Monday, August 10, 2009

Was Nader Right?

A recent article at by Chris Hedges makes for a very interesting read, especially for Nader backers like me. The opening paragraph contends:

The American empire has not altered under Barack Obama. It kills as brutally and indiscriminately in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan as it did under George W. Bush. It steals from the U.S. treasury to enrich the corporate elite as rapaciously. It will not give us universal health care, abolish the Bush secrecy laws, end torture and "extraordinary rendition," restore habeas corpus or halt the warrantless-wiretapping and monitoring of citizens. It will not push through significant environmental reform, regulate Wall Street or end our relationship with private contractors that provide mercenary armies to fight our imperial wars and produce useless and costly weapons systems.

Hedges main contentions, especially with regard to the war in Afghanistan (and Pakistan by default) specifically and national security in general, not to mention Obama's decision to hire the same people directly involved in the financial meltdown, are correct. Since the election, I have been vindicated, at least in my opinion, in voting for Nader. Many people, especially one of the most influential scholars I have read, G. William Domhoff, argue that voting for third party candidates is a waste of time and only strengthens the party you are trying to challenge. This may be true, but as a matter of principal I could not vote for either Obama or McCain. Nader is the only candidate that spoke to what I wanted in a presidential candidate. I read a great book earlier this summer titled American Political Tradition by Richard Hofstadter and a quote from the introduction of his book seems quite appropriate here:

Societies that are in such good working order (such as ours) have a kind of mute organic consistency. They do not foster ideas that are hostile to their fundamental working arrangements. Such ideas may appear, but they are slowly and persistently insulated, as an oyster deposits nacre around an irritant. They are confined to small groups of dissenters and alienated intellectuals, and except in revolutionary times they do not circulate among practical politicians. The range of ideas, therefore, which practical politicians can conveniently believe in is normally limited by the climate of opinion that sustains their culture. They differ, sometimes bitterly, over current issues, but they also share a general framework of ideas which makes it possible for them to co-operate when the campaigns are over.

This is a great explanation as to why Nader was always disregarded as a "serious" candidate. Simply put, he talked about ideas and policies that were not to be discussed in front of "serious" candidates such as McCain and Obama, or even in the primary for that matter. Nader and his campaign were such a challenge to the Washington establishment, which the Democrats and Republicans both posture towards, that he was simply described as a radical outcast that could not be taken seriously. I mean think about it, Nader's primary issues were a) ending the corporate control of our government b) ending the illegal, deceitful, imperial wars our government has been engaged in for the past 8 years (this is a whole new post if we are talking historically) and c) enacting a single payer national health insurance plan. He was also a strong advocate of environmental regulation (i.e. corporate regulation) and enacting a living wage of $10 per hour for workers. What Democrat that voted for Obama is not for these policies?

It is painfully obvious who controls our government (not the people) that it is hard for me to support any of the two mainstream parties anymore, no matter how inspiring Obama's rhetoric is.


  1. Yes, as the article mentions, nothing has changed under Obama. Sadly, despite his campaign theme and slogan, he never intended to really change anything and he certainly did not intent to push progressive positions.

    Simply, Obama did not run on anything near a progressive platform. The fact that so many think of him as a progressive candidate is a testament to the marketing team on his campaign and to the media that "cover" campaigns. See Noam Chomsky's Manufacturing Consent.

    Obama ran as a centrist and never promised to bring single payer, never promised to end war-he promised to escalate it. One need only look to his biggest campaign financers to see where he stood on Wall Street. And as far as illegal warrantless wiretapping goes, he voted for the FISA Amendment Act that immunized those who were involved in the illegal program.

    Before progressives will start looking at minor candidates and parties, they have to first realize that the Democrats simply do not and will not support progressive causes because they are most financed by those most invested in the status quo.

  2. Could not agree more. The question is, do progressives and people concerned with civil liberties and abuses of authority like you and I work through the Democratic Party, as G. William Domhoff contends, or do we go with third parties? I suggest you check out the link on my post to see what Domhoff has to say. Very convincing, but I am still suspect. I will post my email conversation with him very soon.