03 March 2008

Nader as a (damaged) single-payer mirror

Slate's Timothy Noah wants people to lay off Ralph Nader.


I actually haven't heard much about Nader in recent weeks. There was the wince and shake of the head when I heard he was running, maybe one cynical comment from CLJ, and that was it. OK. I guess I did also wonder aloud how much the Republicans had paid him in order to get him to run again.

We've mostly gotten over Nader. We're part of that common wisdom that sees Nader as part of the reason that Gore didn't win in 2000, yes. Along with blatant cheating on the part of the Bushies, and a disinclination on Gore's part to fight as dirty.

And because Gore didn't win, we got an addled born-again wannabe cowboy for a president who didn't pay attention to frantic warnings that we were about to be attacked. 9/11 happened and the Bushies immediately used the tragedy to their partisan advantage, whipping up fear and using it to get questionable legislation passed. Worse, they played off it to put us in a pointless war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people.

It is impossible to say whether 9/11 would have happened if Gore were president. It is possible to say that Bush wasn't paying attention and did not raise the alert level as Richard Clark and so many others advised. It is also reasonable to suppose that Gore would not have chosen to take us into Iraq.

So thanks, Ralph.

It wouldn't have come to mind except that Nader's running again. Even then, had he acknowledged that yes, turns out there is a difference between Republicans and Democrats, we could have seen him in a better light. It would also help for him to be able to see that he did play a role in the 2000 debacle.

Noah differs.
In the current election, Nader is the sole presidential candidate you're likely to hear about (now that Dennis Kucinich has dropped out) who stands forthrightly for adopting a single-payer solution to the health-care crisis, a stance universally regarded as politically impractical. But single payer is the only solution of much practical value in the real world, as evidenced by the experience of nearly all advanced democracies. If Nader does no more in the 2008 election than oblige major-party candidates to consider that stubborn reality for five minutes, he'll have done us all a big favor.

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