Ralph Nader Ends Campaign in Disgrace, Calling Obama an Uncle Tom


Ralph Nader, who helped give us George Bush in 2000, has ended his latest unsuccessful campaign in disgrace, referring to Barack Obama as an Uncle Tom. Even Fox News is outraged by his attack on Obama as seen in the video above. Hopefully this is the last we hear of Nader.

Update: There has been considerable reaction to Nader’s comment now that the video has gone viral. Check out some of the blogs with track backs here in the comments. Joe Gandelman of The Moderate Voice has provided some of the links below, preceded by his own view:

Yes, Ralph Nader ran again and place bets now that he’ll run in 2012 or beyond, even if he has to be wheeled from appearance to appearance. This year he received a sliver of the kind of support he got at the ballot box, which in itself would have been enough to decrease his shrinking legacy. But on election night 2008 he seemed determined to reduce his legacy even more.

On election night — as even GOP strategist Karl Rove expressed awe at the historical moment and Obama’s achievement — Nader framed Obama’s choice in a way that raised eyebrows. Watch the video below showing Ralph Nader with Fox News’ Shepard Smith, one of the network’s most unpredictable and watchable anchors. Watch Smith frame Nader’s role in 2000 and this year in a way that many voters now feel — and watch his response to Nader’s comment about Obama.

PERSONAL NOTE: Watching Ralph Nader now is very painful for many of us who grew up in the 1960s. I can remember driving from my parent’s house in Woodbridge, CT back to Colgate University in Hamilton, New York in a brutal snowstorm, listening to a newscast detail the latest battle of a young crusading Connecticut lawyer named Ralph Nader. Many baby boomers wanted to be just like him. When Nader ran for President in 2000 — like him or not — it was all about content. Since then, Nader seems to be all about someone who craves attention.

His legacy was already diminished by election day. His comments here reduce it even more. And, yet, he doesn’t seem to realize the impact of the way he framed his question, and the inappropriateness of his language.

From Tim Goodman at The San Francisco Chronicle:

As if Ralph Nader wasn’t a big enough tool already, he went on Fox News on election night – the very night Barack Obama broke the racial barrier on the presidency – and uttered the words “Uncle Tom.” Not only that, after being called out on the words (which he initially said in a radio interview) by Fox News anchor Shepard Smith – and given a point-blank chance to apologize and take them back, Nader said he wouldn’t. It’s a stunning bit of television and a lot of people missed it. (No doubt a good portion of the Bay Area, not exactly a bastion of Fox News watchers, did). Up until he spewed out the words, the biggest shocker in this scenario was A) That anybody still cared enough to talk to a washed-up political hack like Nader and B) That Nader could actually hear Smith call him on the offensive language. Nader rarely stops his mouth moving – he’s always so caught up in his monotonous blather and meritless belief that he’s making points people want to listen to.

Give Shep Smith a lot of credit here. “Really? Ralph Nader – what was that?” And then he just fried Nader. (I love the look on his face when Nader calls him a bully – it’s that same look people should be giving Nader right about now for completely not getting it.)

So, let’s go to the big board here for the tally: Nader helps the Democrats lose the election in 2000 and then slanders the Democratic winner in 2008? Well played, Ralph. At least this moment brings you (temporarily) back out of obscurity and irrelevance.

Tim Molloy at TV Guide writes:

Dubious congratulations are in order: Ralph Nader became the first public figure to make an inflammatory public remark about our first African-American president, telling a Fox News affiliate that Barack Obama has to choose between being “Uncle Sam for the people of this country, or Uncle Tom for the giant corporations.”

Grilled by Fox’s Shepard Smith early Wednesday morning, after the election was decided, Nader declined to back down from the remark, which he made in an earlier interview on Election Day.

“Really,” Smith said after playing a clip of Nader’s remarks. “Ralph Nader, what was that?”

Nader continued to press his point – Obama is too beholden to corporate interests – without acknowledging that many find the term Uncle Tom offensive. (Taken from Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the 1852 anti-slavery novel by Harriet Beecher Stowe, the term is used to accuse a black person of behaving subserviently.)

Smith soon cut Nader off: “You had a number of supporters out there, you were running a percentage, this year you were reduced to irrelevant and I just wonder if that’s what you want your legacy to be: the man who on the night that the first African-American president in the history of this nation was elected, you ask if he’s going to be Uncle Sam or Uncle Tom. Stunning.”

Nader’s answer: “Yeah, of course, he’s turned his back on a 100 million poor people in this country, African-Americans and Latinos and poor whites. And we’re gonna hold him to a higher standard.”

Later in the interview, Nader told Smith: “Look, I don’t like bullies like you. I can’t see you. You can pull the plug on me, I’m looking in a dark camera.”

Nader later used the word “toady” the same way he had previously used the phrase “Uncle Tom,” but said he had no regrets about the latter phrase.

