Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Third Party Argument

The PBS showing of "An Unreasonable Man" kept Ralph Nader and the discussion of the "spoiler" issue in the spotlight. The opinion expressed by many in the film is that the Democratic Party tries everything it can to stifle dissent once they choose a candidate.
“When people say, ‘Why’d you do this in 2000?’ and so on,” Nader explains in AN UNREASONABLE MAN, “I’d say, ‘I’m a 20-year veteran of pursuing the folly of the least worst between the two parties.’ Because when you do that, you end up allowing them to both get worse every four years.”
(Note: PBS has an online poll on with the following question: "Ralph Nader's candidacy in 2000 is the reason that George W. Bush won the presidential election." As I write this, the poll responses are running 92% "No.")

Last week, Op Ed News specifically requested articles, Op Eds on the issue of ""progressive" Democrats not running in the primaries and taking on the "corporate" Democrats that they frequently castigate in other media... e.g. DailyKos, Calitics, etc.

California (now) Green, Martin Zehr responded Monday with something that was the same argument that Nader made in 2000 and which was repeated in An Unreasonable Man. This is that you can never pull the Democratic Party to the left unless they perceive that there will be a penalty (like losing a constituency) if they do not act. Zehr changes the question.
Why are progressives so marginalized in campaigns and fail to come forward with significant constituencies capable of making an impact?

Maybe because it fails to examine the unstated premises of the resolution: that the Democratic Party is capable of being the agent for change in America and that the progressive agenda is a vibrant trend that is capable of exercising influence in the political arena in the electoral process. Does this make me on the negative side of the resolution? I would have to say so. No debate can proceed without agreement on the definitions and I for one cannot agree either that the Democratic Party is capable of presenting significant policy changes and structural reforms before the American people or that the Democratic primary system and candidates lie at the root of the failure to redefine the opposition in a manner to make it more relevant to the American people. [my bold emphasis]
Zehr took a lot of words to say the obvious. Nader would have been more direct. The result would have been the same.

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