Sunday, June 8, 2008

Why Ralph Nader is necessary

Okay, I'll admit that I've been seduced by the power of Barack Obama's speeches. By the promise of his messages of hope and change. By his charismatic ability to lift people up and attract them to the polls.

I don't think his ambition to create a better America, together, is insincere.

But he isn't perfect. And he is a politician. And he could use improvement.

I hope he has the good sense to sit down with Ralph Nader. I hope he has the integrity to allow Ralph Nader to be part of the national debate.

Last night I went to hear Ralph Nader speak at a fundraising meeting in Middletown. There's no question about how he inspires - with the truth - as ugly as it can be.

Ralph Nader will tell you what's still wrong with this country - corporate power and politicking, disastrous foreign policymaking, lack of sense in environmental rulings, a broken health-care system, an exclusionary two-party system, and a citizenry who unfortunately seems willing to accept the worst in our leaders, without question.

And he'll suggest ways we could make it better.

Nader spoke, and accepted questions and comments, for nearly two hours. He is brilliant in his command of the facts of government, politics and history. He is scathing in his criticism of the current administration, which he calls "criminal" and of our president, who he suggests is a "messianic warrior."

He spoke with a passion which demonstrated his frustration with the facts of life in America. He railed against our leaders, political and corporate. He excoriated judges who have given undue power to corporate giants while stripping power from individuals. He lambasted John McCain for his bellicose cheerleading of an immoral war. And he scolded Obama for caving to the hawkish lobbyists of AIPAC, claiming that the majority of Jews in Israel and America want peace and a two-party solution, while the extremists are willing to balkanize the Palestinians behind a countrywide wall.

At lunch yesterday, I told some co-workers that I was going to rush back from Vermont to Connecticut to hear Ralph speak. They laughed at the prospect. But it's no laughing matter. Ralph Nader has been made a joke by those who are unwilling to think about the truth of what he says.

Ralph Nader is essential to America. He reminds us, despite our unwillingness to think on about it, that America could be a much better place, that we as individuals are not powerless, that our leaders serve us, and not the other way around. He makes us confront what we are unwilling to confront, that corporations have no limit in their commercial thirst, except those limits which we place upon them; that we all deserve the kind of health care and education that other countries provide their citizens; that an individual, with determination can change the world.

Nader quoted an ancient Chinese proverb that summed up his message - "To know, and not to do is not to know."

He knows he will not win the Presidential election, but Ralph Nader deserves to be on the ballot in every state. He deserves the right to debate John McCain and Barack Obama (and they would both be better candidates for the debate). He deserves respect for suggesting that our two-party system is a travesty.

I went to the speech last night because I consider Ralph Nader to be a living American hero. I went to the meeting intending to vote for Barack Obama in the presidential election. As Nader suggested, I will be a smart tactical voter and not tell you who I will vote for. But know this, Ralph Nader may have changed my mind.

(Photos by Pearse Pinch)


Anonymous said...

Right on Ralph!!

Anonymous said...

I agree that last night Ralph Nader laid out a compelling vision of all that is wrong with our country. I agree with most of his proposed solutions to our problems. However, your uncritical parroting of Nader's talking points is simultaneously belittling of and empowering to Nader. None of the media, from you to the Wall Street Journal, are willing to treat him like the presidential candidate that he has been for the past decade. PLEASE show some fairness in your treatment of public figures, especially those running for president! You do not uncritically accept anything that Clinton, Obama, McCain, etc, say, you look at their actions and how they match their rhetoric, and you look at what effect they have on the country. This is what makes for good journalism. You did not do any of this with Nader. If you think he is unworthy of your critical thinking, you are insulting a very serious and dedicated man who is running for president. By giving your readers your uncritical paean, you give him power that he does not deserve, and you insult your readers.
I had the opportunity over dinner to ask Nader the following question, "If one of the candidates (Obama, for example), adopted every one of your positions on all the important issues, would you endorse him?" Nader's simple and complete reply was, "No way, because I would know he was lying." This self-absorbed arrogance is staggering, can he peer into the soul of others and discern the truth? Does not this attitude demonstrate that his campaign for president is not to advance the causes that he (and I) believe in, but rather to advance the only person Nader knows to be telling "THE TRUTH", Ralph Nader?
There was a related bombshell in his public remarks last night: he could not work with Dennis Kucinich, whose views he claimed were very similar to his own. WHY NOT!??! Kucinich is fighting for many of the same issues as Nader, what does it say about Nader that Kucinich's lack of support does not bother Nader? Could Kucinich think that Nader's campaign is not about the issues but about Ralph Nader? Could Kucinich think that Nader's campaign might harm the progressive agenda?
Nader argued that we, as voters, need to play a little poker as we vote. As "tactical voters", we should withhold our support for a candidate until they adopt positions closer to what we think is right. There are at least two huge problems with playing poker in politics. First, Nader himself indicated that if we bluff and scare a candidate to support our positions, it would be worthless, because HE would KNOW that anything they said was a lie. Second, politics is not a game, and for Nader to suggest that it is, is obscene. Our votes matter, just ask any of the 6 billion people on this planet who have suffered under the Bush regime.
PLEASE, give Nader the respect he deserves! Discuss the consequences of his actions, discuss what he has done as well as how he speaks. Demand answers to the difficult questions, hold him accountable. Here are some examples:
1. Mr. Nader, you have demanded openness and accountability from the government. Have you demonstrated that in your campaign? Have you released your income tax statements as have the other presidential candidates? Have you released all the names and affiliations of your donors? Have you released information on the dozen or more public interest groups you control?
2. Mr. Nader, in 2000 and 2004, you accepted money from Republicans who supported your campaign purely because they thought you could help defeat the Democratic candidate. Have you done this in 2008, and will you?
3. Mr. Nader, you propose to "reverse the current policy in the Middle East". Your proposal is vague on the details, and a "reversal" of a self-contradictory catastrophically failed lack of policy is hardly informative. The Middle East is a hornet's nest of multi-lateral hatred and violence. Could you please move beyond typical anti-Bush bromides and let us know how you would change US policy?

These are just a few of the questions. If progressive media is unwilling to treat Ralph Nader as a serious presidential candidate, they will unwittingly be disenfranchising progressive voters, who will cast a vote (for or against Ralph Nader), without knowing what that vote means.