Monday, February 25, 2008

Ralph Nader: Media Idiot

Let me say first, I have a lot of respect for Ralph Nader. He has proven himself a successful leader on many fronts. Unfortunately, his achievements are now being overshadowed by his apparent desire to play court jester to a spiteful media. Nader deserves respect for the causes he has defended and championed. He is also the creator of one of my favorite political quotes: "A good citizen is not just someone who votes all the time." But any legacy he could claim is now being cheapened in what reads like a desperate quest to fight irrelevancy with his announcement to run again in 2008. From Open Left:

...I do not think Nader's role as a citizen advocate is the reason why his announcement is receiving so much media attention. Nowadays, Nader receives press not because of his work in building up left-wing infrastructure, but rather because he has emerged as a figure who famously divided the left in 2000. If he did not have the ability to anger large numbers of Democrats with his very presence, he simply would not be receiving the coverage he is getting. At this point, it is his role in dividing progressives, not in building them up, that earns him any at all attention from the same pundits that drool over McCain and Bloomberg. The same media outlets that otherwise give scant platforms to progressive viewpoints on op-ed pages and in panel discussions would not be paying any attention to Nader without his newfound role as a destructive figure for the American left.

Progressives who advocate for the kind of things Nader advocates have long since been shut out of the corporate media. With few exceptions, they are only allowed back in when they serve non-progressive agendas. Nader is not receiving media deference for his political accomplishments in the 1960's, 1970's and 1980's, but rather for his "accomplishments" in the 2000 election. Nader's announcement buzz is a helpful reminder of how many media outlets, reporters, and pundits still find progressives most useful as part of a "Democrats divided" or "progressives in disarray" narrative. As the downfall of Nader has shown, we play along with that permanent media narrative at our own peril, and to the great overall detriment of the progressive movement. Casting yourself in the role of the media idiot progressive can seriously damage the life's work even of a one-time giant like Nader.
Sit down, Ralph. Please.


  1. Nader also brought the left-wing together after 2000. A lot of Greens have disaffected and joined the Democratic party. Howard Dean, and now Barack Obama have helped create a place for them in our party. We have no where to go but up.

  2. The Democratic party (in pursuing a center-right agenda) has done a very good job of dividing "the left". A lot of us wouldn't have voted in 2000 if Nader hadn't run.

    And the Dems continue to lose my vote by ignoring progressive, pro-peace, pro-social justice candidates like Kucinich and embracing corporate-owned candidates.

  3. Lets just hope he does the same for Obama or Hillary that he did for Algore.

  4. Meg,

    I completely agree. And again, he deserves respect for good intentions and past achievements, but right now, he could make better use of his voice.


    I understand the frustration with the Democratic Party, but I argue that they are actually shifting away from the centrist position to a more progressive stance, and to ideologically support a candidate that would lose, ensuring a McCain presidency (as it played out in 2000 with the result a Bush presidency) is shooting off your nose to spite your face. Baby steps forward are much more constructive than a giant leap backwards, which was the result of Nader's run in 2000.

    And Ken,

    That is a really stupid idea. So, no. Luckily, it won't happen this time around. Our candidates have energized to large of a coalition of citizen activists and voters tired of the stupidity of Bush, and even Republicans disdainful of what the Neo-Cons have done to the GOP overall (FISA, warrantless surveillance, endless/costly war, and one gigantic goddam deficit). Too many been awakened to the need for a new way forward for our country, and damage caused by your party and those who think as you do.