Nattering about Nader 

News Hits was part of Thursday's packed house at the DIA that came to watch the documentary An Unreasonable Man, and to take part in a Q&A involving the man himself, consumer protector and erstwhile presidential candidate Ralph Nader.

We came away from the event feeling no less conflicted than we did beforehand. News Hits is unashamed to admit that we continue to idolize Nader for his undiminished idealism, his manifold accomplishments against all odds, his tenacity and his diehard belief in democracy fueled by citizen involvement. At 73, his mind remains razor sharp, the scope of knowledge and command of facts boggling to lesser minds such as ours.

Even now, in the post-apocalypse of the 2000 election, we find much of his analysis to be essentially true — that the Democratic Party has largely abandoned its populist heart and become far too beholden to corporate interests, too timid, too centrist.

And yet ...

As we look at the horror that is Iraq, at the obscenity of vast tax cuts for the moneyed classes and the incredible burden of national debt that those two things have laid on the bent backs of this and future generations, we can't help but be made heartsick by the thought of what might have been had Nader not been so certain of his rightness. The same is true when we look at the consequences of a Supreme Court where the radical right now holds sway, and at a government that believes civil rights are an object of distain and unregulated industry is our manifest destiny.

Nine years ago, this paper struggled mightily as we debated whether to endorse Nader. We ended up telling readers we weren't wise enough to decide whether they should vote for Al Gore or Nader; we lauded Nader but recognized the dangers his candidacy posed. The conflicts we weighed then — that of idealism versus pragmatism — remain as pertinent as ever.

Now, with a new presidential campaign under way, we're convinced that the two aren't mutually exclusive. We have to believe that a candidate who doesn't pussyfoot and obfuscate and pander, who stakes out a populist platform that will protect us from the insatiable plundering of the corporate right, can still win an unstealable majority of hearts and votes.

Ralph Nader, as great a man as he is, seems incapable of admitting that he erred in any way. If Democrats continue to blame him for the losses suffered in 2000 and 2004, and fail to look at how the sacrifice of idealism in favor of a perceived pragmatism is even more deserving of blame, then we will all continue to lose.

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or NewsHits@metrotimes.com

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