Back in 2000, before Bush made good on his promise to end our long national nightmare of peace and prosperity, I was a Ralph Nader supporter. I feel a little guilty about that, not because my vote in Illinois would have affected the Electoral College, but because I’m now convinced that Al Gore would have been a good president (I said something similar in my review of An Inconvenient Truth). But I remain interested in the problems that “third party” candidates face in receiving the kind of media attention directed towards the major party candidates.
With that in mind, I was intrigued to check out Nader’s “Parrot” video, in which Nader laments the fact that he is being ignored by the cable news media, reasoning that cable news shows seem much more interested in animal stories than in covering his campaign, leaving him unable to shape the political dialogue. As the CNN commentator noted (or maybe it was MSNBC), Nader’s strategy is comparable to Mike Gravel’s “Rock” video, which I still believe to be a minor masterpiece of political performance art. But I’m not convinced that Nader’s video works–and not just because taking campaign advice from Mike Gravel seems like a bad idea.
First, Nader’s shtick about the similarity of the two major parties no longer rings true in the light of the last eight years. I don’t think anyone seriously believes that a Gore or even a Kerry administration would have looked at all like the Bush administration. Second, the video does little to differentiate Nader from other candidates. I get the parrot joke–Dems and Repubs are “parroting the corporate line”–but that’s about as far as it goes. But I think the biggest problem is that the video positions Nader as powerless to fight against “Big Media” and their attempts to black out the Nader campaign. The video managed to attract some attention on CNN, probably because of the media critique, but instead of depicting Nader positively as a champion of workers, he is basically shown on his own. Still, the video raises some valuable questions for how third-party or independent candidates can use YouTube in order to inform political dialogue.
Update: I’m not quite sure that my comments reflect the main point that I was trying to convey. I understand Nader’s basic argument here about the implications of excluding minor candidates from the presidential debates, but the video does little to entice me (or, I’d assume most viewers) to take a second look at his campaign. Unlike some of the more prominent web videos, it does little to introduce a new signal into the cable noise.