I just received an update from the Nader/Gonzalez webteam and I must say it was bold. In it, they link directly to the DNC asking people to "give them some more money," if you believe they are the solution to an ailing nation. That's pretty ballsy -- typical email fundraising strategy is pretty clear on NOT linking to your competitor's website. Nader's email pretty much just puts it all out there.
Two weeks ago the Nader team called progressive democrats who had supported the pro-war, pro-Patriot Act, anti-labor, and anti-environmental candidate John Kerry in 2004, "shameful" for selling out. Of course, Medea Benjamin responded on the Nader blog (because Medea is never one to shy away from confrontation, be it detrimental to overall campaign goals or not) stating that everyone should respect each other's choices when it comes to supporting a Presidential candidate. Honestly, if I was Medea I would have left this one alone but she has now given fuel to the fire.
Nader's team responded by having Peter Camejo, his running mate in 2004, write an essay about how the Democratic party lost its soul and began simply curtsying to an unchecked Bush administration. Its a good essay and one that I think ties in the larger questions and concerns that many in this country have about the current 2-party political system.
But at the heart of this disagreement between Nader and Benjamin is the question of whether Progressives can change the Democratic Party from the inside out or whether they can force it to move left by flanking it with candidates like Nader and the Green Party. Benjamin, unlike many people I know, has tried both. Kudos to her for understanding the challenges with both strategies. Nader has tried both as well -- though he's only ever run for office independent of both major parties.
Personally, I feel that its easier to change an entrenched system by getting inside and changing it one artery at a time. Rarely do strategies based on outside pressures work, and I would argue that even those strategies included inside efforts that not everyone knew was going on. I agree with Nader that Democrats caved to status-quo assumptions and pressures from Bush and Co. (which is why I worked for Howard Dean in 2004 -- he was about the only public figure against the war in Iraq from day one). I also respect Medea (and many other progressives) who are working on changing the party from the inside the belly of the beast.
One element that bothers me about Medea's strategy is that assumes the system that we are working within (be it for Republicans or Democrats) is sound and efficient. In reality, we have a system that is completely archaic and not serving the people of the country. This is why so many people have disengaged from the political process -- no one has been able to answer the question, "Whats in it for me?" We have two Presidential campaigns that treat voters as consumers and adopt corporate marketing techniques just so they can communicate with them. Instead, we need candidates who can step back and realize the system itself needs to be more than just tinkered with and actually overhauled. Nader understands this but he's too busy telling us what's wrong instead of taking action on real solutions that are occurring all over the country.
I believe that great change starts from the bottom and trickles up. Well organized efforts often started with one person taking action -- be it suffrage or civil rights. All movements start with one person taking a simple but ofttimes powerful action. Medea knows this, and I'm curious to know her thoughts on working within the Democratic Party at the highest levels and whether that is going to be a successful strategy when it comes to creating long-standing, sustainable change in the party and country. Or maybe DC is where you go after working in and around local and state politics for so many years? I certainly hope not. Career politicians are exactly what we need less of in our leadership.