Jonathan Chait is a senior editor at The New Republic and former assistant editor at The American Prospect. Has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Slate, Reason, and other publications.
Crashing the Party: How to Tell the Truth and Still Run for President By Ralph Nader. Dunne Books, 400 pages, $14.95 Nader: Crusader, Spoiler, Icon By Justin Martin. Perseus Publishing, 288 pages, $26.00 T he central element of Ralph Nader's public appeal is, and has always been, honesty. He built his image in the 1960s as an almost comically earnest man, eschewing all worldly comforts and tirelessly uncovering the facts. His most famous campaign advertisement from 2000 contrasted "campaign ads filled with half-truths" with righteous Nader himself, filmed in a cramped office, sleeves rolled up, "finding out the truth," as the narrator explained. And he plays upon this aura in his campaign memoir, subtitled How to Tell the Truth and Still Run for President . For a man in Nader's position, though, this is a less impressive claim than it sounds. Major-party candidates, who aspire to cobble together a governing majority, must shade their views to hold together a diverse coalition of...
Dear Bob, In stating that the Prospect invited me to review Nader's book, you're too kind. I actually invited myself, and I intended all along to use my review for a broader discussion of Nader. I don't believe the editors I worked with had any different impression. I didn't "blame" Nader for the right-wing business backlash of the 1970s. I pointed out (as an aside) that Nader discounts President Bush's depredations by predicting they will lead to a progressive counter-mobilization. If we accept this calculation, I wrote, it is only fair that we discount Nader's triumphs by the conservative counter-mobilization he did incite. You argue that "any reading of postwar history" will refute the notion that Nader inadvertently goaded 1970s conservatism. In fact, my New Republic colleague and Prospect contributor John Judis writes in "The Paradox of American Democracy" that much of business's political activity was actually public-minded, rather than narrowly interested. His book discusses...
T hanks to virtually simultaneous articles last month by Joshua Green in The Washington Monthly and Jonathan Chait in The New Republic , the notion that Republican Senator John McCain should join the Democrats and run for president in 2004 has been everywhere. Indeed, on Hardball host Chris Matthews recently asked McCain himself about the notion. The senator responded, "I am very entertained by that ." But there's nothing funny about a field of lackluster Democratic candidates, and Green and Chait weren't trying to be entertaining. They were serious, and their articles have received serious response, including from Seth Gitell in the Boston Phoenix , who wrote that "McCain is too socially conservative to run as a Democrat" but argued that the Democratic party needs a candidate with McCain's foreign-policy strengths. TAP Online invited Chait and Gitell to continue their debate over whether McCain should be the Democrats candidate. We asked Chait to begin with a response to Gitell:...
I n 1964 the Free
Speech Movement was born on the Berkeley campus of the University
after administrators declared the campus off-limits to most
organizing. The movement was a catalyst for the New Left, which
in its early
years drew much of its energy from protests against
infringements on student freedom.
Hardly anyone would have expected history to repeat itself. But
in the late
1980s, the pattern was reenacted on campuses across the country
altogether unexpected way. University administrators introduced a
swath of new
rules, including restrictions on speech and political
organization, that were
aimed at suppressing racism and sexism. They ended up energizing
generation of conservatives.
The University of Michigan, where I graduated in 1994, provides a
case study in the great progressive backfire of...
Gingrich vs. Free Trade House Speaker Newt Gingrich deserves creativity points for coming up with a new reason to oppose the minimum wage. Not only will it kill jobs, the Speaker told the Washington Post , but it could give Mexico a competitive advantage in some industries. It's a curious argument coming from a man who, when campaigning for NAFTA, argued that Mexico's lower wages would not give it a competitive advantage. Perhaps what he really meant was that Mexico would not gain an advantage as long as American wages continued to fall. Mandate Madness Of the initial Republican Contract proposals, few had greater bipartisan support than the measure to limit the federal government's ability to impose upon the states "unfunded mandates," or any requirements that don't come with funding to cover their costs. Not only did most Democratic members of Congress and the president endorse the idea, but so did nearly all opinion makers. "It would simply require explicit majority votes in both...