portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article commentary united states

actions & protests | economic justice | government selection 2004

Another look at Nader (and Kucinich): retraction by

What causes me to reconsider and retract is that I have heard Dennis Kucinich on the topic of Nader. Dennis has consistently refused to criticize Ralph in any way, going so far as to give Nader a ringing personal endorsement based on Kucinich's 30 years of finding Nader very supportive of every effort by Kucinich to oppose privatization and to support democracy and economic justice. Kucinich has stated that Nader was the ONLY national figure who joined with him in his battle to prevent the privatization of the Cleveland publicly-owned electric utility. Weighing the various reports on Nader, plus and minus, the Kucinich endorsement just has to tip the scale toward a favorable interpretation of Nader's history and a positive evaluation of his character.
ANOTHER LOOK AT RALPH AND DENNIS

In article on 23 Mar. 2004, "Kucinich and Nader working together?" (by "politics as possible"), I presented point of view that

"Dennis and Ralph are on opposite sides of the street, but they are dancing to the same beat, the same music."

A few days later, in comment (28 Mar. 2004) to article by Gary Corseri, "Missed Opportunities: The Way Progressives Lose," I accused Ralph Nader of careerism and opportunism, as follows:

"Why was Nader not working to build the Green Party over the past four years? Instead, he was working on his career resume, as he has always done. Nader is a careerist and an opportunist. A millionaire."

I AM NOW RETRACTING MY EVALUATION OF NADER AS A CAREERIST AND OPPORTUNIST. Looking at the discussion of Nader's history of union-busting within his own organization and also at the history of Nader accepting money from sources supporting the Republican Party, I had revised my earlier opinion that Nader and Kucinich were somehow spiritually yoked in an effort to push the Democratic Party to the left of where it appears to be headed under Kerry's leadership. Considering that Nader could not likely have gained access to the state park in Crawford, Texas, for the Nader-connected bar-b-que on March 20 without the tacit approval and cooperation of the Republican Party and the Bush political organization, I concluded that Nader had gone too far in his dealings with the Republican political establishment to maintain his independence.

I AM RETURNING TO MY EARLIER THINKING THAT NADER AND KUCINICH ARE SOMEHOW WORKING TOGETHER, although very possibly without coordinating or even communicating with each other. What causes me to reconsider and retract is that I have heard Dennis Kucinich on the topic of Nader. Dennis has consistently refused to criticize Ralph in any way, going so far as to give Nader a ringing personal endorsement based on Kucinich's 30 years of finding Nader very supportive of every effort by Kucinich to oppose privatization and to support democracy and economic justice. Kucinich has stated that Nader was the ONLY national figure who joined with him in his battle to prevent the privatization of the Cleveland publicly-owned electric utility. Weighing the various reports on Nader, plus and minus, the Kucinich endorsement just has to tip the scale toward a favorable interpretation of Nader's history and a positive evaluation of his character.

I STILL BELIEVE THAT NADER IS A CAREERIST ACTIVIST --- his life is all wrapped up with what is, after all, a career of activism. And that career has undoubtedly required the same relentless focus, ruthless determination and fanatical drive that characterizes, for example, the struggle for the top by any successful Hollywood star or corporate CEO. How could it be otherwise?

AS FOR OPPORTUNISM, I HAVE TO MAKE A DISTINCTION BETWEEN ORDINARY POLITICAL OPPORTUNISM AND VENALITY. All politicians, including Nader and Kucinich, are opportunists in the sense that they never want to pass by a good opportunity. From the point of view of a politician (and Nader is now a politician), you always want to carefully evaluate anything that looks like an opportunity, because what appears to be an opportunity can also be a trap --- but you never want to pass by a valid opportunity. Politics is a form of warfare: you cannot afford to overlook or fail to exploit any opportunity to gain an advantage. Aside from this form of "opportunism," there is also another kind of opportunism --- the kind of opportunism that is exemplified by Pat Buchanan. If it was ever doubted whether Buchanan could ever have been anything but an operative of the Republican Party --- and in it for the sake of personal wealth --- those doubts disappeared when Buchanan hijacked the Reform Party in the 2000 election and systematically destroyed that party in order to remove it as a threat to the Republicans in 2000 and in 2004. (Think of how Bush's prospects in 2004 would look if there were a Reform Party threat as was built up by Ross Perot in the 1990's ! ! )

