Thursday, December 24, 2009

Ralph Nader assesses Obama's first year as President: "Uncle Tom" after all

From an interview published in the Daily Beast (December 18, 2009):
“Is the title of your article ‘I told you so?’” [Nader] asked. “This is what I meant a year ago when I said the next year will determine whether Barack Obama will be an Uncle Tom groveling before the demands of the corporations that are running our country or he’ll be an Uncle Sam standing up for the American people.”
Always being so right must be a real burden.

At all events, as far as Nader is concerned, the health care bill that has finally emerged from this year's legislative sausage-grinder is the final proof that Obama turned out to be a grovelling Uncle Tom--to borrow his classy formulation--just as he predicted. (Does that mean that those of us who voted for Hillary Clinton in the primaries should feel vindicated in Ralph's eyes? I suspect not.)
Nader instead recommended that legislators and the White House scrap the bill entirely and embark on a nationwide tour to generate grassroots support for single-payer health care, which they would then attempt to pass through reconciliation, which requires only a bare majority in the Senate. Given the narrow margins for even the House bill, which requires only a majority to pass, the prospect seems politically unthinkable—but Nader insists that it could be done.
Could be, but I'm skeptical.

On the other hand, when Nader suggests that many die-hard Obama enthusiasts might start to reach their limits, he may be on to something. It's also possible, though, that when he predicts that their disillusionment will lead to an outright break, he may be exaggerating somewhat and/or indulging in wishful thinking. That remains to be seen.
Nader cited a number of cases in which he was encouraged to see people he considered loyal Democrats stand up to their lawmakers on principle.

“Markos, he finally turns around—this guy is an indentured servant of the Democratic Party, and he’s finally breaking. [Arianna Huffington] is chirping up,” he said. “And they go a long way—they’ve given Obama the biggest elastic band in Democratic Party history and it’s reaching the point of snapping.”

He added that MSNBC’s Ed Schultz and Keith Olbermann were also “starting to break,” although he acknowledged that he still has trouble getting invited on their shows.
As for Nader's own plans:
Nader, who is considering a third-party run in Connecticut against Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), said the health-care revolt has generated more interest in his campaign, but he has yet to make up his mind if he’ll run—or if he’ll seek the White House again in 2012. As for whether growing disillusionment with the two major parties might provide him with fuel for a comeback after being cast as a pariah in 2000, Nader suggested it might be a bridge too far.
Well, at least that's a relief. Anyone interested in reading the whole article can find it here.

--Jeff Weintraub

P.S. As far back as January 2008, the left-wing anti-American Australian/British journalist John Pilger described Obama as "a glossy Uncle Tom," but most alleged "progressives" in the US have been more hesitant about going there. Not Nader, it seems.