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.
add a comment on this article
add a comment on this article