I NEVER WANTED TO BELIEVE THAT RALPH NADER HAD DESCENDED TO THE LEVEL OF A PAT BUCHANAN --- a venal operative of the Republican Party and of the shadow government. It seemed to me, however, that he was becoming so deeply involved in dealing with the Devil (who isn't necessarily a Democrat) that his soul maybe had been compromised. I also had to consider Nader's move to the left. Nader, whatever else he may be, is an attorney and a reformist. He is the very icon of consumerism --- hardly a Marxist phenomenon. In 2000, the Green Party didn't even have a labor platform, other than some platitudes drawn from the Ten Key Values. That fit perfectly into the "generic third party platform" that was mostly what Perot had run on in the 1990's and what Anderson had run on in the 1980's. That also fit Nader's history and personal support system, Common Cause, etc. --- essentially an upper-middle class phenomenon. Now, in 2004, as the hold of the "Reagan Democrat" ideology (or delusional system) on the unions has been destroyed by harsh realities following the 1990's sell-out of workers by most Democrats, yes, but by ALL of the Republicans, there is a whole new world-view respecting unions, labor and workers. Nader has recently responded to this new reality by visibly appealing to the marginalized working class. (Nader had previously been visible as interested in workers' issues primarily as narrowly relating to workplace safety.) The Green Party, as well as progressive Democrats, have also responded to the new reality by reviving the valid demand for repeal of Taft-Hartley.

SO NOW, IN 2004, NADER IS APPEALING TO THE LEFT ON A POPULIST BASIS. In the responses to the article on "What makes a Nader voter tick?" the profile of a typical Nader voter emerged --- mostly working people with incomes under $1000/month; motivated primarily by anger, even rage, focused on the Democrats rather than the Republicans; based upon a view that the Democrats are still the real power in America and also on a bitter sense of betrayal by the Democratic Party; and, a kind of jealous resentment of perceived economic comfort of typical Democrats (PERS recipients?) as well as an absurd belief that leading Democrats like Kerry are more wealthy than the Bush family (and the Bush family partners --- the Saud family?) This is a strange profile because, while it fits the Naderites, it doesn't fit Nader himself. Nader never looses his cool, maintains a wry sense of humor and irony at all times, is very clear in his understanding that Democratic "liberals" have lost whatever power they once held, and, has himself been financed throughout his career by typical "liberal Democrats" of the upper-middle and upper classes --- with whom Nader is very comfortable socially. People forget the extent to which Nader is an attorney and how connected he is with the old "liberal" system of jurisprudence as represented by the older generation of Federal judges appointed by pre-Reagan Democratic presidents (and now largely replaced by Republican-appointed ideologues). I recall that early in the 2000 election Nader was still speaking (to crowds of ordinary people!) in his lawyer language that is used when addressing something like the Supreme Court. Speaking to a crowd, televised, Ralph would say something, for example, about environmental problems, and then he would support his statement by a legalistic citation spoken as though in parentheses, citing a legal precedent like "Bush v. Gore, blah-blah Supreme Court Reporter blah-blah" --- except that it would be more esoteric, like "Lazerman v. State of Louisiana, United States Court of Appeals, 6th Circuit, 256 U.S.X. 317". If you have ever read any law, and also heard Nader speaking early in the 2000 campaign, you know what I am talking about. It was bizarre.

NADER NOW HAS EXPANDED THE USUAL BASE OF REACTION THAT CAN BE COUNTED ON TO SUPPORT AN INDEPENDENT OR THIRD PARTY CANDIDATE. In addition to the disaffected middle class (generally the middle-middle), Nader is targeting the marginalized working class --- people that typically are resentful of the benefits and pay of union-organized workers. What unites all these people is that they listen to such radio talk as Lars Larsen and they believe the buzz that they hear --- they believe that the Democrats are rich and powerful and that the worst element in society is represented by the "liberals" and by overpaid school teachers. But, as opposed to true "ditto-head" Republicans, these Naderites (potential or real) reach a different conclusion. From the right-wing spin on reality, these Naderites reach radical conclusions that verge on socialism and revolution or on isolationism and radical reform of the financial infrastructure. Nader is after all of the disaffected voters --- left, right and center --- that mostly would hate to vote Democratic in any event. In that picture, Nader perhaps presents to the Democrats the possibility of connecting with those voters, if not in 2004, then after the elections. With Nader, (as with Kucinich), it appears that it really is about the issues.

