Saturday, February 09, 2008

Could Nader be the Come-Back Kid of 2008?Down But Not Out


As a life-long activist in the labor, peace and social-justice movements,
I've watched with amazement, wonder, and exhilaration as the American
people gave us the most surprising primary races in decades; and that was
just the first month! We have eight months to go and undoubtedly many
surprises yet to come. The race among major party candidates has provided
more highs and lows than a calliope on rocket fuel. However, we've already
entered a new phase of the election cycle: the Republicans are putting
aside their differences in order to unify around a strongly pro-war
position. The Democrats have coalesced on a neck-and-neck race between two
"triangulating" Iraq war funders whose differences are more about race,
gender and style than substance. And the progressive left has, as usual,
fallen into lockstep behind one or another corporate-owned Democrat like
some enabling abused spouse. Honest progressives will admit that neither
Sen. Hillary Clinton nor Sen. Barack Obama offer us - at this point - a
seriously better chance of ending the war on Iraq and turning our
attention - and tax dollars - toward desperate domestic needs than Sen.
John McCain does.

Sen. Obama on his official campaign website says he will "immediately
begin to remove our troops from Iraq. He will remove one to two combat
brigades each month, and have all of our combat brigades out of Iraq
within 16 months." The last I heard, removing "combat brigades" could
leave as many as 80,000 American troops in Iraq, not to mention the
thousands of American mercenaries from companies like CACI, Titan and
Blackwater, and a flood of American commercial vultures who have been just
as destructive to that war-torn country as the troops and mercenaries have

Sen. Clinton's deceitful plan to continue the war and keep U.S. forces in
Iraq in perpetuity is not any better than Obama's. Neither Sens. Clinton
nor Obama have agreed even to pledge to get the U.S. military out of Iraq
by the end of their first term in 2013! And history is brutally clear on
one important point: while Democrats in the last century have often
promised to studiously avoid war while campaigning for president, they
have never followed through once in office. President Lyndon B. Johnson,
for a typical example, campaigned by casting Barry Goldwater as the guy
who would turn Vietnam into an all-out war zone, but it was Johnson
himself who did that as president. And this "talk peace, wage war"
strategy goes way back with the Democratic presidential candidates:
Woodrow Wilson in his 1916 campaign for re-election stumped on the
slogans, "he kept us out of war," and "peace with honor." Yet by April
1917, the United States had entered the war that even Wilson himself later
admitted was a fight between international commercial interests over who
was to control lucrative international markets.

Are the Democratic Party leaders of today any different; any better; any
more courageous and committed to creating a world without war, even if
corporate profits suffer as a result? Most Americans know at some gut
level that for Democratic Party politicians commercial concerns always
trump moral concerns or the concerns of the hard-working people. We've
seen it far too often to deny it, even when we wish it were not so. Both
Sens. Clinton and Obama are following a campaign model in regard to the
War on Iraq that is most reminiscent of President Richard M. Nixon when in
his 1968 campaign he promised to get us out of the Vietnam War in 6
months. That was even quicker than Obama's 18 month promise. But after
Nixon was elected, there were "complications," just as we can expect there
will be "complications" for Sens. Clinton or Obama. When you know in
advance that these "complications" will develop unless we are successful
at building a powerful and large enough anti-war juggernaut, you can
understand why some prefer the brutal honesty of a Sen. John McCain, who
is at least truthful about his intentions.

>From the perspective of the labor, peace and social justice movements, we
are now left with little-to-no maneuvering room within the Democratic
Party, the party progressive movements traditionally have looked to since
the 1930s for allies and alliances. With the withdrawal of Dennis
Kucinich, Bill Richardson and John Edwards, there is little chance that
the pro-people, anti-war position will have any leverage at the Democratic
Party nominating convention, not inside the convention hall in any case.
The demonstrations outside the hall will probably remind us of the 1968
Democratic Convention in Chicago.

Corporate America has already won the election. With Sens. Clinton, Obama
and McCain, their interests are hedged three ways while the rest of us
lose on all counts. The presidential campaign will be at the center of the
public discourse from now till November 4. We are left with only one
reasonable alternative if we hope to force our issues into this year's
national public debate: support the independent peace and justice
candidate with the biggest megaphone, Ralph Nader!

Alone, Nader still has huge name recognition and a large and faithful
following. If he is joined by the larger social movements, and by the
working families so threatened by the acts of a Democratic Congress and
Republican president, he could turn that solid base into a powerful
campaign for the people insuring that the people's concerns are addressed.
At best, that could be turned into a three way race that would for the
first time in a century give the progressive left a much needed face lift,
opening up the prospect of building a mass, independent political force to
the left of the Democrats.

