Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Nader

We were sickened when Ralph Nader cost Al Gore the election in 2000. We get chills imagining what a better world we'd inhabit if Nader had been just a bit pragmatic and thrown his support to Gore. We're outraged, now, at Nader's central claim - that there's no difference between Democrat and Republican, that it's like Coke and Pepsi, a Chomskian false choice. What profound differences there are, and would have been manifested these past eight years: on the environment; on the Constitution; on diplomacy; on governing, period. But there was always a part of me that respected the purity of Nader's views. His resolute stubbornness. His refusal to abandon principle even as a means to an arguably better end. It's the same part of me that whispers, Become a vegan or Throw out your TV. It's a faint, meek voice, masked by a thousand louder sounds, but daunting in its cold moral authority nonetheless.

So now it's sad to see Nader wonder out loud whether Barack Obama would be an Uncle Sam or an Uncle Tom (a point of view which was, poignantly, echoed by Al Qaeda in a statement by Bin Laden deputy Ayman al-Zawahri). Fox News's Shepard Smith scolded him for it in words that drip with smug, sanctimonious reproach, and Nader did a pretty good job of calling Smith out as a typical TV news bully and defending his view (Obama's got a history of siding with corporations, supports an increase in the defense budget that's desired by the military-industrial complex, has a tax plan that doesn't address the needs of the poor, etc.), but there's something very depressing about seeing this cranky old idealist becoming more marginalized by the minute and lashing out like a petulant child.

Ralph, after all this time, all this effort, all that it means and may yet mean for Barack Obama to become President of the United States, can you please just drop it for a second? For one second, man. Be generous. Lift your perpetually hunched shoulders, that gray face, and say something positive, something. The weight of your dourness, of your sobriety - it's too much to bear. We've appreciated your tireless rages on our behalf, your fuck you to the man, your secular sainthood. But something's passed you by now. You're not helping this world anymore.