Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ralph Nader, a Democratic primary against Obama, and better options

With this news, Ralph Nader is once again inserting himself into the process of a presidential election.

Worried the liberal voice is being drowned out in the presidential campaign, progressive leaders said Monday they want to field a slate of candidates against President Obama in the Democratic primaries to make him stake out liberal stances as he seeks re-election.

Ralph Nader warns that without an intraparty challenge the liberal agenda “will be muted and ignored,” the one-man primary will kill voter enthusiasm and voters won’t get a chance to reflect on the real differences that divide the Democratic and Republican parties.

“What we are looking at now is the dullest presidential campaign since Walter Mondale — and that’s saying something, believe me,” Mr. Nader told The Washington Times.

The group’s call has been endorsed by more than 45 other liberal leaders. They want to recruit six candidates who bring expertise ranging from poverty to the military.

I think Nader probably is going to find -- like Dick Cheney twelve years ago --that he is ultimately the best man for the job. And that is bad for progressives and the progressive movement, whether perceptible progressive movement is occurring within the Democratic Party (it is not) or outside of it (barely).

In its recruitment letter, the group faulted the administration’s handling of the Wall Street bailouts, the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the U.S. involvement in the military effort in Libya. They also criticized Mr. Obama’s decision to extend the Bush-era tax cuts and the recent deal he struck with Republicans over cutting spending to raise the debt ceiling.

“We need to put strong Democratic pressure on President Obama in the name of poor and working people” said Cornel West, an author and professor at Princeton University. “His administration has tilted too much toward Wall Street, we need policies that empower Main Street.

I have enormous respect for Dr. West and even agree with him for the most part. Nader is the problem here, however.

To be sure, there are plenty of Democrats who still hold a grudge against Nader for 2000. I believe that blame is misplaced, even when it comes from the most esteemed sources (.pdf). My rebuttal is that Theresa LePore, the Democratic elections administrator for Palm Beach County, Florida, designed a butterfly ballot so confusing that it caused thousands of elderly residents there to punch a chad for Pat Buchanan, thinking they were voting for Al Gore.

That's what most directly caused the defeat of Gore, IMHO, more than anything Nader did or did not do.

But Texas Democrats are also still litigating over the Texas Green Party's ballot access for 2012, secured not only with the generous help of prominent Republicans but also by the Democrats' own ineptitude at failing to field a candidate in 2010 for the state comptroller's contest. The Green in that race, Ed Lindsay, surpassed the 5% threshold to secure ballot listing for the GP in '12. I spoke out loudly against this unholy alliance at the time, but came around to the understanding that the Democrats did it to themselves.

So once more, misdirected outrage. But I digress.

Nader has actually accomplished things of great significance in his life, most notably automobile safety activism, but today is more of an egotistical geriatric -- a crank -- who appears to believe that only he is capable of representing the will of liberal people in the United States. He's sucked all of the oxygen out of the room for decades now, stunting progressive growth in this country in the process. If he spent time recruiting and training people to a/the cause in-between his various presidential bids (a la Wellstone Foundation, for example), I'd have more respect for him.

To Nader's credit, and unlike Jim Hightower -- a progressive who has reduced himself to mere grifter and attention whore ever since he endorsed Kinky Friedman for governor in 2010 -- he's never done anything solely for the money in his life, from what I can tell.

Anyway, I wish Nader wouldn't run at all for anything -- his time has long passed -- and I would really prefer that, rather than an Obama primary opponent, there be a significant and notable presidential challenge from the Green Party ... preferably someone whom Nader has 'blessed' to some degree or another (rather than take potshots at).

Maybe that's going to be David Cobb again. He's making the rounds in Texas next month as part of the "Move to Amend" effort. From the inbox:

The recent U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC opened the floodgates to unlimited corporate spending on elections.

David Cobb, an attorney and organizer for the Move to Amend coalition, will be touring Texas from October 2-10 to help local residents understand the history behind the recent decision and how they can work to abolish "Corporate Personhood" and establish a government of, by, and for the people by joining the Move to Amend campaign.

David Cobb is fiery speaker and former Green Party presidential candidate. His talk "Creating Democracy & Challenging Corporate Rule" is part history lesson and part heart-felt call-to-action!