Ask yourself, why do Democratic Party politicians take you for granted?
Why do they count on your votes but ignore your needs? Why do they talk
like they care about you but act like they care a lot more about your
boss? Could it be that you are so utterly dependable to them that they
simply have no need to do any more than pretend to address your interests?
They make you the same promises election year after election year, yet the
rich keep getting richer, the poor, poorer, and the peace, labor, woman's,
minorities', environmental, and other people's agendas keep getting the
short shrift.

Now, I know that among some right-leaning Progressive Democrats, just the
mention of Ralph Nader will elicit fits of rage followed by volleys of
hate speech more violent than even the worst Nazi or KKK invectives. Talk
show host Ed Schultz calls these people "hate merchants," and it's hard to
argue with him.

But in my experience over the last 8 years as a Nader supporter intimately
involved in the labor, peace and social-justice movements, I've found that
for every hate merchant there are dozens of honest progressives who know
full well how important Ralph Nader has been to our movements and what a
great potential he offers as an effective incentive for a Democratic Party
presidential candidate to be more accommodating and attentive than they
have been in the past.

Among the honest majority, all acknowledge that Ralph Nader has been the
single most effective and important social reformer in the last half
century. In nations across the world when reformers look for models, they
look to Ralph Nader, who is almost as well known abroad as here in
America. Honesty compels us to admit that we have no greater asset to run
as a center-left counterbalance to the corporate-dominated Democratic and
Republican candidates, even now, after a concerted and well financed,
8-year corporate-Democrat smear campaign against him. I know of no other
person in American history who, after doing so much for our people, has
withstood such a sustained campaign of malicious character assassination.

But a single viewing of the documentary, "An Unreasonable Man," reminds us
that Nader is a political pugilist who's been through the worst corporate
America and its two parties can throw at him, and he's still standing!
What's even more amazing, he's still ready and willing to serve our cause,
to serve the American people, as he has been unfailingly for more than 40
years. Americans who have been fooled by the triangulators usually fail to
understand that when you stand up to the warmongers and corporate
criminals, you will always elicit a violent reaction. A test of political
maturity and determination so crucial to our success is how well we are
able to inoculate ourselves from the slings and arrows of these political
opponents. Is it any wonder that the people who most fervently support the
Democratic Party war funders are also the most likely to turn to hate
speech against our most effective social reformer?

I expect the hate merchants to throw their best punches at Nader and
anyone else who dares to suggest the emperor has no clothes. That's no
surprise. What's been more surprising in the last 8 years is the number of
otherwise honest progressives who have chosen to avoid objecting to the
Democratic Party's ad hominem crusade against America's preeminent civic
reformer. The damage they have inflicted on Nader's reputation harms us
all. Their every success is a blow to the entire effort for political
reform, peace and prosperity. In warfare an enemy strikes at your
leadership, and wise armies protect their generals knowing as much.

But it's not too late. We have the ability to turn this situation around
if we choose to, and by turning it around for Ralph Nader, I believe we
can redeem our own fortunes as well. To start that process, we need to
shine a light on the corporate-Democrats' subterranean hate campaigns,
aimed at selected leading reformers, but designed to damage our movements.
The honest progressives, laborites, populists, Greens, civil libertarians,
radicals and reformers of this country have the power to stand up and say,
once and for all, "Ralph Nader is not the problem, untrustworthy
Democratic and Republican politicians are." In fact, Ralph Nader
represents everything positive about our movements for social change and
has for decades acted as a leader, a catalyst and an organizer for those

Often when you hear the axiom, "the left is like a circular firing squad,"
it turns out to be a false analogy. The so-called "leftists" we supposedly
fire upon are revealed to be fakers, not the genuine article. Like wolves
in sheep's clothing, they talk the people's talk, but walk the corporate
walk. Listen to Sens. Clinton or Obama on any given day, and then compare
that to their votes in Congress. Their votes to fund Bush's war on Iraq
are well publicized, and contrast critically with what they say about the
war. But you would find the same incongruity between what they say and how
they vote on just about any economic, labor, peace or social justice
issue. And the contrast with Ralph Nader's 4-decade record of public
service is instructive.

Only the most dishonest person would claim that Ralph Nader is not a
genuine reformer on behalf of the people. We truly become a "circular
firing squad" when we allow others to fire on him without coming to his
defense, which is the best way we can come to our own defense. We are no
better than those who stand aside and watch a violent crime against a
helpless individual if we don't speak out against it. And when we stand by
and watch the innocent mugged and raped in our communities, our
communities suffer by becoming the victims of spreading crime.

