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Ralph Nader's Effect on Progressive Values

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Message John Sanchez Jr.
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Ralph Nader made himself heard the other day, not so much from over on the Liberal left, as from his usual haunt way down in the polls. He was on his soapbox excoriating Barack Obama for being "half black,"- but not addressing the problems that corporate America puts on those residents of the "ghetto"-. Nader apparently hasn't been paying much attention, because Obama has addressed those issues, he just didn't play the race card himself by addressing them as "black issues"- exclusively.

The politics of Nader's rant are unclear. I haven't heard anything newsworthy from him regarding the Republican candidate. Is that because his disdain of the right goes without saying? Has he been making those noises without them being covered by the press? Has he been more deferential of McCain's campaign because, as in 2004, he receives funding from Republican donors who see him as a useful tool?

What does Nader get out of this diatribe? Is it a bump in his polls from three to three and a quarter percent? Does he move himself closer to the levers of power in the White House where he can put things right? No, I guess not.

So what is Nader's purpose in running? Does he articulate and promote progressive values that no one else will? Hardly. In fact, his pathetic quadrennial effort serves to marginalize progressive values by identifying them as the banner of his fringe movement. That is something else that endears him to the right wing.

It is, after all, the center that wins elections. Most of the American electorate is of the center. We do not have a parliamentary government where minority parties can form ruling coalitions, so minority parties that cannot field a full government's worth of winning candidates simply cannot govern. They stay minority parties.

If these progressive values are to be the values embraced by a governing majority, they have to be shown to be the values of the center of the American electorate, as they were for nearly fifty years, until 1980.

The alternative is to hold the party meeting in a broom closet, bemoaning the latest in a long string of well-practiced losses, as Mr. Nader will, no doubt, be doing on election night.

That is the "Willy Sutton"- theory of electoral politics. Willy Sutton was a safecracker who after a stint in prison was asked why he robbed banks. His reply was, "Because that's where the money is."- The political center is where the votes are. Promoting a fringe candidate like Ralph Nader may give your conscience some temporary balm, but it is analogous to being a safecracker that tries to support himself by specializing in robbing gumball machines, and it will leave you just as destitute.

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I am a lifelong resident of the Chicago suburbs, with a several year hiatus to serve in the Navy when my Vietnam era draft notice turned up. I had been told that guys with last names like mine were among the preferred cannon fodder in the Army, so (more...)
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