rn> David Corn: “Nader: Is There Life After Crucifixion?”


Richard Moore

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Subject: Nader: Is There Life After Crucifixion?

Nader: Is There Life After Crucifixion?

by David Corn

After the election came the crucifixion. Before the
Gore-Bush mess was settled--but as soon as it was apparent
that Ralph Nader's vote in Florida was greater than the gap
between Al Gore and George Bush--pundits, editorial boards,
political partisans and liberals pounced. AFL-CIO president
John Sweeney called Nader's campaign "reprehensible."
Environmental Working Group president Ken Cook declared,
"The public-interest community is going to spend tens of
millions of dollars a year for the next four years playing
defense. I don't think [Nader's] going to build a Green
Party any more than O.J.'s out there looking for a
murderer." Larry Marx, co-executive director of Wisconsin
Citizen Action, complained that Nader "got tunnel vision and
lost sight of progressive goals." "I will not speak his
name," hissed Democratic spin man James Carville. "I'm going
to shun him. And any good Democrat, any good progressive,
ought to do the same thing."

In addition to the demonization of a progressive icon--Nader
himself--Nader's campaign resulted in a sharpening of the
sometimes blurry line between inside-the-duopoly
progressives who try to nudge the Democratic Party to the
left and nonestablishment progressives who eschew the party
as part of the problem, not the potential solution. His
candidacy hardened positions along this divide. It also
diminished whatever opportunity he had to work with
left-leaning Democrats in Washington. "He's totally toast
among Democrats," says a senior Democratic Congressional
aide. "There is deep animosity toward him among high-ranking
Democrats in Congress. For now, the relationship is
completely ruptured." And with 2.7 million votes--3 percent
of the vote--Nader fell far short of the magic mark of 5
percent, which would have qualified the Green Party for
federal funding in the next presidential election. [JPC: But
who - or what - counted the votes?]

So was it worth it? "Of course," says an utterly undaunted
Nader, who obviously relished the campaign experience. "Look
what came out of this--the third-largest party. Tens of
thousands of people were energized. It was a great burst. We
can continue on and recruit more candidates in 2002. There
will be a Green Party presence here [in Washington], which
will speak with authority--electoral authority--when it goes
to Capitol Hill, not just say, 'Please, please, do what we
want.'" He expresses no regrets; he is unfazed by the harsh
criticism; he is unrepentant. With the Florida recount under
way, Nader showed no sign of caring much about who will win.

Instead, he was more excited about a letter he received on
November 8 from Holly Hart of the Iowa Green Party. She
reported that his campaign appearances there prompted
Republican farmers to contact the party and that "the Green
Party and the message of your campaign have come out well
ahead of where they started." Though Nader only scored 2
percent in Iowa, that was enough for the Iowa Green Party to
qualify for automatic ballot status. "Not only that," Hart
wrote; "we now have around five new Green student
organizations and many new county Green chapters--enough so
that we can now organize a real statewide Green Party." This
is evidence of the "benefits" of his campaign, Nader notes;
he has created a "ripple effect" throughout the nation.

The 66-year-old Nader won't say whether he's interested in
another crusade for the White house ("one election at a
time"), but he insists that he remains committed to building
the Green Party. The details, though, are hardly set, and
it's not even clear what Nader is working with. On Election
Day, the party was split between two different entities--the
Association of State Green Parties and the more leftist and
smaller Greens/Green Party USA, though the two sides were
close to a merger agreement. Nader says he will be the de
facto party "leader," but without the title ("I don't like
the word") or the day-to-day responsibilities for the party

Instead, he sees himself establishing several Green-related
outfits--a nonprofit educational group, a lobbying arm and a
political action committee--that would exist parallel to the
party. As he envisions it, "I'm on the outside expanding the
Green Party, while those on the inside intensify it." But
can Nader control or shape a party from the outside?
Political parties are usually difficult to steer, and the
Greens have their share of bickerers. Moreover, remember
Ross Perot and the Reform Party? Earlier this year, failed
Reform Party contender John Hagelin took a stab at gaining
control of the Seattle Greens. "They"--the Greens--"will
have to be very clever" to avoid would-be highjackers and
internal wrangling, Nader remarks, not using the word "we."
As one Nader adviser says, "Ralph does have a track record
of building things that last. And he'll stick with this. But
he will find it much more complex than building citizens'

What might make the task even harder is that Nader hopes his
Green Party will be more than a political organization
obsessed with elections. In his grand scheme, the party
would join with citizens' movements across the nation to
wage local battles untouched by the Democratic and
Republican parties. An example: In Florida popular outrage
has been sparked by the state's decision--prompted by
agribusiness--to cut down orange and grapefruit trees on the
property of private residences to battle a citrus canker
that affects only the appearance of the fruit. Neither major
party has gotten behind the citizens' uprising that ensued.
Nader believes that fights like this one provide openings
for a Green Party concerned with activism beyond elections.

