A videotape of a live panel discussing the effect Ralph Nader had on the 2000 presidential election. The whole event appears to be taking place on a several day-long cruise. The moderator was Victor Navasky, publisher of The Nation. The panel was comprised of journalist Eric Alterman, historian and author Larry Goodwyn, political commentator Molly Ivins, radio DJ and author Studs Terkel, and law critic and The Nation columnist Patricia Williams.
00:20Copy video clip URL Navasky speaks casually to the crowd, dispelling rumors that Christopher Hitchens will be appearing at the event. He speaks about the development of the event.
04:12Copy video clip URL Studs Terkel starts with a “sermon.” He calls himself a sinner, but asks “Why do I feel so good when I sin?” He then calls Al Gore “the lesser of two ailments.” Studs begins telling the story of Huck Finn and Jim.
06:12Copy video clip URL Studs jokes about “naming names” and going to Hell, because he’s a sinner. He talks about working with Mahalia Jackson. “Here you are, my captive congregation. You can’t get away unless you’re Johnny Weismueller.” He says the panel should be titled “Ralph Nader and the Democratic Leadership Council.” Studs says that our language has changed: “we call right center and center left.”
09:27Copy video clip URL Studs says he “suffered” two epiphanies. He goes on to an anecdote, a parable, about Al Gore. “The powerful few are becoming more and more powerful at the expense of many.” Studs says, “I immediately thought, ‘He’s gone Nader!'” He means that Nader’s stances change Al Gore’s policies. Studs begins talking about Henry Wallace and the Progressive Party, as well as the Convention of 1944 in the Chicago Stadium. “Much bloodier than the 1968 convention ever was.” He calls Wallace “The heart and soul of the Progressive Party.”
12:44Copy video clip URL Studs talks about “slipping in the little hack Harry Truman” as opposed to Henry Wallace as FDR’s running mate. “FDR could have won with an orangutan as vice president.” Then Studs talks about Truman vs. Dewey, and how Truman “steals Wallace’s program.” Some of those issues were civil rights, poll tax and universal health care. “Henry Wallace elected Harry Truman.”
16:40Copy video clip URL On his epiphanies, Studs talks about speculating who Gore would choose for his running mate. “I’ll bet he’ll choose that lovable, loathsome Lieberman” and then his son told him Gore indeed chose Lieberman. The other epiphany figure was Sen. Paul Wellstone of Arizona, “but he’s talking Molly Ivins talk.” “What occurs to me, suppose instead of swinging so far to the right and choosing Lieberman, picture them swinging to the left. A Gore/Wellstone ticket.”
19:44Copy video clip URL “Wellstone says, ‘How about the cashier moms? The waitress moms? Department Store moms?’ … That would have been the biggest land slide since 1936.” Studs then mentions Dennis Kucinich, “Studs, you don’t know a thing about the Democratic Leadership Council. They would decapitate both Gore and Wellstone.” Studs asks, “Dennis, are you telling me that these babies would rather lose going to the right than win going to the left? I may have sinned for Nader, but I take back my repentance.”
21:52Copy video clip URL Studs quotes an article in the Chicago Tribune criticizing him for changing his vote publicly to Gore. “I owe them a mea culpa.”
22:50Copy video clip URL Molly Ivins talks about how third parties push one of the major parties in one direction.
24:00Copy video clip URL Patricia Williams talks about the “limits” of Ralph Nader. She began her career as a consumer advocate, which makes her an admirer of Nader. The consumer law is a “limit” on the free market. She is concerned that Nader is concerned with the limitation on the market, but “the issues of identity, or stigma, or class, beyond economic class, stereotype, race, ethnicity, have been neglected in his analysis.” She is concerned with a response that indicates “all of us” are limited to a class analysis in a nation where there is no constitutional protection. “We have no right to economic equality.”
28:32Copy video clip URL She talks about the misconception that dealing with class issues will fix racism issues. “My concern is increasingly in the shift within the legal profession as describing these issues as economic issues and not civil rights issues.” She speaks about talk of reparations is a response to keep civil rights at the forefront. “Affirmative Action is a Civil Rights action, but has been increasingly devalued, as has its effectiveness.”
31:10Copy video clip URL She adds that Affirmative Action and reparations may be more effective as investment in infrastructure and education, as opposed to simply amounts of money paid to people. She adds the problem is that we as a nation are beginning to value human life in a matter of dollar and cents. “I would love to hear Ralph Nader, the Arab-American, speak about ethnic issues.” She thinks Gore would at least be willing to go the “direction the world is evolving right now,” but Bush would not.
34:06Copy video clip URL Eric Alterman talks about how his books were passed out on the ship, his “Public Service Announcement.” He adds that as a reporter he heard about Christopher Hitchens coming before anyone else heard, and was taken to the liquor cabinet by the captain. “I knew the rumor couldn’t be true because there wasn’t enough liquor.”
