Stay Classy, Ralph Nader

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It's going to take a while for Americans and pundits (often the same thing!) to adjust to a black president. There are cliches and turns of phrase and narratives that simply won't sound right if applied to a black man. Ralph Nader's getting a head start on this.

His choice, basically, is whether he's going to be Uncle Sam for the people of this country, or Uncle Tom for the giant corporations.

During the campaign, Nader suggested that Obama was "acting white" by not barnstorming the country and talking about poverty or something. But the irony is that Nader's one of the sorriest practitioners of ethnic politics out there. "Sorry" in the sense that it never works. He's run for president four times and each time chosen a hilariously unqualified ethnic minority running mate: Winona LaDuke (American Indian), LaDuke again, Peter Camejo (Hispanic) and Matt Gonzalez (Hispanic).

Nader's long nightmare is over, in a sense, because I don't think liberals can stay mad at him when they've won the presidency in a rout and he couldn't stop them. But his race obsession looks even worse compared to Bob Barr. "It just illustrates the tremendous demographic changes, generational changes in this country," Barr told me last night, discussing Obama's win. "This really is a very different country, in some ways much better country, than it was several years ago."

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  1. What a swell guy! I can’t believe I voted for Barr instead of Nader. I can just imagine the biggies at Fox absolutely drooling over this. A chance to get in some easy shots against a liberal, after being whipped so badly.

  2. This really is a very different country, in some ways much better country, than it was several years ago.

    I think this year’s Obama would have beat Bush handily in either 2000 or 2008, so I think you have to go further back than several years. I think you have to go back to the ’90s, at least before you get to a country that wasn’t ready to elect an Obama.

  3. Nader is a tool. But his importance is now over, so we can ignore him properly.

  4. “It just illustrates the tremendous demographic changes, generational changes in this country,” Barr told me last night, discussing Obama’s win. “This really is a very different country, in some ways much better country, than it was several years ago.”

    That is an important and true message. At some point in the next few months, the media is going to realize to its horror, “hey we can’t play the racecard anymore”. There is going to be a lot of back tracking when that happens. Expect a whole bunch of op ed pieces about how no one ever said that Obama was a transendent candidate or his election would show more than minimal progress on race in this country and the idea that he was is myth dreamed up by racists who don’t want to deal with our race problem.

  5. Americans and pundits (often the same thing!)

    It’s the intertubes era, David. Of course we’re all pundits now. The wall separating us from “real” journalists is gone forever. Not that that’s necessarily a good thing.

  6. I saw Nader uttering the phrase twice. The Fox New anchor Shepard Smith gave Nader ample opportunity to retract or amend his “Uncle Tom” statement. Nader refused.

    “Uncle Tom” is a phrase Nader would have never used to describe a white president. As Smith said this will be Nader lasting legacy.

  7. I’ve always liked Shep Smith, and now I remember why.

    OK, so now that we have a leftist president, can we all agree to ignore Nader until such time as we need to give him a six-sentence obituary?

  8. “OK, so now that we have a leftist president, can we all agree to ignore Nader until such time as we need to give him a six-sentence obituary?”

    No because if the left doesn’t get what it wants from Obama, that is what they are going to say. Nader is crazy but he is not stupid. He knows that Obama can’t possibily deliver on his promises to the left and there are a lot of lefties out there who are going to be very disillusioned in a few years. When they are, he will be right there to tell them he told them so and to welcome them back. Unless he dies, Ralph isn’t going anywhere.

  9. It’s going to take a while for Americans and pundits (often the same thing!) to adjust to a black president.

    It’s going to take a while for the chattering classes to adjust. The rest of the country doesn’t really give a rats ass that Obama is black. That is an artificial divide propagated by those who can’t stand it that for the most part regular people have moved on.

  10. For Ralph Nader, another campaign and another cadre of social justice activists trained in the test of fire against hostile media and hostile major parties. Obama’s ties to corporate America will begin to show as soon as his feet hit the ground. The only ones not surprised will be the voters for Nader, a population about the size of the state of Alaska.

  11. Unless he dies, Ralph isn’t going anywhere.

    But so long as he isn’t the Highlander, there’s hope then.

  12. Nadar is Lebanese-American. I lost my scorecard. Dose that count as white or dark this year? Light skinned ethnic minorities keep crossing the color line. Remember when Jews were Semetic or when the Irish weren’t “white enough”? Obama is mixed race. I say, let’s attack all politicians equally based on the foolish policies they propose.

  13. Nader had a great legacy as a consumer advocate – key word there is HAD. It’s a small tragedy he will be remembered for his numerous dick moves during the final portion of his career.

  14. I gotta say, this, though: the majority of the time black people use the term “Uncle Tom” it seems condescending. When someone who isn’t black uses it, it’s enough to shock a person into silence.

  15. Lot of nonsense here. I would love to see your reasoning behind claiming Matt Gonzalez as hilariously unqualified.

  16. “His choice, basically, is whether he’s going to be Uncle Sam for the people of this country, or Uncle Tom for the giant corporations.”

    Nader is right, now it is up to President Obama to choose his legacy. Will he really stand up for what he has been saying or has all of his rhetoric been lip service?

