[sixties-l] What Did the Nader Campaign Accomplish?

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: 11/18/00

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    The Observer (UK)
    November 12, 2000
    What Did the Nader Campaign Accomplish?
    By Christopher Hitchens
    Here are some reasons to be glad that Ralph Nader put
    himself forward for the presidency:
    1. He broke America's dirtiest and least-known secret, which
    is that the high-sounding "Electoral College" system is
    designed to keep the rabble from picking the President.
    2. He broke America's second-dirtiest and best-known secret,
    which is that the voting process in many states - especially
    the state of Carl Hiassen - is tainted by corruption and
    3. He exposed the pretensions of the two major party machines,
    both of which covertly agree on these "rules" as long as they
    can share the spoils.
    4. He showed it is still possible to run an intelligent and
    articulate campaign, using free and informal rather than
    paid media, while refusing any donation of more than $1,000
    in a year when $3 billion, in so-called "soft" but actually
    illegal money, was raised and spent by the two presumptive
    and dynastic nominees.
    5. He made a fool of the commercial media networks, all of
    which take the aforementioned money in advertising revenue
    and all of which not only misrepresented the issues in the
    race but messed up the one thing they are supposed to get
    "right" - the foreordained and poll-driven result.
    These, and some other things I"ll mention in a moment, make
    Nader the most successful and necessary American radical for
    decades. Yet all you hear from Al Gore's outriders and dummy-
    ventriloquists is that he "spoilt" things for their man.
    This is a ridiculous noise, compounded of self-pity and
    a "spoilt" sense of entitlement. Here are some obvious
    correctives to it:
    1. In a year when the Democrats campaigned against an
    unpopular Republican Congress, they failed to retake either
    the Senate or the House. (And, in the most salient seats
    they did hold or take, they relied on a dead man on the
    ballot and on a man who spent a record $60 million of
    his own personal fortune.)
    The Green Party was not running for Congress. But if it had
    been, the Democrats would still have blamed Nader rather
    than themselves for the defeat.
    2. Gore lost several key states (including his own home
    state of Tennessee where the Nader vote was negligible)
    by several other "margins". These include:
    (a) The almost 100 million Americans he could not get to
    vote for him.
    (b) The number of people who are disenfranchised because of
    non-violent narcotics convictions (estimated in Florida and
    elsewhere to number 13 per cent of the adult black male
    population, alone).
    (c) The number of people who voted for Pat Buchanan's
    ill-named Reform Party.
    Gore could not motivate the first group. He loudly approves
    of the "War on Drugs" that incarcerates and then disenfranchises
    the second. And nobody - certainly no Republican - ever said
    Buchanan had no business running on his own programme.
    It is only in liberal circles that one hears party pluralism
    denounced as something akin to treason or sabotage. The Veep's
    hacks ignore all the above factors and blame the crisis on
    those voters who decided to think for themselves (to vote
    for Nader, for example, because he is the only candidate
    who favours decriminalising marijuana and abolishing
    capital punishment).
    A few months ago there was a convention of American
    political scientists in my home town of Washington. They
    unveiled a new "model" of the American electoral mindset,
    and announced confidently that in a year like this the
    Vice President could not be beaten.
    No Republican challenger, they said, could hope to prevail
    at a time of huge prosperity at home and peace overseas. I
    thought this might be too complacent, but not by that much.
    And still Gore managed to blow it, and to make himself
    vulnerable to one of the most mediocre candidates in
    US history.
    He cannot whine about this; not after failing in Tennessee.
    Yet in the tones of his partisans one can hear an aggrieved
    intolerance. On election night at a party thrown by Miramax,
    some were overheard by the Washington Post to say they would
    like to "kill", not Bush or Buchanan, but Ralph Nader.
    The newly anointed Senatorial First Lady, in whose honour
    the party was thrown, echoed the thought. I have heard the
    same thing, in the same words, all over the airwaves and
    on my email, from clapped-out liberal journos and those
    who hoped for a job from Gore. These types ornamented the
    top-dollar "fundraising" events and "meet'n'greet" soirees
