Is Nader Delusional or Obama Illusional?

By Kevin Zeese

Ralph Nader criticized Senator Obama for failing to "take on the white establishment." Obama’s reaction was Nader is "delusional." Nader’s reaction was Obama is "illusional."  

Obama and his supporters should listen to this criticism and get on course or the seeds of election failure will have been planted in his refusal to challenge the corporate elite that dominate the government.

They should– is Nader right? If they are honest they will see it is difficult to point to any issue on which Senator Obama is challenging the establishment – meaning the corporate interests that fund political campaigns and get what they want from the federal government.

Early on Obama sent a signal to the military industrial complex that he would not challenge them with his promise to expand the military by 92,000 troops. Each soldier costs approximately $100,000 annually in training, equipment, housing, food and other items from which military contractors will profit. They can rest assured they will get billions in defense contracts as a result of an even bigger military.

The right wing Israeli lobby has gotten everything they have asked for from Obama.  In his speech to AIPAC Obama added to the written text of the speech a promise to do “everything” – repeated three times – to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, essentially threatening military attack on Iran. And, he went further than any president or country and said Israel should have all of Jerusalem – undermining the Palestinians before any peace negotiations begin.

Obama pledged his support to telecom companies with his recent vote to support FISA with provisions for telecom immunity for illegally spying on American citizens.  As the new leader of the Democratic Party he could have galvanized sufficient support to filibuster the bill. He only needed 40 of the 50 Democrats – but he remained silent.

The health insurance industry is looking forward to the tax payer subsidies he is promising rather than being challenged by the most cost-effective and efficient approach to ensuring health care security – single payer health care.  Single payer would put the unnecessary health insurance industry, which accounts for 25% of the cost of health care, out of business.

Similarly the big lobby energy companies shouldn’t be too worried since he has been a supporter of the corn lobby’s mistaken ethanol fuel, the coal lobby’s phony “clean” coal, and the continued reliance on nuclear energy. The oil companies should be pleased he voted for their tax breaks in the energy bill, and not worry much about his rhetoric now calling for taxes on excessive oil profits.

These, and other positions, are the seeds of Obama’s undoing.  This looks like his election to lose –Republicans are unpopular, Obama will have three to six times more money than McCain (now that he has opted out of federal matching funds), and he is showing leads in national and swing state polls. But Obama should know better than any other candidate, inevitable candidates do not always win.  His opponent Hillary Clinton proved that point – as did recent Democratic candidates who had big leads in the summer before the election.

The common thread of Democratic Party failure is running to the right when the primary is over.  This is the consistent Democratic strategy even though being a flip-flopper or Republican-lite sabotages their candidates.  It tells their voting base: “I’m taking your vote for granted, you have nowhere else to go” when he should be exciting them so they work, donate and bring out voters on Election Day. And, it tells the swing voters that this is a candidate that is business as usual.  The corporate interests will continue to rule the government when he is elected.  And, both groups get the message – this candidate can not be trusted he will say anything to get elected – and ask themselves “what does he really stand for?”

Obama, his strategists and his supporters should stop their knee jerk reaction and ask themselves: Is Nader right?  Is he telling a truth I need to hear? 

If they are honest with themselves they will see the truth in Nader’s comments.  When they do the next question is, what should Obama do about it?

Quite simply, he should put the interests of the people before the interests of the powerful. Some specific suggestions on key issues:

On health care recognize that we need to start from scratch. The health care system is the most expensive in the world, leaves tens of millions with no coverage and leaves those with insurance paying higher premiums, more of the cost of health care and often fighting for coverage they have paid for. It is ruining medical practice as doctors spend 20% of their overhead on dealing with insurance companies. And it is making it impossible for the U.S. businesses to compete as every other developed country has health care for all with single payer as the foundation. Leave an opening so you can consider what you know is the right solution – health security for all Americans through a single payer system.

On Iraq, get specific on a real exit strategy – not just redeployment of combat troops, but removal of private security like the Blackwater mercenaries from Iraq, and the 30,000 to 85,000 non-combat troops that your advisors say you plan to leave in Iraq after redeploying combat troops to Kuwait and Afghanistan. Make it clear you oppose Bush’s effort to get Iraq to agree to 50 long-term military bases, protection of U.S. troops, mercenaries and corporations from Iraqi prosecution; tell Americans that if Bush negotiates such an agreement you will undo it and negotiate a complete U.S. exit from Iraq.

Rather than spending $10 billion annually on an expanded military – when the U.S. already spends as much as the rest of the world combined – tell Americans that green collar jobs are more vital than more camouflage jobs.  We need to invest in rebuilding the U.S. infrastructure, creating a new energy economy – an economy for the 21st Century.

These issues are all supported by a majority of Americans.  Nader is right: Obama needs to challenge the sacred cows in Washington – the white power structure, as Nader says. That is the change that American voters are hoping for – a Washington, DC that responds to the necessities of the American people rather than those funding corporate-government candidates.  Listen to Nader and a landslide is Obama’s; don’t listen and join Dukakis, Gore and Kerry in losing to weak Republican candidates who should have been easily defeated.

-Kevin Zeese is executive director of Voters For Peace ( and served as Ralph Nader’s press secretary in 2004. He contributed this article to

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