Sunday, September 28, 2008

American politics monopolized

I want to use this post to reply to a few of the insightful comments I received concerning a previous post about Obama, his popularity, and the prospects for true change in America.

Not Viable

First, I want to consider the notion that dynamic change in America won't happen until we've got a "viable third party candidate, which Ralph Nader is not." Is it really true that Ralph Nader is not "viable"? Is Nader at fault for simply being an uninspiring candidate, an unfeasible selection for the nation's highest office? Is he just unfit to lead America? Why can he not rally enough support to mobilize his agenda? Because he is not viable? While I agree that Ralph Nader is not likely to get elected because nobody will vote for him, I think we need to consider this phenomenon with grave seriousness, and ask the true reason why Nader is not viable.

I submit that the lack of viability is not because Nader is unqualified. To suggest such a thing would only underline the general ignorance the American public has about Nader's public service, experience, and proven concern for protecting the American people from an increasingly unregulated private sector that has a stranglehold over American minds, media, and manufacturers. For example, in the 60's, fatalities from car accidents rose dramatically as more and more people acquired cars. GM avoided installing seat belts because they did not want to invest the millions it would take to equip all of their cars with safety devices. Forty years ago, the image of the car in America was far different from what it is today. Then, it was a fashion statement. A declaration of freedom, something you could look cool in. Seat belts, GM argued, could choke the passenger and disturb the overall riding experience. GM felt that automobile safety was chiefly the responsibility of the consumer, not the manufacturer. Of course, these arguments were convenient ways to cover up the true reason, that GM simply did not want to spend the millions it would take to install seat belts in all of their cars. Fortunately, Ralph Nader, a graduate from Princeton and Harvard Law School (the typical background of many running for president), pressured GM with protest, journal articles, and appeals to Congress. Soon after, the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act was passed in 1966, causing a dramatic shift in the oversight of vehicle manufacturers and ensuring high safety and quality standards. I describe this example to demonstrate that Ralph Nader, as many seem to think, is not just some power-hungry hippy wacko revolutionary. If one of the parameters for viability is commitment to ensuring a high standard of living for American citizens, even at the expense of multi-billion manufacturers, then I would say that Ralph Nader passes the test with flying colors.

So if Nader is clearly smart enough for the job, and concerned enough for the quality of life of the American people, then what else is preventing him from being a viable candidate?

Nader is not viable because the media, monopolized by the Democrats and Republicans, does not give him a voice. People don't consider Nader viable beacuse not enough know about his agenda. Any candidate proposing true change would be open to the idea of bringing in a qualified candidate like Nader into the presidential debate. The debates are an extremely important and popular forum where general trends in the public American political discourse are examined and compared. For this reason, their exclusivity is treacherous as these debates define the choice Americans think they have, while shielding their eyes from the beautiful and bountiful shmorgasbord that does exist but only at the grassroots level. The American population is outright deceived by the media to which it commits its financial, intellectual, and existential allegiance.

I feel we tend to underestimate the power media has in shaping how we think.
We have a very reactionary media that seems to stick strictly to covering exactly what the candidates say. This is problematic because the candidates, though insightful and intelligent individuals, are mired in the political quagmire of electoral politics, and are steering the American political discourse towards the same monotonous quality it has had for decades. What if the media took an active role in asking provocative questions of the candidates on a regular basis?

The Blame Game

Ralph Nader has been the recipient of extreme scapegoating for Al Gore's loss of the 2000 presidential election, further hindering his opportunity for viability. "This green party candidate [Nader]" the argument goes, "prevented us from having one of the greenest presidents in history [Gore]."

A quick fact check can reveal that this accusation is not as accurate as it might seem. Gore lost Florida by 534 votes. Let's look at this table.

The Florida Vote
Natural Law
Workers World
Socialist Workers

These figures demonstrate every single alternative party could have "tipped the scale" for Gore. The greens are not solely "responsible".

Next, it is significant to understand that George Bush's brother, Jeb, was the governor of Florida at the time, and his administration actively disenfranchised voters likely to vote for the Democrats. If this is not grounds for impeachment for both Jeb and George, I don't know what is. Database Technologies, a private firm in Florida, was hired by the state's Secretary of State Office to compile a list of voters who should be barred from voting. Main criterion used included name and race. If a voter had a name similar to the name of a felon, their right to vote was taken away.

More, I have a hard time understanding why Gore's terrible campaigning is overlooked. The man lost his own state of Tennessee, and could not carry Arkansas, Bill Clinton's home state.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court voted on party lines to uphold the decision made my Florida's secretary of state, Kathleen Harris, to award Bush, the brother of her boss, Florida.

Finally, GWB also lost the overall popular vote in the state, yet still won the election.

What does this all mean? 1. Bush entered office in 2000 because of outright crime. Nader is not responsible for Bush's ascension, and if he is, then he is just a spec in a myriad of factors which initiated 8 of the darkest years in American history. The 2000 election highlighted our desperate need to create a new system to elect presidents, because the electoral college just does not work. Yet we are still using it. 2. Gore ran a terrible campaign. I voted for him, and he won the popular vote, yet because of the antiquated electoral college, he could not secure what he rightfully deserved.

For anyone interested in the "Armenian question". I would advise against voting for McCain or Obama on the single issue of who plans to recognize the Armenian genocide as such. George Bush made the same promise. It is a popular promise to make because it makes a candidate look moral, upstanding, righteous. In reality, America's alliance to Turkey is far more important than America recognizing the genocide. It's "sad", but this is politics. Obama and McCain recognize this, but they also recognize that many Armenian voters vote on this issue, so they pander. Comprehensive legislation passed through House and Senate is really the main way that recognition will occur, so I don't see why we throw our hands up in the air for Obama when he releases a statement saying he hopes to recognize the genocide. I doubt it.

Enough politics. It makes me sad to think that so much important information is withheld from us, and all of the mind-numbing clutter is what gets broadcasted. I love you all.

1 comment:

KhalidK said...


Your points on the media are well taken, and are on point for the most part.

You miss something critical, however, in not accounting for the Electoral College. As you know, winning the presidency requires a majority - not a plurality - vote in the electoral college. In a multi (ie more than two) party system, getting a majority becomes that much harder - the votes are split between so many more candidates. Barring a super-sweep from one party, every election would go undecided in the electoral college, and would thus have to be decided by congress every time. We can assume that a multi-party system would also result in a multi-party congress and thus more deadlock. Thus, more than two parties means deadlock in the electoral college, and possibly in congress after that, and would make presidential politics even more murky, and perhaps unresolvable. Clearly, something ought to remedy this. It's your country, so I'll leave you to figure it out!