Swans » Editorial


Ralph Nader: If Not Now, When?

by Gilles d'Aymery
& Jan Baughman

March 1, 2004   


Kudos to Ralph Nader for not kowtowing to the immense pressure to stay out of the 2004 US presidential race. Of course, his decision is portrayed as evidence of his huge ego, and not of his great convictions, and the urban legends and propaganda claiming that the votes Nader won cost Al Gore the 2000 election are back in full force. It's worth remembering a few facts:

1) Al Gore won the election (48.38% vs. 47.84%, or 50,999,897 vs. 50,456,002 votes for Gore and Bush respectively). The result, to make it short, was overturned by the US Supreme Court.

2) In Florida, 250,000 registered democrats voted for Mr. Bush.

3) If a) and b) are not enough to dispel the idiocy of make-believers, let's get into some rhetorical assumptions: Let's assume for the sake of argument -- and we are fully cognizant of the saying about assumptions -- that Nader had not run and Gore had picked up his votes. The only two states where it would have made a difference were Florida and New Hampshire, for a total of 29 electoral votes. Now, if you good people buy this baloney, you need at least to be consistent with yourselves. If this is the premise on one side, then you have to look at the other side as well -- with the very same assumption: Had Pat Buchanan not run, Mr. Bush would have picked up Iowa, New Mexico, Oregon, and Wisconsin for a total of...30 electoral votes. Get it?

4) And for those who enjoy hypothesizing, have you wondered what would have happened had Mr. Bush not run in the first place, or Justice Antonin Scalia had recused himself from the Florida decision? Look, the entire intellectual contortion is a sham, spurrious entertainment at best, but more likely a moronic and dismal belief on the part of "liberal incrementalists."

Additional information can be found on Nader's web site, http://www.votenader.org.

The "Anyone But Bush" (ABB) movement has Democrats scrambling to distance themselves from Mr. Bush, and distinguish themselves from each other. The pundits are quite comfortable discussing John Kerry's long face and John Edward's young face and their respective "electability." Forget experience. Forget ideas. Don't even mention ideals. However, Nader can force the debate to substantive levels heretofore not reached by the other candidates. From the true state of the economy and poverty rates to the lack of health care, from vanishing civil liberties to the impeachability of Mr. Bush for the war on Iraq, Nader brings concrete, serious issues to the table, issues beyond those pre-election/election promises that sound good and go nowhere. (When is the last time you heard the phrase "compassionate conservative?") Among the Dems, Dennis Kucinich and Al Sharpton are, when given any air time, pushing the issues in the debates... And, by the way, Sharpton's candidacy is supported by "Roger Stone, the longtime Republican dirty-tricks operative who led the mob that shut down the Miami-Dade County recount and helped make George W. Bush president in 2000..." (See, "A Bush Covert Operative Takes Over Al Sharpton's Campaign," by Wayne Barrett, Village Voice, February 5, 2004 - http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/0405/barrett.php). That's how you define a spoiler!

"Now is not the time to rock the boat," warns the ABB crowd. "We can't afford another four years of Bush." So when will be the time? When life is good and the economy is strong, when we're all educated and insured, that's when we'll feel inspired to take a "risk" for change? Of course not. Status quo is acceptable when all is well, and comforting when the going gets tough.

"A vote for Nader is a wasted vote." The only valuable vote is a winning vote? The fact is, voting sends a message and influences an agenda. By only voting for potential winners -- whether the evil or the lesser evil candidate -- the status quo is ensured. And why would the contenders not think their policies are acceptable given that they won the election? Or came in a close second? The line between the greater and the lesser evil has become increasingly blurred and the barriers to breaking away from the system ever more insurmountable.

Howard Dean added his spin on the fear message on February 23: "Ralph Nader has made many great contributions to America over 40 years. But if George W. Bush is re-elected, the health, safety, consumer, environmental, and open government provisions Ralph Nader has fought for will be undermined. George Bush's right-wing appointees will still be serving as judges fifty years from now, and our Constitution will be shredded. It will be government by, of, and for, the corporations -- exactly what Ralph Nader has struggled against."

