Archive for the ‘Ralph Nader’ Category

by Pete Talbot

Dear President-elect Obama,

I’m sorry we couldn’t deliver our three electoral votes to you. You worked hard for them. You visited the state and talked western policy. You set up offices and hired staff and had the best ground game I’ve ever seen. John McCain never set foot in Montana.

You came close — only 12,136 votes separated you from McCain. And compared to the 20-point win that George W. Bush had here four years ago, what you did was miraculous.

I’m still scratching my head, though. In almost every other statewide category, Montana went blue: senator, governor and all four tier b’s (unseating the sole Republican incumbent with a new secretary of state). And two-out-of-three newly-elected PSC commissioners are Democrats.

Another confusing example is Gallatin County. I hoped for better numbers from there. It did, after all, almost go for Sen. Tester in 2006 (Burns won by less than 200 votes). But this year, Obama goes down by over 1400. Perhaps Barack should work on a flattop haircut for 2012. Even Gallatin County voted for you, by a 1609 vote margin.

I don’t believe race was a factor. I think most Montanans who voted for McCain did so because of issues like taxes or defense or the “experience” card or some ingrained conservative Christian belief.

And guns played a role. Even though you came to Montana and assured us you wouldn’t take away our guns, ugly rumors persisted. Next time through, make sure to get that ubiquitous firearm photo op.

We wish you well, Mr. President, and may you bring people together to help solve the numerous problems facing our country. Godspeed.

An unpleasant aside

After saying race wasn’t a factor, well, you still run into this: On my way to Bozeman on election day, I stopped by the Cardwell Store, there between Whitehall and Three Forks, for a cup of coffee and a Slim Jim. Two good-old-boys were at the counter and one said, “I better go vote.” To which the other said, “Yeah, I’d hate to see this election get nigger-rigged.”

I’m not even sure what he meant but I left my merchandise on the counter and walked out. Came up with some really choice things I should have said about five miles down the road.

Now I’m sure that everyone in Cardwell isn’t an ignorant racist pig but I won’t be stopping by again, ever, to find out.

It’s a sad anecdote, but there’s one good thing about it; the guy was old and will soon be dead.

I love Missoula

On a more upbeat note: Missoula delivers. One or two flies in the ointment: that HD-100 race where Willis Curdy is losing by a measly 33 votes to Republican incumbent Bill Nooney (provisional votes still being counted, final results Monday). But that’s democracy; you can choose the anti-education, anti-senior, anti-young person, anti-environment candidate if you want.

Same with SD-7, which has a little bit of Missoula County in it and where veteran lawmaker Paul Clark lost to anti-government zealot Greg Hinkle.

Otherwise it was a sweep: Gutsche over Mood for the PSC, the improbable county commissioner outcome, nine-out-of-ten state reps, and two state senators.

The Emergency Operations Center Bond going down wasn’t really a surprise. With property taxes in the mail and it being a slow economy and all, folks are tightening their belts. In better times, I think it would have passed. It also wasn’t one of the strongest campaigns I’ve seen run in this town.

Ravalli County blues

Is it too harsh to recommend a toll booth at the Ravalli/Missoula County line? Those Bitterrooters should pay extra to come and visit an eclectic town that values education and planning. Maybe we could funnel the toll revenue into preserving Ravalli County open space, while there’s still some left.

I know that there are progressives in Ravalli County but time-and-time again their issues and candidates get hammered.

Both West Fork Blues and Rebecca have excellent comments on the results in the Bitterroot.

Statewide conundrum

Despite Democratic wins in most of the big-ticket races, the Montana House is tied and the senate losses seats (R’s 27-D’s 23). Throw in a Democratic governor and I smell gridlock. But maybe not, lots of talk from candidates of all stripes wanting to “reach across the aisle.” We’ll see.

I, like Jay and others, have to wonder about this split ticket voting. How can our Democratic governor win by an almost two-to-one margin and still have the Montana Senate lose its Democratic majority? Did the Republican Party focus on legislative races because it knew most of the others were hopeless? Any insights?

We’re a two party country

Third parties didn’t fare well. Libertarian Don Eisenmenger received about 7 percent in the OPI race, which I believe was the party’s best showing. Presidential candidate Bob Barr got 0.3 percent. In the U.S. House race, perennial candidate Mike Fellows got 3 percent, and Stan Jones got 2 percent in the governor’s race.

For Constitution Party candidates, Ron Paul got slightly over 2 percent in the presidential race. That party’s best showing was in Missoula County with Kandi Matthew-Jenkins getting a little better than one-third of the votes against Cliff Larson in SD 50 (there was no Republican in that contest). And in the SOS race, Sieglinde Sharbono received around 3.5 percent.

