate like you bushiswmd benefit the image of the party if I might ask?

    here’s another:

    What am I and others to think of a party that fields a candidate that does not know how to have a civil conversation?

    Sutter– indeed the price to pay was way WAY too high to send the message that Nader supposedly wanted to send.

    In 2000 what message did he send?

    From Wikipedia:

    “The Atlantic Monthly[DEcember 2006], in its list of the 100 most influential Americans, ranked Nader number 96: “He made the cars we drive safer; thirty years later, he made George W. Bush the president.”

    Public Citizen, the organization Nader founded has had to run away from it’s association with him. They have suffered from a considerable loss of support. I feel sorry for Jill Claybrook- she’s terrific.

    Here is a Press release from Public Citizen– basically saying ” we are not connected with Ralph Nader’s campaign” ( 2004).

    I am reminded by this that Nader took money from right wingers in 2004 to undermine John Kerry: More than 75 Nader Associates Release Letter Urging Voters to Oppose Nader

  • Sutter

    Hurley — A few responses.

    1. I never said anything about denying anyone their votes. All of those Nader voters were entitled to vote for Nader. And I am entitled to believe that to the extent they voted in certain swing states, they helped cost Gore the presidency. I suspect that most (though not all) of them would have preferred Gore over Bush, so I can too fault them for acting symbolically when the price of doing so was a practical defeat.

    2. For the above reason, Perot and Nader are far apart. Perot and his voters were “Mad as Hell” (to steal the title of a book on the 92 election), and all too happy to see GHW Bush lose. In fact, during the Democratic convention in 92, when Perot bowed out (only to re-enter), he all but endorsed Clinton. Here, it’s different. Most (though again not all) of Nader’s voters would have preferred Gore over Bush. So I fault them for acting the way they acted, though I do not at all deny them their right to have acted that way.

    3. I never said there was anything wrong with sending a message having to do with the popular vote. What I said was that, given this was Nader’s strategy, he could have pursued it in states where the electoral vote wasn’t going to be affected by it.

    I don’t imagine we’re going to reach agreement here, but here’s my position: I hate gravity. Really hate it. It sucks (literally). But when I’m holding someone else’s baby, I act consistent with my knowledge that gravity in fact exists. If I want to change gravity, I might find ways to do so, but I realize that dropping babies isn’t the best way to do it. To me, Nader voters who would have preferred Gore (and I’ll say again for good measure that THAT DOESN’T DESCRIBE ALL NADER VOTERS) and who voted in Florida or another swing state to send some sort of message were in effect dropping babies for the sake of protesting gravity.

  • Potter

    Hurley: Nader received 97,421 votes in Florida. The margin between Bush and Gore was 537 votes. Surely, had Nader not muddied the waters by giving those folks the right to a protest vote, or one that “sends a message” – a message that he stirred up in that critical venue knowing full well what was at stake- the supreme court would not have been able to do what it did. SCOTUS would not have entered the picture. I say that because even the most concervative estimate would have thrown enough votes to Gore from Nader’s liberal leaning voters.

    But for sure Gore should not have given up. It seemed to me he did not have the stomach for the kind of mean fight that the Republicans were mounting under the leadership of James Baker… especially not after a long hard campaign.

    Another thing I don’t understand is why the Greens did not support Gore. Gore in 2000 was already very much awakened to climate change as was well known. On environmental issues he was the far far better choice.

  • Potter

    Well said Sutter.

  • Potter

    Hurley: In the so-called final analysis, Gore lost the election via the corrupt decision of the Supreme Court, a decision he signally, and to his everlasting shame, failed to contest.

    How could he have contested a SCOTUS decision?

    Gore’s mistake was not asking for a complete recount of Florida. He asked for a recount of only those districts that he felt he should have won.

    (I know how to spell conservative- sorry for the typo.)

  • herbert browne

    Re ..”Furthermore, why must people be compelled to vote for x as opposed to y at the point of liberal opprobrium?”

    Thanks, Hurley. Before anyone blames Nader for Gore’s alleged loss of Florida, how about blaming the people who didn’t vote?.. and the people who rigged it so that other legitimate voters weren’t allowed to vote?.. and the people who voted for Bush? How does the volume of those 3 demographics stand up in numbers to the wacky iconoclasts who voted for Nader, as if AN ELECTION MATTERED IN PRINCIPLE- and Not because statisticians had the “poop sheet” to “predict” what was going to happen? I’m in agreement with bicyclemark… we have a nation that “wants what it doesn’t want.” Shall we begin putting people to death for pointing out our national imperfections? (I guess condemning them to infamy will suffice…)

    Re: From Wikipedia:

    “The Atlantic Monthly[DEcember 2006], in its list of the 100 most influential Americans, ranked Nader number 96: “He made the cars we drive safer; thirty years later, he made George W. Bush the president.”

    Thanks, Potter. Is that some of your work? ^..^

  • Potter


  • Potter

    Re: “Before anyone blames Nader for Gore’s alleged loss of Florida, how about blaming the people who didn’t vote?”

    There may have been as many Republicans as Democrats that did not vote. What we do know is that many who might very well have voted Democratic voted for Nader.

    Please note-what is being said, or at least what I am saying is that Nader is culpable, meaning Nader had something to do with Gore not winning Florida by enough of a margin that there was not a question about who won.

    Of course we could focus on all those folks who were prevented from voting as well or those whose votes were misread or not counted because of ballot anomalies. Enough people voted. In fact a good question is why the whole state was not recounted. Why did the Supreme Court interfere in such a partisan way?/

  • God, I knew this would become a bloodbath.

    Like Alison, I live in MA and voted for Nader in 2000. It wasn’t a “message” vote. I thought it was the right time and place to cast a vote for a third party candidate.

    It was 2000. I’d never heard of Al Q’aeda. The notion of either Bush or Gore mounting a major ground invasion of anyplace was ludicrous. Gore was part of an administration that had blown (no pun intended) all it’s political capital on NACA and the Lewinsky scandal, dropped the ball on healthcare reform, signed a punitive welfare reform bill, and hadn’t managed to get the Kyoto treaty ratified (or even close). In short, the Democratic Party’s policies were just to the right of those of the Nixon Administration in the early 1970s. The stakes in MA were low and I thought it a good time to throw some support behind new, more progressive parties and candidates. Sue me.

    If I’d been living in Florida, I would have voted for Gore to keep abortion safe and legal, to shore up SS and to not totally destroy the environment. But I understand people who voted differently.

    I DON’T understand people who pin the war in Iraq, the tax cuts, the destruction of civil liberties, etc… on Nader. Seems to me that all belongs squarely to Al Q’aeda, Bush, Cheney, and the neo-cons. And oh yeah, the 50 million or so Americans who voted for Bush… twice. Funny how they always get left out of the conversation.

    At the end of the day, I don’t think I get to say “This person gets to run. This person doesn’t.” Candidates run. People vote. My guy doesn’t always win. (In my case, make that NEVER wins.) That’s democracy.

  • Potter, I am wondering if you are judging Nader by the wrong standard. Is it fair to expect him to behave like a citizen activist fighting for some greater cause when he enters the world of politics? Did he not do what anyone running for election from a different party would have done: challenge the other contestants and go after their weaknesses?

    Sure, Sutter, Nader had a role in the outcome, but if Gore and the Dems were so vulnerable, did they deserve the office? Their support of the Iraq war in the beginning and their support for the Iraqi oil law now is enough evidence to show that they are not really fit to rule such a powerful nation with any moral authority. Unfortunately, the alternative is no alternative.

    This is not to say I was or am against Gore. I hope he gets into the race this time as he is much fitter (though not in a physical sense) and his experience is needed to address all the problems created or swept aside during the past six years of repugnant un-exceptionalism on both sides of the aisle.

    I agree with tbrucia, focus on what the next America adminisrtation needs to do to come back into the league of nations and uphold its international and, I should add, constitutional obligations.

    How about Gore with Nader as a running mate? This would symbolize that a time a bridge mending has begun.

  • bushiswmd, we don’t accept that kind of post on this site. We come here to engage ideas and not attack the person.

  • Allison wrote: You’d have to have one [inflated ego] to think that you deserve to run the world!.

    Was this an intended overstatement?

  • Sutter

    Sidewalker says: “Sure, Sutter, Nader had a role in the outcome, but if Gore and the Dems were so vulnerable, did they deserve the office?”

    This actually gets right to the heart of my frustration about the 2000 and 2004 elections generally. Presidential elections are not about what the candidates deserve. They are about what we the people deserve. It shouldn’t matter that Gore came across as an automaton and woefully misjudged the politics of Monica. It shouldn’t matter that Kerry came off as cold and arrogant to many. This is not about rewarding the candidate with victory. It’s about getting the best President for the American people. So, for me anyway, Gore’s weaknesses as a candidate were irrelevant, because they didn’t speak to the kind of president he would be.

    If the best defense of Nader is “why don’t you blame X instead?,” it doesn’t move me. Of course I blame those who didn’t vote, or those who voted for Bush, etc. The problem is that those people don’t share my views, whereas Nader and his voters mostly do and did. As someone who shares many of their views (and I realize that by “they” I am referring to many of you), I was extraordinarily frustrated and heartbroken by what I saw as short-sighted symbolic behavior that came with very real, concrete costs.

    This is not to say I deny Nader’s right to run or your right to vote for him. But I do believe that one’s vote should be cast with a realistic appreciation for how it is likely to impact the outcome. To the extent you are thinking “no, I should just vote for the best person,” ask yourself this question: Did you write in Chris Lydon for President in 2004? And if not, why not?

  • Sutter

    Alison’s point, by the way, is worthy of a show of its own: Has our political system evolved to a point where the only people willing to endure the Presidential campaign are by definition so deeply narcissistic that they are in fact unfit for the office?

  • Potter

    Sidewalker: “the alternative is no alternative”

    Perhaps you and Paul Masseri are judging Gore by the wrong standards here.

    Masseri gets into the blood bath because he has to justify his vote by claiming he knew naught of Al Qaeda, and by branding Gore with Clinton’s decisions actions which, Lewinsky aside, were not so bad actually. (Does Masseri mean NAFTA- what is NACA?) Clinton and Gore presided over a long period of economic growth don’t forget. Clinton himself made a strong push to end the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, political capital well spent. That just one. I won’t go on about Clinton, not that he was perfect by any means. But I’d take the Lewinsky affair in place of the carnage in Iraq anyday. Don’t forget who made a federal case over it ending in impeachment.

    Gore was not impeached. Lewinsky was not Gore’s affair.

    Gore’s weakness as a campaigner did not tell us about his worthiness as a candidate either. Gore had, by 2000, a very distinguished career in fact and was concerned about our role in climate change having written the book “Earth in the Balance”. In 1992 Gore said in his book “We must make the rescue of the environment the central organizing principle for civilization.”

    It was not too hard to look deeper into the candidates. It was all out there, Bush’s military service, business failures, record in Texas- and how could one miss his appalling performances in the debates?

    But here Gore is being judged and remembered by his campaign persona as if that is all that mattered.

    None of this is the issue however- the issue is Nader. Nader had no chance of winning in 2000. Either Bush or Gore was going to be the next President and, most importantly, it was a very close race. We knew this in advance. But this did not seem to concern Nader nor his voters. We did not need to know about Al Qaeda (Paul Masseri) for this decision.

  • Sutter wrote: Presidential elections are not about what the candidates deserve. They are about what we the people deserve.

    Isn’t that what I said? “Did they deserve the office?” meant did they deserve the vote of the people to be their representative party? Obviously not enough people felt that way, or you wouldn’t have to point a finger at Nader.

    Sutter wrote: It shouldn’t matter that Gore came across as an automaton and woefully misjudged the politics of Monica. It shouldn’t matter that Kerry came off as cold and arrogant to many. This is not about rewarding the candidate with victory. It’s about getting the best President for the American people.

