OFF MY CHEST
A post I put up just before the holiday got some attention from the blogosphere, and thus reached a few more readers than most of what I post here; alas, some of those readers were offended that I dared to criticize Ralph Nader for his 2000 campaign.
OK, here's what offends me.
It offends me that I'm considered to be a traitor to the progressive cause if I say that there is a right wing in the Republican Party that is an absolute menace, and that has no full-fledged equivalent in the Democratic Party. I know -- that's heresy. Just as Galileo's torturers demanded that he acknowledge geocentrism, just as fundamentalist Christians demand the rejection of Darwin, so do Naderites demand the rejection of any notion of a difference between the two major parties.
Furthermore, Naderites declare that it was a betrayal of progressivism in 2000 to weigh the possible long-term benefit of a Nader vote against the likely short-term harm from turning the entire federal government over to the right wing of the Republican Party -- to Naderites, one simply wasn't permitted to say that was too high a price to pay.
I don't care that Gore won the popular vote, or that more people in Florida thought they'd voted for Gore than thought they'd voted for Bush -- the fact is, the election shouldn't have been stealable, and wouldn't have been if Nader had read the polls everyone else was reading and chosen not to campaign in swing states, recognizing the very real possibility that the candidate eagly embraced by the Falwells and Norquists of the world would win. (The political press now thinks that Gore lost the election, seeing the election and post-election periods as one shrewd campaign ultimately won by Bush and Rove and their party. This has helped contribute to the notion, possibly now dissipating somewhat, that not only Democrats but progressives are pathetic out-of-step losers. That's what Nader helped accomplish for the left.)
I also don't want to hear that Gore screwed himself by doing this or that, because anyone who claims to know by gut instinct with absolute certainty that a particular change in strategy would have gained him progressive voters without losing him as many or more centrist voters is blowing smoke.
This country hasn't elected an insurgent-party candidate to the presidency since 1860; anyone who was angry about what I said concerning Nader needs to tell me why my principal concern going into a presidential election shouldn't be the relative acceptability of the major candidates. That's what presidential elections are about -- electing presidents, not making grand statements.
I've always thought it was ironic that if Gore had won an unchallengeable victory, in the long wrong it might have actually opened up the system to candidates like Nader. Here's why: The press would have to deal with the fact that a GOP dominated by the right wing had lost three straight presidential elections. Pundits and party professionals take this sort of thing very seriously. Three straight losses and the GOP just might have said, "Why are we excluding the Colin Powells and the Christie Whitmans from our national tickets? Why does everyone have to pass the litmus tests of Jerry Falwell and Grover Norquist?" And then we really might have a Tweedledum party and a Tweedledee party at the national level. And a left candidate could then rise up without inevitably threatening to put right-wing extremists in the driver's seat.
Sorry, folks, that was my priority in 2000 and it's my priority today: making the GOP's right wing as marginal as possible. The GOP right is the largest, nastiest tumor on our body politic. I think the last six years have made painfully clear that that's so.
So yes, Ralph, go to hell. I still resent the hell out of you for what you did.
Fire away, commenters. However, I won't respond. I've said enough.