Winning with Ralph Nader



Listening to Democrats screaming about Ralph Nader’s entry into the presidential race we finally understand the mindset of those Communist dictatorships that used to take such trouble to ensure that the final count showed a 99 percent Yes vote for the CP candidate. It’s a totalitarian logic. “Anybody But Bush” chorus the Democrats. But they don’t mean that. They mean, “Nobody But Kerry”. And if John Edward wins big in the primaries next week, they’ll start shouting “Nobody But Edwards”.

What they’re saying is that no one has the right to challenge Bush but a Democrat, whoever that Democrat might be, no matter what that Democrat stands for. As CounterPuncher Fred Feldman recently sarcastically parodied this totalitarian logic: ” Democracy is when everybody but the good candidate pulls out of the race, and indeed the only way to save democracy is for all candidates except Kerry to withdraw. That should include Bush too, of course. If there is more than one candidate, the horror of 2000 may be repeated! More than one candidate means vote-stealing, reactionary advertising campaigns, the possibility of Republican and Green and socialist candidates, and unpredictable outcomes. The good candidate may not win.”

The stream of abuse at Nader, a man who has toiled unceasingly for the public good for half a century has been childishly vulgar and vitriolic. Nader is a “faded chanteuse in a dingy nightclub,” wrote Robert Scheer venerable liberal pundit for the Los Angeles Times. He should know. If Nader had an ounce of principle, railed Bruce Jackson, distinguished professor of culture at the University of Buffalo here on the CounterPunch site, he’d “go sit on the capitol steps, douse himself with gasoline and exit this world of imperfect humanity in a blaze of protesting glory. He could even wear a monkish robe.”

What has Nader done since 2000, asked Scheer scornfully, albeit stupidly. As Jim Ridgeway points out in the Village Voice, It’s been Nader and his groups, not the Democrats, who’ve spearheaded universal health care ever since Hillary Clinton botched the chance for health reform in the early 90s. It’s been Nader and his troops who’ve kept the searchlight on corporate crime, who raised the hue and cry on Enron, when Democrats were smoothing the counterpane for Lay in the Lincoln Bedroom.

From the point of view of democracy, the American political system is a shambles of corruption, gerrymandered to ensure that it is almost impossible to evict any sitting member of the House of Representatives. The presidential debates are fixed to exclude unwelcome intruders. Nader says that in the whole of his 2000 challenge he got about 3 minutes face-time on the major networks.

You can understand why the two major parties don’t want any outsider spoiling the fun. They arranged things that way, as Nader understands, and explains better than anyone.

“I think the mistake the Democrats are making” said Nader at the National Press Club on Monday ” when they use the mantra ‘anybody but Bush’ is, first of all, it closes their mind to any alternative strategies or any creative thinking, which is not good for a political party. And second, it gives their ultimate nominee no mandate, no constituency, no policies, if the ultimate nominee goes into the White House.

“And then they’ll be back to us. I guarantee you the
Democrats, the liberal groups, the liberal intelligentsia, the civic groups that are now whining and complaining, even though they know they’re being shut out increasingly, year after year, from trying to improve their country when they go to work every day. And they’ll be saying, ‘Oh, you can’t believe — we were betrayed. The Democrats are succumbing to the corporate interests in the environment, consumer protection.’

“How many cycles do we have to go through here? How long is the learning curve before we recognize that political parties are the problem? They’re the problem! They’re the ones who have turned our government over to the corporations, so they can say no to universal health insurance and no to a living wage and no to environmental sanity and no to renewable energy and no to a whole range of issues that corporations were never allowed to say no to
30, 40, 50 years ago. Things really have changed.”

Nader’s seen it happen time and again. Bold promises from a Democratic candidate, followed by ignominious collapse. And each time the promises are vaguer, more timid. Each time the whole system tilts further in the direction of corporate power. Nader is saying that the Democrats are so hopelessly compromised that they don’t know how to energize people to get them into the polling booths to vote against Bush. So he’s going to lend a hand. Nader can be the candidate denouncing the war that Bush started and Kerry voted for. Nader can denounce the corporate slush that’s given Bush his hundred million dollar war chest and Kerry his $30 million in corporate swag over three senate terms.