Nader, a consumer advocate, has run in every election since 1996 but had a significant impact only in the 2000 race, in which many Democrats blame him for siphoning off enough votes from Al Gore in Florida to allow George Bush to win the election.

David Weigel of Reason wrote:

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.”

Wonkette writes:

Ugh. NADER. He’s been such a dick the last few days. His communications guy has been sending out all of these sarcastic (”pathetic”) e-mails; for example, there was one about how Nader won a mock election in some hippie high school and then decided that they were all more ethical than Obama. And then there was that snippy soundbite press conference. And the shit-flavored hummus. And now this: calling Obama an “Uncle Tom” after his victory and thereby forcing us to side with SHEP F*#$@$ SMITH in the above clip.

It’s not the first time Nader’s played this cheap identity shit, either. He really does have some psychological attention-craving disorder, the end. The man has saved countless lives over the decades by advocating for safer automobiles, cleaner air, water, and food, worker safety regulations, and most importantly the election of George W. Bush. Now he’s just some crazy racist losing an argument to a relatively mild-mannered Fox News anchor.

Andrew Sullivan wrote:

Can you believe that Ralph Nader used the phrase “Uncle Tom” to describe Obama last night? Shep Smith couldn’t. And he showed again he’s the only reason to still watch and respect Fox News.

Ta-Nehisi Coates writes:

Owned–By Shep Smith, no less: This is, like, a mixture of tragedy and humor. I laughed, and then I was embarrassed for Nader. Tragicomic, I guess. Sorry, I’m not making thoughts…so. .good. Anyway, what’s truly tragicomic is that I can’t not blog. I love the O.C. shout-out at the end… Time’s Up indeed.

Steve Benen of Washington Monthly’s Political Animal blog sums it up succinctly (kindly linking back here):

Ralph Nader is a disgrace.

Ralph Nader Continues To Help Republicans

Ralph Nader, the man who helped give us George Bush in 2000, continues his efforts to help Republicans. He is now attacking Barack Obama, not John McCain:

Ralph Nader’s campaign sent an e-mail to supporters Friday that paints Obama as too close to big business and special interests. “Ralph Nader stands for shifting the power from the big corporations back to the people. Period. Full stop. End of story,” writes the Nader campaign. “Contrast that with Senator Obama.”

The message highlights what it says are changes in the Illinois senator’s positions on public spending limits, NAFTA and economic populism, and says that Obama has surrounded himself with “veterans of the military industrial complex status quo.” It does not mention his Republican counterpart, John McCain.

Ralph Nader’s political strategy has long appeared to be directed more at hurting Democrats such as Al Gore and John Kerry. For example, he has concentrated on swing states where he could tilt the election to the Republicans, as he did in Florida in 2000.



With about 98% of the vote in from the Iowa caucus, I project Barack Obama will be elected the next President of the United States.

Sure, a lot can still happen between now and November, but baring a major change it is difficult to see any other result. Edwards’ populism won’t sell in many states outside of Iowa, and having lost her aura of inevitability, support for Clinton is likely to hemorrhage. Dodd and Biden both withdrew, and Richardson performed too poorly to be a serious candidate. As for the general election, the record turnout of 227,000 in a state that went for George Bush is just one sign of the advantage the Democrats have. Some questioned the model used by The Des Moines Register that estimated 200,000 attendees but this number was greatly surpassed. By comparison, the turnout in 2004 was 125,000.

Not only did Obama win the caucus, he “won” in the post-caucus speeches. Clinton’s speech sounded like a speech of the Democratic Party past. John Edwards’ speech was the Dean scream put to words, showing yet again Edwards would never be elected president. Barack Obama gave the speech which would be expected not only by the leader of the Democratic Party, but by the president of all the people of the United States. The Republicans might be able to beat Hillary Clinton. I believe they would have beaten John Edwards. They will have a hard time beating Barack Obama.

Mike Huckabee also gave a good speech, but it was the speech of a skilled pastor, not a president. While Obama’s victory in Iowa will probably propel him to winning his party’s nomination, the Republican nomination is still in doubt. Huckabee did show he could win beyond the evangelical vote, and considering the flaws in all the Republican candidates he might be able to win the nomination. This is certainly a serious blow to Mitt Romney. The conventional wisdom a few weeks ago was that a victory for Huckabee would open up the race for Giuliani. With John McCain surging in New Hampshire, Giuliani could be forgotten by Super Tuesday. The one difficulty McCain might face in New Hampshire as a result of tonight’s results is that the independents might vote overwhelmingly for Obama, taking away potential votes from McCain.

