About Rationally Speaking
Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
Last night, however, I watched a documentary on Nader, “Ralph Nader: an Unreasonable Man,” which recounted not just the events of the election, but all of Nader's career as a consumer advocate and critic of big business and political interests. The documentary was relatively sympathetic to Nader, but the authors did present several poignant criticisms of Nader by former sympathizers and friends, so that the viewer really got as balanced a view of the man as possible.
As a result, I changed my mind (please, mark the occasion on your calendars). First of all, by all accounts Nader is a man of principle, and his heart (and mind) are in the right place, which means that one ought to at least be careful not to engage in simplistic criticism. Yes, perhaps Nader has a big ego but, frankly, I don't think one can be a politician unless he has a sufficiently large ego, and I seriously doubt that Gore's or Kerry's are any less sizable than Nader's (of course, Bush's is of cosmic – and tragic – proportions).
Second, as a representative for the Green Party said in the documentary, every one of the “minor” candidates during the 2000 elections got more votes than those that (allegedly) separated Gore from Bush, and some of those votes were surely also taken away from the Republicans. So, why use Nader as the scapegoat? More importantly, Nader has been accused of orchestrating a campaign with an emphasis on swing states, with the implicit purpose of spoiling the elections for the Democrats. Too bad that the facts flatly contradict the myth: a political scientist (and self-professed Democrat) recounted the results of his research during the documentary, concluding that, if anything, the pattern of engagements (appearances, tv ads, etc.) during Nader's campaign show that he avoided concentrating on swing states, and instead attempted to maximize his chances of getting to the 5% goal – just as Nader had said all along.
Moreover, Nader is a man that deserves our utmost respect not only because of what he stood for during the recent Presidential campaigns, but for a whole life devoted to defend the public interest. He was instrumental in forcing big business to implement a number of measures that we take for granted today, seat belts, air bags and food nutrition labels among many others. While Bush is responsible for hundreds of thousands of death in Iraq, Nader's single minded persistence in the face of overwhelmingly negative odds and smear campaigns by GM (they sent prostitutes and private investigators after Nader to try to discredit him), actually saved tens of thousands over the past three decades or so.
No, we need to face it. Democrats lost the elections of 2000 and 2004 because of three reasons, any one of which – if overcome – would have made the votes for Nader irrelevant to the outcome: first and foremost, the stupidity of a large portion of the American electorate (I mean, these are the same people who believe that the earth is 6,000 years old); second, the crookedness of the Grand Old Party, which committed all sorts of unethical and possibly illegal actions to rig the election (just as if we were in a fledgling African democracy, not in the self-professed “best democracy in the world”); and, of course, the ineptitude of the Democrats themselves, who should have won by a landslide in both cases, given the political climate and the caliber of their candidates.
So, let's stop bashing Nader, and let us give him all the respect he really deserves. And, please, let us not fuck up a third time in a row, ok?