Shut Up, Ralph Nader

You know, if I was someone who was instrumental in ensuring the election of George W. Bush to the White House, I’d hide my head in shame. But not Ralph Nader. No, he’s back, happily using racist epithets to refer to the current president, who is, at last check, an African-American:

Nader, who has been viciously critical of Obama since before his inauguration, said he was encouraged to see many of the president’s campaign allies beginning to turn on his agenda.

“Is the title of your article ‘I told you so?’” he asked. “This is what I meant a year ago when I said the next year will determine whether Barack Obama will be an Uncle Tom groveling before the demands of the corporations that are running our country or he’ll be an Uncle Sam standing up for the American people.”

naderYou know, words really fail me. I don’t really know what possesses an old white guy to use the words “Uncle Tom,” you know, ever, but I really don’t get why a soi disant progressive would use those words to describe the first African American to serve as president. Quite frankly, it’s disgusting, and it stands as exhibit 3,492 in my ongoing argument that Ralph Nader is one of the worst humans alive today.

I will note that Nader is a big Kill the Bill guy. Now, I know that in and of itself doesn’t prove that killing the bill would be a disaster of Brobdingnagian proportions for the Democrats, one that would cause the party to spiral out of control for years. I mean, hey, Nader was right about the Ford Pinto, so, you know, it’s possible he could be right again. But I do know that given his record since 2000, if Ralph Nader says the sky is blue, I’m going to assume it’s pink until further examination. After all, he once declared there wasn’t a dime’s worth of difference between Al Gore and George W. Bush, and…well, let’s just say that didn’t exactly work out for the United States, humanity as a whole, or the universe in general.

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39 Responses to Shut Up, Ralph Nader

  1. 1
    Robert says:

    I’ll eagerly look forward to your reconsideration of consumer safety, minimum wage, and corporate governance regulations. :)

    As for the Uncle Tom thing, I suspect he got dazzled by the rhetorical brilliance of his uncle-uncle pairing.

  2. 2
    RonF says:

    I understand what the term “Uncle Tom” means. However, I have never heard of it described as a racial epithet before, nor have I ever heard that white people can’t use it.

    I really don’t get why a soi disant progressive would use those words to describe the first African American to serve as president.

    It’s pretty clear to me from that paragraph that Mr. Nader thinks that Pres. Obama is betraying the best interests of the people of his race (at least) to special interests. You may or may not agree with that, of course, but why he said it seems clear to me.

    After all, he once declared there wasn’t a dime’s worth of difference between Al Gore and George W. Bush, and…well, let’s just say that didn’t exactly work out for the United States, humanity as a whole, or the universe in general.

    Oh, I don’t know. Given the rather weak grip on reality that Al Gore has shown (e.g., the temperature of the Earth’s interior is millions of degrees), the aftermath of 9/11/01 with him in charge might have ended up with the Taliban and Al-Queda running rampant throughout the Middle East and threatening Saudi Arabia. Or, perhaps more immediately, Iran in possession of Iraq’s southern third, a Sunni remnant in the west and a war among Iran, Turkey and a nascent Kurdistan in the north. I shudder to think about what America and the rest of the world would be like if Al Gore had been in charge instead of Pres. Bush.

  3. 3
    Politicalguineapig says:

    1. Gore isn’t that much of a wimp. Yes, he has all the charisma of a stick, but I think he would’ve been smart enough to do what needed to be done. (And who let Osama bin Laden get away? Could his last name have started with a B?)
    2. Nader’s not even pretending to care about humanity anymore. He’s purely after the ego-boost. I gave up on him back in 2000.

  4. 4
    Jeff Fecke says:

    I shudder to think about what America and the rest of the world would be like if Al Gore had been in charge instead of Pres. Bush.

    Yeah, he might have ignored intelligence suggesting a terror attack was imminent, invaded under false pretenses a country that had done nothing to do with the attack, and at the same time, ignored a natural disaster in one of America’s cities until thousands of people were dead.

    Oh, wait….

