Sunday, February 24, 2008

Ralph Nader for President! (or at least Vice-President)


Great news from across the Pond: the anti-globalist and anti-war activist Ralph Nader has announced that he is to stand for President. Many progressives will be crestfallen at this news, believing that Nader will take votes away from Barack Obama, in the same way they believe that Nader's candidacy in 2000 prevented Al Gore from getting to the White House. Their analysis, is in my view, flawed. Gore lost progressive votes in 2000 primarily because he chose the fanatically pro-war hawk Joe Lieberman as his running mate. And if Obama doesn't want to lose progressive votes to Nader, then he has to do two things. One: shift his ground to an unequivocally progressive position- ie cutting the military budget, bringing US troops back from Iraq AND Afghanistan and making it quite clear that neocons and liberal interventionist hawks should have no input whatsoever in foreign policy decisions. Two: announce that if he wins the Democrat nomination, his running mate will be a true anti-war progressive. Preferably called Ralph Nader.

Nader's candidacy will help pressurise both Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama to take more progressive positions on globalisation, the war and US militarism.

Which can only be a good thing.

16 comments:

yaman said...

In general I agree with you except for one thing: it's possible that Americans might not vote for a candidate that progressive. The American public in general is not as progressive as it should be.

I do agree in general, however, that it's important for an election win to mean something, and in that sense, it's difficult to accept candidates who abandon progressive values and issues because they want to be more electable.

Douglas said...

Ralph Nader doesn't pressure anyone in America to do anything anymore, except laugh with a piteous smirk.

In his own small way, he may (and I do mean MAY) have had a small (and I do mean SMALL) part in helping George W. Bush get elected in 2000.

Third party candidates did poorly in the 2004 election. But who knows, maybe they will do better in this season of shifting loyalties, and the declining power of incumbency.

rosignol said...

rosignol has left a new comment on your post "Go, Ralph, go!":

But a Nader candicacy will pressurise the Democrat candidates to move leftwards- and adopt a much more strident anti-war stance.

Not even close.

What will happen is that the anti-war vote will be split between Ralph and whoever the Democrats nominate, leaving the pro-war Republicans and hawkish independents to support McCain.

I am astonished that someone who apparently makes a living by reporting on politics could make such a basic error.

Neil Clark said...

Neil Clark has left a new comment on your post "Go, Ralph, go!":

I don't agree. Nader will help shift the debate leftwards. Obama can avoid the progressive vote being split by 'stealing Nader's clothes', so to speak. Or by simply asking Nader to be his running mate. Gore failed in 2000 because in the end he failed to come out unequivocally as as progressive- opting for a fanatically pro-war hawk like Lieberman. John Kerry failed for similar reasons- working class voters stayed at home-because they didn't feel that, on the most important issues Kerry was radically different from Bush. If Nader does split the vote, the fault won't be his, but the Democrats for not coming out more decisively against the war and not adopting a more progressive domestic programme.
Nader hasn't taken the decision to stand lightly- he's only taken it because he feels no candidate is taking a truly progressive anti-globalist, anti-war position.
The ball is very firmly in the Democrats court.







Neil Clark has left a new comment on your post "Go, Ralph, go!":

I don't agree. Nader will help shift the debate leftwards. Obama can avoid the progressive vote being split by 'stealing Nader's clothes', so to speak. Or by simply asking Nader to be his running mate. Gore failed in 2000 because in the end he failed to come out unequivocally as as progressive- opting for a fanatically pro-war hawk like Lieberman. John Kerry failed for similar reasons- working class voters stayed at home-because they didn't feel that, on the most important issues Kerry was radically different from Bush. If Nader does split the vote, the fault won't be his, but the Democrats for not coming out more decisively against the war and not adopting a more progressive domestic programme.
Nader hasn't taken the decision to stand lightly- he's only taken it because he feels no candidate is taking a truly progressive anti-globalist, anti-war position.
The ball is very firmly in the Democrats court.