    It shouldn’t matter, but obviously it does, otherwise how could someone like Bush, obviously challenged analytically, come close enough to Gore to allow other forces room for play.

    You and Potter are suggesting that how the candidate comes across should not be factored in if the person is experienced and best for the nation (whose standards?), but then is this to say that the election process should be replaced by a panel of the wise and trusted who will not be persuaded by rhetoric or political ad campaigns? If this was the case, perhaps Nader would have been chosen.

  • Potter wrote: But here Gore is being judged and remembered by his campaign persona as if that is all that mattered.

    Of course it is all that mattered in terms of that race. It is a competition and he didn’t do enough to overcome the opposition–Bush, the religious right, Nader, the Supreme Court, voting machines, Clinton’s affair, etc. Maybe the playing field was sloped against him (though it is easy to argue the opposite). Probably the whole election process in the US needs an overhaul. But he chose to run knowing the game well. Yes, the world and especially the Iraqi’s have suffered the results. The Republican voters aside, Gore, his advisers and the Dems should be held responsible, not Nader.

    Now he has a chance for a do-over and I hope he takes it and shows the electorate that they make a mistake for not “looking deeper”. But he still must overcome all opposition and present himself well in the campaign. There is no way around this.

  • Potter

    Sidewalker– thanks though I disagree strongly about Nader not being responsible. Maybe I should quit about Nader- obviously I am a broken record and still quite angry about 2000 compounded by 2004 (unbelievable – taking right wing money against Kerry) and Nader’s own, I suspect, and his supporters’ here, to this day, continuing defenses. So angry I am I may not listen to the show. I should get over it.

    If some here are asking for Gore again… let’s bring in Allison’s question, a better discussion I agree, whether anyone of worth would put themself through this process ( Gore being a person of worth). A favorite columnist of late, Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post wrote this about Gore and about the presidency in a recent column:An Egghead for the Oval Office.

    Robinson: Leave aside the question of whether Gore is even thinking about another presidential run, or how he would stack up against the other candidates. I’m making a more general point: One thing that should be clear to anyone who’s been paying attention these past few years is that we need to go out and get ourselves the smartest president we can find. We need a brainiac president, a regular Mister or Miss Smarty-Pants. We need to elect the kid you hated in high school, the teacher’s pet with perfect grades.

    Well Hillary is just such a candidate too- yet I would rather not have to vote for her. I would vote for her over Nader or McCain or Romney or Guiliani. I am dreading all of my choices already.)

    If Gore runs, or indeed is running, ( I think we need him) he may be onto something: say you are not running but thinking about it ( probably true). Do this for as long as possible avoiding all the garbage and the drain, coming in at the last moment. We know Gore well enough. The real question is how much of the electorate knows what is best for this country.

    About narcissism- or egoism, it depends on how it manifests. I don’t think it disqualifies a candidate and it may to some degree be necessary to lead. Nader has it for instance. I agree it’s not a quality that people admire in excess. There are many other qualities that are more important to focus on when we vote. We can begin with honesty and integrity as well as an expansiveness ( that Clinton had in spades) to govern for all.

    Frank Rich says today in the NYTimes “in Washington lying no longer registers as an offense agains the rule of law”. Astonishing. This comes from the top down.

    There was a time when we could elect a very different kind of president, one that made all the difference to us and the rest of the world. These discussions usually boil down to campaign finance (special interests- which is corruption) and the mass media.

  • Chelsea

    Does anyone have specific questions for Nader that we can ask him during the broadcast?

  • hurley

    Ah! Hell hath no fury like a disapointed Democrat!

    The rap on Nader rests on at least one unprovable assumption, namely that Gore would have made a better president than Bush and therebye have spared the world the ongoing nightmare of this Administration. Post hoc, ergo propter hoc. Not necessarily. Gore was a mediocre Vice President at best, and there’s no reason to assume he would have proved any better in the Oval Office, especially with the egregious Joseph Liberman down the hall (Gore’s first proto-presidential decision). He was also a disastrous candidate: cynical (Lieberman); thuggish (Nader); cowardly (Florida). Gore was not only thuggish in his posture toward Nader, but stupid, too: Rather than attempt to make common cause, he gave him the bum’s rush in Boston and saw to it — as I recall: correct me if I’m wrong — that Nader was excluded from the debates. Had he tried to engage with him he might well have had an ally. Instead, he treated him with a disdain bordering on contempt simply because Nader had the temerity to contest what Gore assumed to be his own cosmic rendezvous in the White House. Rude, cunning, cynical, vengeful, incompetent, self-pitying: This is the man people shed tears for? Not me.

    Of a piece with the martyrology of Gore is of course the subsequent demonization of Nader in the wake of Gore’s Florida debacle. Nut-case, whacko, egomaniac, spoiler, “fucking Arab” (I quote). You might ask him, Chris, if he received any death-threats after 2000. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had

    Without going into detail, Sutter and Potter’s arguments again boil down to lamenting all those feckless citizens who voted for the candidate of their choice. Let’s be clear: No one owes their vote to anyone, unless they’ve sold it, in which case it’s no longer a vote in any meaningful sense, but an illegal commodity. The assumption seems to be that Nader was somehow obliged to cede his bloc to the Democratic contender. This not only denies the rightful independence and autonomy of the voters themselves, but further assumes Nader to have been some sort of old school party boss, a Chicago-style power-broker capable of swinging an election on a whim. It also misunderstands an essential goal of his campaign, which was to challenge the ruling two-party oligarchy. Nader was running as his own man, not as an outrider to the DNC, as should have been clear to anyone who took the time to listen to him. And there’s no law against that — yet.

    Enough for now. Best.

  • Does he still believe, after the disastrous past 6 years that the Dems and Reps are still much the same?

    Given what transpired, does he now wish he had not had taken votes away from Gore in Florida?

    Which Democratic candidate, announced or in the wings, does he think will be best suited to address the problems the US now faces?

    What are his immediate and long-term goals?

    Why did he decide to run for President when he has been so successful as a citizen activist?

    What consumer issues now pose the greatest concern and deserve our attention?

    What advice does he have for would-be activists?

    What do his sources tell him about what is going on in Palestine?

    How’s that Chelsea?

  • Chelsea

    Great, as always Sidewalker.


  • Potter

    Hurley-No question Gore made mistakes in his campaign. Why not have a go at Bush’s campaign 2000? Compare what Gore did to Nader against the bag of dirty tricks Bush used against McCain. Look at the long list of Bush’s false promises, promises unfulfilled in 8 years.

    Your case against Gore is- again- about his campaign What it all boils down to-again- is making a choice in 2000. I would bet serious money that Gore would have been better than Bush- even with Lieberman around his neck (chosen to distance Gore from the Lewinsky affair).

    VP’s have not really been able to do anything much beyond the ceremonial. Gore was much more than that. On the other hand Cheney was chosen to guide Bush who was really not distinguished enough to be president, but attractive and popular, a favorite of the religious right.

    A question for Nader: What do you think you have accomplished ( for this country) in your presidential runs?

  • Potter

    Agreed Sidewalker’s questions are great. I would also like to know if Nader has made peace with Gore or Kerry.

  • Sutter

    Hurley, with due respect, I’ve said over and over again that you are entitled to vote for the candidate of your choice. I am entitled to believe that that vote played a role in the horrors of the last seven years.

  • hurley

    Post hoc…

  • hurley

    …And with all due respect to you, too, Sutter, Potter, and everyone else. Strong opinions, but no hard feelings.

  • hurley

    Chelsea, Forgive me my ineptitude, but how does one write you or any other of the ROS staff directly?

  • Potter

    Hurley- I love you. and Sutter. ( I don’t say these things lightly.)

  • Potter


  • rc21

    Good post Hurley. May I add that if Gore was such a great canidate Nader would not have been able to secure as many votes as he did.

  • chilton1

    if you criticise Naders right to participate – you criticise democracy

    3rd party

    3rd party

    3rd party

    3rd party

    3rd party

    3rd party

    3rd party

    3rd party

  • Sutter

    Who’s criticizing Nader’s right to participate? Not me, and not Potter.

  • Sutter

    BTW, I really hope the show has nothing to do with 2000. It’s old news, and it’s never enlightening to have someone repeat answers to questions that have been posed to him 1000 times before. I really hope you’ll focus on where things stand for the causes Nader cares about, and what can be done to further those causes.

  • Chelsea

    We haven’t had a chance to discuss this show in the office but I don’t think Chris or Nader would want to dwell on 2000.

    Some of the questions that Sidewlker has posted offer a good direction for the conversation:

    Which Democratic candidate, announced or in the wings, does he think will be best suited to address the problems the US now faces?

    What are his immediate and long-term goals?

    Why did he decide to run for President when he has been so successful as a citizen activist?

    What consumer issues now pose the greatest concern and deserve our attention?

  • herbert browne

    My thanks to chilton1 for the post above. If Nader’s candidacy had resulted in the “3rd party treatment” that Ross Perot received (which couldn’t happen, I suppose, because Nader didn’t have Perot’s bankroll- isn’t $$-driven politics wonderful?), we might have seen a 3- or 4-party reality in this country. I don’t know about other “local” races, but, without Nader’s candidacy in my home state (Wa), we would quite possibly not have a Dem Senator (Cantwell) in DC today. Were there other races around the country where Nader’s candidacy inspired a larger-than-usual turnout of ‘progressive’ voters?

    I’d like to ask Ralph what he thinks of the movement for public funding for campaigns (oh, never mind… why give those wild-eyed idealists any free press?.. especially if it amounts to the “Kiss of Death” among the nader-haters). So ask him if he’d consider the second spot on a ticket with a woman running for president.

    (from Sutter) ..” I’ve said over and over again that you are entitled to vote for the candidate of your choice. I am entitled to believe that that vote played a role in the horrors of the last seven years..”-

    Sure did- just like EVERY OTHER vote did- and sometimes the zealous idealists really blow it (eg the neocon plans for Iraq). People who are neophytes at “Politics”, despite their intelligence and native sensibilities, may be inspired (or conned) into making really bad choices. When women got the vote (1920) the next “big thing” that happened was Prohibition- a truly lousy (albeit idealistic) concept. Shall we blame the social mayhem of that decision on women voters? Well, there were probably a fair number of men who voted for it, too… and an even bigger number who just didn’t bother. Whose vote was ‘critical’ beyond the others?

    Also, I want to say this, just once: I don’t know if the Iraq War has resulted in more Iraqi deaths than the U.S.-sponsored, UN sanctions did… but, as much as I despise this war, there’s something instructive to the American people (that a great deal of the world already recognized) in the naked aggression pursued, in our name, by the current administration, as contrasted with the passive-aggressive mayhem that our government has routinely promulgated for decades, in the various “causes” that mostly have boiled down to pursuit of socio-economic domination. After 100 years we’ve finally come down to “Why SHOULD we speak softly, when the Stick is THIS BIG?” ^..^

  • hurley

    Well thanks, Potter. Makes my day.

  • Potter

    So, Chilton 1 (and Herbert Browne)- My question is how has Nadar advanced a third party or the desire for a third party in this country?

    Where is this third party and what are they doing when we are not having elections?

    Chelsea- It would be a disapointment if the subject of 2000 was avoided, the elephant in the room.

    What made him run in 2004? Was it because he felt he was successful in 2000? If so, how so?

  • Potter

    Dwell on it, no- but I think you need to get it out of the way before people like me can begin to listen to him on anything else.

  • Potter said: “Where is this third party and what are they doing when we are not having elections?”