  5. 5
    Manju says:

    the chickens are coming home to roost. for years it was open season on clarence thomas, condi rice, and general powell; and on occasion a fellow dem would get it for not being sufficiently leftist (shapre james wacking cory booker; bill cosby, or recently joe lieberman in blackface)–so we shouldn’t be surprised to see a leftist taking aim at Bam along racially coded lines.

    nader’s just being consistent

  6. 6
    Manju says:

    Yeah, he might have ignored intelligence suggesting a terror attack was imminent, invaded under false pretenses a country that had done nothing to do with the attack, and at the same time, ignored a natural disaster in one of America’s cities until thousands of people were dead.

    It would also mean Joe Lieberman would be President today.

  7. 7
    Sam L says:

    Why does everyone keep saying Ralph Nader is white?

  8. 8
    Robert says:

    Lebanese are often considered white, particularly when they are Christian (as most are) or born in an Anglo/US country (as Nader was).

    And also, look at him at a superficial level. That guy’s white – native American grandpa, maybe, but white. (And anybody named Ralph is either white or black; there are no Arabs named Ralph.) (Remember, superficial.)

    Admittedly I don’t think much about racial matters, but I didn’t blink at seeing Nader described as white and I know he’s of Lebanese ancestry.

  9. 9
    brenda says:

    I understand what the term “Uncle Tom” means. However, I have never heard of it described as a racial epithet before, nor have I ever heard that white people can’t use it.

    If that’s the case, then no, you don’t understand what it means.

  10. 10
    Rose says:

    If Ralph Nader tells me NOT to jump off a bridge, I’m totally jumping, dude!

    Because shouldn’t my every move, thought, opinion and passion in this world be dictated by whatever Ralph Nader doesn’t want?

  11. 11
    RonF says:

    I don’t know what “Uncle Tom” means? Hm. I thought I did, I’ve been around for a while. So I did a Google search. The top hit was Wikipedia. It leads off:

    Uncle Tom is a pejorative term for a black person who is perceived by others as behaving in a subservient manner to white authority figures, or as seeking ingratiation with them by way of unnecessary accommodation.

    I’ve certainly warned others in the past that Wiki is not a definitive source, but this is in agreement with what I’ve understood it to mean since I first heard it, what, probably about 42 years ago. I’m not clear on how a white person can’t use that term. Perhaps you could explain.

  12. 12
    Jeff Fecke says:

    I’m not clear on how a white person can’t use that term. Perhaps you could explain.

    Because white people have no damn business trying to decide which African-Americans are behaving ingratiatingly toward white people.

    Frankly, I don’t know how you can claim in good faith not to understand that.

  13. 13
    Manju says:

    the Indian equivalent of uncle tom is “brown sahib”, which generally refers to South Asians who take on the mannerisms and tastes of the British upper classes, the former colonists. i never really heard the term until i started debating politics with Indians, but its politicization really doesn’t do it justice.

    when i was a kid we flew air india (all indians of a certain age have a version of this story) and were discriminated against by Indians themselves. during a flyover all the whites were given hotel rooms while us indians slept on the floor. my dad, trying to explain to me what was happened, just kept muttering about the “sick Indian mentality.” this is what made him finally take an American passport.

    years later i read fanon and came across the term “colonized mind.” i introduced my dad to the term whiloe reminding him of the incident and he loved it, responded: “Yes, thats it!. The sick indian mind i told you about.”

  14. 14
    Jake Squid says:

    RonF is the least qualified person I have ever heard wrt racism. This is something that he has demonstrated repeatedly for years. You’re much better off ignoring any of his comments related to racism. I really think that RonF would be doing himself a service by not commenting on anything even remotely related to racism.

  15. 15
    Madeline says:

    I have heard the term Uncle Tom used in a non-racial sense before, to refer to someone who seemingly betrays the lower group to which he belongs by sucking up to authority figures. In fact, I’m pretty sure “Uncle Tom” was used on Buffy once to refer to a vampire betraying other vampires in such a way – can someone back me up on this? I don’t remember the exact context.

    However, when the term is used to describe a black person, there is no ignoring the racial element. When the person using it is a white person, it is particularly egregious. As Jeff Fecke says, white people have no business making such a judgment.

  16. 16
    Dianne says:

    , if I was someone who was instrumental in ensuring the election of George W. Bush to the White House,

    I don’t disagree with your main thesis, but I have to take exception to this comment. Nader may have contributed in a small way to Bush’s election, but I find it more to the point to blame Bush, the RNC, and Bush voters for Bush’s election than Nader or the less than 3% of voters who voted for him. (Given that the state with the highest proportion of Nader voters was Alaska, it’s not altogether clear to me that Nader took votes from Gore alone anyway.)

  17. 17
    RonF says:

    A white person can’t observe that a black person is behaving in an ingratiating fashion? As opposed to being able to observe such behavior in a white person?

  18. 18
    Doug S. says:

    To be fair, it was hard to know in 2000 that Bush’s campaign was a bunch of lies.

    The Daily Show: President Bush vs. Governor Bush

  19. Pingback: Alas, a blog » Blog Archive » On Nader, Obama and the Health Care Fight

  20. 19
    Madeline says:

    RonF, to answer your question: yes, a white person may observe that a black person is behaving in an ingratiating manner.

    However, if that white person has an understanding of the history and the meaning of the term “Uncle Tom” and a respect for the feelings of others, he/she will find a way to observe that a black person is behaving in an ingratiating manner without using the term “Uncle Tom.”

  21. 20
    Jenny says:

    The sad thing is there’s other white people who agree with Nader’s statement: http://www.distantocean.com/

  22. 21
    John Caruso says:

    Nader’s absolutely right: Barack Obama has, without a doubt, been an Uncle Tom for the giant corporations who are running America into the ground (his exact words). And people who think “Uncle Tom” is just a pejorative racial term are generally the same people who don’t understand what “niggardly” means.

    It’s interesting you think I’m white, Jenny, since I don’t think I’ve ever said one way or the other. It might be worth considering what lies behind that assumption, in my case or more generally.

    Certainly more worthwhile than wasting time on another shameful, whiny liberal Nader hate-fest. Funny how people who support the Democrats have such a deep loathing for someone who has the temerity to participate in democracy, isn’t it? No matter that he’s consistently championed every single value they claim to hold dear. That speaks volumes to anyone open who’s willing to hear.

  23. 22
    Robin L. says:

    …if I was someone who was instrumental in ensuring the election of George W. Bush to the White House…

    No, Nader did not ensure the election of George W. Bush.

    And for a very obvious reason: Al Gore won the popular vote in Florida. If you want to point a finger at the ones who ensured the election of George W. Bush, point at Jeb Bush, or Katherine Harris, or Antonin Scalia.

    Yes, the official count’s 537-vote margin was less than the Green Party received. It was also less than the Communist Party received. Yet no one blames the Communist Party for swinging the election, because no one thinks the Democrats were entitled to those votes. They weren’t entitled to the votes the Green Party got either– Al Gore didn’t get them because Al Gore didn’t earn them.

    And to blame Nader is to ignore the real cause, blatant election fraud. Jeb Bush promised to deliver Florida to his brother, and it would not have mattered how many votes Gore won by. If Gore had received another 1000 votes, then a way would have been found to lose another 1000 Democratic votes. Gore lost because the fix was in, and because he gave up the recount fight.

  24. 23
    Ampersand says:

    John wrote:

    Nader’s absolutely right: Barack Obama has, without a doubt, been an Uncle Tom for the giant corporations who are running America into the ground (his exact words). And people who think “Uncle Tom” is just a pejorative racial term are generally the same people who don’t understand what “niggardly” means.

    John, I for one am perfectly aware of the correct meaning of “niggardly,” and of the origins of the term “uncle tom.” The term “uncle Tom” is racial, in both its origin and in its present-day usage. It’s not a term that Nader would have used for a white Democrat (did Nader ever call Gore Uncle Tom? Or Bill Clinton, when he was president?).

    I don’t know or care what race you are; the politics of “no! no! It’s nooooot racist!” whenever a hero of the speaker says something racist is boring, thoughtless, and counterproductive to any genuinely progressive politics.

    I campaigned very hard for Nader in 2000. There was a moment when Nader could have helped lay the foundations of an actual, sustained movement, but instead he acted like an asshole; he didn’t do shit to help build local Green parties, and he turned what should have been a quest to build a more powerful left movement into a quest to screw Al Gore. In hindsight, Nader was a lousy basket for progressives to put eggs into.

  25. 24
    Ampersand says:

    Robin wrote:

    And for a very obvious reason: Al Gore won the popular vote in Florida. If you want to point a finger at the ones who ensured the election of George W. Bush, point at Jeb Bush, or Katherine Harris, or Antonin Scalia.

    Yes, the official count’s 537-vote margin was less than the Green Party received. It was also less than the Communist Party received. Yet no one blames the Communist Party for swinging the election, because no one thinks the Democrats were entitled to those votes. They weren’t entitled to the votes the Green Party got either– Al Gore didn’t get them because Al Gore didn’t earn them.

    Robin, I agree with your points, but not with your conclusion.

    I don’t agree with the implied premise that it’s a zero-sum game; so if we blame Nader, we can’t also blame Harris, and the Supreme Court, and Gore, and Bush. I think that in a race as close as the 2000 election was, we can reasonably point to a whole bunch of factors (including Nader’s campaign) and say “if any of these factors had been different, Al Gore would have been president.”

    And although I agree with you about those 537 votes, I still think the Nader campaign mattered to the outcome. In the final weeks of the campaign, Gore came and campaigned in Oregon. In contrast, we didn’t see either Kerry or Obama in the final weeks of their presidential campaigns. The difference is that Nader made Gore feel he had to spend a portion of his time and resources in places like Oregon, where Nader was running strongly. If Nader hadn’t been running, it’s a safe bet that Gore would have spent a portion more time and resources on swing states, including Florida.

    Indeed, wasn’t part of the point of the 2000 Nader run to prove to the Democrats that Democrats will lose close races if they can’t keep progressives within the Democratic coalition? I certainly recall that being an argument made by Nader’s supporters at the time.

    I disagree with you that a larger vote margin would have made no difference. Election fraud in the US is a crime of opportunity. If Gore had won by 6,000 votes, I doubt that the election in Florida would have been stolen, because it would have been difficult. It’s because the vote count was so incredibly close — and because Democrats were so incredibly weak and willing to give up without a fight, as you said — that Republicans had the opportunity to steal the race.

  26. 25
    Myca says:

    Yes, the official count’s 537-vote margin was less than the Green Party received. It was also less than the Communist Party received. Yet no one blames the Communist Party for swinging the election, because no one thinks the Democrats were entitled to those votes. They weren’t entitled to the votes the Green Party got either– Al Gore didn’t get them because Al Gore didn’t earn them.

    I agree with this, broadly put … I don’t think that any political party is ‘entitled’ to anyone’s vote … but the question for me is not whether a particular party is entitled to progressive votes or not, but rather what is the most effective way for progressives to vote in order to see their favored policies enacted.

    —Myca

  27. 26
    Robin L. says:

    If Gore had won by 6,000 votes, I doubt that the election in Florida would have been stolen, because it would have been difficult.

    They threw out more than 6,000 votes in West Palm Beach alone. It’d take more than that to stop an election from being stolen.

  28. 27
    Maia says:

    I agree with this, broadly put … I don’t think that any political party is ‘entitled’ to anyone’s vote … but the question for me is not whether a particular party is entitled to progressive votes or not, but rather what is the most effective way for progressives to vote in order to see their favored policies enacted.

    I think that ‘not for a ticket with Lieberman on it’ is a perfectly reasonable answer to that question.

    But I also think that’s the wrong question. Voting will not get progressive policies enacted (which is distinct from stopping conservative policies from being enacted, or getting them enacted more slowly, which voting is more likely to succeed in). Educate, agitate and organise is how you get progressive policies enacted. If voting is the main or most important political action anyone takes then they are making no difference to whether or not progressive policies happen. So why the focus on voting? Why argue about how voting went down 8 years ago, rather than where the mobilisation for a universal health care system is?

  29. 28
    Jake Squid says:

    I agree with this, broadly put … I don’t think that any political party is ‘entitled’ to anyone’s vote … but the question for me is not whether a particular party is entitled to progressive votes or not, but rather what is the most effective way for progressives to vote in order to see their favored policies enacted.

    When Bill Bradbury was running for Secretary of State as the Democratic nominee in 2000 he asked the Green Party to withdraw from the election in order to defeat the Republican nominee.

    We said, “Okay, what will you give us? Which one of our core values will you promise to make a priority?”

    His campaign replied, “We’re not going to give you anything, just drop out of the race.”

    Voting for Bill Bradbury wasn’t going to give anything to voters who agreed with the positions of the Green Party. The only thing Green Party leaning voters would get is not the Republican Candidate.

    I don’t think that voting Democratic is an effective way for progressive voters to get their policies enacted. It is, however, an effective way to slow down the Republican party.

  30. 29
    Jake Squid says:

    To continue on with the Oregon branch of the Democratic Party and it’s view of progressives…

    In 2002 I went to an campaign education forum given by the Sierra Club of Oregon. The entire focus of the 3 day retreat was how to smash the Greens. Not how to appeal to Green Party voters, how to destroy them. Good luck reforming that party. I’ll be happy to be a regular Democrat voter again when you do.

  31. 30
    sylphhead says:

    the Indian equivalent of uncle tom is “brown sahib”, which generally refers to South Asians who take on the mannerisms and tastes of the British upper classes, the former colonists. i never really heard the term until i started debating politics with Indians, but its politicization really doesn’t do it justice.

    The closest thing to a East Asian equivalent would be either “banana” or “twinkie”, but neither have the exact same meaning as “brown sahib”, apparently. Those food terms generally refer to young, 1.5 or 2nd generation Asian-Americans who act white and treat other Asians condescendingly. I have no problem with “acting white”, whatever that means, but the latter really bugs me.

    There does exist the phenomenon of Koreans and our neighbors treating white folk with more respect than we do to our own countrymen. (Also countrywomen.) There are few people back home that I can’t intimidate by whipping out the English. While that does come in handy when I’m impatient and dealing with the uniquely Korean brand of pushy salespeople, I obviously have bad feelings over the whole thing.

    Voting will not get progressive policies enacted (which is distinct from stopping conservative policies from being enacted, or getting them enacted more slowly, which voting is more likely to succeed in). Educate, agitate and organise is how you get progressive policies enacted.

    Yep. Electoral politics only goes so far, because that of the highest federal level most removed from our day to day lives. Liberalism starts at home, by practicing liberal values. A change in culture forces a change in policies, not the other way around.

    And finally, Nuck Fader.

  32. 31
    plunky says:

    So tired of so-called progressives blaming Nader for stuff.

  33. 32
    Myca says:

    So tired of so-called progressives blaming Nader for stuff.

    So tired of so-called progressives who care more about their personal purity than whether any progressive things happen.

    —Myca

  34. 33
    Jake Squid says:

    I’m sick of so-called progressives calling out so-called progressives over voting strategy. There were and are rational reasons for voting for 3rd parties as well as not voting for third parties. I would hope that we can disagree on which is the better strategy without being assholes.

  35. 34
    Myca says:

    I would hope that we can disagree on which is the better strategy without being assholes.

    Sure. My point is just that voting Green because….

    … the Democrats act shitty to the Green party …
    … the Democrats are pro-corporate tools …
    … the Democrats are wimps who roll over at the first sign of opposition …

    (all of which I agree with, BTW)

    … doesn’t have anything to do with my main goal, which is seeing more progressive legislation enacted. All of that can be true … IS true … and the fact remains that splitting the progressive vote is going to win us exactly nothing.

    The Greens win the ‘agreeing with me’ contest.
    They lose the ‘being able to do much useful with that’ contest.

    Maia is right, voting isn’t the only way to work for progressive change, nor is it probably the best way … but it is one way, and it is a decision we each have to make. We each have to figure out what our criteria is.

    My criteria is that I want to vote in such a way that my vote will do more good than harm.

    I will gladly vote Green (WAY more gladly than I vote Dem, and almost as glad as I would be to vote for Bernie Sanders) when it doesn’t seem like that will do more harm than good.

    —Myca

  36. 35
    plunky says:

    I will gladly vote Green (WAY more gladly than I vote Dem, and almost as glad as I would be to vote for Bernie Sanders) when it doesn’t seem like that will do more harm than good.

    Voting Green doesn’t do harm. Voting for conservatives harms. The attitude behind saying something like “shut up Ralph Nader” or saying he was “instrumental in ensuring the election of George W. Bush to the White House” has a ludicrous base. Democrats make decisions about which policies to put in their platforms. And those decisions cost votes one way or the other. Why is it a surprise that going to the middle costs leftist votes? They go to the middle because they want middle votes. Shouldn’t be surprised when it costs them progressive ones. The Democratic party doesn’t own leftists.

  37. 36
    Politicalguineapig says:

    Doug: I assume a Republican is lying every time they move their lips. I’m surprised more people didn’t do that.
    I don’t know about Oregon, but here the Dems voted not to run a candidate against a Green party city councilman. So progressive interests won out there. That said, I think the Greens are much more effective on a local level.

  38. 37
    Jake Squid says:

    Myca,

    I vote 3rd party often because the Democratic Party rarely pushes anything that is important to me. I vote 3rd party often because the Democratic Party views me and people with my political views as their opposition, not as potential supporters. I vote 3rd party often because the Democratic Party is unwilling to negotiate with people with my political views. I vote 3rd party often because voting for a Democrat is rarely a means to reaching my goals.

    The Greens win on the “agree with me” contest.
    The Greens and Democrats are in a dead heat on the “being able to do much useful with that” contest.

    It may be that our political positions are different enough that the Democrats actually push and/or enact policies that are very important to you where that doesn’t happen for me.

    In any case, I think disagreement over voting strategy is legitimate but I don’t think hurling blame at the other side is. If your strategy to get me to vote your way is to insult me, your not going to get me to change (the same thing goes in the other direction, too).

    I don’t believe for one moment that insulting you because you find voting DP to be the better strategy will get you to abandon that.

    So blaming Nader voters for the Bush disaster doesn’t get Nader voters to pledge their votes to the Democrats. Blaming Nader voters for the Bush disaster seems like fingerpointing to avoid any sort of self-analysis within the DP. Blaming Nader voters for the Bush disaster is a continuation of the strategy that drove so many to vote for a 3rd party that appeared to have potential.

    So, yeah, when we get into the whole “fucking asshole Nader voter” thing again – 9 years later – it reinforces my feeling that the DP doesn’t care about me or my politics. It wants my vote because it deserves my vote because I’m not a Republican. As long as that is the statement being voiced by the DP and it’s supporters I won’t be a regular DP voter.

  39. 38
    Larkspur says:

    Madeline:

    ….In fact, I’m pretty sure “Uncle Tom” was used on Buffy once to refer to a vampire betraying other vampires in such a way – can someone back me up on this? ….

    Ooh, I can always help with the Buffyisms. Season 2, School Hard, Spike the evil vampire calls Angel, the formerly-evil but now ensouled vampire, an Uncle Tom for refusing to slaughter and devour humans. Angel and Spike used to do that together. Spike is very upset that one who he thought was his own kind has proved to be so hideously non-demon. Spike feels that Angel has betrayed him, with an implication that Angel isn’t really “good”, but just faking it for some reason that Spike would surely consider obsequious and pathetic.

    To summarize: Spike is evil, and deliberately says the meanest, rudest things he can think of, since forever. Spike and Angel are both vampires, so Spike has grounds for feeling betrayed. Spike always goes for the hurt, so of course he’d use a super-charged term like “Uncle Tom”, because he knows it carries extra weight. I suppose he could have said “Judas”, but it would lack the insinuation that Angel is behaving in a groveling, whimpering, cowardly manner in the hopes of receiving a pat on the head (and no stake through the heart) from the Slayer.

    So yes: I agree that Ralph Nader is a noisome, bitter old man who used a calculated racial slur in a way that he thinks allows him to back off and say, “What? What’d I say? Don’t be so hyper-sensitive.” I do not like him.