(Note: Tom Tomorrow’s decision to not support a Nader run is significant. He was an eloquent Naderite in 2000.)
After all, while both Hillary and Obama have the same take on universal health care (have people pay for it, don’t move to a single payer model as if we actually cared about our citizens), and Nader would without a doubt share my positions from health care onto the war and media reform, I still cannot support his run.
The spoiler effect, a condescending meme by which we blame people who voted their conscience for the inability of candidates to compete and fight, hides a valid reason behind it. Al Gore didn’t lose in 2000 because of Ralph Nader. He lost because the election was close enough to steal, and at the time he was too much of a coward to fight it. And we have paid the price. We don’t have to worry about Nader taking so many votes McCain wins. We must worry about Obama losing enough votes to Nader to allow the election to be stolen, and to then sit back and let that happen. If Barack Obama has the skill and the indomitable spirit to fight, he will not lose this election even if Nader campaigns like crazy.
Nader’s run, however, is problematic from a rhetorical standpoint. He knows he is going to lose. Very badly. And yet his run is supposed to be the voice of the left in this country? His run will undoubtedly point out that the Democratic party has brought this on itself, and that it deserves the consequences. Well, yes and no Mr. Nader. You see, the Democratic party will not suffer in a vacuum. If we lose to John McCain in 2008, then we will all suffer, greatly. Can’t he see another 4 to 8 years of endless war, unjust ideologues appointed to every court up to the SCOTUS, and further attacks on civil rights, liberties, and our economic stability? Doesn’t he understand how many people that will hurt, that will kill?
Nader’s run projects an image of callousness to the consequences of a loss, and it aligns the image of authentic left wing politics with that callousness, and loss on top of it all. That is the problem with Ralph Nader’s run.
So what should Ralph Nader do? I think he should begin by asking himself an old and familiar question. Why did liberals like Gravel, Edwards and Kucinich lose so damn badly in the primaries? Why did they lose when most of America has progressive positions on the key issues of our day? When we all share a left-wing legacy that fought the robber barons and established peace when our own streets ran with the blood of dissent? He knows, as do we: The media. Here’s a throwback to 2000. Note the section on the media (a Guerilla News Network Video):
And as long as that media stranglehold exists, a third party run for office is meaningless. Nader should be quietly meeting with Obama about the FCC. Remember, we own the airwaves.
But right now Ralph, you are in the race. So if a man who cast his first vote for President for you in 2000 can offer advice, stay in the race at least until there is a single Democratic candidate. Focus on attacking the destructive conservative policies of John McCain and the media oligarchy. Then when Barack Obama becomes the nominee, withdraw with a flourish. Use the rhetoric of the unexpected and the unorthodox to gain attention and push Obama’s campaign up while pulling McCain’s campaign down. We cannot afford to lose this one Ralph. The consequences for the country are too devastating to sacrifice for the sake of another wake up call to the Democratic party. A wake up call they will likely ignore once again. We need to find a new way to get through.