Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ralph Nader progressives plan challenge to President Obama in 2012 -- good or bad?


For what it's worth, and it certainly isn't worth much, the right-wing Washington Times is reporting that "progressive leaders" are planning "to field a slate of candidates against President Obama in the Democratic primaries to make him stake out liberal stances as he seeks re-election." Just who are these "leaders"? The usual suspects, led by Ralph Nader and Cornel West, among others.

As Dennis G. notes over at Balloon Juice, "Fox News is all over the story as proof that President Obama is a failure." He also slams these progressives for marginalizing the left and allowing Republicans to win:

There are a group of people who sell themselves as "progressives" who have proven over the years that they are complete fools. These are folks with a serious strategic thinking problem. Time after time all they do is rack up failure after failure. Worst of all, they provide wingnuts everywhere perfect foils who can be presented as proof that all folks who believe in progressive goals are idiots.

*****

This Nader/West effort to marginalize the left is just another example of the progressive death wish...

Humphrey had to pay a price for LBJ. They had to "punish" Carter to teach him a lesson, even if it gave us Reagan. Gore had to be disciplined for the sins of Clinton and these fools claimed there was no difference between Al and Bush. Kerry never "excited" them and also required election year chastisement. Now it is President Obama who is the target of these strategic geniuses.

Nader, West and these other fools always function as the reliable Left flank of wingnutopia. Without these useful idiots the GOP and their ideas would always be defeated. With them to serve as comic foils, vote sponges, and advocates of apathy, the GOP can get close enough to steal any election.

I tend to be critical of these efforts on the left to bring down Democratic leaders, whether it's Gore or Obama, but I think this overstates the case a tad, just as Fox News et al. on the right are mistaken if they think this is actually about trying to defeat Obama. 

While there is certainly a great deal of discontent on the left, some of which I share, the intention here is to send a message, to try to compel the president to address progressive concerns and perhaps even to move somewhat to the left during the campaign. As the WaTimes acknowledges:

"What we are looking at now is the dullest presidential campaign since Walter Mondale — and that's saying something, believe me," Mr. Nader told The Washington Times.

The group's call has been endorsed by more than 45 other liberal leaders. They want to recruit six candidates who bring expertise ranging from poverty to the military.


Mr. Nader said the intent is not to defeat Mr. Obama but to make him focus on issues that might get lost in a purely Obama-versus-GOP discussion.

And both sides do this sort of thing (if the left more than the right). Just think back to Pat Buchanan circa 1992.

The difference now is that Nader isn't actually planning on launching a full-on challenge to Obama, as he himself challenged Gore in 2000. All he seems to want is for often-overlooked viewpoints (notably by the mainstream media) to the left of the Obama-GOP spectrum to be heard, to be part of the debate. And, really, what's wrong with that?

To a point, yes, I agree with Dennis G. Progressives like Nader are often self-defeating, and often give Republicans just what they need by dividing the left, by carving off the left from the Democratic Party while the GOP remains united. And, yes, maybe "they'll do what damage they can in the Primaries and then support some wingnut assisting 3rd party effort." You never know. But I'm not sure we're at that point yet. Let's see what they do, and, if it really is just about making the campaign more interesting -- about trying to pull Obama to the left -- I'm not so sure that's such a bad thing.

But you know what? It probably will be about more than that, with Obama identified as the problem, as worse in some ways than the Republicans. After all, this is Ralph Nader we're talking about. If it comes to that, or if it's like 2000 all over again, then we really do need to tell these "progressive leaders" to piss off.

The danger is a Republican victory next year, and to prevent that from happening we really do need to stick together despite our differences. And if the non-Democrat Nader, as so often in the past, doesn't appreciate that, then we should have no time for him or his mostly ridiculous challenges.

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