Swans Commentary » swans.com July 16, 2007  



The Essential Significance Of Ralph Nader
Or, Who's the Idiot, Markos Moulitsas Zúniga?


by Gilles d'Aymery





(Swans - July 16, 2007)  It did not take long before the guard dogs of the Citadel began barking after their favorite prey -- whoever wants to open the gates wide and allow fresh air to flow through the corrupted and antisepticised corridors of the Palace. Ralph Nader dared say that he was considering a run for the 2008 presidential contest and within minutes the masters unleashed the dogs. The pyretic clarions of The Politico, the Daily Kos, The Washington Post, and many others in and out of the Blogosphere sounded their shrill smear-and-slander snarlings (Mr. Moulitsas bloviated that Ralph Nader was "still an idiot"). What the masters and their underlings ignore at their own peril is the growing disillusion with the Citadel. The rumble of the people remains faint, but it is there, a potential growing tsunami in the making. More and more, people want to shout "enough is enough" and ask for change. In turn, the guardians of the gates call with increasing stridency upon the militarization and penalization of society to save them from the unruly masses and the rowdy rumbles. The law and order reactionaries that have invaded all our institutions -- e.g., the Courts, the two parties, Congress, the Executive, the TV networks, the printing press... -- are second to none to let the country know what needs be -- stability for the privileged few. Those who resist the present conditions and want to offer alternatives depend on Ralph Nader and other voices of sanity (that have not sold out to the system in place) to represent their aspirations for a more hopeful world. Many, while increasingly demonized, vilified, and repressed, shall not fall for lesser-evilism, which espouses evil nonetheless. For those who do not consider the either-or soft dictatorship of the duopoly a constructive proposition, Ralph Nader is their spokesperson. They long for real change, not a fresh coat of paint spread hastily on the same old façade every four years.

Let's look at the slanderers and the kind of candidates the gatekeepers will happily support. Then, let's ask a few questions on the type of policies that ought to be implemented, keeping in mind whether any of the candidates supported by the smearers would indeed back them. Finally, after briefly elucidating the importance of Ralph Nader, let's challenge the representative of the status quo ante, and end with a plea.

Here is what Markos Moulitsas, aka Kos, posted on his Web site on June 21, 2007:

Nader ponders another presidential run
by kos
Thu Jun 21, 2007 at 09:25:38 AM PDT

Yup, he's still an idiot.
Ralph Nader says he is seriously considering running for president in 2008 because he foresees another Tweedledum-Tweedledee election that offers little real choice to voters.

"You know the two parties are still converging -- they don't even debate the military budget anymore," Nader said in a 30-minute interview. "I really think there needs to be more competition from outside the two parties."
Anyone who clings to the fiction that President Al Gore would've been no different than President George W. Bush is beyond redemption.

That short post generated over 800 comments from his readership that prides itself for being in when they only are taken for a ride by the status quo crowd, of which Markos Moulitsas is apparently a small operator.

What is Kos asking his flock to vote for? What kind of "leaders" is he advocating? Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Barack Obama, Bill Richardson? He'll vote for any one of them come November 2008. Here's an example of the kind of rhetoric one of his favorite candidates put forth recently:

This century's threats are at least as dangerous as and in some ways more complex than those we have confronted in the past. [...]

To recognize the number and complexity of these threats is not to give way to pessimism. Rather, it is a call to action. [...]

We can neither retreat from the world nor try to bully it into submission. We must lead the world, by deed and by example. [...]

The American moment is not over, but it must be seized anew. [...]

Our servicemen and servicewomen have performed admirably while sacrificing immeasurably. [...]

Throughout the Middle East, we must harness American power to reinvigorate American diplomacy. [...]

To renew American leadership in the world, we must immediately begin working to revitalize our military. [...]

We should expand our ground forces by adding 65,000 soldiers to the army and 27,000 marines. [...]

As commander in chief, I would also use our armed forces wisely. When we send our men and women into harm's way, I will clearly define the mission, seek out the advice of our military commanders, objectively evaluate intelligence, and ensure that our troops have the resources and the support they need. I will not hesitate to use force, unilaterally if necessary, to protect the American people or our vital interests whenever we are attacked or imminently threatened. [...]