I AM NOT ALONE IN PUZZLING OVER NADER'S TACTICS. Some articles posted recently here at pdx.indymedia have criticized or puzzled over Nader's recent offer to connect with Kerry in defeating Bush. I think that we just have to start taking both Ralph and Dennis at their word. They really mean it that they intend to move the Democratic Party to embrace what the people are demanding. I think that they are intent upon pushing the envelope of politics as usual and, maybe, even of politics as possible. The neo-cons have certainly been re-writing the rule book. And now progressives --- whether independent or Democrat or Green --- are getting serious about playing outside the old rules, which have gone by the board anyway. An example of such thinking "outside the box" is the movement within the Green Party to neither run a Green candidate for president nor to endorse any candidate. (That probably won't happen, but it will be a step forward into positive exploration of a new paradigm if it does.)

GARY CORSERI: The Corseri article ("Missed Opportunities: The Way Progressives Lose") --- a harsh criticism of what some have taken to be an "endorsement" of Kerry by Noam Chomsky --- quotes one brief mention by Chomsky on the "educational and organizational function" of the Kucinich and Nader campaigns. Corseri goes on to pose a rhetorical question whether Chomsky's "endorsement" of Kerry supports or undermines the Nader and Kucinich educational efforts, relating that question to the 1968 presidential election --- the election that created the split between the baby-boomer generation and the Democratic Party when the Chicago police, under orders of Mayor Richard J. Daley, brutally suppressed the anti-war street demonstration outside the Democratic National Convention. (That same year, 1968 had earlier seen the assassination of Bobby Kennedy after he had clinched the Democratic nomination by winning in the California primary.) Corseri here represents what could be called the "1968 Reaction" --- saying that, if "dissidents [had] met with a little more respect, elucidation and follow-through back in 1968, we might not be in the predicament in which we find ourselves today with, once again, two awful, but, we are told, viable, choices." This viewpoint always puzzles me because it ignores the success of Eugene McCarthy in winning the Democratic nomination in 1972. So the problem wasn't lack of follow-through in the Democratic Party. It was the fact that the baby-boomer generation of street radicals mostly gave up after Nixon beat McCarthy --- or maybe even before the 1972 election was decided, the street radicals just could not get into electoral politics to the degree needed to follow through with activism within the Democratic Party (or elsewhere, for the most part).

AS FOR NOAM CHOMSKY: Chomsky gave up his favorite pursuits in the academic and intellectual world, where he had made himself a reputation and was comfortably funded by the U.S. government including the Pentagon. It was just impossible for Chomsky to continue to play the academic game with the world going straight to hell. So, he has become what he is today --- a leader of the global justice movement. (In the same way, it was impossible for Nader to continue to play the legalistic game with the country going straight to hell.) Chomsky's view is essentially global, although he is more knowledgable of U.S. politics and society than are the leaders from outside the U.S., and his conditional "endorsement" of Kerry for the sake of defeating Bush can be seen as completely in accord with, for example, Arundhati Roy's address to the opening session of the World Social Forum in January (Mumbai, India) where the strategy of focusing on the Iraq war was set forth, global solidarity demonstrations announced for March 20, and, concensus was achieved that the MINIMUM PROGRAM of the global resistance to corporate globalization had to include defeating Bush in the U.S. elections as a valuable and essential symbolic victory, if nothing else.

THE REST OF THE WORLD WILL NOT UNDERSTAND US IF WE DO NOT DEFEAT BUSH IN 2004. The key to understanding what Nader is all about in announcing that he wants to meet with Kerry, in order to defeat Bush, is the concept of the MINIMUM PROGRAM. Just because we have such a minimum, that need not mean that we are going to stop there. It's all about beating Bush in November and moving on from there, not stopping there, to implement as much of the progressive program as is possible --- even beyond the limits of what is perceived as possible.
an abundance logical fallacies 01.Apr.2004 11:49

researcher

I think this article has every example of a logical fallacy compiled in one place. I'm going to bookmark it for future reference.

Perhaps this will help in your future writings:
 http://www.datanation.com/fallacies/index.htm

Bookmark this ! 01.Apr.2004 12:08

politics as possible

"RESEARCHER" --- Try reading you own research !

