Ralph Nader: Too Conventionally Reasonable?

by Abigail DeRoberts
Special to iVoryTowerz

As the current election progresses, the similarities between the two ruling parties are growing increasingly clear. Many leftists are feeling disillusioned with the ever-more-conservative rhetoric of today’s Democratic party. As a result, they run, unsuspecting, in the other direction, and are greeted by the comforting embrace of Ralph Nader. However, upon closer inspection, it is soon evident that Mr. Nader is far from able to quell our concerns or fix the system.

Ralph Nader consistently runs on a platform of saving America from corporate interests. Yet his vaguely anti-capitalist rhetoric is only against “big” capitalism — capitalism in the forms of multinational corporations — while he touts the virtues of capitalism that is smaller scale yet can be equally devastating, such as small business owners who often become wealthy local elites. And despite his harsh words for big capitalists, a significant chunk of Nader’s funding in the past came from some of George W. Bush’s most prominent donors. These are wealthy Republican funders, corporate advocates who support the Iraq War. When you look into the funding game, it becomes clear that in the past they supported Nader simply to take votes away from the Democrats. Now, I’m perfectly fine with votes being taken away from Democrats, but it is evident that these donors saw Nader as nothing but a pawn in their political game.

Although Mr. Nader opposes the current manifestations of the country’s political structure, he actually strives to maintain it. He firmly believes in maintaining the so-called democratic system, and he thinks this can be achieved by returning to the Constitution and a grassroots citizens movement. He continues to be a proponent of a representative democracy that uses voting as a method to elect a Congress to make decisions on behalf of its constituents. Even if representatives believe they have the interests of the people in mind, they are still speaking for the people and not allowing them to speak for themselves. This results in a structure that is authoritarian and paternalistic, not a system that liberates individuals from elite rule.

By participating in the political spectacle that is voting in elections, you are recognizing the legitimacy of the state and its current system. Voting for Nader does nothing to oppose the system, and supporting his hypocrisy is just as bad as supporting that of the Democrats. You’re not making a statement; you’re sustaining the state.

For more background on the 2008 campaign, please see these archival posts:

(The graphic is by Mike Licht from NotionsCapital.com via Flickr, using a Creative Commons License.)

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Liberal Arts Dude said...

Hi Abigail

I get from your post that you are against conventional electoral politics as a vehicle to solve societal problems. You see Democrats, Republicans, and even a self-styled alternative like Ralph Nader as being part of the problem. What I don't have a good idea about is what you are for and what solutions you advocate.

I ask this because in my own explorations of politics outside of the current American 2-party system what I often find are groups and efforts that are marginal because of one or a combination of three reasons.

Some are marginalized mainly because their ideologies are unpalatable to mainstream America and the methods and presentation they support serve primarily to repel rather than attract a large, mainstream audience.

Some may be sound ideologically but lack the necessary funding, manpower and infrastructure to build an effective organization.

Others are marginalized for structural reasons. They want to play the electoral politics game but the rules to participate are stacked against them to the degree that winning anything beyond symbolic public relations victories and low-level local political offices is vastly unrealistic.

Given these factors what is an anti-Establishment person or group to do? What do you advocate as a way for people who are anti-Establishment to make a difference? Can being anti-Establishment be anything other than being fringe? How?

Bobby said...

I'm still trying to get over how not voting is an effective protest against 'the state' ... You're just as guilty as affirming the status-quo. Granted, voting in our winner-take-all electoral college system is hardly democratic, but that's not at issue since you see democracy as a farce.

Dismantling the deeply entrenched capitalistic system by not voting doesn't seem like it'll ever get past a dream.

In our political economic system, there is no way to foster sweeping change unless there is a clear mandate. And coalescing a strong mandate requires working within the paternalistic, unsustainable, classist system that is capitalism. Changing the contours of our economic system can only happen through successful achievements within it. Call me a capitalist, call me the establishment, call me mainstream -- screaming and shouting will never fix institutional racism, wealth disparities, and corporate excesses. I'm not saying a vote for Nader will, but it amass more cohesion toward a leftist movement than anarchist dreams ever will.

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