Greenbacks

Despite Tina Fey's warning ("stay home nerd") it appears the Bush/Nader ticket will be running again in 2004. Sigh.

What to do except for to re-post excerpts from this Mother Jones interview with Tony Kushner:

I have said this before, and I'll say it again: Anyone that the Democrats run against Bush, even the appalling Joe Lieberman, should be a candidate around whom every progressive person in the United States who cares about the country's future and the future of the world rallies. Money should be thrown at that candidate. And if Ralph Nader runs — if the Green Party makes the terrible mistake of running a presidential candidate — don't give him your vote. Listen, here's the thing about politics: It's not an expression of your moral purity and your ethics and your probity and your fond dreams of some utopian future. Progressive people constantly fail to get this. …

The system isn't about ideals. The country doesn't elect great leaders. It elects fucked-up people who for reasons of ego want to run the world. Then the citizenry makes them become great. FDR was a plutocrat. In a certain sense he wasn't so different from George W. Bush, and he could have easily been Herbert Hoover, Part II. But he was a smart man, and the working class of America told him that he had to be the person who saved this country. It happened with Lyndon Johnson, too, and it could have happened with Bill Clinton, but we were so relieved after 12 years of Reagan and Bush that we sat back and carped. …

I think what one has to do is to ask oneself, "Do you want to have agency in your own time?" If you really believe that it's your place to leave the world a better place than it was when you arrived, then how do you get the power? In this country, the most powerful country on earth, you get it by voting the right people into power. There are means of getting the power out of the hands of the very rich and the very wicked. It still flabbergasts me that people didn't see this during the last presidential election. … It's absolutely jaw-dropping that Democrats saw that and decided instead that they wanted to send a message to their own party that they weren't happy with it for some relatively minor offense. Why didn't we turn out in vast numbers for Gore? Why did we vote for Ralph Nader or not at all?

  • Alan S

    Hear, Hear! It should be obvious, if you want to improve the world, you’ve got to pry the right wing’s grip off the levers of power. Voting isn’t about sending messages!

  • Nell Lancaster

    I came here looking for relief from Nader angst, but am disappointed to find more of the same (actually, worse, since it’s second-hand and contains more 2000 flagellation than most.)
    Deafening silence on the topic would be far more effective.

  • zjo

    NB, folks: Nader isn’t running under the Green Party banner this year.

  • Chris Borthwick

    I’m just reading Charles James Fox’s History of the Early Years of the Reign of James II, and I thought you might appreciate this, about the arguments that wrecked Argyle’s uprising against James;
    “Add to all this [Argyle’s problems] that where spirit was not wanting [among Argyle’s supporters], it was accompanied with a degree and species of perversity wholly inexplicable, and which can hardly gain belief from any one whose experience has not made him acquainted with the extreme difficulty of persuading men who pride themselves upon an extravagant love of liberty, rather to compromise upon some points with those who have in the main the same views with themselves, than to give power (a power which will infallibly be used for their own destruction) to an adversary of principles diametrically opposite; in other words, rather to concede something to a friend, than everything to an enemy.”

  • selise

    “I think what one has to do is to ask oneself, “Do you want to have agency in your own time?” If you really believe that it’s your place to leave the world a better place than it was when you arrived, then how do you get the power? In this country, the most powerful country on earth, you get it by voting the right people into power. ”
    this is just not supported by the historical evidence. how did women get something closer to equal rights? how did african-americans get something closer to equal rights? how did working people get occupational health and safety regulations? the 40 hour work week? how did we get the end of child labor? environmental protections?
    we face three potentially deadly (on the scale of millions, possibily billions): global warming/climate change, peak oil production, and the accompanying resource wars.
    in my opinion we need a population of educated activist citizens demanding our leaders get on the right side of these issues – far more than we need to vote for the “right” person.
    if someone thinks voting for nader helps educate the population that doesn’t make them an idiot or someone who doesn’t care about the future. it makes them someone working on a different strategy towards the same goals. well, unless your goals are motivated more by hate of the repubs and less by your love the world and your country.
    as i’ve said elsewhere – i didn’t vote for nader in 2000, and don’t plan to vote for him in 2004…. but the anti-nader hysteria of *some* dems only makes them sound like repubs ranting about clinton. not attractive intellectually or morally.

  • JBWoodford

    There are two major things that trouble me most about Nader’s approach and message. First, when he says that there are no differences between the two major parties the implicit message is that none of the obvious distinctions (pro-life vs. pro-choice, to pick one) matter to him. He is very much a single-issue candidate, viewing everything through the lens of corporatism and discarding what doesn’t fit as unimportant. I submit that if he were really interested in winning the votes of progressives and left-liberals he wouldn’t be dismissing their concerns about gay rights, abortion rights, etc. out of hand. Which leads to my second point (which I heard from a DJ this morning, so I can’t take credit for it).
    If he really wanted to get his message out, the time to start would have been right after the 2000 election. That’s when–if he were interested in winning the next election, or exercising any sort of influence over what choices his constituency made–he should have been out building coalitions, getting his message heard, defending his role in the 2000 elections, and generally doing the messy hands-on work of politics. As far as I could tell (and I read a fair number of lefty blogs) he didn’t do any of that. From this I conclude that he’s 1) not interested in winning, and 2) not willing to do politics. And if he isn’t doing either of those things, why is he running?