Your link, datanation.com, gives as third category of logical fallacies, what you have done in your comment:

(from datanation.com/fallacies)

Changing the Subject
------------------------------------------------------------------------
The fallacies in this section change the subject by discussing the person making
the argument instead of discussing reasons to believe or disbelieve the conclusion.
While on some occasions it is useful to cite authorities, it is almost never
appropriate to discuss the person instead of the argument.

I did bookmark it 01.Apr.2004 12:28

researcher

The point you are missing is that there is no subject to be changed. One cannot discuss an argument where no argument exists.

If I told you that we should defeat Kerry because of the importance of the sky remaining blue are you going to argue that we should not defeat Kerry because of the sky remaining blue or are you going to point out that there is no logical argument. I can understand your defensiveness but you should recognize the constructive criticism. If you want to convince people of your point you're going to have to make sound arguments. If you don't want to do that you are free to do so, but you may not find your efforts to be particularly effective.

Doesn't matter 01.Apr.2004 12:56

George Bender

PdxIM has banished us to the politics ghetto, so we're just talking to the air. We have been disempowered. So I won't be spending much time here.

Also doesn't matter if Nader talks to Kerry, although I wish he wouldn't. Kerry and the Democrats are the enemy. This isn't about Nader, he's just an instrument. It's about rejecting the lessor of two evils. Not voting for evil. It's fuck you politics. Maybe it will force the Democrats to the left, maybe it won't, we'll see. But we will send a message.

Debating Nader at this point is irrelevant. We're putting him on the Oregon ballot Monday night. After that whatever happens happens. It's a done deal.

I do agree that some Nader supporters are part of the "marginalized working class." But I don't have any solid evidence to support that. That's the group I belong to and want represented. It would be interesting if someone did a study of who we really are. I suspect Nader voters are a fairly miscellaneous group of people who are just sick of the bullshit. We're not willing to play the game any more.

let the democrats be honest 01.Apr.2004 17:21

ex-democrat voter

I prefer their honest irrationality to any pretense of logic. Besides we should not discount emotions in favor of rationality but instead recognize that there is a place for both, so long as one is not confused with the other.

I've had to make my own retractions lately. I used to argue that the "Bush hater" rhetoric was false; that people were just angry with Bush's policies. Now I have to admit that there is some truth to what the republicans are saying (the best lies often contain a kernel of truth). The democrat Bush haters have much in common with the republican Clinton haters, though the Bush-haters have a much better case for hating Bush than the Clinton-haters did for hating Clinton. Still they are not rational ("we hate Bush's war and we want a candidate that voted for it and wants more troops for it") any more than the republicans were ("we hate Cliton's sex scandal so we're going to keep voting for republicans with even more sex scandals").

Another retraction. I have labeled myself an ex-democrat voter which implies that I will no longer vote for democrats. This is not true as I may support democrats who are trying to take back their party, such as democrats running against other democrats (such as Kaza). I may also vote for democrats because their spinelessness can be an asset under certain circumstances, such as Kulongoski's unwillingness to stop gay marriage in Multnomah County despite his opposition to it. I think Kulongoski is an idiot for opposing those who voted for him in a close election (he must be getting strategy advice from the DLC) but at least he's too spineless to prevent change. Of course, the same could be said about Clinton as the token progressive items of his platform fell dead one by one.

The Naderite, the ex-democrat and the researcher 02.Apr.2004 04:20

politics as possible

Thanks, everyone: I always appreciate discussion in the comments.

