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Monkey Wrench or Cattle Prod? Nader's Latest Run

Nader’s Latest Run

by STEPHEN FLEISCHMAN

"Here we go again," murmured the old guard Democrats when Ralph Nader officially announced his candidacy for president in 2008, on Tim Russert’s "Meet the Press" show, Sunday, Feb.24th.

"Nader–the spoiler," they called him since the 2000 election when Al Gore lost the presidency to George W. Bush. "It’s all Nader’s fault!" they cried. Nader was a good scapegoat, a good person to blame, so they wouldn’t have to examine their own souls.

Yes, George W. Bush was named President. He won Florida by 537 votes. Ralph Nader got 97,488 votes in Florida. It’s simple. If Nader hadn’t run, Gore would have won!

Hold on! It’s not as simple as that!

George W. Bush got just a little help from his friends. His brother Jeb Bush, who happened to be Governor of the State at the time, Katherine Harris, Secretary of State of Florida, in charge of election procedures, election officials in Fort Lauderdale who produced ballots that apparently were designed by Rube Goldberg and left hanging chads.

The US Commission on Civil Rights conducted an extensive investigation of irregularities during the 2000 presidential election in Florida, published in The Washington Post on June 5, 2001, said: "the most dramatic undercount in this election was the nonexistent ballots of the countless unknown eligible voters, who were wrongfully purged from the voter registration rolls, turned away from the polls, and by various other means prevented from exercising the franchise."

The Report went on to say: "The disenfranchisement of Florida’s voters fell most harshly on the shoulders of African-Americans. Statewide, based upon county-level statistical estimates, African-American voters were nearly ten times more likely than white voters to have their ballots rejected in Florida."

The Commission pointed the finger at where the blame belonged: "the governor and the secretary of state, in particular, chose to simply ignore the mounting evidence that many counties were experiencing rising voter registration rates in communities with out-dated voting technology. Furthermore, they ignored the pleas of some supervisors of elections for guidance and help."

Then there was the US Supreme Court that stopped the re-counts and gave the Presidency to George W. Bush.

So, you must admit George W. Bush got just a little help from his friends. Everybody knows, today–it’s the conventional wisdom–that George W. Bush stole that election.

But, as far as the old guard Democrats are concerned, their lost election is all Nader’s fault. They blame him for the disastrous last seven years of the Bush Administration. They blame him for the Iraq war. (If Al Gore had been elected, it never would have happened) They blame Nader for Bush’s failed economic policy, tax cuts for the rich and everything else bad that the Bush administration has done.

The two Democratic candidates talk endlessly about Universal Health Care but neither of them mentions those two little words, "single payer", the only way it can ever happen. Both are afraid of bucking the mammoth health insurance industry in this country. Maybe Nader can prod them into fighting a little harder for what they claim they want.

We know Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is on the Armed Services Committee in the Senate and in the pocket of the defense industry, but then Barack Obama talks about increasing the military buildup instead of cutting the bloated military budget that we have. The sheepish Democrats might need a little cattle prod for moving on this issue.

Why is a discussion of corporate crime and corporate welfare off the table in this campaign, when corporatism in on the march.

Benito Mussolini, pre-World War II Italian dictator, defined the term "corporatism" as "fascism", and he should know. He coined the phrase and turned Italy into a fascist country that linked up with the Nazis.

Is that what we want here? Corporatism. We’re certainly moving in that direction, if not already there. Congress is corporate occupied territory. We just don’t want to face it. Maybe Ralph Nader can explain it to people who have closed minds. We dare not listen–because mainstream media has tried to make Nader into some kind of joke.

What about the "monkey wrench" effect? Will Nader be accused of blowing the election for the Democrats, again, in 2008? Lose to John McCain? It would take Houdini to do that. As Nader said to Tim Russert in the "Meet the Press" interview, "If the Democrats can’t landslide the Republicans this year, they ought to just wrap up, close down, emerge in a different form. You think the American people are going to vote for a pro-war John McCain who almost gives an indication that he’s the candidate for perpetual war"

In the interview, Nader cites Solon Simmons, a professor at George Mason University, who made a study of the election shenanigans during the 2000 Florida campaign and argues that by cattle prodding Al Gore to the left with his aggressive, resolutely left-of-center rhetoric, Nader may have actually delivered more votes to the Democrats than he took away.

So much for the "monkey wrench" effect.

STEPHEN FLEISCHMAN, television writer-director-producer, spent thirty years in Network News at CBS and ABC, starting in 1953. In 1959, he participated in the formation of the renowned Murrow-Friendly "CBS Reports" series. In 1983, Fleischman won the prestigious Columbia University-DuPont Television Journalism Award. In 2004, he wrote his memoir. See: http://www.ARedintheHouse.com/, E-mail: stevefl@ca.rr.com