    I don’t know about all the other “third” parties but the Green Party continues to bring environmental issues up and works to put green policies in place starting at the local level. Many Greens feel that building a solid base in the grass roots, getting on the school boards, solid waste committees, the cemetary district ect. is our strength. The Green Party here in San Juan County meets once a month and has an active agenda.

  • The Green Party of the United States


  • tbrucia

    This thread sounds like a couple facing divorce arguing about who was to blame, who said what, ‘what you meant was…’, etc. A good marriage counselor would say, ‘Are you two planning to keep live together in the same house, or is one of you planning to leave?’ If they both refuse to give up the house, the counselor would (hopefully) say, ‘Let’s make an agreement. Everyone stops bringing up the past, and you both decide how you can cooperate on joint goals in the future. Ok?’ And then… it is in the hands … of the couple … whether they will heed the counselor … or continue … interminably … to fight … and fight … and fight … and to fight … until all the neighbors shut their windows to avoid hearing the unpleasant racket… and the couple lives on in mutual recrimination til death do them part….

  • herbert browne

    Re ..”Where is this third party and what are they doing when we are not having elections?”

    I don’t know about the rest of the country, but locally the Green Party has an actual presence (public meetings, a website, info booth appearances at our Saturday market & local Summer fest, fundraiser activities, candidates speaking at public forums) that really acquired its momentum as a result of the 2000 election season. Sure, it’s an idealistic fringe party, still… but it has more influence, by its existence, to affect politics here, than its members would, separately, if they were simply “folded in” among the (dominant) local Democrats- who are also quite active. That influence comes primarily in the form of having its issues co-opted by the dominant party, here… and I imagine that to be the case with most “reform” movements.

    Re ..”What made him run in 2004? Was it because he felt he was successful in 2000?..”

    How could Nader feel that the 2000 campaign was particularly “successful”, Potter? It seems to me that you’re simply asking Ralph to apologize for running for office, so that whatever else he may have to say can acquire some “relevance” in your mind. As long as he’s “guilty”, in your eyes, of spoiling the 2000 election, that apology is what’s needed to justify your righteous wrath, I’m guessing… Must righteousness always be such a serious investment? Won’t somebody, please, “send in the clowns”? ^..^

  • Sutter

    Herbert Browne wrote: Must righteousness always be such a serious investment? Won’t somebody, please, “send in the clowns”?

    I’m curious just what you mean here. Would you mind elaborating?

    Many thanks!

  • At the Green nominating convention before the 2000 election Jello Biafra was also a contender. He was an appealing candidate to me because he had forgivness of all student loan debt in his platform.

  • Potter

    tbrucia and herbert browne-

    Some were serious about dividing the country at the time so many were upset by the election of 2000. There is plenty of blame to go around. We are focusing on Nader now.

    The divisions in this country seem at times to me insuperable. However I think it is possible to have a leader that will bring us together. To be honest I don’t know if Gore would have brought us together or been able to bring us together. Republicans would not have allowed another Democratic president any peace. But I know that he hardly could have been worse than GWBush- probably the most partisan divisive president we have ever had, and we have had some since Nixon.

    The analogy might apply if we actually did have a president cum marriage counselor a real “unite-er not a divider”. Nader divided us further in my view. Could Nader have lead this country? united this country?

    I would like to hear some contrition.You can call me righteous, but I don’t feel righteous- just upset about what has happened to this country in the last 7 years. I think we deserve an admission that if he had not run, Gore most probably, if not definitely, would have been president. We never would have invaded Iraq. It’s very clear we never would have invaded Iraq. Is there any doubt ? Is there any doubt that this decision will have repercussions for a long long time? That many have died because of it?

    This is not to mention the further rise of corporatism ( Nader’s peeve), the SCOTUS we have today (notice please the decisions that are coming down) all the time wasted denying climate change and on and on.

    I have never been to marriage counselor but I have had mighty arguments and in the end each side must see the other’s point of view. My questions relate to trying to understand how we are better off now from Nader’s presidential runs. I am trying to understand. I have not heard anything persuasive other than he had a right to run and those who voted for him had a right to vote for him. Whether it was the responsible thing at that moment to take through to the end no defender is admitting.

    It’s legitimate, considering what we have been suffering, to want to understand what we gained by his candidacy.

  • Potter

    Thank you Peggy Sue- To tell you the truth I agree with and appreciate a lot of what Nader and the Green Party are saying and trying to do. I would, if I had the chance locally consider voting Green- most definitley. I think the party has to start from the grass roots as it has and is. I don’t think that fielding spoilers ( esp of such noteriety) in a close presidential race, one where the stakes are so high, does the cause or the party any good. (I don’t think running yahoos for Congress like the one on this thread does the party any good.)

  • Sutter

    Here’s my admittedly loaded question for Nader: In an era in which we are very closely divided, and many elections could go either way, how should an individual balance the value of using her vote as a tool of political expression (i.e., to make a statement) as opposed to the value of using her vote to exert political power?

    I ask, of course, because there will be future Naders out there, and for me, the fact that so many people used their vote principally as a means of expression rather than as a tool for achieving (or maintaining) power is very frustrating. I don’t dismiss the value of the expression, but for those who have died in Iraq, and those children who are going to bed hungry, and those who are debilitated and could have benefitted from federal support for stem-cell research, the symbolic Nader vote had a very real, and very deleterious, effect, even after one recognizes its value as expression.

  • hurley

    Bearding Nader with Bush’s failings not only illogical (post hoc, ergo promter hoc all over again) but grossly unfair. Sutter’s emotive attempt to link a vote for Nader to all the miseries that followed from his defeat puts us through the looking-glass yet again. Nader would not have gone to war, and he would doubtless have done a better job with the other issues Sutter mentions. Perhaps the question to ask of everyone who still resents Nader for Bush would be, Wouldn’t you have preferred Nader? Then why didn’t you vote for him?

  • Sutter

    Because I knew he would not win. And you did too.

    As Potter has said, I knew the candidates who might win were Al Gore and George Bush. And given those choices, I did not vote for Nader — or for Chris Lydon or my high-school history teacher or any of the literally hundreds of people I believe would have been better presidents than either Bush or Gore. I used my vote to exercise power rather than to make a statement. And if more people had, Gore would have won (or won more convincingly, depriving SCOTUS the opportunity to steal the election away from him).

  • Sutter

    Oh dear. I really did not mean to reopen this. Our positions are clear, and I really only meant to pose the (admittedly loaded) question about votes as expression vs. votes as exercises of power. Hurley, I will let you respond, as only seems right, and then I won’t reply — I’ll give you last licks here, because I didn’t mean to reopen the discussion on this front.

  • Were not Nader’s election bids of 2000/4 not the logical outcome of America’s and the Democrats sway well to the right (by most of the world’s standards) over the past 20 years? Again, go to the source Sutter and Potter.

  • Sutter

    Isn’t this why we had a primary in 2000 (in which the more liberal candidate lost)?

  • Sutter

    By the way, I supported Bradley, and would support him again if he ran today.

  • hurley

    Sutter says:

    “Hurley, I will let you respond”

    By your leave, Esteemed Knight of the Party of Lesser Evils, I shall, if only to reaffirm my good faith in your good faith. I could bang on about this all night with a smile on my face. The question you pose deserves a show of its own. In the meantime, you write:

    “Because I knew he would not win. And you did too.”

    That assumes more than you know, at least about me, but I’m grateful for the compliment. (precognition, etc.) I thought the strong early support for Nader might catch Gore’s ear and persuade him to listen, but no such luck. Had he listened, had he enlisted Nader’s support, he might have been president, and we might have been discussing better things.

    By the way, this allegedly heated discussion seems to me to have been friendly and fun. Many thanks all.

  • Sutter

    Friendly to be sure. And of course I wasn’t purporting to give you permission to respond — I was just promising to let it end there! (Which means I can’t respond on the Lesser of Evils remark, though I will join you in saying that this is certainly true. Politics is the art of the possible….)

  • herbert browne

    Politics is, indeed, “the art of the possible”… and, had Nader gotten enough 5% vote totals in enough states that Matter (in your “art”, some states don’t matter), then those votes would have been (& I will maintain WERE) votes for “power”- not merely for “expression of feelings”.

    Re “send in the clowns”- we’re really flogging a dead horse, here… mostly for pent-up feelings, over issues about which we can only look back upon (& maybe sigh, &/or smile about, some day). Put the past back in its box and try to enjoy the spectacle of the present moment- even if that involves looking in the mirror, speaking the words “Ralph Nader” aloud, and then rolling ones eyes while trying to catch a glimpse of one’s own physiognomy… & then laughing at the effort… ^..^

  • I think Nader was the perfect guy to have thrown in the mix. If he won: great – we have a fair compassionate leader. If he caused Bush to win: great – things get screwed up to the point that people finally learn what evils we need to uproot in our leadership. No pain, no gain.

  • bft

    Our friendly internet behemoth notwithstanding, “yahoo” is still pejorative when used to refer to an individual person, I think.

  • Potter


    1. capitalized : a member of a race of brutes in Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels who have the form and all the vices of humans

    2. [influenced by 2yahoo] : a boorish, crass, or stupid person

  • manwithface: “No pain, no gain”

    I remember a radical black activist saying before Ronald Reagan was elected that he wanted Reagan to win because then the revolution would come sooner. I appreciated his optomism at the time but as we know with hindsight Reagan just allowed all the evil haunting us now to be set in place. Meanwhile some of us are still waiting for the revolution.

  • Sutter

    Manwithface, what I was trying to suggest above (with due respect, of course), is that the “let things get really bad so they get better later” approach is a luxury enjoyed only by those who can afford the bad times (financially or otherwise). I have a really tough time countenancing the losses suffered by those I cited above — the war dead, the hungry children, the disabled, etc. — as a sacrifice to a hypothetical better tomorrow. For me (and I realize I only can speak for myself), politics is just too serious to be treated this way.

  • tbrucia

    Despite our concentration on The Great Man (Leader), the election of a President is a single-person winner-takes-all contest. If a group wishes to exert control over the political process and has zero chance of being the winner, there IS an ALTERNATIVE. In a Congress divided almost evenly between DemoPlicans and RepubloCrats, a minor party would only need to win three or four seats in the Senate, and 10-12 in the House to have the power to lean either way and to control the outcome of most legislation. Third party candidates are fools to try to win the Presidency. Their most effective strategy (only possible one) would be to find a handful of really powerful candidates, funnel the resources of their supporters nationwide behind them, and win in a handful of districts. Greens (or any other minor party, sufficiently motivated) could — if determined and sufficiently fanatical — move it’s hundreds of thousands of supporters into a sparsely populated area (remember the Rajneeshis and Antelope Valley, Oregon?) and overwhelm the RepubloCrats and DemoPlicans. Sure it won’t happen in modern-day America. But in the chaos following a few dirty bombs in a major metropolitan area, or after a successful terrorist attack on Capitol Hill while the Congress is in session, who can tell what might happen. Many forget that Ross Perot — until he temporarily dropped out of the race — “at one point in June, … led the polls with 39% (versus 31% for Bush and 25% for Clinton).” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ross_Perot The United States, in crisis, is no more stable than any other nation. A properly organized and positioned political party with a smart strategy could pull the same rabbit out the hat that Adolf Hitler did in 1933. (And with luck no even having to ‘stage’ a burning of America’s eqivalent of the Reichstag). Yeah, it’s all hypothetical, but most things that happen seem unbelievable before the fact… it’s only after the fact that everyone says, ‘Oh, yeah, it’s clear how it was inevitable…’ Nader and his Party are probably not ‘the chosen ones’ but someone will come along. If not him, someone else.

  • I had stronger words in mind for manwithface’s comment, but will let Sutter’s more tempered response stand for what I would like to say.