Neil Clark has left a new comment on your post "Go, Ralph, go!":

I don't agree. Nader will help shift the debate leftwards. Obama can avoid the progressive vote being split by 'stealing Nader's clothes', so to speak. Or by simply asking Nader to be his running mate. Gore failed in 2000 because in the end he failed to come out unequivocally as as progressive- opting for a fanatically pro-war hawk like Lieberman. John Kerry failed for similar reasons- working class voters stayed at home-because they didn't feel that, on the most important issues Kerry was radically different from Bush. If Nader does split the vote, the fault won't be his, but the Democrats for not coming out more decisively against the war and not adopting a more progressive domestic programme.
Nader hasn't taken the decision to stand lightly- he's only taken it because he feels no candidate is taking a truly progressive anti-globalist, anti-war position.
The ball is very firmly in the Democrats court.







Neil Clark has left a new comment on your post "Go, Ralph, go!":

I don't agree. Nader will help shift the debate leftwards. Obama can avoid the progressive vote being split by 'stealing Nader's clothes', so to speak. Or by simply asking Nader to be his running mate. Gore failed in 2000 because in the end he failed to come out unequivocally as as progressive- opting for a fanatically pro-war hawk like Lieberman. John Kerry failed for similar reasons- working class voters stayed at home-because they didn't feel that, on the most important issues Kerry was radically different from Bush. If Nader does split the vote, the fault won't be his, but the Democrats for not coming out more decisively against the war and not adopting a more progressive domestic programme.
Nader hasn't taken the decision to stand lightly- he's only taken it because he feels no candidate is taking a truly progressive anti-globalist, anti-war position.
The ball is very firmly in the Democrats court.


Neil Clark has left a new comment on your post "Go, Ralph, go!":

I don't agree. Nader will help shift the debate leftwards. Obama can avoid the progressive vote being split by 'stealing Nader's clothes', so to speak. Or by simply asking Nader to be his running mate. Gore failed in 2000 because in the end he failed to come out unequivocally as as progressive- opting for a fanatically pro-war hawk like Lieberman. John Kerry failed for similar reasons- working class voters stayed at home-because they didn't feel that, on the most important issues Kerry was radically different from Bush. If Nader does split the vote, the fault won't be his, but the Democrats for not coming out more decisively against the war and not adopting a more progressive domestic programme.
Nader hasn't taken the decision to stand lightly- he's only taken it because he feels no candidate is taking a truly progressive anti-globalist, anti-war position.
The ball is very firmly in the Democrats court.

rosignol said...

rosignol has left a new comment on your post "Go, Ralph, go!":

I don't agree. Nader will help shift the debate leftwards.

Nader is far enough out of the American political mainstream that any effect he has on the debate will be miniscule. What he is going to do is siphon a few anti-war voters away from Obama. The interesting thing is that Obama and Clinton are polling so closely that this may tip the Democratic nomination.

Obama can avoid the progressive vote being split by 'stealing Nader's clothes', so to speak.

Obama won't gain any votes by doing that. In American elections, candidates generally run away from the center during the Primaries to gain the support of the hard core party activists, and then move towards the center during the general, to attract the votes of independents and moderate members of the other party.

Or by simply asking Nader to be his running mate.

That is politically impossible. Many, many Democrats in the US still blame Nader for tipping Florida to Bush in 2000. They will never forgive him for this. Nader might as well be radioactive, nobody on the left benefits from standing next to him.

Gore failed in 2000 because in the end he failed to come out unequivocally as as progressive- opting for a fanatically pro-war hawk like Lieberman.

Gore failed because he's a fool who ran as a "I'm going to change the intolerable status quo" populist during an economic boom. If he'd run a "Keep the good times going" campaign, W. Bush would still be the Governor of Texas. That error is entirely the fault of Al Gore.

Lieberman was an attempt to distance a Gore administration from the scandals of the Clinton Administration- Lieberman was one of the biggest critics of Clinton who was not a Republican.

John Kerry failed for similar reasons- working class voters stayed at home-because they didn't feel that, on the most important issues Kerry was radically different from Bush.

Kerry failed because he's an empty suit. Bush is a mediocre candidate, ran a mediocre campaign, and is responsible for an unpopular war... and Kerry still lost. A candidate who had his $hit even slightly together would have won.

If Nader does split the vote, the fault won't be his, but the Democrats for not coming out more decisively against the war and not adopting a more progressive domestic programme.

Before Nader jumped in, all of the anti-war voters were going to be going to the Democratic nominee (or stay home)- the only competition for those votes was within the party. So the Democrats didn't come out more decisively against the war because there was no need to do so- if anything, being more anti-war would make it more difficult to attract the independent votes you need to win an election in the US.

