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From meisenscher@igc.org Tue Oct 3 11:44:59 2000
Date: Sun, 1 Oct 2000 22:37:12 -0500 (CDT)
From: Michael Eisenscher <meisenscher@igc.org>
Subject: The Greening of America; Labor & Nader in NY
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Article: 106039
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The Greening of America

By John Neumaier, in the Daily Freeman (Kingston, N.Y.)
Sunday 1 October 2000

The presidential candidate who poses the strongest challenge to the two-party system in general and to Al Gore in particular is Ralph Nader of the Green Party. Though there are other third-party candidates whose progressive challenge to the status quo goes much farther than Nader's, left-leaning voters in the main are divided between Gore and Nader.

Here is how one progressive sees the situation.

Regarding the Republican standard bearer, let's accept the words of Ralph Reed, former Christian Coalition executive, now Bush adviser. Reed says Bush is "more conservative than his father" and points with pride to young Bush's "proven record of conservative accomplishment." It's a waste of newsprint to elaborate the point. G.W's self-celebrated "compassion" is mainly directed toward the corporate types who guided him to his fortune. Empathy for the wealthy has its rewards.

AS FOR the Democratic presidential candidate's sudden pragmatic turn to populist positions, it has indeed had a beneficial poll effect, especially with core Democratic constituents and other Americans worried about the vast social and economic inequalities that corrode our society.

However, Al Gore's record when he was in Congress was far less appealing. Before he was politically reborn, he even supported the Hyde amendment which banned federal abortion assistance for needy women (he also earned a positive rating from the Right to Life movement). In 1980, he voted to prohibit the Legal Services Corporation from assisting homosexuals whose rights were denied because of their sexual orientation. In the Senate and as vice president, his record on foreign interventions, the missile system, and so-called welfare reforms confirmed his centrist, even conservative inclinations.

SINCE THE establishment media allow far less public exposure of Nader's candidacy than they give the two-party candidates, much less is known about what he brings to the campaign. As a crusader for the interests of consumers, he has worked tirelessly over 35 years to document and expose dangerous consumer products, faulty automobile production, and industrial pollution of the environment.

Corporate greed and outright fraud are revealed in his books "Unsafe at Any Speed" and "Who's Poisoning America". Nader has galvanized thousands of students and communities to fight for better safety laws, citizen rights, and environmental protection, especially through organizations he founded, including the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) and the Center for Women's Policy Studies.

His strong stands against bloated Pentagon budgets, and in behalf of needed dollars for improved public education and neglected social welfare programs, led the Green Party to choose him as presidential candidate. (The party's program has always favored the greening of the environment over the greening of corporate coffers).

NADER THINKS that the historical and current corruptions and inequities of capitalism can be ended and that economic deprivation and the resulting inhuman social conditions can be overcome through reforms. To me this appears to be a highly optimistic ideology. Still, I prefer it to the bipartisan alliance with corporate wealth and power which so often lies behind mainstream political rhetoric.

When it comes to the vice-presidential candidates, Republican Dick Cheney's record is so far to the right he is almost off the map - "big time." Once he was chosen, Al Gore was free to go in the same rightward direction. Candidate Joseph Lieberman is surely one of the most conservative Democratic senators. The pious Lieberman's early condemnation of sexual diversions in the Oval Office has also helped Gore de-Monicaize the campaign.

The Green V.P. candidate is the writer and Harvard-trained economist Winona LaDuke, who has a long record of leadership among Native Americans and in human rights work. She lives with her three children in White Earth, Minn., where she heads the White Earth Land Recovery Project and co-chairs the Indigenous Women's Network. One of her priorities is the redirection of military billions toward public education.

THOUGH FEW expect Nader to win, what motivates many Nader supporters is their determination to challenge the stultifying monopoly of the two-party system. They ask what kind of a system is it that allows 27 million people in this country (including 11 million children) to go hungry? That keeps over two million people in prison? That spends 300 billion on the military and grossly neglects crumbling schools and overcrowded classrooms? That allows 44 million people to live without health insurance? And all this at a time of unparalleled prosperity.

Many progressive Gore supporters argue that a vote for Nader is a wasted vote. They say in effect that anyone who tries to buck the bipartisan stranglehold on our democracy is "dreaming the impossible dream." Or that only a naive Utopian could really believe the Declaration of Independence when it says that everyone is entitled to the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness.

PROGRESSIVES ARE warned that they must not vote for Nader or we might end up with Bush. Well, yes, few progressive-minded people would disagree that the oily, lightweight G.W. is worse than lesser-evil Gore, especially when it comes to judicial and Supreme Court nominations.

Still, it is hard to predict - if a President Bush wants to be re-elected - how far his advisers would push him to clone his Supreme Court heroes Scalia and Thomas. And it is equally hard to predict how far a President Gore would be willing to go to accommodate an "Elianized" political environment in his nominations for the Court.

AS IN the past, the Democrats' best electoral talking point turns out to be the threat of a Republican victory. But how can we forget the compromises the Dems forged with the GOP, especially on domestic issues, in order to hang on to corporate support?

And when it comes to war-making and interfering in the lives of people in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and the rest of the world, haven't imperial Democratic leaders proven time and again their loyalty to the corporate sector? If Gore had a political record closer to that of a representative like Maurice Hinchey, D-Saugerties, more progressive Democrats would now be in his corner.

AND WHAT about the 50 percent of the people (over 90 million) who have opted out of the electoral system? Many of them feel powerless and consider that their votes make little difference to the corporate dominance over their lives. Nader supporters believe the Green Party's challenge to the system will help change the rules of the game, overcome alienation, and eventually make it possible for all to share the fruits of the people's labor.

It is shameful that the bipartisan Commission on Presidential Debates is denying people the opportunity to hear these arguments. The coming October debates, controlled by corporate front members of the Republicrat oligarchy, will arbitrarily exclude the voice of Nader and other legitimate third party candidates who speak for large numbers of people. What are they afraid of? Democracy?

IF (in spite of the debate blackout) Nader succeeds in winning at least five percent of the national vote, the Green Party will become eligible for federal financing of their campaign in 2004. A growing third party presence may yet succeed in turning the country around.

It has happened before. Martin Luther King's dream of a color-blind, just society, without poor people, in a peaceful world, may be a long way from fulfillment, but the dream is still alive.

Poughkeepsie resident Dr. John J. Neumaier was president of SUNY New Paltz from 1968-72 and of Moorhead (Minn.) State University from 1958-68. He is philosophy professor emeritus of Empire State College, New York City. His column appears in the first Sunday Freeman of each month, and is broadcast by short-wave station Radio for Peace International, 6.975, 15.050, 21.460.

copyright Daily Freeman 2000

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