Nader: why, and why not


I’ve argued in favour of Nader in the past. The logic goes like this:

  1. The US political system is broken. The Democrats and the Republicans have things sown up between them so long as there is not preferential voting. They do not need to represent the wishes of the American people, they just need to make sure they get more votes than the other party. In the case of the Republicans this usually seems to mean convincing the electorate (against all the evidence) that they’re the “party of fiscal responsibility”, or that ignorance is strength, or most of all that war is peace.

    The Democrats, who in another country would be a party of the centre-left, chase the Republicans over to the right in an effort to poach their voters. They get in bed with big business and try to be “neocon-lite”. After all, they have nothing to lose. The voters are picking between bad and worse and the Democrats bet they won’t choose “worse”.

    In a country where five corporations control the majority of the media, it’s not easy to rock the boat. This by itself would drag the Democrats to the right, but in countries where representative democracy is a little more democratic, they’d nevertheless have to keep the left on side simply to prevent minor parties eroding their support base. In the US no such incentive exists. The main erosion of support is to voters so disaffected they stay home.

  2. There’s actually no solution to this. Citizens can lobby the Democrats to change their policies, but it’s in the interests of the party to pay lip service to social needs while keeping the media and the corporations as friendly as possible. Getting the media offside could result in truly disastrous press bias. The corporations are not one monolith, but just the same party funding is the basis of any election and every congressional constituency is vulnerable if there is a perception that jobs are at risk. Corporate capitalism is all about manipulating influence to gain competitive advantage. Elections depend on money. It’s a natural match.
  3. Or rather, there are two possible solutions and neither is very likely. The first is represented by Nader and the second is prevented by Nader, so I’ll come to it under why not?.

    Nader can’t win. He’s up against the electoral system, the media barons, the corporations, and the Democratic party itself. What he can do is take votes away from the Democratic party. If he does this effectively it’s because he’s been able to gain support for his vision of a non-corporatist, socially compassionate, ecologically sustainable America.

    The cost is Republican presidency, in the short term. In the long term, if he does it well, he forces the Democrats to adopt many of his policies to stop the rot. Now there’s a chance this prevents the Democrats from winning office. Perhaps the power of the media is such that a “green Democrat” is unelectable. But the voters have the final say, so long as Diebold doesn’t become too common and Jeb keeps his fingers out of the Supreme Court. In any case nothing is possible if the average voter doesn’t start looking for a little truth beyond the propaganda machine.

    So I could imagine a situation where the Democrats were forced to really become a center-left party instead of right-centrist the way they are now. But it would take time and it would rely on the Republicans disgracing themselves while the Democrats rebuilt. I think we can always rely on the Republicans to disgrace themselves, I’m just not so sure we can rely on the public to notice.

In a nutshell that’s my pro-Nader argument. We have to keep the Democrats honest, and it may be worth the short term pain in order to do so.

Why not?

This is easier. The Democratic party can reform itself from within.

There has always been the possibility that good men and women would reach office on a Democratic ticket and push against the tide of money men and strategists to create policies which meant something. By doing so they could draw socially conscious caring people in to the party and displace the time servers and the vested interests. A revitalised party would make some headway against the media and Washington’s corporate corruption.

Obama is no lefty. He doesn’t even have the politics of Kucinich. But he does have the vision and the charisma to begin a new direction. I also think he hides his true agenda under a bushel, so as to avoid scaring people. He could make a difference.

I want to give Obama a chance, and I want to do so with a united progressive voice, not splitting it with Nader. I’d love to see Nader campaigning, but campainging against the ills of the Republican mindset rather than campaigning against Obama. [By the way if it were Clinton I'd have a quite different view. I think she represents the worst of the corporatists in progressive clothing who have so damaged the Dems].

So I’m a Nader supporter, but I’m saying don’t do this, Ralph.

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