Nadar’s Independent ticket garnered slightly less than 1 percent.

And finally

Who ever thought we’d have a president with a name like Barack Obama? It pales in comparison, though, to the candidate from HD-15 — my favorite name on the ballot — Frosty Boss Calf Ribs. I’ve met some of the Boss Calf Ribs clan up in the Browning area but don’t know Frosty, who was unopposed. Kind of makes our Anglo names like John Smith and Jane Doe seem rather lame. Congratulations, Frosty.

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by Jay Stevens

The Notorious Mark T, as have I, has long been a critic of the corporate-friendly and conservative wing of the Democratic party, which seems to predominate in Washington DC. But our varying approaches to politics manifest itself over any discussion involving Ralph Nader. Mark T thinks there’s little or no substantive difference between the parties; I think the difference that does exist is important and worth fighting for. (Mark T is also frustrated by the two-party system; seeing as we’re stuck with it, I believe we need to exert some force on it to change it, or at least, to make it more representative.)

Mark argues that if Kerry had won in 2004, we’d still be in Iraq. He could be right: Democrats are too often cowed by rightwing hawks into bad foreign policy decisions. Truman watched McArthur cross the 38th parallel in Korea, Kennedy intervened in Vietnam, Johnson escalated, and just about every significant “establishment” Democrat gave Bush the go ahead to invade Iraq. Still it’s easy to imagine Kerry standing up to torture, the politicization of federal agencies – like the Department of Justice – domestic spying, contractors in Iraq, the war profiteering in Iraq by Bush buddies, etc. In short, while our current system would likely have continued unchanged, it’s likely that the mistakes and maliciousness of our federal government would have been reduced, mismanaged money better spent, some lives saved. To me that’s a significant difference.

Of course, sometimes it’s hard to argue with Mark, when sh*t like this happens: Schumer and Feinstein signaling their approval of Bush’s Attorney General nominee, Michael Mukasey, who apparently is willing to go along with the administration’s torture policy.

Nora Ephron:

And then there are the Democrats in the Congress. What a bunch of losers, hiding behind the fact that it takes 60 votes to shut down debate and 67 to override a presidential veto. So what? So pass a law and make Bush veto it. Make him veto something every single day. Drive the guy crazy. What have you got to lose? And meanwhile what have you done? You’ve voted for the surge, you’ve voted to authorize a war against Iran, and you’re about to vote in favor of an attorney general-designate who refuses to call waterboarding torture.

Of course Mark was there to remind us of the Democrats’ failing:

The standard response to this kind of behavior is to accuse Democrats of lacking a spine. In fact, these two senators will face intense criticism for their act. It takes courage to act against your friends, for your enemies. It’s not a matter of having or lacking a spine.

It’s more basic. The Democratic Party is a catch basin for dissent. In 1968 protesters outside the convention hall in Chicago were clubbed by police as liberals inside nominated Hubert Humphrey, Vietnam War supporter. The Democratic Party has an institutional function – it corrals dissent, and then hoses it and then clubs it to death. The party leadership is made up of enablers for Republicans. To support Democrats is to invite indignity on one’s self – we now must crawl back in our holes as Bush wins yet again.

IMHO, I think that’s giving the Democratic leadership too much credit. The acceptance of Mukaskey probably has more to do with Democrats’ nervousness with the polls showing Congress with an even lower approval rating than the President. And with a major election headed our way, Schumer doesn’t want to rock the boat, create any controversy in the one area where Republicans are competitive with Democrats in the voters’ minds: how they deal with terrorism.

Still, that’s a failing. Again, Nora E:

But here’s what they should do instead:
Reject Mukasey.
Make Bush send up another nominee.
Reject that nominee if he won’t take a position on waterboarding.
And just keep on doing it.
Because it’s the right thing to do. Because waterboarding is torture. Because we are torturing people and it has to stop, and it will never stop unless the Democrats make it stop.
And forget about the Justice Department. No one will fix the Justice Department until there’s a new president.

Too often Democrats have compromised on the “right thing.” Compromising basic principles ensures that they’re no longer principles. We’re not asking for much here. Stop torture. Deny Mukaskey his appointment.

by Jay Stevens

Before I jump into the subject, here’s the disclaimer: I voted for Ralph Nader in 2000.

As is his bent, the Notorious Mark T recently defended Mr. Nader from a spurious blogo-attack on the man’s motives, in which Nader was called “a deluded Leninist megalomaniac who preferred to lead the country closer to disaster in the hopes that this would somehow make things better in the end.”

This is a true statement. (Well, maybe not the Leninist crack.)