To renew American leadership in the world, we must confront the most urgent threat to the security of America and the world -- the spread of nuclear weapons, material, and technology and the risk that a nuclear device will fall into the hands of terrorists. [...]

Finally, we must develop a strong international coalition to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and eliminate North Korea's nuclear weapons program. [...]

Here at home, we must strengthen our homeland security and protect the critical infrastructure on which the entire world depends. [...]

We must invest still more in human intelligence and deploy additional trained operatives and diplomats with specialized knowledge of local cultures and languages.


Who's pronouncing these platitudes of domination through military force? Barack Obama (or his handlers), in an article published in the July/August 2007 issue of Foreign Affairs, the organ of the Council on Foreign Relations, an Establishment think tank par excellence. "Renewing American Leadership" is the title of Obama's screed. Read it in full to get a clear picture of the remarkable continuity between the two parties in the conduct of US international policies. This article could as well have been written by a neocon at the American Enterprise Institute.

The same Barack Obama, addressing the 50th anniversary convention of the United Church of Christ in Hartford, Connecticut, said on June 23, 2007, "My faith teaches me that I can sit in church and pray all I want, but I won't be fulfilling God's will unless I go out and do the Lord's work." That statement could have come right out of the mouth of George W. Bush.

This is, once again, a candidate Markos Moulitsas will happily vote for in 2008...if Obama becomes the Democratic nominee -- a pro-war, pro-"god," pro-corporation, and anti-people contender to the Oval Office. One is demonized (GWB), the other anointed with goodness, marketed as a new kind of politician. Moulitsas will readily vote for Clinton, Edwards, or any Democratic candidate, independently of their positions, so long as they don't look like Mr. Bush.

Moulitsas's screed is then exploited by the Establishment's media to further attack and discredit Ralph Nader. The next day, June 22, 2007, Washington Post Staff Writer Howard Kurtz quotes Moulitsas, among others, in his Media Notes' "The Return of Saint Ralph." Excerpts:

When Ralph Nader ran for president seven years ago, an awful lot of people saw him as a spoiler pursuing an ego trip. [...]

Based on this stellar track record, Nader wants to . . . run again?

Risk becoming a laughingstock?

Officially earn the label of the Harold Stassen of the 21st century?

I don't get it. Is Nader just jealous of all the attention that Mike Bloomberg is getting?

Should Nader get in, it raises an interesting question for the press: Do you spend much time covering the guy -- who can be very colorful in trashing his rivals -- for the sheer entertainment of it? Or do you conclude that a twice-failed presidential contender with little money or support simply doesn't warrant much ink or air time? (Say what you want about Bloomberg, if he jumps in, he'll be spending in the hundreds of millions.) [...]

[Kurtz then quotes the article by Politico's Roger Simon:] "Chris Lehane, who worked in Bill Clinton's White House and Gore's 2000 presidential campaign, said of a possible Nader candidacy: 'His entry into the race, even to those who voted for him in 2000, would be just another vainglorious effort to promote himself at the expense of the best interests of the public. Ralph Nader is unsafe in any election.'"

Ba-da-boom. (Nader's first book, on auto safety, was "Unsafe at Any Speed.")

"In Florida, Nader's votes may have been critical. Gore ended up losing the election to Bush by 537 votes in Florida, a state where Nader got 97,448 votes. Many believe that had Nader not been on the ballot, Gore would have gotten thousands of those votes and become president." [...]

Reaction was strong and succinct, especially on the left.

Kos: "Yep, he's still an idiot."

[Etc., etc., etc.]

Ralph Nader, the loser; Ralph Nader, the spoiler; Ralph Nader the egomaniac... Who's trashing whom? How many times does one need to debunk this trash?