    Yesterday on NPR news I heard of the killing of 7 more children in Afghanistan from some targeted missile attack and the explanation that it occurred because the Taliban were acting cowardly. I just can’t see any difference in a road-side bomb, flying a plane into a building or this kind of attack. Innocent people are killed for the sake of some other group’s desire to hold onto or gain power. Politics is always about the here and now with life and death consequences and the cost is always too high to look at it in some abstract or dispassionate way.

    So I harbour the same despair as others here for what transpired from Republican victories. I only differ on where to attribute responsibility and perhaps have less faith that the Democrats would have done much different (though probably not an Iraq invasion and more on the environment) to reign in US imperialism.

  • sutter, sidewalker: i didnt mean to trivialize all the disasters at home and abroad that have resulted from the last couple elections. and it is easy for me to say what i said because i have so far been relatively safe from direct harm by the bush government.

    personally, i do believe that the unfortunate political consequences of the world can give an impetus for positive growth. but this doesnt mean i endorse passivity in letting the bad things happen. i voted for nader knowing he probably wouldnt win but i sincerely believed i was doing the best thing. i couldnt NOT vote for the guy who i thought would do the best job if he WAS president. and i hope that somehow my action contributes towards the creation of a more honest democratic system. and i hope, well i firmly believe, that the short-term negative consequences of nader’s actions will be ultimately overshadowed by the positive consequences. although maybe well after my lifetime…

  • Hey, sidewalker, my “run the world” phrase was a purposeful hyperbole. The heads of our State see the US as the last superpower standing. They do seem to think they run the world. And, economically, we have for the past few decades. China and India might creep up on us and knock us down, though.

    for the record, I raise another voice against the uncivil comment of bushiswmd. Shouldn’t be allowed to stand.

    Potter, you read very emotional about Nader. I’m sorry. That’s a lot of pent up anger at a guy, whom I believe, has really devoted his life to making things better for other people. I actually think it’s shameful that his organization dis-owned because it was politically efficacious. I also believe that it was Al Gore who blew it, not Nader. I ABSOLUTELY expected Gore to reach out to Nader, incorporate some of Nader’s agenda and seek his support. I was stunned at what he did in Boston and he lost my support as a political candidate altogether during that campaign. I think he’s doing fantastic stuff now and he seems to be a lot happier with his current work. I hope he stays there and does not run for office. My anger about 2000 rests with him. I can move on, though. If he did run, I’d watch him again and see if he seems to have had some epiphanies that instruct to behave with more personal integrity and commitment to fighting for what is right, not just maintaining his money support.

  • Chelsea – my questions for Nader:

    What does he think he can do, other than running for office, to help wake Americans up to the need for a systemic overhaul of our campaign system?

    Does he have his eye on the environmental/social/economic impacts of the patenting of biological entities?

    Has his consumer advocacy work included the monitoring and/or testing of any potentially negative impacts of GMOs?

    Does the imminent dangers of global warming impact the focus of his advocacy work?

    With so many of the products we consume being made outside of the country now, how does a consumer advocate effectively fight for consumer protection?

    Has he been working to build political or advocacy ties outside the US?

  • Thanks for the explanation manwithface. I, too, hope at least something good comes out of all the fear-mongering, rights trampling and waring, such as a more reticent and reflective politics in the US, but it won’t make up for the damage done.

    We can only hope for someone like Nader in the Whitehouse one day. For now, we resign ourselves to the better among two lesser choices.

  • allison, I should have guessed that 🙂 Great questions!

  • Luigino Valentin

    On the eve of the last presidential election I sat in the first row of Cooper Union’s auditorium. A colourful group from the fringes of society filtered in. On stage there was simply a podium which I couldn’t help thinking looked like something Abraham Lincoln might have stood behind. I sketched it on the back of a post card while waiting.

    Soon Patty Smith stepped on stage with a guitar player and sang a pop song,”..and you are beautiful in each and every way..words won’t bring you down..” Ralph Nader stepped out to emotional applause. He gave a speech I can only describe as masterful. I knew little about this man and did not agree with every opinion but in the midst of his speech I got the distinct feeling I was seeing a drama, less of a polititian than of a great man. I wondered if Lincoln’s audience, were he alive today, would consist of this same small group of unwashed and somewhat slightly dazed. Just then Nader interrupted his speech to note the podium he stood at was, indeed, the one from which Lincoln gave his Cooper Union address.

    Chris, some months back I sent in a suggestion for a show on who is Ralph Nader. Tonight, late at night, I listen to the radio show as I’m painting a picture here in a garage in Mountain View,CA and it’s announced you’re doing this show! Okay, maybe not from my suggestion but, how cool is that!?

  • Potter

    What a shame that the man described in the above post cannot be heard any longer.

    Al Gore’s fault?

    Allison, you believe Gore blew it by not reaching out. I believe that Nader blew it when he had all that power in his hands but it went to his head- he refused to use it effectively. He did not know when to quit.

    I don’t know what happened in Boston perhaps you can remind me if it was so seminal for you but it seems to me that it was Nader who should have mounted his argument to Gore. Oh how much better we all would have been for it. Andwe would have had Nader too. I can’t imagine why Gore would not have been responsive. Again- particularly in Florida- even at the last moment- had Nader thrown his support to Gore I might not be so angry about where we are today.

    I see the election (or selection) of GWBush as the seminal moment.

    All the justifying from Nader voters… add my anger (why are Sutter and I so alone here?) More importantly despite producer David’s imploring last night -why can’t we hardly talk about anything else on this thread?

    A couple of quotes from John Nichols article November 13, 2000 ( when we had no decision yet on the election)

    For the first time in decades, the term “tactical voting” is being given its proper place in the language of the American left. Progressive voters are actually checking poll figures, not to figure out which of the evils is ahead, but rather to determine whether they can safely cast a ballot for the good. These are people who would not risk handing the White House to Bush, but who hope to be able to cast a Green vote as a warning to Gore and Democratic Party leaders that there is indeed a constituency that stands to the left of the Democratic Leadership Council.

    The point at which any particular progressive voter decides to embrace or abandon the lesser evil is not the point. What matters is that the Nader candidacy has opened dialogues–both internal and external–about the wisdom and potential for tactical voting. This, as they say in China and at Billy Bragg concerts, is a great leap forward.

    And this from the same piece:

    Sen. Paul Wellstone, the Minnesota Democrat who backs Gore but eschews criticism of Nader, knows better than perhaps anyone else on the American left the challenge and the potential of a more engaged and tactically savvy left politics. Not long ago, I sat with Wellstone in a room full of progressives who agreed on every issue, but who were almost evenly divided on the Nader-versus-Gore question. The dialogue between Wellstone and his friends was thrilling–filled with the intensity, mutual respect and hope that is so often missing from activist discussions.

    “I really do believe it’s important that Gore beat Bush,” Wellstone said to me as we were walking out of the room. “But I want to tell you something: It’s just as important that we capture the energy of this dialogue that we’ve got going on the left and turn it into something. November 7 is important because it’s Election Day, but November 8 may be even more important for progressives. On November 8, no matter what happens, we’ve got to take all these questions and arguments, all this energy that’s being poured into beating Bush with Gore and into building an alternative with Nader, and turn it into something.”

    Wellstone is right to see reason for hope in the electoral turbulence that has gripped the left this fall. Ralph Nader has stirred the pot. He has forced progressives to begin to come to grips with the question of how they will engage with the electoral process. And, no matter how they answer that question, the nature of their engagement will be more sophisticated, more nuanced and more significant than it has been since the days when no one questioned whether there was a left in America.

    So how do these notions look today?

  • Potter

    I should have emphasized this from John Nichols Nov 2000 post election piece:

    “On November 8, no matter what happens, we’ve got to take all these questions and arguments, all this energy that’s being poured into beating Bush with Gore and into building an alternative with Nader, and turn it into something.”

    Perhaps Allison you are speaking of the business about Nader being locked out of the debates. I don’t know what role Gore played in that. The rules were that candidates that did not have a certain level of support were not allowed. We can argue the rules and whether it would have been better to have Nader in the mix. Don’t forget the reaction it produced when Nader was going around the country saying that there was no difference between Gore and Bush. I think what Nader meant and should have siad was that the system is very bad. But by characterizing it the way he did and elevating himself above his message, Nader shot himself and his message, a message ( among many other important things he had to say) that might very well have resonated far more widely.

    I disagree with those who think we should not talk about this that this is all water over the dam ( or under the bridge). There is much to learn here.

  • Potter

    Sorry – that quote was Paul Wellstone speaking.

  • iiicalypso

    The question I would like most to hear asked of Mr. Nader is whether there is any way for liberal and progressive ideas to even coexist in the realm of moneyed politics. If so, how?

    It might also be instructive to find out what the most pressing issues of the United States, circa 2015, might be, given how prescient the prevailing issues of his previous campaigns (corporate responsibility, environmental issues, social justice) have proven to be. Is it possible that he is simply a man too far ahead of his time? After all, we now live in an era when oil companies and auto manufacturers are marketing themselves in the same way that crunchy granola candidates were ten years ago.

    Finally, where does he see the next generation of possible leaders coming from?

  • Alan Jay Rom

    How in the world did our democracy get to the point where we accept and pull the lever for people who do not stand for the principles we have and refuse to support those who reflect our principles because the media says they are “spoilers?” Being a citizen, to me, means that we either put ourselves forward as candidates for office and let people know what we stand for, or support and vote for people who are willing to do so whose views reflect our own. Ralph Nader reflected my views and the major party candidates did not, so I voted FOR him in the last three presidential elections, even though he was on the ballot in Massachusetts for only one of those elections (2000). Ralph Nader is not responsible for Bush’s election; he put himself and his principles forward for those of us who voluntarily agree with those values. It is the height of “chutzpah” to suggest that if he was not a candidate, I and others would have voted for people with whom we fundamentally disagree. As a civil rights lawyer I have fought for my clients to be able to vote for the candidates of their choice; should I settle for less than that for myself?

    As I read The Seventeen Traditions, it brought back comparable experiences in terms of the values instilled by people who influenced me. Watching An Unreasonable Man made me wonder “what is so unreasonable and who is being unreasonable?” Our democracy is being hijacked and he is one of the messengers. We should be patriotic and heed the warnings or this will be the “Fall of the American Empire.”

  • Bob Peel

    I voted for Ralph.

    Now that ASl has found his true voice I would vote for him.

    I suspect that Pat B. was the spoiler in Florida. I agree with Alan above.

  • Potter

    Chutzpah or fact ( accoding to polling data)?

    Mr. Rom- I believe you are part of a small minority of voters so principled and idealistic that they would perhaps not vote at all. The fact is that our democracy IS in this place and we do have the choices ( and consequences) that we have. The question is how do we change that? the question is how are Ralph Nader’s principles, insofar as they represent the direction we should move towards, best achieved? Are you happy with the result?

    Nader, speaking yesterday in Washington, was unapologetic for his role in the election, saying Gore was too beholden to corporate interests and had betrayed the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. He even joked of the election results: ”I do think that Al Gore costme the election, especially in Florida.”

    His assertion that he had roped in disenfranchised voters rings somewhat true. National exit-poll data show that 30 percent of his voters would have skipped the election if he was not on the ballot.

    But that data also show that 47 percent of Nader voters said they would have supported Gore had Nader not been in the race. In make-or-break Florida, this translates into Nader siphoning about 45,500 votes from Gore.

    In New Hampshire, Nader appears to have drawn more than 10,000 votes from Gore, according to polling data. Bush won that state by 7,282 votes.

    And in Oregon, another tossup state, Nader appears to have sucked away about 26,000 votes from the vice president. That state yesterday was too close to call, but Bush was leading by just over 23,342 votes.

    There is a slight wrinkle in this calculus: 21 percent of Nader voters said they would have voted for Bush with Nader absent, and it is unclear how this would have played out.