    with Hollywood's deep thinkers; their annoyance is music
    to my ears.
    They thought they had bought a share in "the process" and
    found the share (and much of the process) was worthless.
    High time. Take one example. For eight years Gore abased
    himself for Clinton and uttered abject defences he knew to
    be untrue.
    Then on two occasions in the campaign, he announced he was
    suddenly "distanced" from all that and had miraculously
    become "my own man". Well, it's one thing to say it, big
    boy, and another thing to be it.
    Exit polls, most notably in Florida, discovered a huge number
    of voters who were disgusted by Clinton and Clintonism. These
    people have a right to vote, too. And what does Gore tell them?
    "Didn't you hear me? I distinctly said I was 'distanced'."
    Come on.
    This would not be the only time this terrible candidate
    mistook his own spin for reality. After the Los Angeles
    convention he abruptly announced he was a foe of fat cats
    and big corporations and a friend of the "people" and the
    little guy.
    But the logos and the donations of corporate America were
    displayed all over the convention and paid for his campaign.
    Who did he imagine he was fooling? As with his excruciating
    performance in the three public "debates", it was enough to
    irritate the Republicans, but it was also enough to make
    people in the centre feel embarrassed and people on the
    left feel sick.
    And after this, to pose as if it's simply your turn to be
    President. The achievement of Nader, however, is far more
    than the exposure of this phoney politics. From now on two
    crucial matters will be established in the American mind.
    First, the Electoral College system must be reformed or
    abolished to give expression to the popular vote. This will
    also compel a reconsideration of the small state/swing state
    tyranny, whereby small and rural states outvote large, populous,
    urban and multi-ethnic ones. That is several decades overdue.
    Second, the issue of ballot-rigging and voter fraud, almost
    undiscussed since Kennedy's crimes in 1960, is now unavoidable.
    The next election will have to be "transparent". Neither major
    party would have mentioned either of these things if the vote
    had fallen "their" way, or either of their ways.
    Again, Nader was the only man running who dared say the
    process itself was undemocratic. Now US citizens can begin
    to catch up with Mexico and Serbia by insisting on an open
    election instead of a pre-arranged and money-driven plebiscite.
    While the Florida factor remains in play, let us recall two
    things the Gore ticket did to try to take this bizarre state.
    Earlier this year the US courts ruled that young Elian
    Gonzalez, survivor of a shipwreck that drowned his mother,
    should be returned to his father's custody in Cuba. Some
    Cuban exile extremists then in effect kidnapped him, and
    the mayor of Miami announced in a crowd-pleasing way he
    would not comply with the court order.
    It was the most flagrant assertion of "states' rights" against
    the federal government since the days of segregation. Gore's
    contribution, as a senior member of that federal government,
    was to announce he sympathised with the kidnappers.
    This gross irresponsibility and pandering was repeated last
    month when Senator Joseph Lieberman paid a visit to Miami,
    announced that a Gore administration would never open
    diplomatic relations with Cuba, and laid a wreath on the
    grave of Jorge Mas Canosa, a leading Miami Cuban mobster.
    This put him and the Vice President in a position well
    to the right of the last Bush administration. But more
    important, it showed they are small-timers, cheap ward-
    heelers and unscrupulous opportunists.
    There was a remark much-repeated at the beginning of this
    dismal campaign, when it became evident the large donors had
    already determined on the two nominees. "If only," people
    said "they could both lose." This wry comment was heard
    through the attenuated primaries, the fixed conventions
    and the scripted "debates".
    Well, now they both have lost. And they are both looking, and
    acting, like the peevish third-raters they are. Confronted
    by two such pygmies it would be overstating matters to call
    Nader a giant-slayer. But the system for all its faults does
    allow for insurgent candidates to make a difference and one
    should be grateful rather than irritable that, in this
    respect at least, the system worked.
    Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for "Vanity Fair" and
    "The Nation". His latest book, "No One Left to Lie To: The
    Values of the Worst Family" is published in paperback by

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