The egomania charge can be laid at the feet of all the candidates; so, even if accurate, which I personally doubt, it's utterly irrelevant. In regard to the spoiler syndrome, it would be helpful if one of these days Al Gore could publicly address that issue with fortitude and put that canard to rest once and for all. He simply has to come on the airwaves and state: "Look, 250,000 registered Democrats voted for Mr. Bush in Florida, and the election was decided by the Supreme Court. Ralph had nothing to do with that most unfortunate result, and as any American he is constitutionally entitled to run for president." (For a full debunking of the spoiler syndrome, see "Ralph Nader, If Not Now, When?" by Jan Baughman and this author, Swans, March 1, 2004.)

The preposterous accusation that Ralph Nader is a loser should not be dignified with a response. In a system structurally stacked against third-party candidates, in which access to the ballot is controlled in each and every state by the members of the duopoly, as are the Main Media and the presidential debates, it is evident that an independent candidate cannot win. Still, not winning does not a loser make, for a third-party run can have and has had in the past an influence on the duopoly by crystallizing the People on fundamental issues of their times (e.g., abolitionism, feminism, etc). Still, does it mean that since an independent candidate cannot win within the current system he should not run?

Undoubtedly, the "realists" would answer the question in the affirmative. They fail, however, to address another question: What about those voters who won't vote for the nominee of either party, not because of the respective political affiliation, but because of their fundamental disagreement with the policies advocated by the candidates? These voters are neither anti-Democrat nor anti-Republican. They would happily vote for, say, a Dennis Kucinich or a Mike Gravel or a Ron Paul if they could win the nomination -- but they can't. Which, following the same "realism," begs the question, why should either run in the primaries in the first place? The thinking here seems to be, "can't win, don't run." Which, in turn, means that only the people who can win should have the right, be entitled to run -- and those are the corporate-moneyed candidates and the independently wealthy (in the extreme) contenders. So, here we are, left with a corporate oligarchy, not a republic and certainly not a democracy.

Note that the two-party system is so entrenched that even an obscenely wealthy individual is attacked in the elite's media when talks of a potential run as an independent surface in the news. Michael Bloomberg is inherently a corporate man who would do the bidding of his fellow board members of America, Inc.; yet, of all great "liberals" at The New York Times Bob Herbert derides Bloomberg in a June 23, 2007, Op-Ed, "Mr. Mayor, the Nader of '08?" whose first sentence reads: "A huge ego and a few billion dollars can cause an awful lot of mischief." The myth of "Spoiling Nader" is also regurgitated in the same paper in its Week in Review section the next day. In "President? Or Kingmaker?" the 2000 election is presented thus: "The independent Ralph Nader wins no electoral vote but enough popular votes in Florida to affect the outcome." It matters not that Nader did not run as an independent but as the nominee of the Green Party, and that again the charge is bogus. What matters is that the charge be repeated often enough, and the difference between the candidates of the duopoly be profusely accented, that voters will think twice before "wasting" their ballot.

It follows then that the "liberal" elites strive for the status quo. Amusingly, even the "loyal opposition" at The Nation, through the pen of its publisher and editor, Katrina Vanden Heuvel, opposes Michael Bloomberg's potential independent candidature, proving once again that the "loyal opposition" focuses more on loyalty than on opposition -- which makes sense since as this author has often shown The Nation is not just a bona-fide member of the Establishment, it is an annex of the Democratic Party whose raison d'être is to keep dissenters in check and bring them back to the big tent at election times. But it begs a question that Markos Moulitsas et al. have never answered or even asked to themselves: Where does it leave the rest of us -- the rest of us, who do not call for violent revolution, yet know from experience that our Corpocracy won't implement the sane policies that are called for, absent the ramble of the People?

Incidentally, how can Chris Lehane, "who worked in Bill Clinton's White House and Gore's 2000 presidential campaign," know what "the best interests of the public" are? Does that statement not reflect the height of Straussian arrogance? It's the People who should decide what their best interests are, not some conceited apparatchik. The meaning of We, the People has been ignored, discarded, for much too long. We must recapture our sovereignty. Ralph Nader represents this deeply yearning aspiration. Ask whether any of the candidates championed by Moulitsas, Lehane, Kurtz, Simon, Vanden Heuvel, Herbert, etc., will ever implement sane, sound, and humane policies. Examples abound:

Will a Medicare-for-all health care structure -- a single-payer system -- see the light of day under...name your front-running candidates here?