If a Democrat is elected, will the health, safety, consumer, environmental and open government provisions Nader has fought for be implemented? Do you really believe this? Have you looked back to the past 50 years, all the way back to Woodrow Wilson, and even further back to chattel slavery and the "treatment" of the indigenous nations? Did you see Senator Feinstein (Dem.) standing by Governor Schwarzenegger (Rep.) and actively campaigning for Propositions 57 and 58, the most grotesquely regressive way to solve yesterday's California budgetary debts? Did you notice how the Republicans helped the Democrats to defeat Green candidate Matt Gonzalez in the San Francisco mayoral race? And on, and on, and on... If you still "believe" in lesser-evilism, then read Howie Hawkins's "There Never Were Any "Good Old Days" In The Democratic Party," and the Letter to the Editor we received from John Blunt.

With all due respect to Mr. Dean and the lib-labs out there, could you cease and desist? Fran Shor, we do not need to hear from you that in 2000, it was, "if not now for Nader and alternatives to politics as usual, when?" and in 2004, "our historic responsibility is to defeat Bush." Do you have any sense or knowledge of history, Mr. Shor? And the same question could be asked from patronizers such as Marc Cooper, Todd Gitlin, Ted Glick, Norman Solomon, Lawrence Lessig, Doug Ireland, Michael Bérubé, Paul Loeb (and that's just a sample), the condescending editors at The Nation, and all these "good" people who will whore themselves into yet another book contract, a kitchen remodel, a vacation around the world, and a grant from the Ford Foundation or George Soros -- or the CIA. What these people have been up to for the past couple of years is a subtle but quite methodical strategy to gut the Greens and defeat all efforts to break away from the undemocratic bicephalous system (an issue that has largely been ignored and should deserve further scrutiny).

Do not tell us what Nader or we should be doing. Stop selling your own sorry platitudes. He and we do not need your patronizing venom. We do not need your corporate funding advice. We endorse Mr. Nader so that he himself can implement the provisions for which he has fought and so that some of our aspirations can be represented in the famed and framed and rigged "market of ideas."

Which leads to the conclusion that America has to hit rock bottom (or finally realize it's close to there) for real political upheaval to be in demand. Let's wait until civil rights have disappeared, until foreign policy has subjugated and alienated every country of the world, until our parents are in the street for lack of health care and Social Security, until our children are in the street for lack of education, until democracy is officially replaced by theocracy, and then, maybe then, it will be "safe" to consider a third party candidate. Sure, and then we'll be in a real strong fighting position...

Meanwhile, Kerry and Edwards continue their pseudodebates and empty campaigns, promising all kinds of change that they cannot, will not, deliver, as they are utterly indebted to the corporate kings and queens that make and unmake them -- and us all; energy is diverted to attacking "Ralph the Spoiler," and Bush is quietly, methodically pushing his uncompassionate conservative agenda with whatever time he has remaining -- be it one year or five.

No, the threat is not Ralph Nader. The threat is the growing, disenfranchised populace that accepts, among other things, the State of the Union propaganda; accepts the bankruptcy of its local, state and federal governments; accepts the impoverishment of its people in the face of obscene levels of military spending and destructive policies; accepts the $300 tax-relief bones thrown to them while tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy flourish; accepts sending its sons and daughters to kill and die in foreign adventures; accepts the pilfering of the Earth's natural resources in the name of a consumerism it cannot afford and the benefits of the few; accepts the rapid decay of its country's infrastructure and gutting of all social services; and accepts incrementalist reformism that never materializes.

The threat is the one-party system of corporate, elitist politics that is being endorsed and perpetuated by not voting for candidates like Ralph Nader.

· · · · · ·


Why Are They Crucifying Ralph Nader? - Gilles d'Aymery (October 2000)

Post-Elections Snapshots - Gilles d'Aymery (November 2000)

Dear Mr. Nader - Gilles d'Aymery (November 2000)

Peter Camejo-Cynthia McKinney: A Green Presidential Ticket? - Gilles d'Aymery (July 2003)

Disquieting Green Politics - Gilles d'Aymery (September 2003)

Another Friendly Blow To Ralph Nader - Gilles d'Aymery (January 2004)

The Greens on Swans

America the 'beautiful' on Swans


Gilles d'Aymery is Swans' publisher and co-editor. Jan Baughman is Swans' co-editor.

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Published March 1, 2004
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