Nader Empowers LeftFebruary 25th, 2008

Ralph Nader amplified my voice yesterday when he declared his candidacy for chief exec. Up till now, Obama and Clinton were answerable only to John McCain and the tiny minority he represents. Today they are answerable to me and the minority I belong to, people who reject war and insist on social justice, and who vote on that basis.

Neither Clinton nor McCain could ever get my vote, but Obama can claim it from Nader with just a few commitments. He has to commit to end the wars. All of them. He has to commit to undo the curtailment of civil liberties. He has to commit to national health insurance comparable to what citizens of other countries have. He has to commit to hold Bush and company accountable for the crimes they have committed and for the injury they have done to the country.

Nader gives me all of these commitments and much more. He doesn’t promise to win the election, but he enhances the value of my vote, which has never come cheap. If the accountability crowd unites behind him, he can challenge Obama to reject the anachonistic chauvinism that continues to dominate the right wing of his party, especially as embodied in bought-and-paid-for members of Congress. That probably won’t happen, but it might happen.

Ralph Nader invited the Democrats in the last two elections to make him irrelevant by embracing the goals of the movement for peace and justice. Both candidates declined even to discuss national health insurance, and the last one pretended there was something worthwhile to be salvaged from our military adventures. The two now vying for the support of serious voters have so far come up short on peace and justice, and some of us will demand more.

We should consider the election a mere formality at this point. Obama’s popularity is not going to abate. Nothing ugly is going to come out about him because there isn’t anything ugly to come out. Nader remarked when he announced his candidacy that if the Democrats can’t landslide this election they should close up shop.

Let’s concede that the time between now and the inauguration will be spent preparing to govern and not campaigning for office. Obama will become a magnet for every opportunist in America and every patriot, and that’s where Nader’s candidacy comes in. As an independent candidate, Ralph has a seat at the table, whether Barack wants him there or not.

Obama’s new and he’s clean, and he has an opportunity in Ralph Nader’s candidacy to win over the skeptical wing of the liberated majority. Nader knows that most of his supporters will probably vote for Obama even if he doesn’t come around on the issues, but voting’s not the big event here. The big event is unfolding now, and Nader’s candidacy ensures that our movement will play a part in it.