“Corporate Personhood” is the court-created doctrine that gives corporations constitutional rights intended for human beings. “Corporate personhood is not an inconsequential legal technicality. The Supreme Court ruled that a corporation was a ‘legal person’ with 14th Amendment protections before they granted full personhood to African-Americans, immigrants, natives, or women”, says Cobb.

Move to Amend is a coalition of over 132,000 people and organizations whose goal is to amend the United States Constitution to end corporate rule and legalize democracy.

David is available for events in these places and tentative dates if we can find folks on the ground who will help us out:
  • Bryan - College Station (Oct 2)
  • Huntsville (Oct 3)
  • Houston (Oct 4)
  • San Antonio (Oct 5)
  • San Marcos (Oct 6)
  • Austin (Oct 9)
  • Corpus Christi (Oct 10)
And wherever else you may be!

Update: Socratic Gadfly piles on.


Matt Bramanti said...

Corporations are merely individuals acting in concert, and that's where they derive their rights.

The position that corporations shouldn't have rights isn't very well thought out. Should the ACLU be able to sue the government to stop a civil-rights violation? It's a corporation, and access to the courts is a constitutional right.

Should unions be able to enter into contracts or to engage in political advocacy? They're corporations.

By limiting the rights of people to act in concert, you strengthen the relative power of well-off and well-connected individuals.

PDiddie said...

While a reasoned and reasonable argument, Matt, the majority of actual people -- both those associated with corporations and those not -- don't buy it.

Corporations already have over-weighted influence in our political system, and the people are going to have to rein them in before the United States becomes a full-throated fascist theocracy.

Or not ...

Matt Bramanti said...

Perry, can you cite a historical example of a "fascist theocracy?"

I don't think such a regime is likely to rise here at least partly because there's no such thing.

PDiddie said...

Look around you, Matt. No, there, in front of your face.

Yes, that's it. Rick Perry and the Texas Legislature. And the Texas Supreme Court.

And I'm not going down Picayune Boulvevard with you any further.

Unknown said...

Nader is also very old now.
I think Nader made as much of an impact in 2000 as he is ever likely to make in electoral politics.

This, of course, is not to say that he's wrong about the fact that someone needs to speak up for progressives! The debate has become so one-sided that Obama is cast as some sort of wild-eyed leftist revolutionary!

I was happy to see your mention of David Cobb here. The guy is fast on his feet, a smart and passionate speaker, and needs to be part of the discussion.

He doesn't look like it, but he could get a rock excited about progressive causes. And corporate personhood is enemy #1...

Thanks for this!

Unknown said...

And Matt - couple things:

1. I don't think anyone is saying that corporations should not have the legal right to act under the law. The problem comes with the notions that they are actually LEGALLY PERSON - endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights and all that good stuff.
Corporations are not people. They are liability protection covers for actual people and they are ways to financial entities.
How weird have our thought processes gotten where we think a legal concept born through filing a piece of paper with the Secretary of State is a person?

2. I would say that the Middle East in fact has several examples of functioning fascist theocracies.

Matt Bramanti said...

1. Should corporations have First Amendment rights? Should, say, the AFL-CIO or NARAL be allowed to purchase advertising? Should the offices of Mother Jones be subjected to unreasonable search and seizure?

2. Really? Where's the anti-clericalism and anti-conservatism in the Middle East? What Middle Eastern countries promote autarky?

Unknown said...

Hey, Matt...

1. Hmm... The individuals making up a corporation have free speech, obviously.
But your Mother Jones red herring assumes that everything that is not expressly a constitutionally-protected right is ALLOWED under our system, which is sort of weird.
To me, the idea that an abstract legal construct has a right to free speech or a right to carry a gun or a constitutionally-protected right against cruel and unusual punishment is Alice-in-Wonderland material.
The corporate form itself IS a legal liability protection - that is what it is and all that it is.
Ugh. it's one of those things that show how far we are down a strange path of corporate dominance/worship.

2. I'm a bit confused by this one, because it appears you switched boats. I would say that Iran and a number of other nations in the Middle East - where, for example, you can be executed for violating the Koran or where toilets can't face east/west because naughty bits offend Allah - are fascist theocracies.
I'm not following how anti-clericalism or anti-conservatism would be antithetical to fascist theocracy, unless you are using a very different definition of one of those words than is commonly used in the English language...

Unknown said...

(By the way, I apologize if I sound a bit brash in my comments back there. I tend to think out loud...)