With NBK as their war cry (“Nobody But Kerry”) we doubt the Democrats have much of a shot at the White House. Already George Bush has winged Mr Facing-Both-Ways pretty good. Kerry looks like a beaten man to us. If we were advising John Edwards we’d push for a joint press conference with Nader, welcome him into the race, hail him as a man who knows what’s wrong with America and how to mend it. That would make for an exciting political year, and a pretty good chance of ousting George Bush.

ALEXANDER COCKBURN and Jeffrey St. Clair’s new book, Imperial Crusades: Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia, will be published by Verso in May. St. Clair’s new book, Been Brown So Long It Looked Like Green to Me: the Politics of Nature, is now available from Common Courage Press.


Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch. Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His new book is Killing Trayvons: an Anthology of American Violence (with JoAnn Wypijewski and Kevin Alexander Gray). He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net.

November 30, 2015
Henry Giroux
Trump’s Embrace of Totalitarianism is America’s Dirty Little Secret
Omur Sahin Keyif
An Assassination in Turkey: the Killing of Tahir Elci
Robert Fisk
70,000 Kalashnikovs: Cameron’s “Moderate” Rebels
Jamie Davidson
Distortion, Revisionism & the Liberal Media
Norman Pollack
Israel and ISIS: Needed, a Thorough Accounting
Robert Hunziker
The Looming Transnational Battlefield
Ahmed Gaya
Breaking the Climate Mold: Fighting for the Planet and Justice
Matt Peppe
Alan Gross’s Improbable Tales on 60 Minutes
Colin Todhunter
India – Procession of the Dead: Shopping Malls and Shit
Roger Annis
Canada’s New Climate-Denying National Government
Binoy Kampmark
Straining the Republic: France’s State of Emergency
Jack Rasmus
Japan’s 5th Recession in 7 Years
Charles R. Larson
Twofers for Carly Fiorina
John Dear
An Eye for an Eye Makes the Whole World Blind
Weekend Edition
November 27-29, 2015
Andrew Levine
The Real Trouble With Bernie
Gary Leupp
Ben Carson, Joseph in Egypt, and the Attack on Rational Thought
John Whitbeck
Who’s Afraid of ISIS?
Michael Brenner
Europe’s Crisis: Terror, Refugees and Impotence
Ramzy Baroud
Forget ISIS: Humanity is at Stake
Pepe Escobar
Will Chess, Not Battleship, Be the Game of the Future in Eurasia?
Vijay Prashad
Showdown on the Syrian Border
Dave Lindorff
Gen. John Campbell, Commander in Afghanistan and Serial Liar
Colin Todhunter
Class, War and David Cameron
Jean Bricmont
The Ideology of Humanitarian Imperialism
Dan Glazebrook
Deadliest Terror in the World: the West’s Latest Gift to Africa
Mark Hand
Escape From New York: the Emancipation of Activist Cecily McMillan
Karl Grossman
Our Solar Bonanza!
Mats Svensson
Madness in Hebron: Hashem Had No Enemies, Yet Hashem Was Hated
Walter Brasch
Terrorism on American Soil
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Bears, Dreaming and the Frontier of Wonder
Michael Welton
Yahweh is Not Exactly Politically Correct
Joseph Natoli
A Politics of Stupid and How to Leave It Behind
John Cox
You Should Fear Racism and Xenophobia, Not Syrian Refugees or Muslims
Barrie Gilbert
Sacrificing the Grizzlies of Katmai Park: the Plan to Turn Brooks Camp Into a Theme
Rev. William Alberts
The Church of “Something Else” in “an Ecclesiastical Desert”
Andrew Gavin Marshall
Bank Crimes Pay
Elliot Murphy
Cameron’s Syrian Strategy
Thomas S. Harrington
Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe and the Death of Ezra Schwartz
Gareth Porter
How Terror in Paris Calls for Revising US Syria Policy
Michael Perino
The Arc of Instability
Yves Engler
Justin Trudeau and Canada’s Mining Industry
Tom H. Hastings
ISIS and Changing the Game
Lars Jørgensen
Vive la Résistance
John Halle
A Yale Education as a Tool of Power and Privilege
Norman Pollack
Syrian “Civil War”?: No, A Proxy War of Global Confrontation