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Monday, Oct 27, 2008, 3:56 pm

Greider on Nader

By Brian Cook
Over at The Nation, Bill Greider has a good piece on Ralph Nader, examining his latest run for president in the context of a possible electoral landslide by Democrats. It's a sharp point. Though some believe we may be approaching some type of "liberal dawn," I'll believe it when I see it. Certainly Americans appear to be spurning the Right, but it's a very legitimate question as to whether electing Democrats to replace Republicans will bring about any serious reforms. As Greider writes:

If the election produces stronger majorities in Congress and a new president who has promised big change, Nader's analysis will be tested in the clearest terms. For the first time in thirty years, the Dems will have nobody else left to blame. If Obama does not turn the page as he promised, if the Congressional majority does not step up forcefully, then we may fairly conclude Nader was right.


I'm not sure, however, if the failure to produce forceful reform this time around might solely be an indictment of Democratic fecklessness and/or timidity. Certainly that might play a role, but I'm increasingly concerned whether these failures are the result of larger dysfunctionalities within our political institutions, in particular the Senate. As that link suggests, it might be the case that, when it comes to this possibility, Ralph Nader has not been radical enough.

One other quibble with Ralph. In the Greider piece, he cites I.F. Stone, saying "I believe in I.F. Stone's dictum that in all social justice movements, you've got to be ready to lose. And lose and lose and lose. It's not very pleasant, but you have to accept this if you believe in what you're doing."

The I.F. Stone quote Ralph is referring to happens to be one of my favorites, a lodestar I (however poorly) try to live my life by. And Ralph's only got it half-right. As I cited it in my review of 'The Wire' a few months back, it reads:

The only kinds of fights worth having are those you’re going to lose, because somebody has to fight them and lose and lose and lose until someday, somebody who believes as you do wins. In order for somebody to win an important, major fight 100 years hence, a lot of other people have got to be willing—for the sheer fun and joy of it—to go right ahead and fight, knowing you’re going to lose. You mustn’t feel like a martyr. You’ve got to enjoy it.


Emphasis mine, as I think it's an integral part of the quote's sentiment, and it's that sense of joy and pleasure that I kinda think Nader often lacks. It's a fine line, to be sure, between exhibiting the suitable outrage about injustice and enjoying the fight against it, but I often wonder whether leftists might be more successful if they focused more on the latter than on the former.

Brian Cook was an editor at In These Times from 2003 to 2009. He now works on the editorial staff of Playboy magazine.

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