    Democrats yesterday were fuming that Nader may have cost Gore the presidency by his arguing, in dozens of high-profile speeches, that there was no difference between Gore and Bush.

    ”Ralph Nader purposely tried to blur the differences between the parties in order to promote himself,” said Ramsay McLauchlan, an offical with the Democratic Party of New Hampshire.

    Green Party Supporters Rebuff Criticism”

  • plnelson

    We need MORE third and fourth, etc, partioes and candidates to run.

    As I said, I live in Massachusetts so there’s no need for me to vote in Presidential races; so I don’t. But I recall a poster at the Kennedy Library debate saying “Bush and Gore make me want to Ralph!”

    The fact remains that the Republican AND Democratic candidates are destined to always be shills for the “power elite” “corporate America”, “business as usual” – whatever you want to call it – inside-the-box, inside-the-beltway thinking. The amount of sheer MONEY and all the political connections and political machines, and kow-towing to special interests required to secure a GOP or Democratic nomination makes it IMPOSSIBLE for it to be otherwise.

  • plnelson

    As to who was responsible for Bush winning the election, the responsibility for that lies SQUARELY on Al Gore for running such a bad campaign!

    Gore was Clinton’s VP. As such, he inherited a low unemployment rate, a strong econony, a soaring stock market, the longest peacetime period of growth in US history, and a budget SURPLUS! In addition, he was running against a fumble-mouthed FRAT BOY who probably couldn’t rread his way through Goodnight Moon without getting Dick Cheney to help him with the big words, and who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, who had used his political connections to evade going to Vietnam, and who had never held national office. Gore SHOULD have been able to wipe the floor with Bush!

    It’s disingenuous to blame Nader for taking votes away in a close election without asking why the election was so close in the first place.

  • Potter

    pln- Yes we should ask why- and many times I have said that. One reason why a Democrat with a supposed head start was Republicans were hell bent on securing the Presidency after 8 years of Clinton whom they could not tolerate. Lewinsky was the last of all sorts of other minor scandals that went nowhere. The country is and was deeply divided. Bush ( Rove) ran an aggressive dirty tricks campaign roping in the religious right. Al Gore allowed himself to be managed and ran a poor campaign- no dispute. The debates were judged in the media and by the public on a very superficial level. But it’s not disingenuous to blame Nader also for he knew it was a close race, he knew the situation and he took advantage of it for his own ends. And it is a fact that he took votes away.

    Practially everyone on this thread defending is a Nader voter defending their vote. Of the myriad of reasons that got us here today, and I am not denying this, why can’t any Nader voter say that their vote supported Bush? or might have helped Bush become president? Why is it chutzpah for me to say the obvious?

    Neither I nor Sutter are saying that Nader did not have a right to run or that people do not have a right to vote for whomever they wish. That is a straw man. But what is disingenuous is the inability to own up to the actual consequences, the effect it had on where we are today. Tell me what we have gained? Perhaps Nader will say. His voters can’t say anything beyond that they had the right.

    Regarding the purist, the idealistic voter who would not vote at all rather than vote for someone who was perhaps the lesser evil- would that same voter/non-voter refrain from complaining about people not voting?

    Say I did not like Gore, Bush or Nader ( I felt that Nader would not make a good president). Should I have stayed home?

  • Potter

    I have a question- The Democratic Party has moved to the right in recent years. Was this partly the result of progressives leaving to form their own party? If there are fewer progressive voices in the Democratic party and platform, why?If there were decided advantantages to this strategy, weren’t there also these disadvantages ( progressive views perhaps are more marginalized not discussed under the same tent). Maybe I show my ignorance in asking this.

  • Alan Jay Rom

    Re: Chutzpah: Potter, In 2000, only the members of the Supreme Court had two votes; the rest of us had only one vote. The question is what were we to do with our one vote? Vote for the candidate who reflected our views or vote against the “lesser of the evils” (still evil). I am not responsible for what you or others do with your vote; I am responsible for what I do with mine. If I were to vote for people whose positions I am in fundamental disagreement with, then what is the point of voting. And I have voted ever since I was old enough to do so (1968). Was I responsible for Richard Nixon because friends of mine were getting their heads bashed in in Lincoln Park (Chicago) and Hubert Humphrey was proclaiming the “politics of joy” and people of “principle” (it is not a dirty word) wouldn’t vote for Humphrey? Also consider that it was only Ralph Nader who was complaining about a system of voting where a person in one state’s vote mattered more than a person in another state. My vote for President in Massachusetts didn’t matter in the outcome; nor did a person’s vote in Texas matter. Is there not something wrong with a system that allows a person’s vote in Florida (2000) or Ohio (2004 to matter more than my vote? My vote helped register that dissatisfaction. Only when the citizenry awaken from the deep coma they are in might something change.

  • “why can’t any Nader voter say that their vote supported Bush?”

    Because I don’t believe this to be true. I’m not making excuses. I don’t feel badly about voting for Nader. I don’t see why you feel the need to assert that your perspective is the one and only true perspective here, Potter. You know I love you and your writings, we simply disagree on this one. I absolutely believe that Nader represents something we need and that our democratic ideals would be impoverished without those like him who will always run, but will only be controversial when it’s close.

    As for who should have approached whom for the sake of alliance in 2000, Gore had to have been very aware of Nader’s campaign points. He didn’t even have to contact Nader to acknowledge the validity of them. He simply should have incorporated them. At the very least, if he couldn’t stomach Nader, he could have co-opted his ideas. Instead, he opted to stay the course. The course of money. He either didn’t want to be president – and therefore did us all a disservice in running a lackluster campaign – or he was beholden to people – and that would not have changed once in office. It’s easy for him to look noble now. He has no personal risk so now he can devote himself to a purer practice of service. Nader risked his entire life’s reputation to run and he’s paid dearly for it. Let’s see, who do I admire more?…….

    And, yes, if we don’t like any of the candidates, we can protest by not voting, or we can put up candidates we feel better about. Or at least write in a name. A vote for someone is a stamp of approval. Even if you don’t think so, the candidate will interpret it as such and be encouraged to stay on the path that resulted in votes.

    We all choose our form of integrity. It doesn’t mean that one is better than the other. I’m not sure how your adamant need to have Nader voters acquiesce their sense of conscience to yours serves anything here.

  • Ralph Nader needs to rest on his laurels.

    We need a more progressive kind of leadership in the White House. Unfortunately, Nader detractsw from that focus.

  • plnelson

    I have a question- The Democratic Party has moved to the right in recent years. Was this partly the result of progressives leaving to form their own party?

    I think “progressives” – however you define the term, (lately it means “liberal”) – are people who BELIEVE in something. I consider myself progressive but I don’t consider myself liberal, except on some issue. But I definitely know what I BELIEVE IN. The people I know who have abandoned the Democrats, whether they are liberals or moderates or even conservative who are turned off by the GOP’s religious-right-wackoness are the same: they are thoughtful, intelligent, well-informed.

    None of us abandoned the Democrats to join another party. I used to vote for Democrats when I was in college but I haven’t voted for them in decades. Why? Because they don’t belive in ANYTHING! They are too “big tent” – they try to satisfy so many constituencies that all they can utter is platitudes designed not to drive away key contributors. They oppose the GOP but they can’t agree on any concrete plans to address any major issues (the war, the environment, Social Security, healthcare, etc) in a comprehensive detailed way. And as I said above they are just as much a part of the “system” as the GOP so they are incapable of innovation and leadership.

  • Potter

    I love you too Allison- and especially your writings. We do disagree. It’s a fact as far as I am concerned that a vote for Nader supported Bush. It may also have done more than that, something good or made some feel good and you may have felt that it was worth it as you and Alan Jay Rom apparently do. Looking at where we are today I am having a very hard time seeing the fine print here. Obviously. Am I supposed to end up feeling that Bush and these last 7 years are the price we have to pay for sending the message that Nader represents something that we need? This even when it’s close and not merely controversial but has consequences? ( We knew it would have consequences -little did we know how much).

    Gore might have actually taken some of Nader’s points, not that they were only Nader’s ideas. These ideas were around and some of them Gore was about. Once in office we don’t know what decisions he would have made-just like Bush turned right, Gore might have turned more left. You do not know. We now see what he had in him, where he went. The point at that time was to avoid Bush. Even the progressive Wellstone said that.

    If a vote for a candidate is a stamp of approval- those who voted for Nader in “safe states” actually did encourage him in others- that’s what they wanted to do. Remember the vote trading that was going on? So somewhere people were trying to get around this problem of conscience.

    The Beatification of Ralph

    Regarding nader’s risk- every candidate risks their reputation to run. They all get ripped apart. Nader avoided much of the media circus until he courted it.

    This country is a big ship. Things do not change course drastically and maybe we should be grateful. But they absolutely should change some- and in the right direction- or the direction WE think they should change.

    You are right-we all choose our form of integrity. All of us. That is why we sit here where we are today. George Bush has his. We need not complain then. None of us. This is the result.

    If you go back to the beginning of this thread Sutter says, and I agree, that the price was far too high, in this instance, for the that kind of high principal vote or vote of encouragement. There is a time when such a vote is totally appropriate and admirable perhaps- I don’t feel it was then.

    Allison- you say that I have a need for others here to acquiesce to my sense of conscience. I would say I am looking for some admission of what I see as a plain truth. If you feel that it was worth the consequences it’s not the same as saying there were no such consequences.

    I am taking up far too much of this thread. No hard feelings.. really. And thank you.

  • Hey Nader! Thanks for ruining the Corvair with your incessant crybaby tactics. Shine on you crazy diamond.

  • just kidding.

  • roger wright

    1. i voted for Mr Nader as a statement in the 2000 elections.

    2. That an individual of middle eastern heritage can give us the opportunity to hear of proper societal and family values should tell us something about how Americans need to view the world.

    3. I understand viewing resulting in less socializing but do we boomers under estimate the value social interaction on the web might hold in the future?

  • Potter said: “The Democratic Party has moved to the right in recent years. Was this partly the result of progressives leaving to form their own party?”

    Most Greens I know have serious frustrations with the right movement of the Democratic party. We didn’t move. Democrats got up and moved right without us and have not done much to encourage us to join them. Voting for the war for example. Of course these are broad generalizations and many Greens also vote Democrat much of the time.

    Progressives did not desert the Democratic Party the Democratic Party deserted us.


    Ralph is my hero, even though I own and drive and love my old GM cars of the UNSAFE 60’s.

    My picture is of my in Bakersfield CA picking up my third Corvair convertible. Yeah, UNSAFE, but it’s not a perfect world!

    EVERYONE should have to listen to the interview, but Ralph’s mother wouldn’t force them, just plant the seed…

    Like Ralph, I have no kids, big mistake… He dedicated himself to his work, good, and bad. No living breathing legacy…. Shame…

  • Samgr

    Politics aside (and they sure were), I’m curious to know what people thought of how this show turned out. Personally, I’m not sure it ever evolved into an interesting conversation. There was a lot of “kids these days!” sentiment, and a lot of looking back into a glorious Norman Rockwell past. But in the end it felt to me like Nader was being self-indulgent. I had parents too, and they taught me a lot too. Did you have the same reaction? Is this a generational thing?

  • Potter

    I was trying to stay off this thread as I have hogged it enough but I can’t resist. I was so busy being angry that I did not read the update about the loooong meeting in which it was decided that the premise of the show ( after so many posts about it) was not to be the show after all.

    I did listen despite myself. It was, as you say Samgr all about the good old days and especially Nader’s mother Rose. Even at the end when Chris asked about the 2000 election in an offhand sort of way- indirectly- more in a philosophical vein- we got what Rose would have said ( or did say) about that. Nader has not moved one inch from his position. Which is why I guess foks admire him. He is not up for any compromises. This confirms my belief that he would have been a terrible president even though much of what he says, his criticisms, I would agree with.