Will any Democratic or Republican president pull all our troops out of Iraq?

Will any of them "forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes" (cf. Japanese Constitution) and substitute military intervention with diplomacy, and subjugation or competition with cooperation and collaboration?

Will either mainstream-elected president call upon Israel to cease and desist from stealing land and destroying her neighbors through Apartheid-like policies?

Will any of them oppose the corporate powers that finance their electoral campaigns?

Will any of them have the fortitude to fight the mushrooming corporate abuses and fraud, to reverse corporate welfare, and to tame the giant corporations? (Please visit this site and listen to Ralph Nader.)

Will any of them substantially curb the obscene disparities in income among the citizenry? (One percent owns as much as 95 percent of the population owns; mega-corporation CEOs' remuneration, which in 1940 was 12 times as much as the average worker's pay, is now hovering around 500 times more.)

Will religion stay out of the Oval Office under the administration of either twin party?

Will school districts be financed equally, instead of depending on property taxes that favor the wealthy?

Will the tax system be simplified to ask for a more progressive contribution from the wealthy, both corporations and individuals?

Will the estate tax not be discarded as a so-called "death tax," but reinforced so that wealth is no longer hereditary?

Will the mainstay of our justice system, tort and contract laws, be de-corporatized?

Will there be an effort to abolish the unconstitutional right of corporations -- abstract entities with no flesh or blood or mind of their own -- to be treated like human beings?

Will global warming and the environmental movement turn into serious conservation policies instead of turning into yet another gimmick to make money -- à la Al Gore?

Will independent unions be encouraged and promoted once again?

Will the war on drugs, with its insane mandatory prison sentencing, be abolished?

Will trade agreements with other countries take into consideration the welfare of workers, both in the U.S. and in the countries where wage slavery predominates to the detriment of them and American workers?

Will Jim Crow-like policies against blacks and Latino immigrants be combated?

Will the commonwealth of the whole outweigh that of the privileged few?

And on, and on, and on, and on, and on... (The scope of this list is limited; it would deserve both refinement and expansion, but it calls the attention to what the Democratic front runners will not do.)

Last question: will Markos Moulitsas Zúniga answer each and every question by a simple Yes or No? (I've let him know about this article.) Or will he retrench into cowardly silence? After all, holding strong opinions on all issues of the day, he should be able to face this open challenge without a sweat.

Far from being an idiot, a spoiler, or an egotistic man, Ralph Nader has been and remains an inspiration to countless people of all stripes and ideological bends. He commands deep respect and is owed torrents of gratitude for the decades of selfless work he's done on behalf of the commons. He's a man of the People, a man who, were the corporate media not muzzling him repeatedly, the two-party bosses not constantly harassing him through debilitating lawsuits to keep him off the ballot, and the pundits not perpetually slandering him, would have a profound effect on the political landscape of this country.

Ralph Nader represents those of us -- legions -- that are either ignored or dismissed as "radicals" (another idiotic characterization) or simply abandoned by the system (think of the Katrina refugees). He speaks for us. He acts for us. He is us.

When all is said and done, Ralph Nader ought to be seconded all the way. His Seventeen Traditions -- "What shapes the mind, the personality, the character" -- represents the best customs a truly civilized culture can offer. His mind is crisp like spring water; his personality strong, yet unassuming; his character made of stainless steel. He is a human being with a soul. In contrast, Markos Moulitsas Zúniga looks like a self-made libertarian who posits he opposes the war in Iraq, but calls to vote for pro-war Democratic candidates and to keep the status quo handy. This Demopublican, referred to as belonging to "the left" by CNN/Washington Post pundit Howard Kurtz, has no authority, intellectual or otherwise, to challenge the integrity or the ethics of Ralph Nader.

If you ever read this piece Ralph, please hear the call: Run again.


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Published July 16, 2007