35:53Copy video clip URL Alterman says listening to Studs and Molly he agreed with everything but the conclusion. After listening to Williams, he agreed with nothing but the conclusion. “This Ralph Nader thing is annoying … I wouldn’t have voted for anyone who would have voted for the impeachment of Bill Clinton. It means you have a fundamental misunderstanding of the Constitution, because you don’t impeach people for private matters.”
38:00Copy video clip URL He talks about politics as a matter of compromise: “it’s not therapy.” He makes up a story about driving a political prisoner to safety, and you’re pulled over by a cop named Gore. When the cop asks if you have any political prisoners, you deny it, and he begins to talk about his career and history. Cop #2 is named Bush and he says I don’t want to talk about these issues, they’re over his head. He asks about the political prisoners. “Are you going to say, yes I have political prisoners and tell him why he’s long, and then your political prisoner goes back to jail anyway? Or are you just going to the lecture and go about rescuing your prisoner?”
42:03Copy video clip URL Alterman talks about the DLC as “where the votes are … and you can wish it weren’t so, but it is so.” “You [speaking to the audience which seems to be middle class] have no right to complain … the people who suffer are living on the margin of society.” He mentions that the people “Nader declared war on” are the politicians who speak to the margins of society. “All the Green party can accomplish is to destroy progressive candidates.”
45:12Copy video clip URL Alterman talks about how Bush’s campaign paid to run Nader’s ads against Al Gore. “To me the Nader experience points to two lessons. One is progressives don’t have the luxury of beating up on one another. We’re not strong enough, we don’t have a comfortable majority. There has to be a way to unite us so we don’t destroy ourselves. The second is for the past twenty years we progressives have lived in fear of the Christian Coalition viewpoint, even though we know they represent a minority. Yet, these viewpoints captured the Republican viewpoints. Nader made the contract for America, yet none of the contract addressed the issues.” Alterman talks about Americans being apathetic toward politics, encouraging progressives to stop name-calling and start working. “We’ve got a lot of people paying for that who can’t afford it.”
49:35Copy video clip URL Larry Goodwyn talks about two literary traditions and their impacts no the world. The first is produced by novelists like Barbara Kingsolver, William Faulkner, and Herman Melville, describing a society living “on the brink of doom. It helps the human race survive on the brink of doom.” The other, he says, is historical, and describes a perfect world, and is not true. “It is a fairy tale, and it’s time for us to outgrow it.” He discusses some history of the Republic and the various parties all failing in the face of the Democratic party. Then the party split into four factions and the Civil War was a result. “What a society really needs to avoid civil war is stability, and stable parties are good for creating that dynamic. Since this two party system, we’ve had stability. In fact, we’ve had rigidity. What distinguishes politics now from the era of Henry Wallace and the New Deal, what is new is that the political system itself, the process has been purchased.”
54:27Copy video clip URL Goodwyn references Studs’ story of Henry Wallace electing Truman. “Why didn’t Gore endeavor to carry out Nader’s platform? It’s not Nader’s fault that Gore retreated.” He says in order to unite the factions, one has to draw a “clean progressive economic line in the sand … and if you don’t, you get Al Gore. The population working no minimum wage, with health care crises, they don’t vote. It’s not because they’re apathetic, it’s because nothing in the two parties helps them. … We are victims of these circumstances.”
57:00Copy video clip URL He describes the split of one precinct in Florida. Most of the precinct voted for Gore, 14 voted for Bush, and over 500 did not vote at all. Goodwyn talks about a book, “Like Water Over the Sea,” and the relationship between African Americans and Florida. “Historically, the cancer at the heart of the American experience is race. It is a national trauma, and everyone of us has grown up in the culture of white supremacy… This is not a particularly American disease. Nationalism is a global disease.”
1:00:12Copy video clip URL Goodwyn talks about academics at a panel at Duke of department chairs, all white men, who saw nationalism in Africa and Asia as getting in the way of progress. But none of them talked about white nationalism. He talks about his African American students “having to overcome being called ‘oreos’ and the dynamics of black nationalism and white supremacy. There is no clear path for them, there’s no clear path for us. We’ve got to find ways to start talking to each other about white nationalism, American imperialism, about minimum wage, and people who die in this country because they can’t afford health care.”
1:02:45Copy video clip URL Navasky asks Goodwyn about the difference the Nader campaign makes, where it is headed. Goodwyn says he doesn’t know. He talks about the struggle and impossibility of creating a third party.