    I end up where I was- with the question whether a spoiler in a presidential election gets us any closer to those goals. I answer it based on what has happened. No. In fact we seem to be further away.

    According to Nader we have a two party dictatorship. If you vote anything less than your conscience even in those states where there is a close contest- you are allowing yourself to be trapped. So to hell with the consequences.

    All that aside I found Nader to be quite likeable ( once I got past all the other stuff in my head). I think his project is a nice one and harmless- probably beneficial. He does seem chastened in a way. He has probably really been beaten up by folks who feel the way I do. But it had to effect him.

    I assume that last thought was part of the decision to not pile on. And- I think he is a friend… obviously.

  • rc21

    This has all been quite a bit of fun.

  • I hold Mr. Nader in high regard and believe he has made important contributions to our culture and our country. Like many great men I believe his need to satisfy ego has led him to make decisions that lead to unfortunate political results. However, the important lesson here is to consider not only the politcial positions of the candidates but also the potential results of our voting decisions.

  • Sutter

    Sam, I wasn’t going to say it, but I agree. And I also agree that Nader can be quite charming. I saw him speak when I was in law school, and he was electrifying. (In contrast to Catherine MacKinnon, who spoke the same day and was a complete dud.) He was similarly pleasant last night. But at the same time, it was also gratingly smug: “My parents got everything right, and that’s why I wound up the wonderful force for good that I am today.” (And of course he completely dodged my question, but that’s what I expected.)

  • A California legislator once wrote a book titled: “What Makes You Think We Read the Bills?” The talkshow-host equivalent would be: “What Makes You Think I’m Listening to My Show?” I’m trying to keep abreast of blog comments, listen to the control-room director, and anticipate the next turn from the guest in a faraway studio. If I were doing this one again, I would surely have tried to shift the conversation back in the last 20 minutes — not to Campaign ’08 (or ’04 or ’00) but to the civic culture of our own USA — his mother’s views and his own. But, but, but, but… I wonder if Samgr and I were experiencing the same conversation. Ralph Nader was not talking about Norman Rockwell’s America. He was talking about a polluted industrial town, soon to be abandoned by a defunct mill-owner elite, where quite a stunning variety of accidental immigrant citizens found their foothold in American opportunity. Ralph believes, and I do too, that the best of the time and place was represented by the Nader and Halberstam families. And he’s not looking down on your family or mine, Sam. He’s just taking a grown-up’s personal inventory of the family rules and rituals that undergirded some remarkable accomplishments. I’ve embarked on a gabby little project with my own kids to reconsider a swath of Lydonisms in language and lore: what we ate and when, and who established what we liked, and read, and talk about together. I am passing Ralph’s book around because I think it’s exemplary and provocative and at the same time entirely non-judgmental.

    What I liked a lot about the show was hitting the #1 target: which was to hear Ralph gossip and laugh and sound completely connected and informed on the air, as he always does in private. I think most Americans who love or hate the sobersided scold in Ralph — the “I litigate, therefore I am” Ralph — have never had even a glimpse of the Joy of Ralph, and we gave them a little of that last night. I was eager not to reargue the Spoiler question from 2000. Been there, done that twice on the radio, with Ralph and some of his principal tormentors — among them, Hendrik Hertzberg of The New Yorker and Anthony Lewis of the New York Times. But not to duck the personal judgment: I’ve always blamed Al Gore’s miserable campaign for blowing the 2000 election. And I blame the mainstream media — a vast conspiracy of the Dead Center of American politics — for keeping Ralph’s marvelous intelligence and integrity out of the debates and the key testing ground of American ideas, which a presidential campaign is designed to be. I am entirely in synch with Hurley’s judgment of the key players, above. Watch the terrific movie, An Unreasonable Man, wherin the cases for and against Ralph’s politics are argued vehemently… but wait for the scene where Massachusetts State Troopers threaten to arrest Ralph Nader for walking in (with a ticket) to hear the first Gore-Bush debate. If we saw this happening in China, or Zimbabwe, or France, we’d understand precisely what was going on.

  • Sutter

    Chris, the second half of your second paragraph seems to me both (1) right and (2) not inconsistent with the positions Potter and I have taken here. As I said above, we live in a multi-causal world, where Gore’s campaign and a myopic media can be at fault together, and alongside other factors. And one can lament the effect one believes Nader to have had on the election without supporting his mistreatment at the debate.

    What interests me most about your post, though, is the comment about elections being the testing ground of American ideas. My sense (perhaps wrong) is that once upon a time, presidential elections were conversations about the direction America should take — my reading about the Democratic primary in 1968 certainly suggests this. But now, for a variety of reasons, it seems like it’s extremely hard to move the public during the rush of a campaign. The “best” candidates can do is to persuade voters that they believe (now, anyway_ what the voters already believe. Efforts to persuade, move, or inspire are seen as risky, if not useless. Given this, we really need to be having the substantive conversations in between the campaigns. It seems to me that Nader’s principal value as a political force (as opposed to as a litigator or an agitator) would be realized in between the campaigns, laying the groundwork for a broad-based political movement. By running without sowing the field, it seems to me that Nader was ensuring the he would at best be a protest candidate. If he thought that a presidential campaign was still the best context in which to initiate a great debate, it seems to me he badly misread just how broken our politics had become.

    I do hope we get to explore these themes again: Voting as expression vs. voting as exertion of power, and how to bridge the gap between these two conceptions and get back to a focus on substance and persuasion in our electoral campaigns. This has been a long-time concern for me, and it was the topic of one of my very first ROS posts ever (http://www.radioopensource.org/its-wednesday-morning-was-it-good-for-you/#comment-35445).

  • Samgr

    Among other things, I should probably read the book, which I definitely haven’t. One question I have, Chris — does Nader ever admit that his parents ever did anything wrong? Did he learn from any of their mistakes, or purely from their universally excellent example? I think part of my Norman Rockwell impression — admittedly a little unfair — is that on air Mr. Nader described a world where his parents never made mistakes, where the most serious family dispute was Ralph not wanting to eat his radishes, where even a serious problem like a flood had a reassuringly Capra-esque resolution. To me, this has an air of disconnect from what I know as the real world, so rather than making Mr. Nader seem more human, it had the opposite effect. Is this just because things really are worse in a lot of ways now? Maybe. But I have a lot of ingrained suspicion toward that point of view, and I personally think that’s healthy.

  • nother

    I fall somewhere between Chris and Sam on this one. The 17 lessons from Ralph’s parents are a blueprint for raising a great child. “Did you learn to believe or did you learn to think?” – I’ll be using that one someday! During the meeting today I heard someone say “but it didn’t come of as real.” I found that comment odd because how could it be more real…we have the living proof in Ralph Nader. Sam equates some of it to Norman Rockwell, but again, Ralph Nader is not some idealized portrait, he is the real thing – a great man.

    And I believe therein lies the schism between Sam and Chris. To buy into the idea that the 17 traditions can make a great person, you have to buy into the fact that Ralph Nader is a great person. So when we decided to focus the show on those traditions, maybe Chris should have begun by first establishing the greatness of Ralph. I was reminded why David Halberstam was a great man, but I was left to assume Ralph was.

    I guess I would have liked to hear more of the traditions extrapolated into the issues of the day, but overall I was happy to finally hear a happy Ralph. Before the show I was hoping that Chris would dig some hope out of curmudgeon-esque Ralph, and Chris accomplished the feat. I heard hope – not in policies as much as in temperament.

  • Chelsea

    When I left WGBH last night I thought the show was really good, though Nader did get carried away with the book promotion toward the end. In today’s meeting, however, after hearing everyone’s impression of the show, which were largely in sync with Sam’s, I wondered if I was blinded by my fondness for Nader. But if I imagine myself hearing the show as a listener, not as a staff person, I would think it was a great conversation. I liked the tone, the intimacy, and Nader’s exuberance.

    Nader has described his book as “a love letter to my parents.” Maybe I’m getting sentimental in my dotage but it was encouraging to hear Nader’s enthusiasm for his family. In an era where we are innundated with memoirs, and documentaries, and novels about the dysfunctional American family, it is refreshing to hear about such a high-functioning one. Perhaps all this nurtuing is why Nader can lead such a monastic life, all of his needs were fulfilled at an early age.

    Nader’s book is not so much an attack on kids but an indictment of modern parenting. It does frustrate me that Nader hasn’t been a father becuase he can’t fully appreciate the pressures of raising kids, the compromises that parents have to make — particularly if they are single.

    Maybe we should have pressed Nader more on politics, on how his belief system has been tested, on immigration policy, etc., but it was clear from the few times Chris tried to engage him on these issues that Nader would rather talk about maple trees, and hummus, and visitng the water purification plant, and in doing so we got what Chris promised: an hour with the real Ralph Nader.

  • Samgr

    I also don’t want to leave the wrong impression; I actually really like both Norman Rockwell and Frank Capra.

  • I loved the show. I thought the tip from his Mom about not letting go of a politican’s hand until they answer your question was great. I also thought what he was talking about was the importance of teaching ethical behaviour. As the Dalai Lama says, you don’t expect someone to sit down and play the piano without having been taught. Just the same you have to teach ethics if you want to live in an ethical society.

  • Potter

    Chris if you were eager not to re-argue the spoiler question why was the show posed that way?The #1 target was what you advertised. And we here went on….. that’s the disappointment I feel. I felt you “copped out”. You were way too gentle ( or protective) at the end- and Nader simply answered for himself through Rose in that one moment of mild amiable challenge with no follow-up. The Nader I expected to hear from was elsewhere and except for that one half moment you let him hide.

    I felt a sadness. Maybe it was just coming from me and not from him. I wonder if anyone here felt it. Thus it follows that Nader would turn now more to the past, to memories, for support and consolation. I wondered what Nader felt about his accomplisments, whether he was philosophical about his losses, whether he felt his presidential runs helped us, whether he was bitter or had regrets.

  • Chelsea

    Hi Potter, I wrote the show post before we knew what the show was about. I was fresh from watching An Unreasonable Man and the spoiler/hero dichotomy was what I was thinking about. We did update the show post once we knew that the focus would be more on Nader the man, but by that point the online conversation was fully established.

    This is something that we wretsle with all the time– should we have taken a cue from the online conversation and talked to Nader about the 2000 election, democracy and the upcoming election? Should we not write posts until we know what we’re taking about? Would you all be content if we put something on the site that was as basic as: We’re having Ralph Nader on next Tuesday but we don’t know what the show will be about– more soon?

  • Potter

    Dear Chelsea- Yes it would be better to say you are not sure. I suspect in his heart of hearts Chris did not want to confront Nader or touch on what might be sensitive. But Chris is masterful and I know he could have done it better than anyone else because he has such feeling for Nader.

    To be honest the conversation on this thread might have gone the same way. But look at the thread though ( and sorry for my hogging) -so many good questions were posed ( and encouraged by staff!!)

    My husband who listened to me during this episode sent me this which he noticed this morning. I think it’s very sad.

    I was reading about Bloomberg’s decision to leave the Republican Party possibly preparing for a third party run. This brings up the subject again.