  17. I’m not sure about the other two, but Matt Gonzales a “hilariously unqualified ethnic minority running mate”?!

    In San Francisco he implemented the highest minimum wage of any city in the U.S, and you call this “HILARIOUSLY UNQUALIFIED”?!?!

    You are a pompous fool Mr. Weigal.

  18. His choice, basically, is whether he’s going to be Uncle Sam for the people of this country, or Uncle Tom for the giant corporations.

    Ralphy got it wrong. He should have said, “Uncle Sugar for the people of this country, or Uncle Tom for the giant corporations.

  19. Did someone really just cite a candidate’s support for “the highest minimum wage … in the U.S.” as a factor in their favor on a libertarian site?

  20. Another bisquit thrown to the permanently disaffected, perfectly designed to excite the “base” (of far lefties) while further alienating all the good people who already thought they were crazy. Wotta game to play, but when it’s the only game that gives you meaning, you take what you can get. I bet if you challenge some Nader the Nadir backer on it, they’ll say, “Well he’s right, isn’t he?”

  21. An article such as this reminds me why I don’t get this magazine anymore. Ralph has devoted his whole life to attacking corporatism and protecting consumers… and yet you deride him like he’s just some crazed lunatic. Keep watching your Drew Carey project bullshit where he tells us that sweatshops are awesome. Fuck “Reason”.

  22. Please do not disparage Nader’s choice of running mates in this. Camejo (rest his soul) was a brilliant economist, and Gonzalez is highly skilled in the ways of politics and community organizing. Don’t take cheap shots here, Nader already did and you are lowering yourself to his level.

  23. I’m going to assume from your opening statement that it will “take a while for Americans and pundits (often the same thing!)” to get used to “adjust’ to a black President that all Americans can contribute to the general punditry via blogs such as yours, and elsewhere. If that was your inner pundit’s way of asking for citizenship, well, on behalf of America we open our arms to the tired, the hungry; the political pundits yearning to freely solipsiscize.
    I voted for Ralph Nader. I based my vote on who Ralph Nader is, not on his choice of a running mate. Who he chose to join in his Quixotic tilts were selected more in keeping with the way a liberal arts college chooses who might wish for an honorary degree. It was a capstone for fighting the establishment. Read the story of Peter Camejo and that will become clear. Here’s a link:
    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/09/13/BAIQ12TMO3.DTL
    Yes, it is shocking to hear someone say, less than two hours after Barack Obama appeared to be the consensus choice for President, that he faced the choice of being a “Uncle Sam or an Uncle Tom.” First, those of us who happen to be white have no right to take offense on behalf of blacks in America. The last time I checked, Fox News was not the conscience of America, the this blog said it was about “reason.” So, if we “reason” why Nader would have said such a shocking thing, it would reveal exactly that: To shock. I think we are all old enough to apply some reason as to why Nader would say what he did. Clearly, Barack Obama was elected thanks to the support of the liberals everyone likes to hate, but he also got more Republicans, Conservatives, veterans, working class and Joe the Plumber votes. The only two demographic categories where Barack Obama and the Democrats actually lost votes from four years ago were with seniors over age 65 and gays and lesbians.
    The way George W. ran America for 8 years, had Nader been the Democratic party nominee he probably would have cake-walked into office, then painted the White House green.

  24. I should have stopped reading at the assertion that Matt Gonzalez is “hilariously unqualified” to be VP. That displays an utter lack of knowledge, and simply a desire to condescend by the author.

    Also, Nader is half-ethnic too, just like Obama.

    And, Nader said, “talking white,” not “acting white.” Please get your story straight. This article lacks any intelligent insight, and contains erroneous information and uneducated opinions.

  25. “His choice, basically, is whether he’s going to be Uncle Sam for the people of this country, or Uncle Tom for the giant corporations.”

    The comment is PC in the context that Nader applies it. Nader, like other statists, thinks of business interests as those bad guys who are pushing the good, but na?ve in the ways of buying influence, government guys to offer them subsidies and legs up. Somehow when you are forced to look at reality through a Nader like lens you have to see it this way.

    Never mind that those business interest guys would not be mooching for a leg up if we did not have a government that is willing to offer a largess to them or even those pure as snow seniors who beg through AARP for their fair share or those righteous business interests who want to save the world with their renewable but not profitable energy schemes. And a government that offers that largess on a selective basis, of course, heightens the competition.

    We do have a recent example that seems to get us there without “uncle Tomming”. We have a Republican administration, with the aid of able and willing Democrats in congress, who provides the largess (think $700 billion). But wait a minute we have the recipients who are balking and going against the Nader scripting of the greedy business man. No problem we have the Republican tough guys to twist their arms and they take the largess. But wait one more minute, they take it but do not spend it as the government deems necessary. No problem we have Democrats threatening to put strings on that largess and advise those business people how to invest the largess – no matter that those politicians have shown a total disregard for spending anything responsibly. The end result should be well within the visions of a Ralph Nader and done in a bipartisan fashion.

  26. Nader made a valid point, but people are more upset about how he said it, than what he was saying. Go figure.
    Tactless and without class, yes – but still a 100% correct point to make.
    Thankfully Nader is one person who is still capable of speaking his mind and doesn’t (or at least won’t) apologize for doing so.

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