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February 24, 2004

Nader Noise

Pretty much everybody knows by now that Ralph Nader has announced his decision to run as an Independent in the 2004 presidential election, and bloggers everywhere have been weighing in with their opinions. I'd planned to write an entry yesterday, but was not feeling very well, but now I'm glad to have had some more time to think about things.

I'll start by saying that I happily voted for Nader in the 2000 election, that I was energized by his speeches, which I had the good luck of hearing frequently on a community radio station in Champaign, Illinois. However, even in a clearly designated "blue state," I weighed that vote very carefully, knowing that Bush's policies were not as close to Gore's as they appeared (I've spent five minutes trying to work in an "objects are closer than they appear" rear-view mirror joke, but it's not working), although I couldn't have imagined John Ashcroft having such a major political role.

Like Harry at Crooked Timber, I think it's also important to acknowledge that it would have been impossible to predict September 11, or the political fallout from that event. It's also important to note that Gore ran a mediocre campaign, highlighted by his uninspiring decision to choose Joe Lieberman as his runningmate (Michael Bérubé has some useful comments on the 2000 election here). The possibility of securing federal funding for the Green Party was far too enticing, and I felt that the 2000 election offered a nice opportunity to build broader support for a third party (even though the Greens aren't quite representative of my politics). In a sense, my vote was an act of resistance against the Clinton-style centrism that had come to dominate federal elections.

I do respect Nader's work as a consumer advocate and as someone who has fought to protect workers from abuses by American corporations, but Nader's campaign in 2004 risks tarnishing that legacy for me. As George points out, Nader won't win in November, and the primary benefit of his 2000 campaign was, in my opinion, federal funding. Voting for a single candidate, as an independent, will not change the political landscape in any considerable way.

As an aside, I'm not sure I buy the argument that Nader will steal votes only from the Democratic candidate (especially if that candidate is Edwards). Many Republicans might see voting for Nader as a safe "protest vote" against Bush without having to vote for the Democratic candidate. I'll also agree with the assertion that Nader may be in a better position to attack Republican policies than a Democratic candidate might, but given how he ran his 2000 campaign, I'm not sure that I'm completely comfortable that he'll do that.

I'm unwilling to demand that Nader not run. As Chun suggests, that's not very democratic. But in an important and tightly contested election, I will strongly discourage people from voting for Nader. As Howard Dean suggests, this election is about coalition building, and the only way to see that coalition win is to gain more votes in the electoral college than the Republican Party.

Posted by chuck at February 24, 2004 1:20 PM

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Some of us don't vote in your elections but are fascinated by the discourse.
Do you think between now and November there will be a set of conversations in the blogsphere in terms of the "fishbowl" effect. I mean will the exchange between voters of the USA take into account that citizens from other nations are watching and reading the exchanges.
I ask because is one way to defeat BUSH not to demonize him but be very particular about the impact of his policies (both enacted and proposed?). From the outside it seems that Americano political rhetoric is highly charged with a cult of personality.
The blog medium with its great power for repartitioning discursive space seems poised to do a national abetted by international assistance "close reading" of every bit of policy implemented or proposed. The blog genre is superbly fitted for a day by day serial review of the man's days in the White House. And the links that might forge are perhaps worth a lot in the longer and shorter term. I am suggesting that savvy bloggers use the BUSH meme to blog about the politics of daily living in a world refashioning itself globally. The price of tea in China, indeed!

Posted by: Francois Lachance at February 24, 2004 8:19 PM

Francois, that's exactly why comments that emphasize Bush's personality (or the fact that he's from Texas) mildly frustrating. While his policies must, in some way, grow out of his personality, showing the worldwide effects of his policy should be far more important.

Pointing to Iraqi bloggers who can describe the devastation of Iraq could give some readers pause. And certainly there are bloggers who solely focus on the negative effects of many of Bush's policies. How much of that knowledge will "emerge" from the blogosphere into the general public remains to be seen, but I think the international flavor of the blogsophere can allow for some serious coalition building.

Posted by: chuck at February 24, 2004 8:59 PM

Gentlemen, from a different perspective, can we take a look at "what if?" We are so quick to point fingers and taunt the current administration. It has become not only the norm, but also fashionable to and rally against this cruel dictatorship.

I believe the president did the best with what he had been given. He responded to the terrorist attacks. He solicited and pleaded for the world’s assistance, upon their refusal, he took the necessary action. The guiding principles he incorporated are for the good of this great nation.

Perhaps people should commence questioning NATO and the other countries, which frequently ask for the recourses of the United States, but show very little backbone, during our time of need.