Certainly Mark T is right on when characterizing the 2000 Presidential elections:

One, Gore cost Gore the presidency by running a centrist to right-leaning campaign and failing to ignite the liberals and progressives who could have swept him into the presidency – one that was his for the taking. He screwed up, DLC style. (Does anyone remember his VP choice? Conservative Joe Lieberman from not-so-important Connecticut. What was he thinking?)

The reason I cast my vote for Nader – besides living at the time in a state that went safely for Gore – was that the 2000 version of Gore was a preppie moralist with a cranky conservative running mate trying to out-pray GW Bush into the White House. And he was trying to win by separating himself from the recently impeached Clinton. It was a backpedaling, sycophantic performance at a time when a strong response to the right’s Quixotic and mean-spirited putsch attempt was needed.

Besides playing the squeaky-clean Robin sidekick to Clinton’s conflicted Batman, the most lasting impression of Gore was his wife Tipper’s attempt to censor the music industry, which drew a famous response from underground hero, Frank Zappa.

At that time it truly seemed as if there were no difference between Democrats and Republicans.

Of course now we know better.

The irony here is that Nader, believing there was no difference between Gore and Bush, brushed off any dire warnings about his candidacy’s effect on the election in a 2000 interview with the New York Times:

And [Nader] called the possibility that a court packed with Republican appointees could overturn Roe v. Wade a “scare tactic.” On Sunday, Mr. Nader said in a television interview that even if Roe v. Wade was overturned, the issue “would just revert to the states.” Just?

“Here’s what happened on that,” he said wearily. “The scare tactic is that would end choice in America, and I just said that’s not true, but I should have been astute enough not to mention that.”

He said he did not in any case believe for a moment that Mr. Bush would seek to overturn Roe v. Wade. “The first back alley death, and the Republican Party is in deep trouble and they know it,” he said. He described the party’s opposition to abortion as just for show, “just for Pat Robertson.”

Thanks to the South Dakota legislature, we now know what would happen if SCOTUS handed abortion to the states: draconian and intrusive legislation going far beyond Nader’s wildest dreams. (Never mind how much his candidacy might lend itself to the “first back alley death.”)

While some cling to the fantasy that history would have unfolded in the same manner if Gore were at the nation’s helm, it’s pretty clear that things would be quite different. For one FEMA was a good organization under the Clinton administration and would have likely remained so under Gore.

I think the New Yorker’s David Remnick sums it up nicely:

But can anyone seriously doubt that a Gore Administration would have meant, well, an alternate universe, in which, say, American troops were sent on a necessary mission in Afghanistan but not on a mistaken and misbegotten one in Iraq; the fate of the earth, not the fate of oil-company executives, was the priority of the Environmental Protection Agency; civil liberties and diplomacy were subjects of attention rather than of derision; torture found no place or rationale?

But these facts didn’t distract Nader who again ran in 2004, well after the effects of a radical conservative on the nation’s security, economic health, and sense of national unity were readily apparent. If there was ever a time to endorse a “centrist” Democrat, it was in 2004, when “Republican lite” should have been welcomed – warmly – by any reasonable person. Mediocrity would have been a step up – a large and meaningful step up. By 2004 it was obvious that a seriously incompetent and radical administration could have lasting, serious, and real consequences for all…

(It’s fitting, then, that Nader’s 2004 candidacy has destroyed any credibility he had. It was a stark admission of his own megalomania. His opinions and candidacy were more important than the fate of the nation and world. What he should have done is rallied the base around Democratic candidates. Instead he ran with a Green party sidekick – the same Green party that was used at least once by conservatives to siphon votes from a Democratic race in a tight contest.)

What was – is — needed, of course, was a populist wave, reinvigorated by the administration and GOP excesses during their single-party rule, to sweep up strong progressive Democratic candidates and propel them into office, which is what happened in 2006. But that network was only beginning in 2004.

But some still cling to a 1999 worldview.

Mark T:

But here’s the point that needs to be made again and again: We are stuck with a two-party system. It’s not a good system. Since both parties are financed by essentially the same corporate money, they tend to represent the same colors, differing only in shades. The role of third parties is to blackmail the major parties into acceptance of populist policies. They only way they can do this is to threaten to deprive major party candidates of votes.

[snip]

Democrats demand two things of progressives: Their votes, and their silence. Alterman seems to think we owe centrist and right wing Democrats our vote. But we have every right to withhold our support, to threaten them with election defeat unless they listen to us.

Let’s get real, people. It’s a two-party system. That’s the way it will remain as long as we have winner-take-all elections in this country. The way to effect change is to get involved in the process early and often. Open your wallet; pound the pavement. Find people you believe in and stick with them. It worked in 2006. It very well might work in 2008.

And you’ll find you’ll actually make a difference. That’s real progressive politics.




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