02 July 2009

Progressives Owe Ralph Nader an Enormous Apology

Much of the American public used Barack Obama as their mirror throughout the 2008 election cycle. They wanted an end to war, equality for minorities, universal “socialist” health care, tougher environmental regulations, corporate accountability. They looked at Obama and saw what they wanted, even though he never professed to espouse these values and never committed to any promises in these veins. Just like Bill Clinton in 1992, the disgruntled masses projected their hopes, fears, and aspirations onto the candidate for change, and he happily obliged by appealing to their needs with all rhetoric and little substance. Here was a bright, intelligent, attractive, somewhat self-deprecating and enormously charming man from a difficult background who no-doubt faced tremendous challenges on his path to power. Here was a man who could understand all of us who did not fit into that infamous “base” of George W. Bush’s. Here was the antithesis to the last eight years. How could we possibly elect the first-ever American President of color, following what some call the worst administration in the history of the United States, and not have the sweeping reform and reconstruction we so needed? How, indeed. We certainly enjoy our reflections, don’t we?

Certainly, it’s too soon to tell what the full Obama presidency might bring, but the little glimmers of hope – such as the organic White House garden – pale in comparison to the outrageous missteps - continued war in Afghanistan, refusal to prosecute torturers, further unjustified arrests and detainments, no significant climate change, energy, or toxic substance regulations, no support for single-payer health care, and approval of additional mountaintop removal for coal. The list of problems is endless.

It’s time America learns the audacity of truth, rather than the denial and phoniness of hope. We need to stop feeding ourselves the self-help “nothing but positivity” soup (along with our genetically modified non-food products) and nurture ourselves with the broth of reality. There is no shame in a cynical truth. Those progressives who faced being ironically called racists for not supporting Barack Obama in the 2008 election were and still are decried for their “negativity” and “pessimism” in not blindly believing the hype. There’s no question that it is wonderful for America to have a President of African-American decent. There’s no question that Barack Obama is better than anything the Republicans could offer. But is that all we expect? Why do we not want the best for ourselves?

We have had a better choice for the past three elections and yet time and time again, few have had the boldness to be bulls rather than sheep and vote for the man who has selflessly served us all for his entire career and professed the truth in all of its unpleasantness. We can still hope that Obama will get better. Indeed, we should make him get better and not accept his expedient excuses. But in the meantime, we need to offer our most humble apology to the man who prophetically predicted this outcome and who always had nothing but our best interests at heart – the hero, Ralph Nader.

The Game Never Named, the Addendum Never Spoken

Remember that silly game we used to play with fortune cookies from Chinese restaurants? Maybe people still play it. It’s the one where...