Don’t Kill The Messenger

To a degree that many “progressive” people are unwilling to admit, the drubbing Ralph Nader has received for his latest quixotic tilt at the Presidency is shameful. This is very different from the shame ascribed to him for the “support” his candidacy has elicited in some of the country’s more conservative quarters. Such support comes clearly from a cynical, calculating mindset well-versed in the hoary necessities of American electoral politics; it is therefore both expected and unremarkable.

The drubbing, on the other hand, replete with violent hissing and ad hominem denunciations, comes from a host of people who otherwise privately agree with many of Mr. Nader’s fundamental arguments, who profess to champion a free society ordered on the power of ideas, yet, who abandon any real notion of making it an ideological contest in view of the way the judging works in a system ordered on the power of money.

The ideas expressed by the Democratic Party at their convention last week in Boston are far less valuable in their substance than they are for the unity and sunny outlook with which the speakers delivered them, and though the spine-tingling righteousness of Barack Obama’s keynote address offered the glimpse of a clear-eyed optimism and determination that may one day find its way back into the Democrats’ approach to government, by the convention’s final curtain, the candidates rode out onto the campaign trail armed with much the same pitch Democrats have been making since the fall of Jimmy Carter: we are smarter and nicer than the Republicans -vote for us.

What is unexpected and thoroughly remarkable, in my view, is the completeness of the Left’s capitulation to the idea that ousting the incumbent is the thing that matters. Which, of course it does, in view of the staggering arrogance and hubris with which the Bush administration has gone about fanning the flames of Islamic radicalism, rending the fabric of international discourse, and laying waste to the domestic commonweal.

The so-called opposition party in our two-party system missed a golden opportunity, it seems to me, to take advantage of the fact the American electorate is ready once again for someone smarter and nicer, and longing, as always, for the optimistic, sunny determination on which the Democrats now have a corner.

They themselves could have rendered Ralph Nader’s candidacy moot in Boston had the Democrats embraced even the most modest notions put forth by the likes of Howard Dean, Al Sharpton, and –bless his heart– Dennis Kucinich, who took his campaign to all 50 states and brought delegates to the convention, whose commitment to working “within the system” could have been tossed a bone to secure great numbers of votes that might fall to Mr. Nader or remain un-cast in November, while alienating none of the vote already destined for the Kerry/Edwards ticket.

And so there is, yet again, a question of style to settle upon. And the lonely voice of dissent against the fragile status quo pays the price of choosing to be ignored or vilified for its place in the chorus.

Leave a Reply