Ralph Nader recovered a lot of his good standing with me in his strong performance on the George Stephanopoulos show this morning. Stephanopoulos deserves credit for having Nader on in the first place, even if it was only because of the "talk white" controversy, but friends of Senator Obama will probably find Nader's appearance further proof, following the infamous ABC "debate," that Stephanopoulos is their enemy. As you'll see, Nader has found a way to make the case for independent parties that could actually sink in to people's heads; he draws analogies with sports. In many tournament formats, whether it's tennis, basketball, or one you may know, the lower-ranked or lower-seeded teams get opportunities to confront the strongest teams. Why shouldn't presidential candidates get similar opportunities? Stephanopoulos himself says that he'd never heard it put that way before, so Nader may well be on to something here.
As we should have expected, Nader also makes a strong case against the American Bipolarchy, and explains yet again why the Democratic party will always betray the progressive movement. In the clip, you'll hear that Katrina vanden Heuval from The Nation magazine would show up in the next segment. When her turn came, she made a tortuous argument that change always comes from below, from movements that pressure governments, her point being that the movements should not try to seize power and become the government themselves, but remain where she thinks them optimally placed to influence events: on the outside of power. In effect, she all but conceded Nader's charge that the two major parties "own the government," but would not concede that this was a bad thing.
The nice lady's remarks demonstrated an essential weakness of the existing progressive movement: too many people in that cohort would rather influence power than exercise power, or take power, or build power. Maybe they think that keeping that critical distance allows them to avoid the compromises that come with politics. More likely, they fear other kinds of compromises that might trouble their consciences, such as actually coercing people to do what's right through the power of government, or actually punishing wrongdoers so it would hurt them. They're probably the sort of people that harder-minded characters often refer to sarcastically as "beautiful souls," akin to the unconditional pacifists who seem more concerned with their own karma than with the well-being of their fellow human beings. The Democratic party has terrible flaws of its own, but probably not those kind. It won't be until a movement arises with people who aren't afraid of destroying the Democratic party, or won't feel guilty about ruining people's careers or putting them out of their livelihoods, that the Democrats will be surpassed or supplanted. But Ralph Nader can't do it by himself, and it's not even clear whether he should be the one to do it. We await the others.
Please note that you'll have to sit through a 30-second commercial before you see the Nader interview. You have my apologies.