  • Nice range of valid comments here. Sutter makes a key point about our “multi-causal world.” GWB was not the only cause of the “jaw-dropping idiocy” (as somebody just said) of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. Our bought Congress and silent Press were instrumental causes too — and the meme that no matter what the US Constitution says about who declares wars, we’d all as a nation better not think or talk about what we’re getting into. Every bit of the Iraq disaster was prefigured in the exclusion of Ralph Nader from those pathetic closed exchanges in the 2000 campaign between Mr. Lock Box and Mr. Fuzzy Math. Sutter, you buy into too much of the problem when you suggest that in the all-important “rush” of a campaign it’s too much to hope that the people be engaged and “moved.” That’s exactly what Nader means when he says that the presidential election system is broken. Like: broken. Stuck in a ditch, and rusting. His passionate nagging — had it been set in the center of the 2000 campaign, including the TV debates — might well have roused the country to a more considered judgment and a different result… even as Ross Perot stirred the pot in 1992, and Michael Blumenthal brings a lot of sleepy fans to attention in the fourth inning of a very dull ballgame for 2008. But need only billionaires apply for the job of bringing critical citizenship back into our democracy? Was anyone in our lifetimes better prepared for the assignment than Ralph Nader?

    Potter: a failure to communicate (mine) was responsible for the mis-posting of our Nader conversation. I liked the new Ralph book the first moment I looked at, because I felt: this is the Ralph I got to know years ago when I covered some of the regulatory agencies in Washington for the New York Times, and Ralph & Co. showed me how. By day we talked about administrative law, but over dinner we talked about his father’s restaurant, his mother’s wise chatter and the purposeful variety of his sibs’ interests — as I talked about mine. Of course you felt a sadness because it’s there, and you are tuned to feeling it. But I don’t believe Ralph’s sadness is fixed on himself. I thought of asking him — and decided it would be ghoulish — what he thought would be the first line of his obituary. If he lives fives years longer than his mother did, it will be printed in 2039. Will it say: Ralph Nader, an American reformer who inadvertently tipped his nation’s politics toward war and corruption… ? More interesting, I really wanted to follow up: what’s the hundred-year obit lede on the same man? Ralph Nader, the last activist-prophet of the Jeffersonian model of citizen democracy in America…

  • Potter

    Chris-Thanks for engaging here- I have to run.. and some things to think about.

    I will say that this was one grand opportunity missed for Ralph (and his friend) to articulate some of what you are saying here and for response and agreement. My overarching question still is not whether we have a problem- but how best to fix it. Merely stirring the pot and getting a whole of of folks angry with the “stirrer” and not the problem does not seem to be productive.

    btw- after awhile I felt sorry for Nixon. I don’t enjoy piling on. It hurts.

    perhaps more later…

  • Sutter

    Chris says: Sutter, you buy into too much of the problem when you suggest that in the all-important “rush” of a campaign it’s too much to hope that the people be engaged and “moved.” That’s exactly what Nader means when he says that the presidential election system is broken.

    Perhaps. I’ve certainly not bought into the idea that this is the only way that it could be. But I have bought into the idea that this is the way it is today. There’s room for candidates to force single issues to the fore — as Perot did with the budget deficit and as Bob Kerrey did with health care — but I can’t think of a time in my lifetime when the fundamental course the nation should take was up for discussion (for referendum maybe, but not discussion). And nader pointing this out during the course of a campaign isn’t good enough. He and others need to be on this issue in the off years, when their advocacy isn’t so closely tied to their self-interest as candidates. But the mainstream media refuses to engage in real issues (perhaps because they’re bought and paid for, or perhaps because they sense that the issues don’t fire most people up, and therefore don’t make good business sense), and the “civil society” institutions that foment this sort of civic engagement have declined precipitously. Meanwhile, the alternative media is generally compromised, because it’s generally comrpised of outlets that have already taken sides and aren’t seen as honest brokers, much less ideal gathering places for real debate. There are small enclaves of discussion — like this site — but no meaningful national conversation.

    Am I wrong to think things were once different? And wasn’t the Internet supposed to usher in a new era of deliberation?

  • Sutter

    Sorry, that post was very stream-of-consciousness-y, and probably takes us too far afield from Nader.

  • peacenick

    Please run Ralph. We need someone who will tel the truth, no matter how voter-offensive it might be!

  • Marlan

    To the US ignorants commenting here: (I didn’t say you aren’t smart, you’re just ignorant, which can change if you pay attention.)

    Some compelling reasons Nader challenged Al Gore, and I’m glad he did.

    Gore received a whopping 64% lifetime rating from the League of Conservation Voters. What’s that? A “D” grade. Some environmentalist.

    He and Clinton sabotaged the Kyoto protocol. They refused to sign it because it asked too much from the US (who is responsible for most of the damage). Representatives from around the world walked out of the meeting. Remember? It was in the news. They were seen as flaming hypocrites by the rest of the world. Gore told big pollutors that they didn’t have to worry, the protocol will not be ratified.

    He never mentioned global warming when he was VP and was happy to push through the Salvage Rider Bill that clearcut and raped the forests out here in Oregon. Some environmentalist.

    NAFTA has been responsible for, not only job loss which is destroying the US middle class, but it is considered one of the major contributors of global warming and pollution in general. Pollution doesn’t necessarily effect only the country that produces it. Credible environmentalists hate pollution wherever it is. It’s one world we want to protect, right? Maybe that’s why Gore got a “D” on the environment!

    He told nuclear energy bigwigs that he was a friend to nuclear energy. Hmmm. Is that what his book is about. Getting nuke energy back into the game. Wooden but clever. Some environmentalist.

    He said the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was “good for America,” even though it allowed big media to consolidate even more of their power. (And now, because he knows most people in the US are ignorant, and he has an agenda, he complains about big media. Can you believe that?)

    Gore turned his back on the Black Caucus who wanted him to support their call to investigate the votes they were denied. Gore refused. Why? It wasn’t the Democrats’ turn to win, that’s why. To initiate the Iraq invasion would have been political suicided for Dems, yet they knew it had to be done (the big oil said so and these politicians are nothing if not compliant to the wishes of big-money) Better to let the Repubs do it and then just go along, enable it. The two parties collude, you realize.

    Al Gore, thought it was just fine to kill, through brutal sanctions, over 500,000 innocent Iraqi human beings, mostly children. (My own rule of thumb: I never vote for anyone who advocates slaughtering innocent human beings. Gore approves of it.)

    He was in favor of regime change in Iraq and had no problem with the preemptive bombing campaign that the Clinton administration precipitated over Iraq. This set a precedent for Bush, who continued the preemptive philosophy. Thanks Al and Bill!

    At the time, Republicans, including Bush, were opposed to “nation building” or regime change, in keeping with their conservative philosophy. Bush made that a cornerstone of his campaign. Remember, the Viet Nam tragedy was mostly overseen by the Democrats. Now the Democrats are more akin to right-wing nut cases of the 60s-70s. Nixon was more progressive than Clinton/Gore! You’re being boiled like the frog!

    He was one of the original founders of the DLC (not DNC) and not only supported but helped design NAFTA and other very ugly, undemocratic trade “agreements.” I quote “agreements” because many countries were coerced.

    Gore has not owned up to his role in creating these policies and harmful treaties. Why not?

  • Sutter

    Marlan, given that one can control one’s own ignorance but not one’s own intelligence, I fail to see how your disclaimer makes your comment less offensive. I’m struck by the fact that this discussion has drawn two of the least civil remarks we’ve seen in these parts in a long, long time (both from the Nader camp, but I’ll assume that’s a coincidence).

  • If nothing else.. this was a wonderful show because it could remind people to take the time and learn.. record.. memorize.. internalize the traditions of their ancestors… their parents or roots. As I watch my generation raise babies.. I notice theyve lost alot of their history because they never took the time to really learn it.. and like Ralph says.. we’ve got all the tools now to do it well.

  • Well, I iked the Corvair. A lot. Even if it was unsafe and burned too much oil. We will have had 8 years of an incompetent president and Ralph Nader wouldn’t accept he played a role in that awful outcome if he lived to be 100. Like George Bush, his ego trumps any ability he has to admit a mistake. For him to spout nonsense that there was no difference between GWB and Al Gore means his rhetoric matches the worst hyperbole of anyone who has run for that office.

  • Potter

    Marian- Your “wisdom” ( wisdom being the opposite of ignorance” rides mostly if not entirely on hindsight.

    As well you sidestep the issue- that Gore was a world of difference away from Bush.

    I have run into other such lists as part of defenses against Nader having anything to do with Bush winning. I have to say that I have not had the time to check just how responsible Gore actually was for these policies, what the choices were, how things looked at the time.

  • Potter

    Chris says:

    I’ve always blamed Al Gore’s miserable campaign for blowing the 2000 election. And I blame the mainstream media — a vast conspiracy of the Dead Center of American politics — for keeping Ralph’s marvelous intelligence and integrity out of the debates and the key testing ground of American ideas, which a presidential campaign is designed to be.

    Why does Gore get blamed for his miserable campaign here and no sympathy for the miserable system that candidates have to surmount? On the other hand Nader is not responsible for his inability to appeal, in this miserable system, to the “dead center” in order to get the minimum %15 required to participate?

    I have a lot of sympathy for anyone trying to run a decent campaign. It’s an enormous undertaking with plenty of room for a lot of mistakes, wrong moves: party machines, managers hired and fired, misstatements, photographers everywhere, the media ever looking to blow unimportant things up. A third party candidate has an uphill battle but at least can use guerilla tactics to catch attention.

    Madison Square Garden October 2000:

    Nader: “I’ll say one thing to you,” he responded. “If I was on those three debates, this election would be a lot different, indeed.”

    Nader was kept out of the debates because of the CPD rules. Those rules should be changed. Nader’s physical presence at the Boston debate exacerbated the planned demonstration there where crowds of Nader supporters and Gore supporters were going at each other. The police were to keep the peace and went for Nader. I don’t defend the police- they are pigs at times. But Nader’s people were there to disrupt and make a point. Nader himself had a legal right to be inside- no question. He had a ticket. And Nader, for the sake of our democracy, should have been on stage debating. That he wasn’t alienated many further. Nader accomplished something more by being arrested, garnering all that attention and forever the incident will be remembered.

    So what happened as a result? I don’t know if the rules have been changed to this day. Despite the fact that Nader won a court battle and secured an apology for that scene, where are we regarding the presidential debates at the candidate level?

    Was this episode Gore’s doing? Why is this brought up in the together with criticism of Gore’s campaign as though it were?

    What would have been Gore’s incentive, in horrible campaign mode granted, to demand Nader be allowed to debate after Nader had been going around saying to his cheering crowds and all who would listen that there is no difference between Gore and Bush? What would have been the incentive to those small minds managing this all on either side knowing that Nader was fixing to spoil a too close election and bring up uncomfortable issues?

    When does a third party candidate. who brings welcome voice on issues we all should be aware of and care about, also become, after a point, for us a spoiler and harmful?

    For my money, Gore, if he was thinking more expansively, could have, should have, insisted that Nader be included – it would have been wise and democratic and enlivened the debate.

    Many of us- most Americans- want open debates.


    My enduring issue —

    Back in 2000 at the last moment especially in Florida, when it was no longer a matter of presenting ideas, no longer a matter of debates and had nothing to do with lousy campaigning, when we knew we were at the fork, or brink, many people were hoping, begging that Nader would throw his support to Gore. He did not. Was it, as some say, headiness with power, ego, ideas that more could be accomplished? Was it because after saying that there was no difference, he could not climb down? Those who respond by giving all the other reasons Gore lost Florida and the election, never never say Nader: they trash Gore’s record in perfect hindsight, some even claiming he would also have us in Iraq. But it can’t be dismissed that this was one moment that one man, had in his hands control over which way the election might very well go. That is not hindsight- it was known and feared.

    For Nader to admit to the fact (and the exit polls say so and so will history) that enough of Nader’s votes would have gone to Gore is to have to deal with what ensued from that. There is a beyond to voting ones’ conscience, and an element of right timing for such a vote to consider especially when sending a message; there are consequences and costs.

  • rc21

    You ask why at the very end did Nader refuse to support Gore.I think the answer is probably because he thought Gore was a major A–hole. How can you criticize a man for following his beliefs?

