Sunday, March 18, 2007

A long train runnin'...

P-Doug and I met up again yesterday and went back to The Bishop and the Belcher. Towards the end of our sojourn there, I noticed they had some encyclopedia yearbooks on the shelf behind him. He hauled down the one for the year 1972. We read the section on Canada... we read Mike Pearson's obit and reflected on just how much the country had changed thanks to the changes he had (quite recently, back then) instituted... entirely for the better, in my opinion.

But what really caught our eye was a mention, somewhere, of Ralph Nader. A picture of him as a younger man, still fresh from his struggles with GM. The caption under the photo said that he was warning of a dangerous trend in the United States Congress to knuckle-under to the Executive branch, and forecast an increasing usurpation of congressional power by the Presidency.

This was 1972. Before Watergate had played out, before Reagan, before Bush-Cheney. It was like finding out Teddy Roosevelt had warned of a coming attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor.


L-girl said...

Well, speaking of Pearl Harbor, people worried about FDR's "imperial presidency". He had an extremely powerful executive - but in that case it was good. :)

Polt said...

okay but if Nader was so precognative, why didn't he see that his foolish and foolfardy presidential run in 2000 gave us the moron we have in office today? If he had NOT run, then the votes Nader got in New Hampshire alone more than likely would have gone to Gore, and given that state to him, as happened in 2004, and with New Hampshire, it wouldn't have mattered who won Florida.

Nader did more damage to this country by running in 2000 than any good he may have done before that. Or since.


loneprimate said...

By this logic, a Republican supporter might just as well argue that if those wicked Democrats had been truly precognitive, they would never have fielded an opponent to George Bush in 2000 in the first place. Why divide the country, why go through all that angst when Bush was just going to be president anyway? If only they'd bowed to the inevitable and let the man run unopposed, today the US would be a paradise of non-partisan understanding, a gung-ho land that could do it all, standing 100% behind its God-blessed president... or maybe even 110% with the help of a Diebold machine or two!

That the United States is capable, as a nation, of electing a man like George Bush is the fault neither of Ralph Nader, nor Albert Gore, nor anyone else in particular. No point in quibbling over the numbers; they were close enough as makes no odds, theft or not — so no, it's not Nader's fault. It's the fault of the fact that George Bush makes sense to every second person in the US. The fault, dear Brutus, lies not with our stars, but in ourselves.

I've always felt that one of the real weaknesses of US democracy — all the more puzzling given pride the country takes in the range of commercial choices its free market furnishes — is its perennial inability to accept and integrate a third party option into its politics... much less a fourth or fifth. The contest is forever conceived of as a see-saw battle between two titans with the occasional little nobody pestering to get on. Locked in a tight little bubble with only each other in sight, the Democrats and Republicans more and more closely resemble each other. A case in point: Hillary Clinton is supposed to be an opponent of George Bush's? Really? With opposition like that, why have a second party at all?

The value of people like Ralph Nader, parties like Canada's own NDP, is that they keep everyone aware of the alternatives, things that matter to large segments of the population that are being ignored by other interests... though I'll grant you that it seems to work better in other countries than the US (or in some cases, Canada). So much of what's been done that's really of value in Canada has been at the suggestion, or occasionally even the action, of the New Democrats. Similarly, ideas like Social Security are also ones that came from without the traditional two-party apparatus of US politics.

That the candidacy of Ralph Nader ate into Al Gore's support doesn't automatically follow... Nader's constituency may have been partially, largely, or perhaps even entirely made up of people wouldn't have bothered to vote in the first place for either Tweedledum or Tweedledee. Gore had to rise or fall on the strength of his own candidacy. The fact that millions voted for a third option like Nader isn't the death of democracy in the US... it's probably its last hope.

L-girl said...

Nader did more damage to this country by running in 2000 than any good he may have done before that. Or since.

Ugh. I just saw this. How foolish to believe such a thing. How very, very foolish and sad.