07/24/2007 11:59 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

In Defense of Nader-Bashing

In response to my post of yesterday, many readers came to the defense of a certain smug self-righteous egomaniac. Let me happily concede several points they made. Yes, in a democracy Ralph Nader had every right to run. And yes, Al Gore was a God-awful candidate who couldn't even win his home state and caved in the recount. And yes, obviously the Democrats are far too much like the Republicans in far too many ways.

Not, though, in every single way. Most significantly, not in the way of nominating rightwing Neanderthals as judges. The simple fact is that Gore would not have turned the Supreme Court into the backward-reeling entity it now is, poised to undo every progressive decision of the last fifty years. Yes, the Democrats are pathetic cowards utterly devoid of integrity who bent over and allowed Bush's picks onto the Court, but knowing that going in as Nader clearly did, the responsible thing to do would have been to keep the guy who would nominate them in the first place out of power.

I know it's unfashionable to demand accountability these days - the craven media seems to see it as a quaint tradition like the Geneva Conventions - but I would love to see Nader confronted by all the women whose right to abortion is being eroded, all the minorities whose education prospects just suffered a major blow, all the scientists whose data has been twisted to conform to the Bushian world view, all the former residents of New Orleans, all the people screaming about global warming, and especially all the families of the dead and wounded in Iraq, and be forced to explain just how everything would have been exactly the same if Gore was in charge.

During the 2000 campaign, we learned these things about George W. Bush: he couldn't keep a smile off his face when the subject of the death penalty came up; his first appearance in the national press was in The New York Times in 1967 when, as a Yale senior, he defended his frat's practice of branding pledges with red-hot wire hangers (i.e. defended torture), and his response to a Web site that dared mock him was, "There ought to be limits to freedom." All of that should have been more than enough for Nader, on the last weekend before the election, to have stopped campaigning in close states like Florida and, however strongly he felt about the essential sameness of the parties, to have recognized that only one of the candidates was a sadistic sociopath, and that there was no higher responsibility to the nation at that moment in time than to keep that sadistic sociopath out of office. The past seven years have made this rather obvious.

Defend Nader on principle all you want, but the truth is that, whatever idealistic goals he claimed to be fighting for, what he actually accomplished was helping mightily to put in power a man who epitomized everything he'd spent his entire career fighting against. And, as every passing day brings new evidence of the erosion of our civil liberties, yes, I and millions of others place major blame on him and will never forgive or forget. In what's left of our democracy, that's our right.