  • Potter

    Next stop on the Turn-Back-Time tour: Olsson’s book shop on 7th Street Northwest, where Gore was signing books at noon. “I’m not supposed to say anything, just sign books,” he announced when he started. But when he got to number 214 in the line, he noticed the lanky figure and stood up. “Nice to see you! How you doing? . . . I’m really so grateful to you for coming by.”

    After more pleasantries, Gore scribbled a line in the book: “For my friend, Ralph Nader. With respect, Al Gore.”

    Nader was smitten. “He’s liberated!” Nader said. “He’s defining what progressive Democrats should be about.”

    Perhaps Nader was also liberated.

    Maybe I will be liberated from this thread.

    They Don’t Know Why They Did the Things They Did – Dana Milbank, Washington Post

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  • joyautumn

    The exit polls show that Gore would have lost even worse in Florida if Nader were not in the race.

    Look at the 2000 exit poll results from Florida at the MSNBC site, see the 25th question (unfortunately they’re not numbered — hit CTRL-F or Edit->Find and search for “If these were the only two”).


    It shows that if Gore and Bush were the only candidates on the ballot in 2000 in Florida, Bush wins 49 to 47 over Gore. That’s right. And it’s not because of Buchanan being out. Nader got 97,000 votes. Buchanan and all other candidates got only 40,000 total. And the data shows that Bush gets none of the Buchanan voters, but gets half the Nader voters. 250,000 Florida Dems actually voted for Bush. Maybe they wanted Clinton impeached, and felt Gore should not have defended Clinton. The fact is, people vote in complex ways.

    So why would Gore actually LOSE ground to Bush with Nader out? Most likely explanation is that many Gore voters would have stayed home if Nader had not woken them from their political slumbers. The numbers make it pretty clear. The poll shows that 2% of voters would not have voted if Nader were not on the ballot — given the margin of error that really means between 1.5% and 2.5%. Nader got 1.4% and all other minor candidates got .6%, equals 2.0%. Does this mean minor candidate voters would have all abstained in a Bush-Gore-only matchup? Not at all. Seriously, do you think Nader voters are primarily non-voters? The majority vote assiduously, as Nader would encourage us all to out of civic duty.

    But 1% of 47% of respondents who say they would have voted for Gore in a two-way contest with Bush, actually voted for Nader — which equals something between .24% and .73% of all voters who would have switched from Nader to Gore rather than stay home. Same range, .24% to .73% would have switched from Nader to Bush rather than stay home. So .48% to 1.46% of all voters voted for Nader and would have voted for Bush or Gore in a two-way contest, rather than stay home. That leaves at most 1% of voters who voted Nader and would not have voted in a Bush-Gore-only match. But remember there are 2% (btw 1.5% and 2.5%) who would not have voted at all in a Bush-Gore-only match. Thus between .5% and 1.5% of all voters didn’t vote Nader, but would not have voted for either Bush or Gore either if they had been the only choices. The exit poll clearly shows Gore losing votes without Nader in, so some Gore voters are likely among that .5% -1.5% who said they would not have voted at all if Nader had not been in the race. One of Nader’s slogans is: “If you don’t turn on to politics, politics will turn on you.” Apparently he managed to turn on enough Gore voters in Florida in 2000 to hand Gore a victory, and the Presidency. Too bad Gore and the DNC/DLC chose not to fight all-out to keep that victory in court and in the streets.

    But there’s more curious information in that exit poll question’s data. The actual vote was Bush 48 Gore 48 Nader 1.4%, and the numbers show that some voters actually said they would have switched from Gore to Bush if Nader were not in, and about the same amount from Bush to Gore. Why? Here’s my guess — I remember a poll once that showed a high percentage of voters likes to have the President from one major party and Congress from the other major party. Stands to reason that for a sliver of the electorate, this is their main voting strategy. Without Nader, some figured the Dems would do worse down the ticket than with Nader (as was the case with Maria Cantwell who, as even Terry McAuliffe has acknowledged in the face of hard data, was handed her victory by Nader voters who would have stayed home if Nader were not on the ballot), so they vote for Bush to balance what they expect to be a Democrat-controlled Senate and/or House. But others figure (wrongly) that Nader’s absence will help the Dems down-ticket so they switch their vote from Bush to Gore to balance what they expect to be continued Republican control of Congress. What other explanation could there be for people saying they would have changed their vote from Bush to Gore or vice versa if Nader were’nt in the race? But that’s exactly what about a hundred Florida voters said in that exit poll, which sampled ten thousand voters.

    The moral of the story is this: over-simplified thinking about the voting behavior of 1% slivers of the electorate is NOT strategic thinking. Nader launched his campaign in 2004 encouraging all voters and major party leaders to analyze the 2000 election data “like a sports fan,” meaning really crunch and squeeze the data for detail.

    And in the end, the only thing we accomplish by refusing to put Nader on the ballot is to guarantee that the “swing” voters will have a less-informed choice. Their deliberations will be just as convoluted and unpredictable as they always have been, but they will have a narrower range of issues and viewpoints to consider.

    Suppose you refuse to sign a Nader petition, either because you support the Dem candidate and think doing so will hurt her/his “chances” or because you support the Republican candidate and think doing so will hurt her/his “chances”. Then you’ve just acted to remove a reference point by which voters can gauge their choices. That will have an unpredictable effect on whether your state goes to the Dem, Repub or Independent. But it will have a very predictably NEGATIVE effect on the degree to which our democracy progresses toward a government run with the fully INFORMED consent of the governed, as you will have helped drown out not just another voice, but the most consistently reliable and powerful voice of the past half-centure calling FOR fully informed consent of the governed in all matters that pertain to our daily lives, labors and pursuits.

  • Potter


    From the Washington Post November 8, 2000

    According to exit polls, 47 percent of Nader voters would have gone for Gore if it had been a two-man race, and only 21 percent for Bush. (Three in 10 say they would not have voted.)

    Charlie Cook in an archived NYTimes article from November 2004 “The Next Nader Effect”- has the same figures:

    Remember that Mr. Nader, running as the Green Party nominee, cost Al Gore two states, Florida and New Hampshire, either of which would have given the vice president a victory in 2000. In Florida, which George W. Bush carried by 537 votes, Mr. Nader received nearly 100,000 votes. In New Hampshire, which Mr. Bush won by 7,211 votes, Mr. Nader pulled in more than 22,000. National exit polls by the Voter News Service showed that had Mr. Nader not run, 47 percent of his supporters would have voted for Al Gore, while only 21 percent would have voted for Mr. Bush.

    As well, the same figures are in The Boston Globe

  • rc21

    Hang in there potter. Your like a little bull dog who won’t let go of an old bone.

  • Potter

    Yup! Hey why are you here too- you love it!

  • Potter

    BTW I have more…. Grrrrr… Woof! woof!

    Zogby did some polling prior. This from the Sierra Club news:

    “……no one-least of all Nader-thinks he’s going to get elected. His campaign would be a success, he says, if he wins 5 percent of the popular vote, which would qualify the Green Party for $5 million in federal matching funds, making it better able to compete in 2004. Polls show Nader hovering near that 5 percent figure, winning as much as 10 percent in some western states. According to pollster John Zogby, two out of three voters who are likely to vote for Nader would otherwise vote for Gore. (The other third probably wouldn’t vote at all.)

    That’s good news for the Green Party, but bad news for the environment.”


    and this:

    “The polls have a margin of error of plus or minus one Ralph Nader,” joked Jay Leno on his much-watched late-night show. I’ve said before that Nader could yet wreck California for Al Gore, and with it his presidential chances; he is, meanwhile, giving Gore nightmares in Oregon, traditional Democratic territory where Gore was forced to make an unplanned stop last Tuesday.

    “I don’t like the argument that a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush [but] I think it’s true,” Gore said. “That is why Republicans are running advertisements for Nader,” he added, referring to Bush’s use of anti-Gore rhetoric from Nader in his ads.

    My favourite cartoon of the campaign, meanwhile, shows Boy George coming out of the voting booths saying something like “They say that a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush – so I voted for Nader.” Pollster John Zogby says that Nader is taking 19 per cent of the hard-left vote from Gore, 11 per cent of independents, and 19 per cent of under-25s: “5 per cent [for Nader] is massive in a 1- or 2-point race,” says Zogby. He predicts that Nader will cause “serious” damage to Gore.

    Certainly those many disaffected Democrats who can’t stand Gore are likely to turn to Nader, much as they did to Bill Bradley during the primaries.


  • rc21

    I enjoy reading about both sides of this issue. My last post was meant as a compliment. I don’t really agree with you but I see your reasoning.I think Nader helped Gore win, but that is not what the real issue is. To me the issue is the ability of a 3rd party canidate having the ability to run for office,and not to be beholden to the major party that most closely resembles his values.

    In reality Gore and the Dem machine had little in common with Nader. Just as the GOP has many differences with the libertarian party.

    But I do feel your pain.

  • Potter

    Thanks RC21- you can be nice.

  • rc21

    The Red Sox have stretched there lead over the Yankees back up to 10 games.

    My usual old crotchety mean spirited persona has been put on hold.


  • herbert browne

    (from Potter) ..”But when he got to number 214 in the line, he noticed the lanky figure and stood up. “Nice to see you! How you doing? . . . I’m really so grateful to you for coming by..”-

    2/14? That’s Valentine’s Day! How apropos… I, too, hope that liberation comes, soon… ^..^

  • ralphlopez

    “Thank you Ralph for the Iraq war. Thank you Ralph for the tax cuts. Thank you Ralph for the destruction of the environment. Thank you Ralph for the destruction of the constitution…The man needs to go away. I think he needs to live in a different country. He’s done enough damage to this one, let him go and damage someone else’s.

    Eric Alterman of The Nation, An Unreasonable Man, 2005”

    Alterman typifies the Democrats who blame everyone but themselves for their own incompetence, lack of vision, and corruption. I suppose Alterman now blames Ralph for the Democrats’ craven cave-in on Iraq? You are disgusting, Eric.

  • ralphlopez

    Let’s remember that Nader presented himself as an alernative to the guy who shafted the Kyoto treaty: Al Gore. Time Magazine wrote:

    “[Gore’s team] undermined the 1998 Kyoto talks by insisting on only 5% reduction in greenhouse gases (to 1990 levels) rather than the full 15% the Europeans were ready to sign…”

    Limousine liberals like Alterman only back candidates who don’t threaten the status quo of give-aways to giant corporations and the contunuing destruction of the middle class, started under Reagan and continued with glee under Clinton-Gore.

    see “The Inconvenient Truth About Al Gore” at:


  • Potter

    Ralphlopez, despite your disdain for Alterman and Gore hatred, excusing Nader from having anything to do with the outcome and consequences of his candidacy and blaming it on the Democrats is as dishonest as blaming only Nader. In the end- Nader made a difference.

    The President of the United States, the executive branch, including Cheney, is absolutely responsible- for war-for executing the law.

    As well Gore’s 1997 Kyoto speech is lightyears away from the Bush climate change denial we were treated to the last several years. Kyoto, don’t forget was just a start.

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  • Peter Robertson

    As an outsider and an Australian Green member looking in and spying Nader I have nothing but praise. The USA is served by tripe served up by the two parties. Two dumb animals fighting around the same slave to capitalism turf. More power to Ralph and the smallpolitical parties of this world.

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  • Tom

    As far as running for President again, Nader’s had it. He killed that credibility when he took a cheap shot at Obama purely for campaign publicity.

    With his other points, he keeps talking about building a ground up movement. What he doesn’t say is that the various people involved need to set aside their egos and band together. This means that you have lots of people running around saying how do we fix this? We need a movement! Yeah! We need to build one from the ground up! Yeah! Keep in mind though what happened to Cindy Sheehan.