Monday, June 28, 2004

Nadering nabobs

Look, every time I post something pointing out that not only is Ralph Nader a right-wing tool, he continues to confirm it beyond any serious deniability, his defenders come out of the woodwork and whine that I'm demonizing or somehow attacking the man personally ("Nader-bashing").

So let's be clear: I'm not saying that Nader is a bad man. All I'm saying is that any serious progressive should question his credentials as someone representing their vote.

Nader was never my man. His record on civil rights, labor and immigration policy was enough to convince me Al Gore was a better vote. I also was mature enough to understand that democracy is an imperfect thing, and voting forces us sometimes to make imperfect choices that in the end must be pragmatic. A progressive voter in 2004 should be asking (as they should have in 2000), "Do I want to be playing offense for the next four years, or defense?"

But I have many friends who were Nader voters in 2000, and I understand their choices. This year, as it happens, all of them are voting for Kerry. Which leaves me wondering about the diehards who continue to lend his candidacy any credence.

Obviously, the pragmatic need is both crystal-clear and great now not to vote for Nader. If the past four years haven't convinced progressive purists just how disastrous Republican rule can be, they haven't been paying attention.

But even clearer now is what I only suspected in 2000, which is that Nader is a right-wing tool. I'm not saying that to demonize the man, but simply as a strategic reality. He's a stalking horse for progressive votes whose most ardent silent supporters are Bushevik conservatives, and his continuing flirtations with rightist elements underscores this fact in a poignant way -- because they call into serious question Nader's progressive credentials.

A recent report by Max Blumenthal for American Prospect lays it out:
Nader's Dubious Raiders: Ralph's Arizona ballot tactics are worse than this week's Democratic lawsuit alleges. Some petitions piggybacked on a reactionary anti-immigrant initiative -- and others were paid for by a former executive director of the state GOP.

The story explains it in detail:
In its effort to get on the ballot in the key battleground state of Arizona, the Prospect has learned, the Nader campaign hired a petition company that is also gathering signatures for a draconian anti-immigrant initiative pushed by right-wing elements in the state. The initiative, called Protect Arizona Now (PAN), would restrict access to public services by undocumented immigrants.

In addition, according to several sources, the Nader campaign was assisted in its petition drive by an unlikely figure: the ultra-conservative former executive director of the Arizona Republican Party, Nathan Sproul. Sources say Sproul -- who is also spearheading an initiative to block public funding from political campaigns in the state -- made payments to the petition contractors working on his public-funding initiative to gather signatures for Nader as well.

Moreover, according to several sources, the signature-gathering drive for PAN is mostly funded by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), a Washington-based anti-immigrant group that has spent tens of millions in the last two decades to roll back the rights of both legal and illegal immigrants living in the United States.

The Arizona ballot drive was never the grassroots effort that Nader characterizes his campaign as. In trying to garner the 14,694 signatures necessary to get on the Arizona ballot, the Nader campaign first unsuccessfully solicited a Republican consulting firm to handle its ballot-qualification bid. This spring, as droves of professional petitioners descended on Arizona like traveling carnival folk to gather signatures for PAN -- and to collect the $2–4 that a petitioner is awarded for each signature delivered -- they also presented signatories with the Nader petition, according to several sources. This petition piggybacking helped Nader get more than the amount of signatures he needed to qualify for the ballot -- most of them from Republicans. In fact, according to a volunteer for the Arizona Democratic Party who has reviewed Nader's signatures, of the more than 21,000 signatures Nader garnered, a whopping 65 percent percent came from Republicans, compared to 18 percent from Democrats.

I'm sure I'll still be flooded with heated denials from his diehard supporters. But at some point, you'd think they'd have to stop sniffing the kool-aid and understand that George Bush and Karl Rove and Rush Limbaugh are all counting on their "purity".

UPDATE: Joe Conason has a report on a similar situation in Oregon, where Bush-Cheney operatives worked behind the scenes to get Nader on the ballot.

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