Hero or hypocrite? More readers debate "The Dark Side of Ralph Nader," by Lisa Chamberlain. Plus: Canada's own shameful World War II internment camps.

Published July 3, 2004 7:26PM (EDT)

[Read "The Dark Side of Ralph Nader," by Lisa Chamberlain.]

While the quality of writing and research done for Lisa Chamberlain's article on Ralph Nader were excellent and what I expect from Salon, I could not help but feel that Salon is attempting to run a smear campaign against Ralph Nader.

I believe that the publication of this article, at a time when Ralph Nader is still attempting to get his name on state ballots, is in poor form and only helps to reinforce the negative aspects of politics, the aspects that keep people in record numbers from voting.

While Chamberlain should be applauded for this work, the editors of Salon should be ashamed of themselves for publishing it at such a crucial time in the election cycle. The fall election is not about what the candidates have done previously, but what they can do in the future to advance the country. Let the policies of each candidate speak for themselves.

-- Alexander Hawley

The article by Lisa Chamberlain on Ralph Nader was the type of first-class journalism that puts everyone else to shame -- including the likes of Michael Moore. It should be on the front page of every newspaper.

-- Max Epstein

Nader's thesis that Bush and Kerry are the same is perfectly valid, and one that none of the people whining about him running have made any serious effort to refute.

If Kerry wins it will be a disaster for the Democratic Party, which is already almost dead as it is. This uninspiring man will have an uninspiring presidency in which all our lives will get worse, and the media will use the next four years to destroy him and his party. So have some goddamn vision. Kerry will ruin it for all of us, and he'll do it for good if we give him the chance.

And the fact that you can find a bunch of lame former associates who dislike Nader (many of whom, oddly enough, seemed to be Democratic staffers) doesn't mean shit.

-- Atheir Abbas

Salon should stop publishing articles that include skipping-record accounts that Nader cost Gore the election in 2000. It's tiresome, and poorly reflects on the reality of the 2000 elections.

Al Gore was a terrible candidate. In 1984, Walter Mondale won his home state in the worst crushing electoral defeat of all time, but Al Gore couldn't manage to motivate the citizens of Tennessee to get behind the boy from their state. Any examination of the electoral record also shows that if a multitude of third party candidates had not run in the Florida election in 2000, such as John Hagelin and Pat Buchannan, thousands more votes would have gone to George W. Bush because people on the extremes of the right would have felt they had no one else to vote for. This point is never considered in any analysis of the 2000 election.

Ralph Nader may be no saint, and he certainly should not be running for office this time around. But in 2000, he was a useful tool behind a Green Party strategy to get 5 percent of the popular vote, and improve its capability of changing the lesser of two evils style of politics that continues to bedevil America. Most of us who voted for him then realize that this possibility is not in the cards in 2004, and we will be casting votes in November with this reality in mind.

-- Michael Roston

Lisa Chamberlain's hatchet job on Ralph Nader dredges up frowning anecdotes from the 1970s to depict a presidential candidate who is unpredictable, unfriendly, and maybe (we can't be sure, but people should know!) dishonest. It's as if Chamberlain were the Republicans, talking about John Kerry. But a one-sided (and single-minded) portrayal like this isn't just rude or dull, it's bad journalism.

The standard thing, when writing about someone, is to consult sources who didn't have a personal falling out with him a few decades ago (or encounter his political opposition on, of all things, Clinton healthcare). In Chamberlain's story, we encounter eight of the "dozens of people" who have broken with Nader, and zero of the ones who haven't. Surely someone must be willing to go on the record in Mr. Nader's favor. Instead, we get everyone's accounts of his having a temper and disagreeing with people, who then badmouth him to reporters or write unfiled, unconfirmable affidavits insinuating tax fraud. In other words, Ralph Nader is in politics.

If there are people who don't despise Mr. Nader, they apparently don't merit mention here, unless it's to (surprise!) bludgeon his candidacy. Fine, "there isn't one former associate who thinks his campaign is a good idea" -- neither do I -- but Mr. Nader's 4 or 5 percent of voters, not his former associates, will decide the election. Why does anybody support Mr. Nader, when there is so much at stake in the campaign against George Bush? I don't know, and after reading about Nader's dark side, I still don't.

There are plenty of compelling reasons not to vote for Ralph Nader -- the corporate interests to which he isn't beholden have spent three-and-a-half years laughing all the way to the bank, for instance -- but that he's occasionally mean to people isn't one of them. Personally, I'd like to know why people support him, not why not.

-- Michael Owen

[Read "Resisting Arrest," by Gary Kamiya.]

Meridith Low's letter stating that, because she is Canadian, Fred Korematsu's legal battle against the Japanese internment was new to her is surprising considering that Japanese-Canadians suffered the same injustice. All 23,000 were removed from the West Coast to the interior, and, unlike in the U.S., many families were forcibly separated. It was not until the late 1980s that the Canadian government issued a formal apology and gave each internee a cash settlement.

I can't help wondering how much of this part of their history is unfamiliar to Canadians.

-- Robert Benjamin

By Salon Staff

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