Nader hasn't taken the decision to stand lightly- he's only taken it because he feels no candidate is taking a truly progressive anti-globalist, anti-war position.

I suspect Nader thinks that the great political re-alignment he hopes for won't happen until things get much worse than they are, and that he is trying to bring it about.

Alon Gotesman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Neil Clark said...

alon:
how do you define 'far left'? Nader's policies are about putting the majority of Americans first. Not the minority. Is that extreme or 'far left'. To me, it's eminently sensible and democratic. And moderate. We musn't allow terms like 'moderate' to be hijacked- what's moderate about launching illegal wars that kill hundreds and thousands of people and cost the taxpayer billions of dollars? What's moderate about depriving ordinary people of a comprehensive healthcare system? What's moderate about putting the minority, before the majority?

Re: Gore in 2000- again, how many votes do you think he lost by running with Lieberman? That's enough to put any progressive off.

David Lindsay said...

Ralph, don't run.

Well, not unless the Democrats nominate Hillary Clinton after all.

Then people who could not bring themselves to vote for the actually preferable John McCain could vote for Nader and still keep out Bush's nearest thing to a continuity candidate, who threatens a full-blown return to the Administration that gave America and the world NAFTA, GATT, the bombing of Yugoslavia to smithereens, the adventures in Somalia and elsewhere, and the spectacular failure to deliver universal healthcare.

But Obama is still better than McCain. So if the Democrats nominate Obama, then, please, Ralph, don't run.

slapheads anonymous said...

Since I rarely have any idea what Neil means when he uses the word "neocon" (other than "someone I disagree with and therefore have the urge to insult"), perhaps he could define the term "progressive" as well?

From Neil's posts, I'm getting the impression that "progress" means "turning the clock back to the 1970s". But is this true of his attitude towards US politics as well?

Neil Clark said...

"Since I rarely have any idea what Neil means when he uses the word "neocon" (other than "someone I disagree with and therefore have the urge to insult"),

Come on, slapheads, you know that's not true. I always talk of neocon and their liberal hawk allies. There's lot of people who I disagree with and who I don't label 'neocons'.

re your other point; it's a paradox but in many countries being a progressive does mean turning the clock-back- to the days before the neoliberal, big business counterrevolution.

The early to mid-70s, were in many ways, the zenith of progressive politics in the world, as I argued here:
http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/neil_clark/2007/03/1973_life_on_a_leftwing_planet.html

but while in Britain being progressive means turning the clock back to before 1979, in the US it doesn't quite mean the same, as the US for instance, never had comprehensive health care or large scale public ownership. So in the US context being progressive means something rather different- moving to a time when the very idea of Pax Americana is consigned to the dustbin, US troops are bought home, the US abides by international law, and -last but certainly not least- a comprehensive national health service is introduced.
Hope that answers your questions.

jolies-couleurs said...

Ralph Nader is running, as I understand it, because he rightly objects to a political system that is essentially biased towards two political parties whose differences are less than their similarities; and, who tend to serve (and balance) the needs of interest groups rather than seek to represent the citizens of the US as such. The more pragmatically inclined (and progressive) may despair at this because it may impact the ability to elect the least worst Democratic option but I rather admire it: a principled stand for a more diverse politics that may (in the long run) help save America from itself.

neil craig said...

So long as Hilary is out of it I'm not sure we "have a dog in this fight".

Roland Hulme said...

If he makes Obama lose, I'm driving down to Washington DC and kicking his arse.

Andrew K said...

Now remind me Neil. Which war would Joe Liebermann have been fanatically pro in the year 2000?

Neil Clark said...

Lieberman is pro just about any potential war that is mentioned. He was an uber hawk on the bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, see my post about this from last year, and has followed that up with strong support for the Afghanistan and Iraq wars- and he's a leading hawk on Iran too. Has there ever been a war he didn't want the US to get involved in?

Anonymous said...

I was researching for a new bank hoping to find one that would best weather the current financial crisis and stumbled upon a 1998 prediction by Ralph Nader that Financial Institutions would need a bailout by the govt. I am not a Nader supporter but gotta admit he hit it on the nail. Check it out.
MARRYING MONEY
April 13, 1998
The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer Transcript
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/business/jan-june98/mergers_4-13.html