Friday, October 17, 2008

Taking Nader seriously, Part 1

I have an old friend who is a Nader supporter. We've been discussing everyone's favorite Lebanese American presidential candidate. As far as I am concerned, 2000 campaign is over and done with. My take on Nader is simple: I think he's an incredible activist, but not such a great politician. But, since I have been talking about him, I figured I should at least check out his Web site, and take him at least a little bit seriously.

At the outset, I think it's important for Obama supporters to acknowledge the groundwork that Nader laid, in terms of setting up organizational structures for organizing, that paved the way for the Obama campaign. Obama has run an incredibly well-organized campaign, and a large part of that is due to his background as a community organizer. Nader was instrumental in developing an infrastructure for community organizing, for legitimizing it. In that sense, Obama is Nader's heir in this campaign. That has to be acknowledged. is a decent Website. It has a lot in common with Sign up here, contribute here, etc. I suppose that's the nature of the beast. I'll comment more later.

My friend called me tonight because he had heard about a radio show on Democracy Now! that had an interesting twist on the presidential debates. The ran the audio for the last presidential debate, and then invited Cynthia McKinney and Ralph Nader (Bob Barr and Chuck Baldwin were invited, but couldn't make it) to respond. That's cool.

The only problem was that McKinney and Nader didn't have a lot of time themselves to respond. I noticed a couple of things: McKinney said something about nationalizing the Federal Reserve. Huh? That makes no sense, and it's the kind of comment that can say a little too much about why someone is a third party candidate for president, instead of still being a member of Congress.

Nader talked about a securities tax, which I think is an interesting idea. It's the kind of thing that would usually arouse rather serious opposition from the financial industry, but might get passed today, given the unpopularity of Wall Street. But then he threw in a soundbite that threw me for a bit of a loop. He mentioned that this year, the total value of derivatives transactions will be $500 trillion, and that a tax of of 1/10 of 1% would raise $500 billion. This is the kind of thing that sounds too good to be true. If it were that easy to raise $500 billion, we would have done it by now. $500 trillion? I think he might be talking about the total value of all transactions, but that is very different from the total value of all derivatives. For example, if someone has an insurance policy on their house with $1 million of coverage, that does not mean that they have paid the insurance company $1 million. It means that they pay the insurance company a few thousand dollars every year. So that comment did not do wonders for Mr. Nader's credibility on economic issues.

Cynthia McKinney brought up the death penalty, and for that I am grateful, and for that alone I am thankful that she is in the race, in whatever capacity.

Nader also wants more debates, obviously including him. I'm uncommitted on that score; I think it would certainly make things more interesting, but there also was not a shortage of debates during the primary. Three presidential debates was just about enough for me. I would, however, be interested in seeing the presidential candidates mix it up with some third party candidates next time around. That could be fun. I've also heard that, contrary to John Kerry, Obama did not try to persuade Nader not to run, and did nothing to block him. So Nader is on the ballot in 45 states. I think that's healthy, but I have to admit that, this time around, Obama is running a much better campaign than either Gore in 2000 or Kerry in 2004. Also, and this is a little sad, Nader just is not that much of a threat this time around. So maybe I can afford to be gracious. But if I can afford it, then I think I have a responsibility to be that way.

ACORN came up. I interviewed with ACORN once, in Philadelphia. I could have worked for them while I was taking time off of Swarthmore. Instead, I went to Oberlin and took a couple of classes. I'm glad I did. It was at Oberlin that I came up with the first half of the motto of this blog: Art before politics.

Nader advocates scrapping NAFTA and the WTO. Not a healthy approach. Those are treaties that the US has signed. Once they are signed, we have to oblige by them. Ignoring the demands of international law is one of the great problems of the Bush administration. Bush trashed the ABM treaty when he first got into office. Arbitrarily and unilaterally voiding treaties does not engender respect for democracy, either here in America or abroad. So while I agree with Ralph that labor and environmental standards should be part of free trade agreements, I think his approach could be more diplomatic. Which is supposed to be part of what differentiates him from Bush.

I recommend reading the transcript, as opposed to listening to it, because that way you can skip the Obama-McCain parts.

No comments: