Thursday, October 08, 2009

Ralph Nader Throws his Hope in with Enlightened Billionaires

By Matthew Rothschild, September 28, 2009

I saw Ralph Nader yesterday, indefatigable as ever.

He was on tour for his new book, and his first work of
fiction, "Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us."

The plot is about how seventeen famous billionaires,
like Warren Buffett and Ted Turner, all of a sudden
come to their conscience and spend some of their money
to bring about the anti-corporate and pro-democracy
changes that Ralph Nader has spent his life campaigning

This is a Hail Mary pass for progressive change, and it
is an expression of Nader's frustration-even
desperation-at our inability to tackle what he rightly
calls "the permanent corporate government" in

His approach, in the book, is about as top-down as you
can get, though he says it's top-down, bottom-up-the
billionaires spend the money so that people at the
grassroots can effectively organize.

He seems to have lost hope in the labor movement and
the environmental movement and the citizen's movement
and the broad civil rights movement getting together or
a new progressive movement rising up organically.

Throughout most of his career, Nader acted on a theory
of social change that centered around establishing
citizen groups in Washington and across the country
that could act as a counterforce to the corporate

Then, when that didn't succeed, and when the Democratic
Party became increasingly corporatized, Nader ventured
into third party presidential politics.

In 2000, he ran as a Green, and talked of establishing
that as a durable third party that could act as
centrifugal force against the Democratic Party moving
ever rightward. But Nader became disenchanted with the
Greens, and decided to go it alone the last two times.

And in a sense, he's going it alone this time in this

Rather than rely on the citizen's movement, rather than
rely on the labor movement, or a unified progressive
movement, Nader is relying on the George Soroses of
this world to save us, as the title says.

"The progressive movement is good at documenting
corporate power," he said in his talk in Madison,
Wisconsin. "It's good at diagnosing. It's good at
coming up with proposals. But that's the end."

The problem, he says, is one of resources. "You cannot
fight trillions of dollars in big business money with a
few millions and expect to win."

The citizen movement, he said, is "totally amateurish"
compared with how well organized and funded the
corporations are. "This mismatch is a disaster," he
said. "The progressive movement is going nowhere if it
does not address the problem of resources."

Nor does he have hope in a new youth movement.

Nader was addressing a couple of hundred people in a
classroom at the University of Wisconsin, but there
weren't many students there. Maybe that was a good
thing, since he was harshing on them.

"If people are too busy updating their personal
profiles on their facebook page," they won't engage in
civic action, he said.

"The screen is the opium of the masses," he said. He
added that we have a whole generation living a virtual
existence, and we haven't come to grips with the
negative consequences of that.

He also criticized today's students for their weak
grasp of U.S. history. For them, "The Vietnam War is
like the Peloponnesian Wars."

Nader had some sharp criticism for Barack Obama, too.
"It's very sad to see the continuity between Obama and
Bush," he said, rattling off "Afghanistan, renditions,
No Child Left Behind, and the faith-based initiative."
But he's not surprised that Obama is doing the bidding
of the corporate establishment. "In 100 ways, he
signaled he was their man" during the campaign, Nader
said. "Did ever talk about corporate crime, even when
Wall Street was collapsing?"

Nader said Obama "learned too much from Bill Clinton"
about the need to compromise with corporate power. And
he said that Obama's personality is not right for the
times. Unlike FDR, Obama "does not like conflict," he
said. Instead, he wants to please.

There is a poignance in listening to Ralph Nader these
days. Here is a man who, for the last 45 years, has
hurled his body at the engine of corporate power. He's
dented it more than anyone else in America. But he
knows it's still chugging, even more strongly than

Nader understands that he's losing. He understands that
we're losing-we who believe in democracy, we who care
about justice.

But if our only hope is with a handful of billionaires,
we're in a lot worse shape than I thought.




Desert Mystery said...

Poor Nader. Tried so hard, but never quite garnered mass appeal.

Instead of running for president, he should have ran for State Govt, could have at least implemented some of his policies on the local level.

SecondComingOfBast said...

Nader's an arrogant schmuck, who's defining moment in his life came when, as a child, his mother refused to let him play with toys. That colored his whole world view, in my opinion. He's been out to ruin any conceivable bit of joy or happiness anybody might have or feel for anything. He'll always find something wrong with something-anything. Just look hard and long enough and you'll find something wrong. That sums up the Nader philosophy as concisely as anything you care to name.

You don't garner mass appeal by attacking things average people care about. I don't care what it is, or what your "reasoning" is. It just don't work.

Frank Partisan said...

Desert Mystery: There is little that can be accomplished as a governor. Nader is too grandiose to think of something like that.

Pagan: I have no problem with seat belts etc.

the spanish prisoner said...

This is really sad. Nothing could be more futile than to hope that the rich will save us.

tony said...

well,It makes a change from being told that Jesus will save us I Guess.
although,Amen to ""It's very sad to see the continuity between Obama and

billie said...

"But if our only hope is with a handful of billionaires,
we're in a lot worse shape than I thought."


Anonymous said...

LOL! Ted Turner has already spent $1B and purchased regulatory control of all the world's corporations through world climate change legislation and payoff's (aka-grants) to the IPCC, why would he want to give any of his dough to Ralph now? The guy's a day late and a dollar short.

Anonymous said...

btw - I did vote for Ralphie in 2000. At least back then he still had a little "integrity". What ever happened to self-respect?

SecondComingOfBast said...

What I can't figure out about Nader is, if he sincerely wants to change the Democratic Party as he says he does, why when he runs for President doesn't he do so as a Democrat? Why does he run on third party tickets where he has to know at least on some deep inner level that he has no chance of winning?

The answer-he knows the Democratic Party isn't going to go further left than it already has (which is more than enough) willingly, so he's going to force it to move farther to the left by the force of his will, by draining votes so they have less chance of winning.

In other words, he doesn't really give a rats ass about democracy, does he? If he did, he would enter the Democratic Party primaries, and make his case. If he wins, he wins. But he knows that more than likely he would end up with egg on his face and he just can't take those lumps.

When I was a loyal Democratic voter (back when I thought the party had a chance of coming back to some semblance of sanity which I finally came to realize it never had to begin with) Nader used to bother me.

Now, I'm his biggest supporter when it comes to running against the Democrats and draining votes from those assholes.

Run, Ralphie run.

Clint said...

After Nader passes away, I think history will look on him as one of the most enlightened Americans, as well as one of the most successful at driving legislation that actually helped regular people.

It's a shame so many people attack him, or, worse, ignore him. I'd give anything to have him in the White House instead of the Nobel winner.

Frank Partisan said...

Spanish Prisoner: I agree.

Tony: Obama has as many troops abroad as Bush did, if not more.

Betmo: I agree.

FJ: You voted for Nader! That is a shock.

Good point. Why would they fund Nader?

Pagan: Nader is not a Democrat. He is hostile to them. That is to his credit.

He almost made a difference in the early 1990s. A labor party was forming. He wanted to be their candidate. They got scared, and instead he ran as a Green.

Clint: Thank you for visiting.

I highly disagree with Nader's new direction. he is worthy of respect.

SecondComingOfBast said...


Nader is hostile to the direction the Democratic Party has taken since the Clinton years, that's all. He wanted them to nominate Dennis Kucinich. He even said publicly that he was running, in part at least, in order to force the Democratic Party farther to the left.

Anonymous said...

It shouldn't be a shock. I live in a hugely Democratic state that was going to go for Gore no matter how I voted. And W. was the designated "moneyed" establishment Republican. There's no way I was going to vote for the corporatists. As Jonathan Swift stated so eloquently in "Gulliver's Travels"...

I could not but agree, that the laws of this kingdom relative to the struldbrugs were founded upon the strongest reasons, and such as any other country would be under the necessity of enacting, in the like circumstances. Otherwise, as avarice is the necessary consequence of old age, those immortals would in time become proprietors of the whole nation, and engross the civil power, which, for want of abilities to manage, must end in the ruin of the public.

Clint said...


I was turned off by hearing Ralph talk about his new book because of it's top-down approach. I do hope it's not a sign that he's lost belief in the possibility of grassroots organization.

Madam Miaow said...

And the rich are rich ... why?

Anonymous said...

...because they re-invest their money in productive (and not non-productive) labour and machinery investments.

SecondComingOfBast said...

And shame on them. Don't they know they should give their money to the poor? Better yet, they should give it to some organization dedicated to helping the poor. Or some other charity, like for example one that helps the chiiiillldrreeeeeennn. Or maybe one dedicated to fighting Gorebal Warming.

But no, all those greedy fucking bastards ever think about are themselves.

Frank Partisan said...

Pagan: Nader's politics have always been all over the place.

I admire his command of facts.

FJ: To Nader's credit, he accomplished getting both of our votes, in the same election.

Clint: It is a troubling direction.

Madam Miaow: I think you were expecting a different answer than FJ's.

troutsky said...

It's understandable he would be pragmatic in these cynical times though I admire an idealist like Michael Moore a great deal more. To be fair his strategy is not JUST top down.

Anonymous said...

Idealist? Funny, I admire the hypocritical capitalist Michael Moore, who sells (for cash) bold faced and statistical truths to a fringe audience and entertainment to the unthinking masses.

Now Ralph Nader, I can't understand. It wasn't the money or the power. It's almost as if he really believed what he was trying to do was right?

SecondComingOfBast said...

It has to do with Nader's ego, which is even more swollen than Michael Moore's gut.

Frank Partisan said...

Troutsky: I agree.

Ananymous: I don't own a SINCERETY METER, so I can't answer your question.

Pagan: Nader has earned being able to have an ego.

SecondComingOfBast said...

No he has not earned it. You earn that large an ego only by accomplishing something in context. Michael Moore earned his gut by filling it probably with fast food. Nader is filled with his own self-importance only. Nader did not earn that ego by getting the Corvair off the road. You only earn that kind of ego by thinking you are more important than what you are in the grand scheme of things.

Who all here hates George W. Bush? Do I see a virtual show of hands? Thank Ralpie boy for that.

I know I do. Run, Ralphie, run.

Nevin said...

Ren, a few years ago I watched a documentary about Mr. Nader called: Ralph Nader: An Unreasonable Man (2006).

I learned quite a bit about him that I was not aware of. Most importantly, he took on big car manufacturers and forced them to install seat belts. Changed laws regarding the safety of cars and many other wonderful safety regulations we enjoy today...

nanc said...

I'm sure all these socialist billionaires are of the mind, "You can have my money when you pry it from my cold, dead hands!"

Frank Partisan said...

Pagan: You sound like an angry Democrat.

Nevin: I agree.

Nanc: Billionaires are aware of class, more than the average person. If they were socialist, Nader wouldn't have wrtitten that book.

SecondComingOfBast said...


I used to be an angry Democrat, and I guess I still have a lot of residual bitterness towards Nader. I considered that the whole time I was posting, but I did it anyway, because regardless of how I've changed now towards Democrats, it doesn't change the reality of what Nader is.

Like I said, he wants the Democrats to be the party of Dennis Kucinich, but he doesn't have enough integrity to work within the party to try to make it the Kucinich Party-or the Nader Party. He just wants to gum up the works.

Like I said, now I hope he keeps working against them, but again, that doesn't change the reality of what he is.

To me, now, a Blue Dog Democrat is a "fellow traveler", and a RINO Republican is just another "useful idiot".

Nader is just a guy masturbating in public to the sound of his own voice.

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