  • selise

    JBWoodford,
    “As far as I could tell (and I read a fair number of lefty blogs) he didn’t do any of that.”
    please don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because the media (SCLM or “lefty” blogs) hasn’t covered something it hasn’t happened.
    nader has been going around the country organizing and educating. for examples see the http://www.democracyrising.org website.
    in the last three years he’s done far more work to educate americans and support democracy and human rights for americans than kerry has.
    look – i’m not even a nader partisan (haven’t voted for him and don’t intend to) … but the level of ignorance and acusations leveled at him (and his supporters) by dems is only equal to the repubs and clinton. get a grip folks.

  • selise

    “when he says that there are no differences between the two major parties the implicit message is that none of the obvious distinctions (pro-life vs. pro-choice, to pick one) matter to him.”
    of course there are obvious distinctions… but there is also the matter of priorities. if you, like me, think the biggest three issues are climate, oil, and war (see above comment at 8:26am), and you think that a participatory democracy is the way to address the issues, then the differences between most dems and most repubs is not so dramatic.
    or if your main issue is that lost your job due to nafta, or if you have ever depended on welfare, or if its media consolidation…
    my point is that with different perspectives comes different priority… even if we can mostly agree on the issues, there are wide differences in priorities. to claim your priorities matter but not the priorities of someone who lost their job because of nafta is just plain elitism.
    i’ll hold my nose and vote for kerry (and i live in MA!), but i won’t condemn or even argue with someone who votes for nader. because we we have the same goals, just different strategies.
    ( but, someone who votes for bush – they are fair game. ;-0 )

  • none

    I love the Kushner interview. I, too, like to think of myself as a “radical pragmatist”, so his words resonant.
    However, I sort of agree with selise (sort of–there’s a “but” coming later…) in that political action is an ecosystem, not a monoculture. Both the idealists and the pragmatists play important roles, goading each other, testing each other’s assumptions and methods, and ultimately combining raw energy with the control needed for viable social transformation. Effective movements “know” how to use both. That’s what the right has done since Goldwater.
    And that’s where the “but” comes in: the concept of “Nader-as-gadfly” is fine as far as it goes, but he’s not just a concept. What he’s doing is absolutely not helpful to the development of a new progressive movement. The only counter to this would be if he’s being very very foxy, in order to cause a hullabaloo and get a lot of attention–we can’t at this time completely rule out that possibility, I suppose. However, it should be as clear as day to all of us that, compared to what Dean is doing, Nader’s actions are indeed verging on the narcissistic.
    If the point is to blow things up, Nader’s your man (though I don’t think he will succeed). If the point is to exaggerate to such a degree that you can no longer see the difference between a centrist functioning in a corrupt system and a outright corrupt rightist, by all means, vote Nader. But if the goal is to exert progressive influence on the Democratic party and build a movement that helps real people, I’ll bet on Dean’s yet-to-be-born pressure group and MoveOn.

  • mondo dentro

    Oops. That last post was mine.

  • JBWoodford

    Re Nader’s efforts over the past couple of years, I stand corrected (and thanks to selise for the link). I knew it would’ve been a mistake to assume that since the SCLM hadn’t covered him he wasn’t doing anything, but I would have thought that more of his activities would’ve been mentioned in the comments sections of places like this, Eschaton, etc. Particularly when the Nader-bashing got intense.
    That said, I still don’t think Nader is any good at coalition building and horse-trading–the nuts and bolts of political compromise. During the 2000 campaign I heard a couple of serious feminists decrying Nader for his comments on gay rights and women’s reproductive rights (IIRC he dismissed defense of these rights as “gonadal politics,” and this did not sit well with them). It’s one thing (and, I might add, a very reasonable thing) to have different priorities. It is quite another to turn off people who might otherwise support you by dismissing their concerns as being of no consequence, and that lack of political sense is why I am concerned about what Nader is trying to achieve.
    He has it in his grasp to be a Leo Strauss for a new generation of progressives, and it looks like that’s what he’s been trying to do for the last few years. (We could call his followers neo-conservationists, if you like.) But by running for the presidency, I believe he risks changing the focus from the message to the man, to the detriment of both.

  • Donald Johnson

    I don’t think Nader has very good political judgment, but that’s coming from someone who isn’t sure anyone has very good political judgment.
    I’m voting Democrat this year, but what bugs me about the anti-Nader stuff is the sheer level of fanatical hatred, combined with a claim that the hatred is motivated by political pragmatism.
    Also, though I wish Gore had been allowed to win, I suspect if he had the rightward drift of the Democrats would have continued or even accelerated. Gore, after all, picked Lieberman as his running mate and he seemed to fall over himself trying to agree with Bush in one of the debates. The DLC and the media and the Democratic establishment types would have taken a clear Gore/Lieberman victory as a sign that votes should be sought in the center and the lefties have no place to go. I get the impression that blacks already get this kind of treatment from the Democrats and according to a NYT Sunday Magazine article a few weeks ago, some may be losing interest in voting as a result. Blame that on Nader–I don’t think so. In the long run, the problem for the US has been that the Democrats have been following the Republicans in moving the country to the right and it was Nader that was screaming about this in 2000. Yes, there are differences, but mainly in the velocity of the rightward movement.
    I don’t think Nader’s candidacy is the answer and I wish he weren’t running, but it’s not this great clearcut moral issue for me that it seems to be for the fanatical pragmatists.

  • Steve

    I’ve been waiting to see one of these headlines somewhere in print:
    “Ralph hits Nadir of Political Career”
    “Nader Ralphs on Presidential Campaign”


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