Monday, February 25, 2008

What should Democrats make of Ralph Nader?

Now that Ralph Nader has announced yet another independent bid for President, Democrats are left with mixed feelings about the guy. Liberal pundits are again bringing up the 2000 election where, it is alleged, Nader's presence on the Florida ballot resulted in the election of George W. Bush. And we get to hear again the counter-arguments from Nader supporters that it was the quarter-million Florida Democrats who voted for Bush in 2000 that cost Gore the election, or that if Gore had just won his own state of Tennessee or the Clinton's home state of Arkansas, he would have been President.

I was grateful that Senator Obama did at least recognize the Nader's contributions to our nation in his remarks yesterday. There is no question he's had a huge impact on our nation for good. His supporters have pointed out how his place in history would be different if his name was attached to everything he's been responsible for. Think if car airbags were called Nader bags, or if nutrition information on cereal boxes were called Nader notices, or if the Consumer Protection Agency was called the Nader Agency.

Personally, I think on balance, the man may be a gadfly, but he's a positive gadfly. In a system where Democrats at the state and national level must take campaign contributions from special interests or stand no chance of winning elections, having that prophet in the wilderness out there, constantly reminding us that government must be of, by and for the people, not the rich and powerful, is a good thing. Nader's presence in the race will help keep the Democratic nominee a little less likely to cave to the special interests.

He probably won't have much of an impact, but I'm glad he's still out there standing up for the little guy.


Voice of Utah said...

I don't have mixed feelings. I used to admire Ralph Nader, but I don't any more. He's not standing up for the little guy, he's on some kind of weird ego trip. When's the last time he did something revolutionary, like the food investigations in the '70s? Now it's just all about Ralph.

Ken said...

Maybe Ralph Nader can do for Obama or Hillary what he did for Algore. Nice Blog. I will add you to my blog Roll. (c8

Anonymous said...

If he run's all I can say is, good luck Pres McCain

Jennifer Killpack-Knutsen said...

I appreciate your post.

What has Nader done for the little guy?

Well, in my humble opinion, he gives the little guy a voice -- and he's sacrificing his reputation to do it.

Since the Dems effectively neutralized their progressive candidate - Dennis Kucinich -- many of us have no one that we feel comfortable voting for.

Nader, and other 3rd party/independent candidates give many of us a reason to go to the polls and vote.

Just because I'm a liberal/progressive does not mean that the Dems don't own my vote. They have to earn it. If they aren't interested in having a candidate that is: pro-peace, pro-social justice, pro-environment, pro-universal or reformed healthcare, and anti-corporate and especially anti-"I'll roll over and play dead while the Republicans do naughty things" -- if they aren't interested in this kind of candidate, I'm not interested in voting Democrat.

I'm well aware that living in Utah I have the luxury to vote my conscience -- I might be tempted to voting lesser evilism if I lived in a swing state.

Joe said...

Dems can't really be mad, just like Repubs can't be mad if Bloomburg runs.

If you ignore the Florida cheating theories, Al Gore lost because he didn't get enough votes. That's the goal no matter how many people are in the race. Not Nader's fault, he appealed to the people who voted for him. I'm glad they had a choice they liked more than Gore or Bush. I wish there were even more candidates in our elections.

howws said...

I have long felt mixed as you do and couldn't put my finger on it. Then I figured it out.

I agree with Nader's goals. But I see his strategy as at best flawed, and at worst evidence that his goals aren't even as he claims.

When Ralph wanted to reduce car accidents, he did it by focusing on promoting changes to the fundamental design of the car. But when he tries to reduce the dysfunction of our political system, he fails to focus on the fundamental design of the elections. Instead he hops in the poorly designed system again and again and takes it for a drive, as if to show us, through repeatedly crashing it, how bad it is - all without offering the necessary fundamental solutions like he did with cars.

I've written about this in a very short piece called The Key Issue Suspiciously Missing from Ralph Nader's "Table".

Hope you'll check it out and it helps clarify the mixed feelings as this all did for me.

balance said...

You have mixed feelings for Nader, here halfway-through. I've had mixed feelings for the Democratic candidates the whole time.

Yeah, at least the Dems will have to swing back towards progressivism to try to appeal to us, if they have to win us over from Nader's camp.

My progressive vote wasn't guaranteed to the Dems, even before Nader came on the scene. They seem to think it was. And they didn't even think they had to earn it by being progressive! (or even standing up to the regressives' illegal and unethical actions!) Tsk tsk!

If Dems really think we have the same goals, try asking nicely why we'd vote for Nader, instead of screaming in righteous indignation and painting him a villain or fool.