In looking at Giuliani’s prospects, it is also hard to take anyone seriously who could not even beat Ron Paul. The Ron Paul fantasy has ended. As I’ve noted many times before, Paul’s enthusiastic supporters could help him do better than his 4% standing in the national polls, but not by enough to be meaningful. Making a lot of noise on line, and having a successful rally in The World of Warcraft, is not the same as getting real people to vote for your candidate. I’m sure it won’t be long before the Paul supporters develop a conspiracy theory claiming that Paul really won but had the vote stolen. Back in the real world, Paul has the money to remain in the race as long as he wants, and he might even do a little better in New Hampshire, but he is purely a protest candidate with zero chance of winning.

Obama’s support among independents will make it harder for a third party to harm the Democrats by dividing the vote. Michael Bloomberg is much less likely to run against Obama, as has been suspected since the two met for breakfast in November. Ron Paul might still decide to run as a third party candidate, with some rumors suggesting he might be planning to run as the candidate of the theocratic Constitution Party, which is closer to Paul’s current views than the Libertarian Party. It is hard to see Ralph Nader or the Green Party seriously hurting the Democratic Party led by Obama.

Kucinich Makes Obama His Second Choice

As I predicted back in November, Dennis Kucinich has finally figured out what a big mistake he made in 2004. With the second choice being important in the Iowa Democratic caucus, Kucinich threw his support to Edwards, helping him come in second place. Some such as Chris Bowers are puzzled, writing “backing away from Edwards after Edwards moved even further to the rhetorical and policy left seems odd to me.” Maybe Bowers is right that Kucinich is “an odd fellow” but he’s not a total fool. As I noted at the time, in November Kucinich figured out what a phony John Edwards is and, unlike many Democrats, is not fooled by the populist pose that Edwards has taken in order to do well in Iowa.

This time Kucinich has advised his supporters to vote for Barack Obama:

Democratic Presidential candidate and Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich opened the New Year by publicly asking his Iowa supporters to vote for him in the caucuses this Thursday, and suggesting that if he did not make the 15% threshold, their second ballot should be for Senator Barack Obama. “This is obviously an ‘Iowa-only’ recommendation, as Sen. Obama and I are competing in the New Hampshire primary next Tuesday where I want to be the first choice of New Hampshire voters.

“I hope Iowans will caucus for me as their first choice this Thursday, because of my singular positions on the war, on health care, and trade. This is an opportunity for people to stand up for themselves. But in those caucus locations where my support doesn’t reach the necessary threshold, I strongly encourage all of my supporters to make Barack Obama their second choice. Sen. Obama and I have one thing in common: Change.”

Those who are surprised to see such signs of sanity from someone on the far left of the Democratic Party will be not be surprised to hear that Ralph Nader remains as delusional as ever. Ralph Nader, who helped Bush get elected by claiming that there was no difference between George Bush and Al Gore, has endorsed John Edwards, supporting his “pugilistic brand of populism.” Yet one more reason to vote against John Edwards.

Where Ron Paul Stands, In Texas and Nationally

The Hill is running an article claiming that Ron Paul is in trouble in his district predicting he will not win the nomination to retain his seat. I certainly don’t know enough about the local politics in his district to say for sure, but this article doesn’t pass the smell test. The article from the beginning read like something from someone with an agenda as opposed to an impartial observer, and this is made clear as it ends with “Good riddance.”

My bet is that Ron Paul is reelected to his House seat, assuming he intends to seek reelection. I certainly hope he does. While I disagree with Paul’s conservativism on social issues, any Republican who is likely to win in Texas will have equally conservative views but would not likely share Paul’s views on the war and civil liberties. I think libertarians have been mistaken in seeing the Republicans as allies, but I would rather have Paul as a Republican Congressman, despite his flaws, than a typical Republican in the hopes that Paul could nudge the Republicans in a more libertarian direction.

There remains the question of whether Paul would decide to run as a third party candidate as opposed to seeking reelection to the House. Rasmussen has conducted a poll with Paul running as a third party candidate. The results are Clinton 42%, Giuliani 39%, and Paul 8%. Paul receives more support from Democrats than Republicans. Most likely his support comes from a combination of libertarians, the far right extremist groups which back him, and some Democrats due to his opposition to the war. Democrats who only see him in the debates, or perhaps read his recent interview in Rolling Stone, might look on him favorably.

If Paul could receive 8% of the vote it would be about eight times greater than what the Libertarian Party could normally achieve. There is also the question as to whether there is much room for movement. While it is possible Paul might improve on this, my suspicion is that his support would drop as the race goes on. His upside potential would come from greater exposure now that he has more money to work with. I suspect that those who might vote for Paul are people who pay close attention to politics and already are aware of him.

Paul’s problem is that many of the Democratic voters who now consider voting for him due to his position on Iraq are likely to change their minds when they consider his other positions and record. Democrats and many independents who oppose the war are not likely to vote for a candidate who opposes abortion rights and does not believe in separation of church and state. While Paul will receive more attention than he has in the past, this is likely to include more coverage of his views and his affiliation with far right extremist groups leading to an erosion of his support.

