Michael Moore’s unjustified anger at Ralph Nader

On March 25, 2010 famous documentarian Michael Moore appeared on Democracy Now! (video, audio, transcript) and spoke about how disappointed he was in President Obama’s health care reform (which he got largely right: pushing people into buying health care insurance from HMOs is a strong victory for capitalism; I’d have also pointed out the bailout aspect of it and how insurance is the wrong model for delivering health care because it’s not something we rarely need like fire or flood insurance but I’m not finding fault with what Moore said here) and how the US sorely needs universal single-payer (Moore has backed HR676—Medicare for all—in the past).

But when Amy Goodman asked him about his appearance on Bill Maher’s program where he got on his knee to beg Ralph Nader not to run for President, he did not justify anything he leveled at Ralph Nader:

AMY GOODMAN: Michael, do you still feel the same way? You and Ralph Nader pretty much agree on a lot of things.

MICHAEL MOORE: I have this basic position about Ralph. I’ve known him for many, many years. He has done so much good for this country. People are alive as a result of the things that he worked on over the years. I also believe that he doesn’t really have a handle on what the proper strategy is to get this country in our hands. And, you know, unlike Ralph, I guess maybe I’m not in this for just to say it so I can hear myself talk or to be some””or to take some poser position. And I hope that doesn’t sound too harsh, but I don’t see him ever working with the grassroots or with the people or being in touch with the people in any way, shape or form.

And so, I just””I think that””I mean, what I’ve proposed for the last few years is that if we really want to try and get this power in our hands, in the people’s hands, in the hands of the working people of this country, then we should, on a very grassroots level, from the bottom up, be doing things to””whether it’s running for local office, taking over the local Democratic Party. The game is rigged in America when it comes to third parties. There’s no way that that’s ever going to work. And so, then how””instead of letting the game, I guess, rig us, what can we do to the game itself? And if the game is, well, we have these two political parties which are really very much like one party, why don’t we make sure that one of those parties actually is a second party and start locally and do that? And that’s what I encourage people to do. That’s my approach.

Ralph’s approach is, put his name on the ballot and run for office. Where are we as a result of that? I don’t””you know, I don’t see us anywhere other than in the same pitiful state we’ve been in for some time.

I don’t take his criticism about Nader not working with the people seriously because Moore doesn’t explain how he arrived at this conclusion and because Nader’s policies sound like people-focused policies to me: end the two major occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, pass single-payer universal healthcare, and stop invading other countries to name a few. I’d like to hear Moore explain exactly how running for US President is an improper strategy for increasing public participation in power. Shouldn’t we fault Democrats for doing exactly that?

I’m currently reading “Grand Illusion” by Theresa Amato, Nader’s former campaign manager (at least twice in 2000 and 2004), where she gives a remarkably detailed accounting of the challenges third parties and independent candidates face just to be heard alongside the colluding Democrats and Republicans. She writes very clearly and critiques the situation facing the nation from the position of fairness and what’s in the best interest of the citizen. She details the vindictive litigation, the double standards, and all the other barriers the two major parties use against Nader’s campaign, schemes which adversely affect anyone else’s chances to run and be taken on their merits. I guess I had become used to such explication when I heard Moore on DN! and expected better from him.

There ought to be room for more than one “approach” and more than two candidates from more than two parties (whom even Moore seems to admit are too similar). I’m not disappointed in Obama because I didn’t expect better from him. The way the corporate media kept talking about him told me that he had been vetted by the major donor corporations and come out favorably—Obama’s campaign was a sound investment that would return many times its worth in money, opportunity, and power. I expected that Moore, while caving to the Democratic Party which helps rig elections against third parties and independents, would at least recognize that Nader’s candidacies give Nader supporters someone with an enviable political record to vote for (as opposed to not voting for president at all). Joining one’s oppressor is not how one fights. Clear, continuing, and repeated opposition is how one fights.

Moore really is a Democrat who takes on all of that party’s values on election fairness—”The game is rigged in America when it comes to third parties. There’s no way that that’s ever going to work.” is encouraging capituation. We know how the Democrats will marginalize someone who isn’t a proper corporatist. Look how they treat Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH). He ran for President twice and both times made Medicare for All his health care plan. He gets shafted in so-called “debate” time and his fight for single-payer universal health care goes either unmentioned or ridiculed, despite that the country has long supported it (even if it means paying more in taxes in a country that already pays more per capita for healthcare than any other country and doesn’t cover everyone). Corporate rule is how Obama became “electable”.

At least I know I’m not the only one to react against Moore’s unjustified screed.