Timothy Noah of Slate.com writes Lay off Ralph Nader in yesterday's Slate. In what is likely to be the nicest MainStream Media article about him for the next decade or so, Noah acknowledges that while he doesn't believe there are no pertinent differences between the two parties, he does believe that Nader believes it (and thus the talk about ego trips and vanity in terms of his presidential bids are a bit off). I agree with Noah, and I'm glad someone else has said it.
There are two things I don't think people understand about Nader (that I'm presuming I do):
a) if you do believe there isn't an important difference as I mostly do and he almost certainly does, then it isn't egomaniacal to keep running; it is more like Rudyard Kipling's poem "If": "If you can keep your head while all those around you are losing theirs, and blaming it on you... [you'll be a man, my son]." I guess I'm sensitive to this charge because I've been on the business end of it a couple times, just for believing in what I believed in despite the opinions of others around me. While it does take a certain amount of ego to believe you're right despite many, many detractors, it isn't about your ego. Egomania and vanity are about loving yourself excessively -- this is too often confused, I feel, with the passion and genuine belief and conviction in ideals that we praise in legend and song but seem to punish in real life.
b) If you believe in the evils of American Empire, including numerous deaths abroad (i.e., one million Vietnamese soldiers and 2-5 million civilian casualties compared to 60,000 US dead, courtesy largely of JFK and LBJ -- as I've said and presented evidence for before, Democrats have caused an equal or greater number of deaths from imperial ambitions in the past decades as have Republicans), and you believe the science on the environment (especially Global Warming), it is morally unconscionable to continue or compromise with the program of empire that has killed so many for less-than-noble reasons, and simply unwise and not in anyone's best interest to compromise on the environment, which simply put will not compromise with us -- we'll do what's right, in time, or we won't, and we'll make it worse for everyone. Of course, in case of increased environmental degradation the rich will still survive -- it's the poor who will suffer.
So Noah doesn't believe in Nader's uncompromising stance because it is simply not a politically realistic one. The question that I think is more pertinent though is, are politically realistic stances enough to stave off environmental and imperial catastrophe? I think the answer is no...
Side note: I had an extensive argument, well, with numerous people over this, but memorably with J-colleague EON. EON called my views that under a Dem OR Republican, environmental disaster seemed unavoidable and deaths from imperial efforts would continue practically unabated cynical. She also viewed as cynical (but didn't disagree with) my observation that the poorest and most discriminated-against Americans are among the groups who, for the most part, don't vote, likely because of the realistic analysis that the poorest's fortunes have changed little under whichever party. Both parties target the middle-class, with the poorest rarely seeing substantive help. Her response was whether I thought the comparatively small number of middle-class people who would be helped in a marginally better Democratic administration were unimportant -- I replied that they weren't unimportant, just not more important or even as important as the larger number of people who don't see material changes in their welfare under either party. I.e., the fore-mentioned poor and foreign nationals who, for example, starve to death under Democrat-imposed sanctions that do nothing to weaken their dictator. She continuously challenged my interpretation of history (i.e. that any President will do what they have to in order to stay in office, i.e. FDR & the New Deal occurring only with the genuine threat of rebellion by the poor and socialist upsurges in the 20s and 30s, and that political movements were more powerful, important, and largely independent of party, i.e. Nixon and Ford's civil rights work that they were forced to do and their arguably much better record on civil rights than JFK, etc.), without offering a competing interpretation. So, the question is, as I asked my dad the other day, why is it cynical to believe that the "Best of Two Evils/Obama's Not Evil" Plan will not work, and that the only morally and environmentally correct choice is to generate an alternative system -- that no two-party system is ever going to stave off environmental collapse or empire? I believe breaking the US' two-party system is doable, and real change within it is not. *I'm* cynical because I believe your method will fail but *my* approach that *you* don't believe in has a chance? What kind of weirdworld logic is that?