So I was asked just now in an e-mail if I was going to write about Nader’s announcement that he’s going to try again for the Presidency in 2008. As I’ve noted before, I did vote for him back in 2000, and so my correspondent was wondering if I was going to talk about his run much now.
A little context — back in 2000, I certainly wasn’t fond at all of Bush but I was feeling disenchanted by Gore. Who, frankly, was a terrible campaigner and a very uninspiring figure in general, much like his main opponent. Just how badly Gore came across can be noted by the loss of his home state in the 2000 count — as I’ve said numerous times since, even Walter Mondale could manage Minnesota back in 1984, and if Gore *had* won Tennessee, he would have won the general election even without Florida. It’s one big reason why I’ve been impatient about claims about Nader and stolen elections since the end of 2000 — that there were contemptible flaws and abuse apparent in that vote is clear to me, but not the overarching conspiracy theory of doom since elaborated (and, since 9/11, perfected as the ultimate shadow explanation for what is ‘really’ going on in American politics).
Meanwhile, I’d been irregularly voting Green for some time, and as Nader was advancing himself as the Green candidate, my impression — which was hazier and less clear than it should have been, frankly — was that he was more in tune with where things needed to be. Certainly my annoyance with the two-party system as self-perpetuating power structure was thoroughly established by that point, and had for many years, and while I didn’t regard him as a perfect candidate, he struck me as a logical one for the historical moment.
And so I voted for him, and still have no regrets. In large part this is due to some retrospective back-patting — after all, California went for Gore, so in practical terms I had a strong hunch that he would win the state without a real worry (and such was the case). If I had been living in Florida at the time, my conscience might have been a little more tortured by now. But it isn’t, and I’m aware of how conditional my ease with myself is — still, Bush’s victory was not my ‘fault,’ as some have argued, and I’ll stick by that.
Eight years having passed and my feelings about the two-party structure being what they still are, on a large front you’d think that I’d be sympathetic to what Nader’s doing. In a quixotic way, sure — but that’s it. As I’ve already joked elsewhere, what he’s perfectly positioned to do isn’t to split the vote on the Left — where a lot of buyer’s remorse, as noted, pervades given 2000 — but to capture that most random of constituencies, the Ron Paul vote.
I’m not claiming any one to one transfer, but in looking at this news story and his website, it’s amusing to see how much of a claiming of a mantle is going on — dismissing politics as usual, emphasizing real change, embracing them there new modern technologies like YouTube and all that. So much standard rhetoric, but the Paul crusade was able to marshal all that into a fund-raising and attention-getting outfit that got his name out in an incredibly high profile way, much more so than he would have been able to do on his own. As a result, a crusty, anti-choice, obsessively-focused-on-gold Congressman from Texas was able to become a flagship for claims like the ‘Ron Paul Revolution,’ with the ‘evol’ part (over)intentionally emphasized as, after all, merely being the letters of the word ‘love’ spelled backwards. Oh the symbolism.
Now, for the longest time I’d noted to myself that Ron Paul types seem themselves to have simply transferred their affections from yet another figure, Lyndon LaRouche — and I should note in all this that I’m merely making general observations rather than concrete conclusions, based on noting who and what was popular around campus. But all three of them, though different from each other, attract a general mindset pursuing a belief both romantic and realistic. The realistic part is as noted — vested interests, including the two major parties and their core structures, are not exactly up for losing their slice of the pie, and a strong skepticism is necessary in a democracy. But the romantic part, which I’m sympathetic to but now regard with a cooler and clearer eye than before, lies in vesting one’s hope in a figure who ‘understands’ and explains it all, who presents him or herself, unconsciously or not, as the only ‘real’ alternative to a compromised/corrupt/whatever system.
And therein the problem at heart — I’m just not taken with that kind of idolizing. I’m not taken by it with *anyone,* political, religious, social, whatever. I’m sympathetic to arguments and points of view, but not star systems and leader figures — nothing of which is new from me, I’m sure, given what I’ve said before on the matter. Nader in 2000 was a function of protesting annoyance from me, an expression of irritation. Now I regard him with a shrug. He’ll draw people to him for the reasons I’ve described — and they’ll be vociferous about it and drown out alternate or more considered takes.
There’s nothing much more to note about this right now — there’s a flurry of attention, it’ll die away, and a newly committed audience will tell themselves everything Nader tells them in turn, and believe in themselves as much as they did for Paul, for LaRouche, for others, or maybe even feel that kind of belief for the first time. Good on ’em, really, but it’s not me. Barring something truly, utterly unexpected, California’ll go Democratic in November, I’ll see who I feel like voting for at the time, and the rest will follow.