GEORGE BENDER: I disagree about this new "selection 2004" page. I think it's a bold and imaginative direction taken by pdx.indymedia, especially considering the creation of a twin page for local and Oregon elections (including Congressional). Also, I note that the Nader Nominating Convention story appears both on the "selection 2004" and on the main page. So there's some judgment involved: the big stories will be represented on the main page, but follow-ups, analysis and commentary will be on this "selection 2004" page --- where it will be easy to check out what other view points are presented besides your own without running through all the multitude of postings on everything under the sun. You say that we have been "banished to the politics ghetto," but think back --- if you were around in the 1970's --- to that great single, I guess it was motown, "The World Is A Ghetto." Things are so unstable that I just can't see ahead as far as November, but I definitely am voting in the Democratic primary on May 18; and, considering that the major media and all the "big dogs" of the political world have already selected Kerry for the Democratic nomination, I have to say that you also speak for me when you say, "It's fuck you politics. Maybe it will force the Democrats to the left, maybe it won't, we'll see. But we will send a message." I also agree that Nader voters are a fairly miscellaneous group, as when I said that "Nader is after all of the disaffected voters --- left, right and center --- that mostly would hate to vote Democratic in any event." As for the "marginalized working class," I categorized that as mostly unorganized labor, but things are changing pretty fast for working people generally and the traditionally well-organized unions (for example, construction workers) are identifying with a larger movement of working people. I think that "marginalized working class" refers to everyone who is well capable of contributing their talents to productive activity but (1) is either unemployed or underemployed and (2) is having to live without much in the way of benefits or economic security. There is no longer any meaningful division of labor between "white collar" and "blue collar" --- especially now that unorganized workers in the high tech world are losing out to the outsourcing trend. If we think of all the disgruntled workers of America as a social/economic class phenomenon, this "marginalized working class" has to be the fastest growing demographic in America today. That makes it truly remarkable that the Democratic Party is failing to connect with this huge group of people. One possibility for political expression of the "marginalized working class" would be a populist socialist party, but the Socialist Party is so much more "marginalized" than the "marginalized working class" that there is nothing developing along that path. As a Green four years ago, Nader wasn't connecting with working people generally, although he has long been connected with some union leadership, through his excellent contributions to workplace safety. This year, Nader is expanding beyond his former boundaries, reaching out in all directions --- most interestingly to the rapidly growing segment of the American people that I call the "marginalized working class." As for Kerry, I have a theory about the 2000 election and the media buzz back in the last week or two before the election, originating with union leaders, that Nader may have been waiting for a phone call from Al Gore --- a call that, so far as I know, never came. So this year, Ralph has taken it upon himself to open a channel of communication so that in the unlikely event that something like the Florida 2000 phenomenon reoccurs in 2004, there will be some possibility of doing something unusual --- something "outside the box." That's how I size up Nader now (and Kucinich): it's all about thinking and acting outside whatever "conventional wisdom" thinks are the established boundaries. Ralph has been dealing at a distance, I think, with the Great Satan, so why would he hesitate to talk straight to the Little Satan? I hope you don't think that Ralph is wimping out --- that I doubt very much. He appears to have nerves of steel.

EX-DEMOCRAT VOTER: At least you are a voter. So am I. Probably we both wonder about the effectiveness of that ritualistic behavior, but we just don't have any better ideas --- when that ballot arrives in the mail --- than to put it in the stack with all the bills so it will go out in the mail before election day. You are right, of course, that voters' motives or reasons for voting are a mix of reason and emotion --- head, heart and guts all combined. You say, "I may also vote for democrats because their spinelessness can be an asset under certain circumstances." Wish I had thought of that. I may want to quote you. On the other hand, it wasn't cowardly actions that got JFK or RFK assassinated. Yeah, Kulongowski is one of those "party regulars," a politician hardened by years of surviving while playing the game, watching the more idealistic of his peers stumble, fall and disappear from sight time and time again. But we have had Democratic governors with some backbone --- Roberts, Kitzhaber, Straub. How did the Oregon public treat a political outside like Kitzhaber? They surrounded him with Republicans in Salem and watched silently as a Republican legislature systematically destroyed Kitzhaber's dream of a Oregon Health Plan for all Oregonians. And talk about spineless --- where was the spine of the Oregon voters when they should have retaliated on Kitzhaber's behalf and in their own self-interest by throwing the Republican devils out of office? The voters refused Kitzhaber's pleas for fiscal sanity in ballot measures he proposed. Instead of voting for their own self-interest on issues like Measure 30, Oregon voters regularly enact magic-bullet bull-shit like term limits. The fault isn't necessarily in our "stars" --- the fault may be in ourselves. BTW: since you take note of Kaza's candidacy, Darlene Hooley and Earl Blumenauer both voted FOR the Singapore Free Trade Agreement, under which jobs have been lost in the high tech sector. (Wu and DeFazio --- and Wyden in the Senate --- voted AGAINST, while Oregon's one Republican Senator and one Republican Congressman both voted FOR.)

RESEARCHER: Let's see: am I going to point out that there is no logical argument? Okay, I'll point that out.