The Nader campaign, part 1

Michael Hoover hoov at
Sun Jun 4 13:08:51 MDT 2000

> In a nutshell, Nader is attempting to connect the dotted lines between the
> social movements and trade unions of today with the anti-monopoly and
> populist traditions of the pre-1917 left. This is the left of small
> shopkeepers, farmers and "citizens" who need to restore the vision of
> Jeffersonian democracy. In his Concord Principles found at,
> he states:
> "Control of our social institutions, our government, and our political
> system is presently in the hands of a self-serving, powerful few, known as
> an oligarchy, which too often has excluded citizens from the process.
> "Our political system has degenerated into a government of the power
> brokers, by the power brokers, and for the power brokers, and is far beyond
> the control or accountability of the citizens. It is an arrogant and
> distant caricature of Jeffersonian democracy."
> I personally am somewhat suspicious of appeals to "Jeffersonian democracy",
> particularly in light of his treatment of the American Indian.
> Louis Proyect

Re. Nader, he may be only person to ever critique free market system in
*Homes and Gardens* magazine, saying that it "only stimulates one value
in society - the acquistive, materialistic, profit value.  Hoe about
the justice value? the health value? the heritage-for-future-generations
value? the accountability-in-government value the enforcement-of-
consumer-environmental-worker-laws value?" (August 1991, p. 144)

Of course, it is RN's name recognition that got him into above magazine
and it is his name recognition that explains Green Party willingness
to nominate him a second time despite his 1996 'non-campaign' (which
should have been seen as betrayal).

Nader appearance in *Homes and Gardens* is indication of limits of his
politics.  His anti-corporate theme reminds of not-so-Progressive Era
advocacy of using gov't to prevent economy from imposing hardships on
individuals unable to help themselves and to promote social reforms that
would lead to social progress.  While number of such reforms were enacted,
middle-strata progressivism had conservative effect of undercutting more
substantive democratic demands and reducing pressure for great changes.
And legislation to control monopolies was largely ineffectual anyway.

RN's rhetoric may sound populist theme but his modus operandi has always
been 'reform from above': lobbying, testifying at hearings, influencing
rulemaking process, presenting research findings, organizing 'astroturf'
(in contrast to grassroots) efforts.  And while he is identified with
'public interest' causes, Nader has been contributor to interest group
'hyperpluralism' given his association with founding (or co-founding)
over 50 organizations during his career.

'Leftish' types in US have tendency to call for 'home grown' examples
of 'good' politics and Nader's reference to Jeffersonian democracy
keeps with that tradition.  Despite his view that nature ratified
exclusion of women, African-Americans, & Native Americans from ranks
of autonomous people and public realm, there was a radical TJ.  More-
over, Jefferson's words have been used in ways and by folks that he
would never have intended (Seneca Falls Declaration, Frederick Douglas,
Martin Luther King, Jr., for example).

But TJ also played important role in making 1787 non-majoritarian
constitution legitimate.  Despite riding wave of reinvigorated
egalitarianism stemming from French Revolution to the presidency
in 1800, he did not (contrary to Federalist expectations) 'rip up'
the document or dismantle established gov't institutions.  Instead,
he began attaching democratic label to the constitution.  Fact of
matter is that Jefferson was part of US 'duopoly' that Nader opposes,
a duopoly that has existed throughout country's history.  In any
event, invoking TJ - who was simultaneously individualist,
communitarian, republican, democratic - is call to go 'back to
future' that only partially was.    Michael Hoover

More information about the Marxism mailing list