Nader also wants to establish Green chapters on campuses and
Green Party storefronts in poor areas--"advice
centers"--that would help people qualify for Medicaid and
other federal programs. At the same time, Nader wants the
party to develop an "or-else relationship" with Democrats on
Capitol Hill. This is how it might work: The party would
zero in on twenty or so lawmakers--including Democrats--who
it calculates might be vulnerable to electoral pressure from
the Greens, and, depending on whether or not these
legislators adopt Green-friendly positions, the Greens would
decide whether or not to challenge them in 2002. (Such a
get-tough strategy will require plenty of planning and
commitment, for it will likely prompt further assaults from
progressives--environmentalists, union officials, abortion
rights activists, civil rights leaders--still working with
the Democrats.) Through a People's Debate Commission, Nader
will continue his campaign against the corporate-funded
Commission on Presidential Debates, which froze out all
third-party candidates in this year's debates.

And the money for all this? The 75,000 contributors who
helped him raise $7 million in donations of $100 or less
will be called upon to finance these new Nader-Green groups.
But that won't be enough, he admits. He hopes to continue
holding "superrallies," which during the campaign attracted
tens of thousands of people willing to pay to hear Nader
offer his anticorporate/anti-two-parties critique.

Is it possible that Nader's long-term mission of fostering
an anticorporate and progressive party will be overwhelmed
by noise about Nader-the-Spoiler and undermined by the
attacks from prominent progressives? "No," he declares. He
dismisses his left-of-center critics as "low-expectation,
frightened liberals. Across the country, in airports and
elsewhere, people are saying, 'Great job, thank you.' The
citizen-bureaucrats in Washington have been here too long,
and they've gotten too cushy with the Democrats. Bush got
twelve times the Democrats I did in Florida. That's the

Asked about Sweeney, he shows his irritation: "Here's the
Democratic Party, which can't win without organized labor,
and it gives organized labor none of the programs and
principles organized labor needs to grow. Instead, it gives
them NAFTA, the China trade legislation and no mention of
revising the antilabor Taft-Hartley Act. Yet here's a
guy"--he's referring to himself--"who fought for OSHA and is
way ahead on other policies for organized labor, and his
campaign is 'reprehensible'? This can only fill one with
pity. They're on their knees, begging Gore and the DLC for
crumbs. It's pathos."

Nader does not seem worried about being perceived as a rogue
or enemy by leaders of progressive groups. "Now people are
saying we better not come to [public interest] coalition
meetings," Nader says. "Well, they"--the Washington
establishment--"shut out progressive civil society a long
time ago." And Nader says he doesn't give a damn about
breaking ties with once-sympathetic Democratic legislators.
"The ties haven't been there. They said no to us on NAFTA,
WTO, the telecom bill, the merger craze, trade with China,
auto safety, stronger food-standard inspections, campaign
finance reform, universal healthcare. After a while, you get
the idea."

Persuasion-lobbying is out for Nader; blunt electoral
realpolitik is what matters. "We still have a long ways to
go. But the first step in regaining power is to realize
you've lost power." Nader's Green Party run has confirmed
his view that resurrection awaits only those progressives
who recognize this harsh reality, give up on the Democrats
and act accordingly.

http://www.greens.org - Globalize Democracy.

http://www.votenader.org - Run with Ralph.

http://www.tompaine.com - Common Sense.

http://www.futurenet.org - Yes! Positive Futures.

http://www.indymedia.org - Independent Media Center.

http://www.transaction.net - What is Money?

http://www.grb.net - Global Currency for the 21st Century.

http://www.cinetopia.net - The Power of Light.

http://www.freespeech.org - Share Your Mind.
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