From firstname.lastname@example.org Sun Oct 22 12:50:58 2000
Date: Sat, 21 Oct 2000 22:53:09 -0500 (CDT)
From: Michael Eisenscher <email@example.com>
Subject: Nader's People Problem
Ralph's People Problem
By Laura Flanders, In These Times,
16 October 2000
Ralph Nader has a problem, except it's not really his problem. It's
Nader says he's running for president on the Green Party ticket to
reinvigorate U.S. politics. It's about building a people's movement,
he says. The only snag: When it comes to people of color, queers,
feminists and a whole hunk of today's already pretty invigorated
youth movement, Nader and the people find it hard to get along.
During his September spin through California, Nader was told off
by the National Organization for Women, the (gay and lesbian) Human
Rights Campaign, and nine business-oriented people-of-color groups
who complained that Nader had marginalized their issues and failed
to organize in inclusive ways. NOW President Patricia Ireland called
Nader "ill-informed about abortion-rights" and noted that his
10-page mission statement did not mention any explicitly feminist
issues: not birth control, not abortion, not violence against women.
Later, speaking on Radioforchange, Ireland claimed that her criticisms
had been overplayed. She wasn't "lashing out" as the San Francisco
Chronicle put it. She was just "pushing or pulling Nader to be
better on women's concerns" in the same way he's "pushing" Al Gore
to listen to the left.
Nader was having none of it.
Clearly annoyed, he bit back: "I've been fighting for women's rights
since before Patricia Ireland knew the term." Referring to NOW's
concern that votes denied Gore might result in a slew of Republican
picks on the Supreme Court, Nader accused his critics of reverting
to "the politics of fear."
"It's time for the constituency groups of the Democratic Party to
hold that party up to a higher standard," he said, "instead of
crawling on their knees to an endorsement because they believe
Republicans are worse."
The last weeks of a tight campaign are no time to get Nader's ear.
With the race between Bush and Gore too close to call in California,
it was easy for his defenders to join him in casting his critics
as tools of the Democratic National Committee (which sadly, they
are.) But if Nader is out to build a movement, he can't just dismiss
what he calls "constituency groups" and lecture them about seeing
things his way. "Although the most emotionally outrageous things
come from racial issues, we have to connect them to the larger
picture of class," he told a group of minority leaders in Milwaukee.
"It would be a mistake if we concentrate just on race and not
Maybe, but Nader has been in zero danger of making that mistake
By journalist Ruth Conniff's account, there were three black faces
in the Green Party convention hall in Denver. In Los Angeles, at
the protest around the Democratic convention, where the crowd was
irrepressibly young, articulate and not white, the Greens stood
out as the one lily-white cluster in every line-up. And the big
Green banners and Nader puppets were noticeably absent from some
key events: the protest outside the LAPD police headquarters and
the march against the criminalization of immigrants and youth, for
Airing this discussion on Radioforchange, I've heard from defensive
local Greens who say they recognize the problem. In an effort to
broaden their campaign's appeal, party members in Denver observed
S26-a day of international action around globalization-by teaming
up with Jobs with Justice in a Justice for Janitors rally. In
California, Green Senate candidate Medea Benjamin is touring state
campuses and Latino communities, where she's known for her work
against sweatshops. She says "diversifying the party" is the No.
But it makes life hard for these local party folks, when the top
of the ticket seems quite content to run with an all-white male
crowd. On his "Non-Voter Tour," Nader's headliners are Michael
Moore, Howard Zinn, John Anderson and Jim Hightower. His running
mate, American Indian feminist (and Harvard scholar) Winona LaDuke,
has been away for much of the debate season, touring with the Indigo
Girls to raise funds for her organization, Honor the Earth.
I'm not calling for "inclusion" Republican-style: line lots of
people of color up and wax lyrical about "us" for half an hour.
Nader likes to say his campaign is about ideas, not emotions-well,
talking about gender and race is talking about ideas. Look beyond
the "emotional outrage" of bigotry, Nader says, to see the "larger
picture" of class. That's where he loses us feminists and anti-racists
who've come of age out from under the shadow of the traditional
Race and gender discrimination aren't "emotionally outrageous."
They are pillars on which capitalism stands. Unpaid work by women
and life-destroying work by people whose lives are socially and
structurally devalued make possible the corporate profits-for-a-few
that Nader attacks so well.
I long to vote for a viable left alternative. I'll do it, for the
Greens, most likely, just to make visible the existence of a defiant
left. But the people I love in the non-white activist movement
won't be coming along.
I've not heard one say anything good about Nader. In the words of
my friend Peter Chung, a leader in New York's youth action group
SLAM, "I've met the Greens and they're all white."
I know the theory is that if the Green Party can win those federal
matching funds, they'll really get to take off after November 8,
but I fear the ballot box is no place to found a movement. You
can't build a people's movement without the people, I know that.
"The Laura Flanders Show" can be heard Monday through Friday from
9 a.m. to noon (mountain time) on KWAB in Boulder, Colorado or at
In These Times 2000
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