Joan Walsh has complained that Ralph Nader is arrogant for challenging Gore in 2000, but it's Joan Walsh who shows extreme arrogance in her ruthless attacks on third parties. Nothing wrong with giving critiques of Nader's campaign, but there is something elitist about Walsh's endorsement of the two-party-only system. It is the snobbishness and arrogance of the Republicans and Democrats and their stranglehold over the media that is stifling political debate in this country.
-- Fiz Parsons
Joan Walsh protests that Green Party supporters are sanctimonious, but perhaps they have good reason for it. After all, unlike Al Gore, Gray Davis and other leaders of the Democratic Party, the Green Party actually stands for something.
Al Gore apologists repeatedly offered during the campaign, as they still do today, the same tired old negative arguments to justify voting for Gore. We were never told to vote for Gore because of his own progressive virtues, but rather because of the bad things that would happen if Bush were elected. The very fact that Gore apologists had such a hard time coming up with positive arguments for supporting Gore, but instead relied so heavily on the negative "fear of Bush" factor, says it all.
Walsh alludes to Nader's comment about Nixon, apparently without really understanding it or addressing the key point --namely that Al Gore now stands to the right of Richard Nixon. And yet, by a bizarre turn of reasoning, she accuses the left of turning on their "own" people by attacking Gore! The fact that there is nothing "left" about Gore or the leadership of the Democratic Party is something she seems to entirely miss. The fact that the Democratic Party has marched so far to the right in the last 30 years is something that they have managed to get away with precisely because they have taken the left for granted.
And this is the real problem with the Democrats. She hates the "sanctimoniousness" of the left for daring to actually support a left-wing agenda -- in other words, for supporting their own beliefs. Instead, she wants them to ignore their values and ally themselves with a centrist party that actively promotes an agenda that in many cases is directly and fundamentally opposed to progressive values. Like many muddle-headed "liberals" of the present era, Walsh continues to cling to some quaint notion of a progressive Democratic Party of a bygone era, and then resents it when progressives point out just how far to the right her modern-day "liberalism" of the Democrats has moved.
And if you have any doubt about the direction that the Democratic Party is moving, just consider the lesson that the party seems to be taking from the 2000 election. Instead of what would seem to be the logical interpretation, namely understanding that the Democrats failed to address the issues that Ralph Nader brought to the campaign and that cost them votes to the Green Party, Democrats like Ellen Tauscher have argued that Gore's defeat is proof that the Democrats should move further to the right and thus further alienate those who had been drawn to the Green Party.
Unfortunately, as the Democratic Party continues to move to the right, it appears that some of its apologists, such as Joan Walsh, will simply move to the right with it, continuing to make their Faustian bargain with a party that long ago lost its moral compass.
-- Mike Valenza
I am an unrepentant Nader voter. The argument Ms. Walsh makes on the final page of her review -- that in a nonparliamentary, winner-take-all form of democracy a third party can only be a spoiler -- neglects one important facet of a nonparliamentary winner-take-all form of democracy: A voter who has the misfortune to reside in a state where he or she is significantly in the political minority, and in which a simple majority gets the presidential candidate all the state's votes, has two choices, neither good. The voter can vote for the minority candidate who has no chance of winning in his or her state, or he or she can cast a protest vote for a third-party candidate.
For the majority of my life, and for all of my voting life, I have lived in Texas. In all of the elections in which I was eligible to vote, except the one election in which I actually liked the Democratic candidate, I have voted for a third party candidate. If all my state's electors are going to go to a candidate I find repugnant, regardless of what I do, then I am going to take advantage of that tiny bit of power that remains to me in national politics in this system: I am going to vote against the system and for a wider range of candidates to be represented. I don't think that makes me holier-than-thou. I think it just makes me someone who makes the best of a bad situation. If the Electoral College is ever abolished, the winner-take-all rule is abandoned in my state or I ever live in a state in which the electorate is more evenly divided, I will most likely act differently. Until then, the only major party candidates who will ever get my vote will be the ones that I consider exceptional candidates.
-- Lisa J. Harris
During the campaign, Nader and the Greens insisted that there was no difference between the Democrats and the Republicans. Asking his supporters "Are you happy?" is not (just) carping -- it's an attempt to force them to admit that (gasp!) Nader harmed his own causes by running as an independent -- and now we are all paying the price.
As a crusader -- as an outsider -- one can be idealistic and above compromise. As a politician, one can't. Causes need both types of people. It's a shame that Nader wasted a lifetime of credibility as a crusader to play at being something that he really didn't want to be. And it's stupid that he's still whining about the consequences.