If we really do have a Clinton vs. Giuliani race as polled by Rasmussen, many will be hoping for a viable third party alternative. In the same poll mentioned above, Ralph Nader does even worse than Paul at 4%. Another three way poll with Michael Bloomberg running still has Clinton winning, but Bloomberg does better than Paul with 11%. Perhaps Paul’s 8% result is largely a reflection of the desire for an alternative to Clinton and Giuliani minus those who recognize Paul’s negatives.

Nader Supporters Finally Realizing They Were Wrong?

In 2000 the Nader supporters defended Ralph Nader’s absurd claim that there was no difference between Gore and Bush. Regardless of how obvious it became that there were significant differences, Nader continued to repeat this line. Finally, a couple of weeks ago, there were signs that Nader finally realized that there was a difference. Now we learn from The New York Daily News that Nader supporters are turning to the guy they rejected in 2000.

Right or wrong, people who voted for Ralph Nader get blamed for costing Al Gore the 2000 election.

Now, some of those very same voters are throwing themselves into a new – and nonexistent – campaign: Gore 2008.

And they say there’s no irony at all.

“In 2000, Nader was the most progressive candidate, and in 2008, Al Gore would be the most progressive candidate. There’s no dissonance at all, I would say,” argues Bud Plautz, the New York head of the movement to draft the former vice president.

That’s not just irony, that’s totally illogical. Sure, Nader was the more progressive candidate in 2000, but that’s not the point. Nader was a third party candidate with zero chance of winning. For all practical purposes, a vote for Nader was a vote to make George Bush, and not Al Gore president. It is not possible to logically argue that Al Gore was no different from George Bush in 2000 but is the best possible candidate now. Gore’s style might have changed a bit, but otherwise he is not that different now than he was in 2000.

Ralph Nader Regrets Bush Victory Too Late

Ralph Nader complains that George Bush and Dick Cheney are Dodging Impeachment.

Wouldn’t it have been better if Ralph Nader had thought of this before he helped George Bush get elected, claiming there was no difference between George Bush and Al Gore? As Jonathan Chait has written, Nader intentionally campaigned in the battleground states where it would hurt Gore:

In the waning days of the 2000 election, some of Nader’s campaign advisers urged him to concentrate on uncontested states, like New York and California, where he could attract local media without competition from the major-party candidates and win liberal voters who needn’t fear tipping the race to George W. Bush. Instead, he chose a whirlwind tour of battleground states, campaigning in Pennsylvania and Florida, where votes would be harder to come by but more consequential to the outcome of the race. Liberals assume Nader tried to maximize his vote total without regard to how it affected Bush and Gore. The truth is that he actively sought to help Bush, even at the expense of his own vote total.

Nader Threatens to Run Yet Again

Ralph Nader, who lost all credibility in my mind after he continued to claim there was no difference between Democrats and Republicans after seeing Bush in office, is threatening to run yet again. He also blasts Hillary Clinton and, while there is some truth to his charges, there is no benefit to be seen from him challenging her in the general election should she win the Democratic nomination. Reuters reports:

Former presidential candidate Ralph Nader on Sunday left the door open for another possible White House bid in 2008 and criticized Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton as “a panderer and a flatterer.”

Asked on CNN’s Late Edition news program if he would run in 2008, the lawyer and consumer activist said, “It’s really too early to say. … I’ll consider it later in the year.”

Nader, 72, said he did not plan to vote for Clinton, a Democratic senator from New York and former first lady.

“I don’t think she has the fortitude. Actually she’s really a panderer and a flatterer. As she goes around the country, you’ll see more of that,” Nader said.

On whether he would be encouraged to run if Clinton gets the Democratic nomination, Nader said, “It would make it more important that that be the case.”

He added that Clinton may face a challenge in her own state from wealthy Republican New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“I think her main problem may well be right in New York City, Michael Bloomberg. They’re talking in the Bloomberg camp of a possible run. I’m saying he’ll give more diversity, for sure, and he’ll focus on urban problems. But I might say, he’s got the money to do it,” Nader said.

Matthew Yglesias notes that some see some good in Nader’s previous campaigns as it moved the Democratic Party further to the left. I agree with Matthew in rejecting this argument: “Now, was that a price worth paying for the dead in Iraq, the torture, etc.? I don’t really think so.” Kevin Drum questions if the Democratic Party is even more liberal now than in 2000. The Plank argues that areas where Democrats have moved to the left happed despite Nader running due to changing events such as loss of manufacturing jobs and increased income inequality. Steve Benen is “terribly uncomfortable with the very idea of Nader having been right about any of the political choices he’s made over the last seven years” and also questions whether, even if Nader’s strategy was successful, is was “worth the incredibly high costs.”

Update: Transcript of CNN interview with Ralph Nader