As a die-hard Ralph Nader fan--I voted for him in 2000 and don't blame him, not one whit, for Gore's losing the election--I'm compelled to say that Nader's statements today about "white guilt" and Obama's failure to address inner-city poverty issues are, to be generous, poorly articulated. I agree with the thrust of Nader's intent, which was, I think, to point out that Obama's positions as the Democratic nominee for President are no different from the articulations of such nominees in the past, namely, nonthreatening pap about hope and change and equality. If Nader had stopped there, I'd agree wholeheartedly, because I've now come to see Obama as "merely a politician," whereas I'd heretofore seen him as a transformative historical figure.
But my support of Obama's candidacy isn't out of "white guilt," nor do I think Obama has appealed to that. True, he hasn't adopted the rhetoric of "black candidates" who've championed the economic and social plight of lower-income, city-dwelling blacks. But he's not running for Congress from a ghetto district, he's running for President of all Americans, and his rhetoric reflects that. I believe Obama's the best candidate in a long time--perhaps since our nation's founding--from the standpoint of representing the interests and aspirations of poor and middle-class Americans. And that's not because I feel guilty, but because I feel, finally, vindicated and hopeful that at long last our politics and our culture can address that burning issue.
Nader's remarks were, I think, too abrasive a means to convey--to remind us--that is that we still have a long way to go before any candidate may point out, as directly as Nader repeatedly does, what ails America--its rampant consumerism, its evil gap between rich and poor, its corporate-dominated culture and economic system. John Edwards (whom Nader endorsed) said some of these things, and look where that got him.
So, I agree with much of the content of what Nader said about Obama's campaign and about the state of the major parties' nomination process generally. I just wish he'd said it with a bit more aplomb.