As far as "what if?" I have yet to hear from any of the democratic contenders, as to how they would have handled the circumstances, or how they will handle the state of affairs if they become president.

I think it is has become much easier to condemn the president, then to actually manage the concerns at hand.

We as Americans, as well as foreigners, need look at the circumstances from all perspectives and then pass judgment.

Posted by: Chuck at February 27, 2004 4:08 PM

I think I have a lot of room to criticze the president's decision to go into Iraq without what I would consider a clear justification. There is no evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass desctruction, and Saddam Hussein had minimal ties to Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. The reason most of the world chose not to act *in Iraq* is that they were not sufficently convinced that it was a situation of urgency.

I also have major problems with Bush's handling of the economy. Giving massive tax cuts to the rich is not going to help the middle and working class people who are struggling to make ends meet. More problematic, those refunds are now beginning to dent the Social Security programs that many people have dutifully supported for decades. I think Edwards and Kerry both have been absolutely clear that we need to use common sense when it comes to balancing the budget, and that includes repealing the tax cuts for the wealthy.

Posted by: chuck at February 27, 2004 5:09 PM

Regarding Chuck's (not chuck) post, this probably isn't the right place to start another endless debate on the war, so I will just quickly point out that 1. Criticizing the war is not just some "fashionable" fad -- there was ardent opposition from numerous elite intellectuals such as scholars, professors and experts from the very beginning. 2. The only real case the Bush administration had for the war was WMD's, for which the evidence was extremely slim if not nonexistent -- Powell's PowerPoint presentation contained nothing but speculation, so of course the UN refused. 3. In terms of international support, remember that there was not much opposition when the U.S. invaded Afghanistan to eradicate the Taliban. 4. The U.S. economy is probably the most important in the world. Do you think Germans, French, and most of the rest of the world ardently opposed this war because they _wanted_ the U.S. to get attacked by terrorists? Continuous threats to the U.S. could only do them harm. Yes, as you said, you really should have looked at the circumstances from all perspectives before deciding that it was right to ignore the international community and rip apart another country and wreak havoc on its people, as two-thirds of all Americans did at the onset of the war -- may history be merciful on them -- because history has taught us over and over that war must be the very last resort to any conflict when all other possible options have been exhausted.

Posted by: woojay at February 28, 2004 1:27 AM

Let’s not forget on multiple occasions Sadam was given the opportunity to "open his doors" and show the world he did not have the WMD's. He did not. We know for a fact, from our past dealings with Iraq, that there were weapons. The original question, if you will recall, was where are they? They were supposed to be destroyed. Were they? Sadam gave absolutely no proof that they were destroyed. The burden of proof was on them, not us. Additionally, let's not forget that the inspectors were kicked out of Iraq. The Clinton administration did nothing. This is what the President has been left with. Finally, the President acted on the intelligence gathered from the different agencies. In government as in business, the President, CEO, COO, and others make decisions daily, based on the information they are given. This is no different. There comes a time, when you have to say enough is enough.

On a side note, let's not forget the mass grave, rape chambers, and other atrocities, discovered. As well, giving millions of Iraqis the opportunity for a democratic nation, should be reward in itself. After all, we are still humanitarians, right?

In regards to tax cuts for the rich, why not? Why shouldn't the rich be given the same advantages as the middle and lower class? Guess what, many of us weren't born with money; we worked hard, harder than most. If you want to criticize the tax cut, how about the handout to all of those who received a check and didn't even pay taxes? When did this become another welfare check?

Finally, “Edwards and Kerry both have been absolutely clear that we need to use common sense when it comes to balancing the budget,” is not a solution. It is an abstract political answer, with absolutely no clear explanation.

Posted by: Chuck at March 1, 2004 9:52 AM

I may respond at length later, but to suggest that the "burden of proof" was on Iraq isn't completely fair now. And, of course, Bush pulled Hans Blix and the UN inspection team out of Iraq. I'll agree that Saddam was a brutal human being, but the humanitarian argument was not given as justification for the war. We were threatened with a "mushroom cloud." We were shown soldiers carrying chemical weapons gear.

To suggest that the rich don't have "the same advantages" as the middle-class and poor is absurd. They make more money and should therefore have a larger responsibility when it comes to contributing to the nation's growth and effectively sustaining the goverment's operation.

Why is a balanced budget an abstract political answer? I'm talking about using sound economic judgement to avoid deficits that this generation and future generations will have to repay. Already Alan Greenspan has been making noise about having to take away from Social Security to pay for the tax cuts.

Posted by: chuck at March 1, 2004 2:23 PM

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