I have long respected Ralph Nader's work as a consumer advocate but I have lost any shred of respect I have ever had for Ralph Nader the man in light of his comments about Barack Obama. Again, I would point out that I am a lukewarm Obama supporter at best and inclined to vote for him largely on the basis of his not being John McCain. It's the same situation I find myself in at every presidential election. I wind up voting against a candidate rather than for someone I think would be a good president. Nevertheless, I find Nader's recent statements in an interview with the Rocky Mountain News to be utterly repugnant, racist and stereotypical. Here is some of what he said that I find so objectionable:
There's only one thing different about Barack Obama when it comes to being a Democratic presidential candidate. He's half African-American. Whether that will make any difference, I don't know. I haven't heard him have a strong crackdown on economic exploitation in the ghettos. Payday loans, predatory lending, asbestos, lead. What's keeping him from doing that? Is it because he wants to talk white?
I mean, first of all, the number one thing that a black American politician aspiring to the presidency should be is to candidly describe the plight of the poor, especially in the inner cities and the rural areas, and have a very detailed platform about how the poor is going to be defended by the law, is going to be protected by the law, and is going to be liberated by the law. Haven't heard a thing.
He wants to show that he is not a threatening . . . another politically threatening African-American politician. He wants to appeal to white guilt. You appeal to white guilt not by coming on as black is beautiful, black is powerful. Basically he's coming on as someone who is not going to threaten the white power structure, whether it's corporate or whether it's simply oligarchic. And they love it. Whites just eat it up.I hardly know where to begin with this garbage. Who the hell is Ralph Nader to tell anyone what they should or shouldn't be thinking, saying or doing? For what reason should a candidate be forced to speak more on one issue or another based on his or her ethnicity? Why is it that a black, half-black, quarter-black, or bright green candidate should address poverty with greater frequency or vehemence than a Caucasian candidate?
Comments like these tell us a lot more about Ralph Nader than they do about anyone else. Nader is stereotyping. Obama apparently doesn't fit into Nader's neat mental filing system of what people of various races should do and say and think. I agree that Obama should challenge the existing political power structure, but not because of his skin color or ancestry. We need people in office who are willing to challenge what has become a horribly corrupt system that no longer represents the interests of the people it was intended to look after. We don't need black people or white people or men or women to do this, we need viable candidates who will do this. The coincidence of the origin of their ancestors, what set of genitalia they happen to possess or what language their parents spoke is immaterial. For Nader to say that Obama should act a certain way, speak a certain way or think a certain way is nothing short of racism. Nader should be ashamed of himself, but his enormous ego precludes any realization of how loathesome his statements really are.
What difference it should make is that he would be more sensitive and determined to bring elevated visibility and concrete programs to deal with these issues. Wouldn't a woman president be expected to be more responsive to women's rights? It's just more natural...Brilliant, Ralph, just brilliant. Defending your racism by resorting to sexism is a true stroke of political genius. When I last checked, the current race is for president of the United States, not President of Dark-Skinned People or President of Women. Nader has revealed himself with these statements to be a relic, a thinker whose thoughts are every bit as fossilized as John McCain's. There is absolutely no good reason that we should expect that a female politician should be more concerned about women's rights than a male candidate. If anything, we should expect that a male candidate should be just as concerned with women's rights as he is with men's rights because both men and women are equally American and the office of the President is to protect and uphold a Constitution that applies equally to everyone. By the same token, it is more reasonable to expect that a Caucasian candidate should be every bit as concerned with the well-being of impoverished black citizens as he or she is with that of impoverished Caucasian citizens.
He wants to come across that he's not politically threatening to the white power class and the liberal intelligentsia. It's been a brilliant tactic...
— Nader Defends Remarks About Obama, New York Times
What Nader is saying here in point of fact is that the President should make the interests of one group of greater importance than those of others and that this prioritization is based upon whatever ethnic, religious or gender group of which that President is a member. In other words, the President is to govern based upon self-interest rather than the best interests of the nation as a whole. Oddly enough, we've already had eight years of that. The administration that is about to pass from power at last was one that gave its ear entirely to the special interest groups that ShrubCo of which itself was a member. We've had eight years of government for the benefit of the wealthiest Americans, eight years of faith-based programs that were a symptom of favoritism toward religious groups that agree with the theological ramblings of Dubya and his closest cronies. A Ralph Nader presidency — which I am happy to say shall never come to be — would look a lot more like another ShrubCo term than it would like the kind of change this country's leadership needs to make in its fundamental way of thinking about the nation and the world.
Let's extend Ralph Nader's insistence upon the special self-interest of politicians to Nader himself, then. Nader's ancestry is Lebanese. By ethnicity it would be fair to count Nader as Arab, even though he is a product of American society. Shouldn't Nader then be stressing the interests of Arabs over all else? As far as I can determine from his website, though, he hasn't a word to say about the situation of Arab Americans. People of Arab ancestry certainly face a good deal of prejudice in this country. Why isn't Nader forcefully speaking out on their behalf? Is Nader just trying to "talk white" by not challenging the liberal intelligentsia and power elite?
Or is it that I'm simply incorrect about Nader's ancestry? Judging by his comments, he seems to be speaking out strongly on behalf of jackasses. Could it be that if we were to delve into Ralph Nader's family tree we'd find that the majority of its branches are tipped by bigoted idiots?