Friday, March 05, 2010

Why I don't apologize for voting for Nader

In case you didn't know, I'm going to confess it right here: I voted for Ralph Nader. Not just for the 2000 election, but for the two following that one, as well. That's right, I did not vote for Obama, although voting for the first black president was really tempting. But much as I love Obama's story, his wife, his kids, his mother, his name, even, and everything he stands for socially, I did not believe he would stand for change political and economic change. And I'm very sorry to say I still don't believe that.

Okay, now tell me everything terrible you've ever thought about Ralph Nader. Take your time. Get it off your chest. I've heard it all before -- when I say I voted for Nader, most people just want to rant about how awful he is, and how he lost Gore's election for him, and how he said the Democrats were just like the Republicans. Few are at all interested in hearing why I actually voted for him. That's okay. Take your time. Feel better? No? Me neither.

Here's the thing: I am glad I voted for Nader because it's so clear to me he was right all along. Unfortunately. I guess I'm writing this because of this article, but it's been percolating inside me for some time now. I cried when Obama made his acceptance speech in Chicago on Election Night. I couldn't believe that this country, founded in racism and made rich and fat off the blood of blacks, was actually electing a black man as president. It was a profound, momentous moment, and I was thrilled to witness it.

But just a few days later, when he started announcing his cabinet, I was back to being glad I voted for Nader. I voted for change, and Larry Summers, Tim Geithner, Arne Duncan, Tom Vilsack, and Janet Napolitano do not represent change. And that scares me, worries me, makes me really fear for the future, because the stakes are higher today than ever before, at least in my lifetime, and the situation has gotten far worse in the past year.

Here's Chris Hedges in that article:
"We owe Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney [2008 Green Party presidential candidate] an apology. They were right about Barack Obama. They were right about the corporate state. They had the courage of their convictions and they stood fast despite wholesale defections and ridicule by liberals and progressives."

Clearly the people who are disappointed in Obama and business as usual are not just far-out lefties, whatever that means. Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer-prize winning reporter. Daniel Ellsberg blasted Obama on Here and Now (scroll down to Ellsberg; the comments start at about seven minutes in) for lying to us about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He compared him to Johnson and Nixon and called for the release of the contemporary version of the Pentagon Papers. Very strong statement. Much of the left, whatever that is, has been criticizing the president ever since he got into office.

Back to Nader: I think it's easier to blame him than admit that, as I've said often, our country is broken, our system, a 250-year-old response to a 17th century monarchy, is outdated and old-fashioned. (I've been thinking lately that maybe the solution isn't tossing the whole system, but just getting rid of the Senate. Why not? England disenfranchised the House of Lords. We could easily lose the Senate, and expand the House.)

I wonder if the people who blame Nader have ever read anything by him. His book, Crashing the Party, is a very different take on the 2000 election from the reports in the media. There's a lot of debate about whether he actually cost Gore the election, and the first question is, Why didn't Gore win his own home state? And the second is, What makes you think all the Nader votes would have gone to Gore? He also points out that he had massive rallies, 20,000 people in Washington, D.C., and the Post never covered it.

Third parties are crucial to the American system, and the Democratic and Republican parties have colluded for 25 years to keep them out, beginning with taking control of the presidential debates away from the non-partisan League of Women Voters in 1987 and creating stringent rules about who can debate. Requiring a candidate to poll at 15 percent when the media won't cover them isn't fair.

Often people will come up with a stupid comment Nader made, and then expect his supporters to defend or explain it. And Nader can make stupid comments--he missed the whole thing about LGBT rights and marriage (although I wonder if gay marriage is a misguided use of energy. I don't know a lot about it but many of my gay friends are really annoyed about all the energy going into it).

But why is it that Nader, and others threatening the status quo, are so often held to a higher standard? Why do we think someone in his position has to be perfect, but others get a pass? We can all think of a million things Clinton, Gore, Kerry, etc etc did or said poorly. Why? Much of the recent damaging legislation that is destroying our economy came from Bill Clinton: NAFTA and deregulation of financial markets, not to mention abolishing welfare, the telecommunications act (we have that to thank for one or two gargantuan media companies owning most of the media in the country, the ability of one company to own both a TV station and a newspaper in one market, and the collapse of newspapers), defense of marriage, and the anti-terrorism act that increased the federal death penalty significantly. Why do I want to vote for that?

The one thing I'll give Clinton is that he raised taxes on the rich, and guess what, the economy took off. I think Clinton's first election is the only time I ever voted for the party candidate; I always voted for a third party candidate, and I've never been sorry.

So here's the Nader quote about the difference between Democrats and Republicans, according to an online quote site: "The only difference between the Republican and Democratic parties is the velocities with which their knees hit the floor when corporations knock on their door. That's the only difference." And you know, here's the thing: He's right. He may not have been as right at the time, when he said it; the Dems still counted for something vaguely resembling liberal. Maybe the Democratic party of old was liberal. Every now and then someone says to me that Nixon was more liberal than Obama, but all that means is that Nixon signed more left-wing legislation. Nixon was facing a far more liberal Congress and he lost a lot of battles. He would have been far more right wing had he had the opportunity. And that Congress, as left as it may have been, did not give us national health. Despite how he's being lumped into the mix as a president who tried to reform health care, Nixon resisted an extremely liberal Congress that wanted to go much farther, and he won.

By the way, I started writing this about a month ago, and now I write in the wake of the health care bill just signed. I don't know. I don't see this as a liberal bill--the comment I keep hearing is about the absurdity of the Dems going to the mat for a Republican bill. Maybe that's my biggest disappointment with the Dems, how polarized the country has become, and how they bear responsibility for that. The Dems voted for the Patriot Act, they voted for the Iraq war, and they're allowing the Afghanistan war. These wars have cost Massachusetts alone
$27, 567, 373,000 and counting. And my library has to cut $22,000 this year, two percent of its budget. That's a sin. That's a crime.

I voted for Ralph Nader because I want the corporations out of our government. "The banks own the place," that's what Senator Durbin said, and voting for the Democratic Party of the last 25 or 30 years will never change that equation. I voted for change. The change I see is only getting worse, not better.

Now we resume our regular schedule broadcasting. Thanks for listening.


  1. Great post!!! More third party and independent voters need to speak out in this way, and cease being ashamed for not allowing themselves to be duped by the charade that is Democratic-Republican Party government.

    You might enjoy my blog, (Poli-Tea) it is devoted entirely to critique of the two-party system from third party and independent perspectives.

  2. Wonderfully cogent and (almost) convincing argument for Nader. Thanks for that. I have such a narrow and quick bias against things it is nice to have someone slow me down. I now have more respect for Texas knowing wonderful students and their parents who live there. I now have more respect for athletes now that I work with STUDENT-athletes (Division III). So keep at it - I may come around to a Nader moment.

  3. Thank you Sasha.

    My heart has been broken by the defeat of Ralph Nader...the defeat of our country.

  4. His book about the Corvair was proven wrong by 1972 and it caused the loss of jobs,money and a lot of people that would have bought a compact high gas mileage car didn't because of it.As far as I know he has never apologized for it.

  5. While you and probably disagree on many issues, I admire your strong principles. So many people are slaves too there party. This post made me think of the two votes I most regret: Bill Clinton in 1996 and George W. Bush in 2000. Though I gave a half-hearted, reluctant vote too John Kerry in 2004, I refused too support either Obama or McCain in 2008 and I don't regret it.


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