1:05:14Copy video clip URL Eric Alterman talks about letters he has received writing about the election. What he pointed out about the Nader candidacy was that “you had a leftist movement that defined itself more as a movement then party, because its not really a viable party. Yet this leftist movement had no support from the environmental movement, the women’s movement, the African American movement, the labor movement, etc. It’s ridiculous, the Nader category is largely white middle class and students.” Alterman adds that with a white majority, “you can’t win with just these groups, but the left can’t win without these groups.”
1:09:19Copy video clip URL Studs talks about Nader the flawed person, a populist with hubris. “Nader is not the issue. The new generation, I call it Gen Y, is hungry beyond Gore and Republicans.” Studs says students have broken through the thought that the third party is useless. “You’re factually right, but you’re truthfully wrong, because Ralph Nader is NOT the movement.”
1:11:30Copy video clip URL A woman from the audience says Nader is divisive. Molly Ivins talks about “the ground war on election day.”
1:13:55Copy video clip URL A woman talks about how the left should be more organized and write daily letters to editors, like the editor at the Christian Coalition, to get the information out to Americans. “There are a lot of old lefties, and a lot of young lefties coming. … There are no stupid people, there are just people who haven’t been educated.” She asks if the panel believes that people in the U.S. could be voting progressive. The panel responds “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
1:16:09Copy video clip URL A man asks Goodwyn about capitalism. He talks about ignorance, how capitalism and basic economics work. Alterman says the problem with Marx is the he provides a brilliant critique of capitalism, but no road map for how to change. “Until we find that, we’re stuck in this system and we have to work within it.” Ivins adds that the U.S. has a “learned on the ground” way of dealing with excesses of capitalism.
1:19:27Copy video clip URL Man asks Eric how he can ask us to look at the facts. “Isn’t it fact to say third parties exist?” He goes on to give examples of third party politicians and leaders. “The fact is the Democratic party’s prescription for winning is that the Republican candidate is worse. That’s not good enough for these people, or for you, or for me.” Eric says his book describes a prescription. He talks about Bernie Sanders and the dangers of Ralph Nader as someone who would rather attack his allies then his enemies. Eric says American foreign policy is anti-democratic because people have so little say in it. He calls for a “citizen’s jury” and that Congress is so corrupt that running for office makes one corrupt. If it is a close race then one is even more corrupt. “The American people are not stupid, they’re just ignorant. They don’t have time to educate themselves on the issues.” This citizen’s jury would subpoena government officials.
1:26:55Copy video clip URL Navasky asks the panel about the third party possibly not beginning at the presidency, but from the ground up. Ivins talks about Ernie Cortes working in Texas to create organizations that call elected officials before groups of citizens and “grill them. And unless you’re George W. Bush, if you’re elected in Texas, you show up.” Goodwyn agrees that you have to start at the bottom. “I would add the term Democratic Social Relations. It is a concept of how we relate to each other.” He talks about studying insurgent movements and how many were “democratic abstractly, but personally they’re thugs.” Studs says we need a multi-party system and a run-off of the two top candidates. “I don’t understand why we avoid that idea.”
1:32:55Copy video clip URL A man says Al Gore was still ahead in popular vote and the electoral college. A woman says most people she knows who vote for Nader don’t really vote for the Green party, but are voting to send a message to the Democratic party which has lost its progressive agenda. “I think that getting the Democratic party to pay attention to the issues I care about is more important than any damage George Bush can do in four years.” Williams says that the progressive movement is accomplished by people of color. “From a certain perspective [the African American one] there isn’t much difference between Progressives and Democrats. … One of the great fallouts has been the attack on political correctness.” And that African Americans who succeed are overcoming race and learn “the white man’s way.” “The whole Civil Rights Movement is about education. The new stereotype is that the only reason we’re not successful is because we’re not trying hard enough.” She talks about how the impeachment of Clinton was split into “the white men” versus everyone else: Blacks, women, gays, etc. She talks about Al Gore representing a Southerner who does not represent the old racism of the Civil War that saw blacks as subhuman.
1:46:20Copy video clip URL Navasky points out that no one should ever underestimate the damage a president can do. A man asks Eric Alterman about some of the issues he’s brought up. Alterman responds that he doesn’t like any of the policies the man mentioned that Gore supports, but “on the other hand I think George Bush will be much worse.” He goes on to say that the organizations that support Gore are choosing someone they agree with only marginally to prevent power getting to someone who they completely disagree with. Ivins adds she has known Bush since high school, watched him closely as Governor, and consequently had no trouble supporting Al Gore. Williams responds that Gore is not her ideal, nor is he for many African Americans. She says electing Nader is like electing a black president: “Yes, it’s something we’d all like, but we don’t think it’s going to happen.”
1:54:02Copy video clip URL Navasky concludes by thanking the panel.
1:55:50Copy video clip URL One of the cruise guides begins talking about events happening on the cruise.