One thing that decades of experience in the labor movement has taught me
is that "solidarity" with your co-workers, co-thinkers and co-activists is
useless if it is only a hollow phrase. For it to be successful, solidarity
must be an act of courage, not just a rallying cry. It must represent a
willingness to band together and defend the weakest or the strongest among
you when they are attacked. The current weakened state of the labor
movement undoubtedly has something to do with the fact that "solidarity"
frequently appears in the speeches of labor leaders, but seldom as a
strategy or tactic in our day to day labor rights struggles. Given Ralph
Nader's record of promoting successful pro-labor legislation and
movements, the way the leadership of organized labor has joined in the
corporate smear campaign against him is doubly unconscionable, although it
is not universal among them. There have been some exceptional labor
leaders who stuck by Nader in the true sense of the term "solidarity."

I believe in the power of the "come back." Maybe I read too many novels,
but in the case of Ralph Nader, I look as objectively as I am able to at
the numbers, the positives and negatives, and I continue to conclude that
a Nader 08 presidential campaign offers a better chance for the
progressive left to make a serious "come back" than any other opportunity
we have available to us today. If the honest progressives stand up to the
triangulators and war funders, the fake friends of labor, women and
oppressed minorities, and say, "hey, we can do better - we have to do
better," we will have what it takes to run a powerful, insurgent, Nader
reform campaign for president, and together we can accomplish what seems
impossible. If we allow ourselves to be browbeaten by the fraudulent peace
candidates, the triangulators, the corporate-controlled politicians and
the hate merchants, we might as well give it all up and acknowledge that
the faceless corporate powers have won, our republic is as dead as the
Roman Republic on the day Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon, and we'd
better start practicing our goose step.

We've arrived at the leading edge of a historic watershed, a unique period
in which the American people are obviously alarmed over the coming
economic crisis; outraged over the mortgage debacle that was engineered by
the Federal Reserve, Congress and the last two presidents; angered by an
unrestrained corporate crime wave that has wiped out the pensions of
millions and put millions more out of work; dismayed by the deregulation
and privatization that has sold our nation off to the highest bidder; and,
feed up with a costly corporate-inspired war that has siphoned off the
funds needed to avert domestic catastrophe. We are equally weary of the
bumbling destructive Bush administration and the backboneless Democratic
Congress that enables the bumbling Bush. We've not seen such incompetence
in the White House and Congress since the 1920s! And we are ready to
change course and seek out real solutions.

The polls showing historic low ratings for the president and Congress are
key indicators that the American people are approaching a breaking point.
As a people, we have declared our independence in ever greater numbers and
expressed our discontent with the direction in which the president and the
Congress have taken us. Nearly half of us (48 percent in a 2006 CNN poll)
have expressed support for a mass third party. In a more recent NBC
News/Wall Street Journal poll taken from Dec. 14-17, 2007, 76 percent
characterized the American two-party system as having either "real
problems" in need of repair or as "seriously broken." A Fox News poll in
July 2007 found that " more than twice as many voters think it would be
good for the country if an independent candidate were to win the White
House in 2008 than think it would be bad (45 percent good, 19 percent
bad). In addition, there is rare partisan agreement on the issue as 42
percent of Democrats and 44 percent of Republicans think electing an
independent candidate would be good for the country, as do 56 percent of
self-described independents." The Fox poll also found that 67 percent
would consider voting for an independent, "including more than 6 in 10
Democrats and Republicans."

Americans are still unsure of how to fit into our new role as a nation in
rebellion. Those who last lived through such a time as adults are now in
their late 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s. It will take time for us to grow sea
legs, to relearn the lessons of our forefathers and foremothers about how
to reform corrupt government and recreate the balance we once had between
the rights of the people and the rights of commercial business. But I am
convinced that enough of us are ready to make history this year with a
Ralph Nader campaign, enough of us at least to offer a successful
incentive to the major party candidates to be better and act better, and
that's why I've urged Ralph Nader to run. And you can be ready as well, as
long as you first learn to defend one another from the "divide and
conquer" strategy of America's corrupt corporate elite. If you are able to
recognize that the Democratic Party slander campaign against Ralph Nader
is part and parcel with other corporate strategies, like their union
busting strategy or their subtle use of racism, sexism and classism to
divide us from one another, then you'll be ready too. As a first step,
please visit

Chris Driscoll, a science, environmental and technology trade journalist,
was the 2006 Populist Party nominee for Governor of Maryland. He also
serves as the state chairman of the Populist Party of Maryland.

No comments:

Locations of visitors to this page