-- Larry Seiler
The electoral problems of the Left begin earlier than who they choose for presidential candidates. It's their lack of congressional candidates. Why did Ralph Nader waste time running for president? Even in the unlikely event of his winning, with no organized group of senators or representatives behind him, he would have been worse than useless in office. Starting into politics at the top is an egotistical stunt, like that of Ross Perot.
To be fair, the Nader Greens (as opposed to the several other Green parties of various degrees of looniness) have stood for local elections in a number of places, like Berkeley, Calif., and Evanston, Ill. I applaud this. The real work of reforming a country, whatever your definition of reform, begins in the scut work of legislation and administration. The laws may be written by orating senators, but the day-to-day rules are written by career civil servants. You might make a big environmental splash with a sexy court case, but the bigger impact is in the statehouse or city council. The right understands this, and pays a lot of attention to things like school board elections. In other words, they work at the grass roots.
Why does the left avoid this hurly-burly? I think Walsh pinpoints it. Most of the leftists I know are pretty elitist. They are better than the rest of us, and are furious when mere working people, or people they see as less cultured than they are, refuse to follow orders. There is also, I think, a disdain for other people's definitions of major issues. Real legislators may get a chance to debate weighty issues, but spend most of their time on stuff like sewer easements and zoning disputes. Very boring, but it is the stuff of real life. Yet those few leftists willing to take these matters on run the risk of being called "sewer socialists" for not working harder to bring on the Revolution. I would have more respect for Nader if he had run for Congress just once.
-- Mike Walsh
I wish I could've finished Joan Walsh's article "The (Non-)confessions of St. Ralph," which ostensibly reviewed Ralph Nader's new book, "Crashing the Party: How to Tell the Truth and Still Run for President." But it was clear after the first paragraph that Walsh thinks that if she cites "The Simpsons" and attempts to disguise her fury toward Nader with a patina of humor, no one will figure out she's still angry about Nader's alleged theft of the 2000 presidential election. Although Walsh states early on that in truth Nader didn't hand Bush anything -- one can thank the Supreme Court for that onerous gift -- she still loathes both the very notion of an independent liberal third party (in this case, the Green Party) and its beleaguered members.
I voted for Nader last November, the first time I deviated from the proscribed behavior of a good Democrat. I live in Massachusetts, a state that everyone knew Gore was going to win handily, so for once I was able to vote my conscience without feeling guilty. Being the reasonable, pro-choice, meat-eating liberal that I am, I too am periodically embarrassed by the antics of the far left. But the very fact that support for Nader-championed causes -- such as the environment, equal rights, equal pay and a thoughtful critique of our current economic system, which operates less like a free market and more like a crooked dice game -- is now deemed radically "far left" makes me even sadder than Walsh's glib, thoughtless attack.
-- Annie Regrets
What liberal and homosexual critics of Machtan and his "gay Hitler" thesis miss is that Machtan posits not just that Hitler was a homosexual, but that he was a -- closeted -- homosexual.
Closeted homosexuality, along with the compromises it requires -- the schisms it creates in day-to-day life -- are more the villains of the story, the "root of the evil," rather than homosexuality itself.
While these critics rightly worry about the danger of indicting homosexuality for the sins of Hitler, by dismissing Machtan's theory outright, they miss the chance to indict the societal factors that created the closet, a true pressure cooker of discontent.
-- Daisy Gardner
Allen Barra takes several hundred words to discuss the possibility of Hitler's homosexuality without addressing the issue of what the alleged homosexuality had to do with "being" Hitler. He hints at the role of shame and fear of exposure, but mostly his essay seems just another volley in an endless game of rhetorical nyah-nyah. The Hitler "mystery" suggests that we remain, collectively, functional idiots when it comes to discerning meaning in the interplay of sexuality and character.
-- Jay Winer
Whether or not Hitler was a homosexual does not seem all that significant to me as there appears to be no evidence that sexual preferences played a significant role in his psychopathology. However, it's doubtless one of the pieces to the puzzle of Hitler's madness that doesn't quite fit in yet can't be discarded either. And it may well be that Hitler never had a normal romantic relationship with any woman during his life, as I would not consider his relationship with Eva Braun as "normal." Yet, that is hardly even circumstantial evidence that he was homosexual (unless you're willing to unfairly label every middle-aged guy who has abysmally failed in romance with women a homosexual).
-- Fred W. Hill