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Jewish World Review Feb. 21, 2001 / 28 Shevat 5761

Evan Gahr

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Consumer Reports

Remember Saint Ralph? -- HAS the Democratic Party unceremoniously barred "consumer advocate" Ralph Nader from its big tent? Despite his decades of playing handmaiden to Big Government, Saint Ralph now faces eternal damnation. Prominent Democrats apparently believe that Al Gore would have won the election were it not for Nader. Of course, a different candidate might also have helped. But this point has been largely obscured amid the mad rush to demonize Nader. He "stole" nearly 100,000 of Gore's votes in Florida alone -- and now its payback time.

Already, leading congressional Democrats have shunned Nader. During John Ashcroft's confirmation battle, most of the party fretted over the former Missouri senator's supposedly abysmal record on civil rights and his unabashed opposition to abortion on demand. Nader, however, was eager to emphasize Ashcroft's support for tort reform and soft spot for "corporate crime." But Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy ignored his hand-delivered and faxed requests to testify against John Ashcroft. Nader says a Leahy staffer even claimed -- rather lamely -- that he did not think Nader's signature on the faxed letter was authentic. Other Democrats are a bit blunter. "We're not going to touch him with a 10-foot pole," says Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) "He has divorced himself from the very ideals that made him a worthwhile political actor." Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) recently told USA Today that it is "bizarre" for Nader to think he can ally himself with the very Democrats he attacked during the campaign. "Nader can never admit he was wrong," Frank contends.

Interviewed by TAS, Nader laughed off the kvetching. He says Senator Tom Daschle and the "party leadership" don't buy into the hostility evidenced by Leahy and Frank. "Look who's talking," he says of Frank. "Can you imagine the apogee of self-righteousness accuses someone of being unable to admit a mistake? I admit my mistakes. One was thinking Barney Frank would stand up to big banks.''

Perhaps, Nader's real sin is not so much in the number of votes he allegedly "took" from Gore, but his refusal to pay homage to the "lifestyle issues'' that animate Frank and most of his fellow Democrats. Frank had previously grumbled that Nader is indifferent to gay rights. Indeed, a letter from Frank to Nader posted last year on a prominent gay rights web site chided Nader for his stated indifference to "gonadal politics." And feminists went ballistic when Nader suggested -- quite logically -- that abortion would remain legal even if Bush won the presidency.

Former Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile is a bit softer on Nader than many of her fellow Democrats. Brazile whose genial demeanor arguably belies her penchant for anti-white rhetoric, tells TAS that "We did a great job maintaining the base. He did siphon off some votes but perhaps [some of those voters] would have stayed home." She suggested, ever so slightly, the Democrats are wrong to blacklist Nader. Sure, he used "dangerous language in the campaign" by saying there was no essential difference between her man and Bush. "But it's a free country."

Nader continues to stand by his oft-repeated assertion that voters last year were offered a Republican who would "do nothing" and a Democrat who would "do little." He notes that Democrats have approved all of Bush's right-wing nominees; they couldn't even muster 50 votes in opposition to the "ogre of ogre, John Ashcroft." He's equally unimpressed by Bush's emphasis on a "diverse" cabinet. Just a bunch of corporate shills, he says, calling it "diversity without a difference." Elaine Chao, the first Chinese-American to become Labor Department secretary, may inspire many folks, but to Nader she's yet another corporate functionary. "She's part of the American dream. Right," he says with considerable sarcasm.

Nader acknowledges that he probably should have answered questions about abortion a bit differently. NARAL and other groups with a stranglehold on the Democratic Party fretted that abortions rights would be demolished if Bush were elected president. Nader responded that even if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, individual states would be unlikely to exercise their newfound jurisdiction to outlaw abortion. The problem was that "I saw it as technical question. It invited a technical response. That's not what you do in a campaign. I should have said [Roe] is settled law and not going to be reversed and RU 486 and its multiple successor will diminish the issue."

Has all the abuse from Democrats taken its toll? During the campaign, the Gore campaign even spread unfounded rumors about Nader's personal life. And the day after the election the liberal activist group Americans for Democratic Action called him narcissistic. And now he's vilified by other Democrats. Does the left's foray into the politics of personal destruction worry him? "Only someone writing for the American Spectator could call them the left," he replies. "They are frightened liberals."

And they're still scared of Saint Ralph.

JWR contributor Evan Gahr is senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. To comment click here.


02/17/01: Donna Brazile Speaks out on Clarence Thomas
02/15/01: Operation PUSH back
02/08/01: Of 'players,' boozers, and your tax dollars
02/02/01: Schumer's new insensitivity
01/31/01: The Real Pat Caddell
01/26/01: Louts Above the Law
01/18/01: Bush and other GOP converts to racial politics are profoundly misguided
12/20/00: Whose America? Here are some election results the "mainstream" press won't report
12/14/00: Gore's last smear campaign
12/05/00: Fido v. Fido --- the emerging 'pets' rights' movement
12/01/00: Missile defense fog
11/17/00: The Dersh opens his yap one time too many
11/13/00: Gore's biggest missing Florida bloc
11/07/00: Hillary's cruel blow to American pluralism
11/01/00: Given Hillary's history should anyone -- other than society's most radical -- be surprised?
10/26/00: Remembering Gus Hall, that 'all-American' kinda guy
10/19/00: Hey conservatives, Nader wants your vote!
08/24/00: Not So Super-Heroes
08/15/00: Meet Mr. Quotas
08/01/00:The Visigoths are coming! The Visigoths are coming! ... Or so the media thinks
07/12/00: Geraldo's Food for Thought
06/27/00: Time for To Execute a Murderer
06/20/00: Hillary and the Cop-bashers: Will the real Ms. Rodham please stand up?
06/08/00: For voting rights purposes, should criminal offenders be judged not by the content of their character but the color of their skin?
05/10/00: Feminist Majority Rule
05/02/00: The Tin Man's Doctor
03/07/00: Bob Jones hypocrisy: Liberals are lecturing Americans on "anti-Catholicism"?
02/03/00: The red and the Black: The Left-wing Extremist in Bill Bradley’s Camp
01/06/00: Looking backwards: An anchorman's version of the 20th Century
12/16/99: Yellow journalism for the Pink Lady?
12/07/99: How to make the American Psychological Association squirm

© 2001, Evan Gahr Adapted from the American Spectator's online edition