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From meisenscher@igc.org Sun Aug 27 15:42:11 2000
Date: Sat, 26 Aug 2000 23:53:57 -0500 (CDT)
From: Michael Eisenscher <meisenscher@igc.org>
Subject: Why Nader, Why Now?
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Article: 103577
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Why Nader, why now?

By Chuck Idelson, 26 August 2000

Seems like too many on the left continue to be bogged down with the quandary of whether to once again line up behind the Democratic Party's Presidential candidate.

In most elections, it's an academic exercise. This year is clearly different.

  1. Nader's campaign is the most serious, broad-based, third party challenge from the left in a Presidential race in over half a century.
  2. There's less reason than ever to vote for the top of the Democratic Party ticket.

No third party Presidential candidate since Henry Wallace has demonstrated the breadth, media attention, and standings in the polls that Nader has accomplished and the Wallace campaign, of course, was nourished in a climate in which the left was far stronger than today.

If progressives and the left fail to take advantage of this opportunity to not only vote for Nader, but also mobilize for Nader we may well be waiting for another half century for a similar chance.

Mobilization will help force the mainstream media to pay even more attention to his campaign, and may help in getting Nader into at least one debate. As the Jesse Ventura experience in Minnesota demonstrated, increased exposure for Nader could help swell his standings and a platform for his anti-corporate message substantially.

Four years ago, Nader did not actively campaign, and his message was limited. This year he is campaigning aggressively, and has advanced an exemplary program. He has also addressed the issues he largely ignored four years ago; those who continue to criticize him on this score are simply not paying attention to his campaign.

The main thrust of Nader's campaign is a sharp and broad based critique of the corporate control of U.S. economic, political, social, cultural, and intellectual life. His analysis and his platform are far beyond anything we will ever hear from the Democratic Party.

And Nader has the record to back it up 40 years of principled activism that has led directly to enactment of regulation requiring safer cars, cleaner air and water, occupational health and safety programs, and the establishment of advocacy groups on health care, environmental, consumer, and other issues.

Even on the issues that Barney Frank and other Democratic Party apologists continue to attack him, Nader has the best program of any candidate running. For example:

He's the only candidate who addresses the income gap, child poverty, the uninsured, hunger, homelessness, and has a program to address it 1. ending corporate welfare, cutting wasteful military programs, and spending the money to reduce poverty, and 2- reforming labor law to strengthen unions to increase the income of U.S. workers.
Similarly, his positions are better than Gore. He consistently condemns the U.S. criminal justice system and who has borne the brunt, the failed war on drugs and who has paid the price, and is the only candidate to oppose the death penalty. He's talked about environmental racism, affirmative action, poverty, and strengthening public education.
Nader is consistently pro-choice (and the only candidate to mention the "a" word), and for public funding of abortion.
Lesbian and gay rights
Again, unlike Gore he is for civil marriages and against the don't ask, don't tell policy for the military.
Simply put, Nader is, or should be, the labor candidate. He is the only candidate to call for repealing Taft-Hartley and NAFTA, has a comprehensive analysis and call for labor law reform, has, unlike Gore, close ties to the Labor Party.
Health care
Unlike Gore, Nader is for universal, affordable, accessible health care for all, not incremental reform. As he points out, under Gore and Clinton, the number of uninsured has risen by 10 million, and we have experienced an unprecedented corporate takeover of our health care system.
Other issues
Take your pick. Nader is the only candidate to oppose the death penalty, the only candidate to oppose the missile defense system, the only candidate with a genuine position on campaign finance reform. He has a comprehensive education program, focused on strengthening public education, including the best analysis of vouchers, which he describes as a corporate grab for public school funding.

Not Gore, not now

Gore has gained in the polls by embracing populist rhetoric. But it's an empty promise, as evidenced by his well defined public record, and his own platform.

On virtually every significant issue, the differences between Gore and Bush are minimal. Take foreign policy and military spending, U.S. military adventurism, sanctions on Iraq, the embargo of Cuba (perhaps Gore may lift the embargo, but remember his position on Elian Gonzalez, and Lieberman's history on this issue). Similarly, there is essentially no difference on immigration or trade policy (think Gore will ever challenge NAFTA, GATT, the WTO, etc?).

Even on economic issues, remember that Gore was the Clinton administration's leading proponent of welfare reform, and his differences with Bush on budgetary and tax policy are so minimal as to be virtually inconsequential. The selection of Lieberman should be a clear signal of Gore's true self. Lieberman was elected by running against a GOP incumbent Lowell Weicker from the right (he condemned Weicker for being close to Castro), and has endorsed school vouchers and privatizing Social Security.

Fundamentally, Gore (with his history of ties to the tobacco and other corporate interests) and Lieberman (who is irrevocably linked to insurance and pharmaceutical firms) will never seriously challenge corporate power.

It's tragic that most of labor, some progressive activists, and what's left of the Democratic Party left, have jumped on the Gore train. For what? Gore's pledge to labor is to veto some anti-labor legislation (as long as it's not on trade), not that he will actually expand labor rights. Name one area in which Gore will actually expand the progressive agenda, for example, as Nader points out, in the past eight years, there have been no advances in civil rights enforcement, and considerable steps backward in legislation promoted by Clinton and Gore.

It's a sad commentary that some are reduced to the last shibboleth the Supreme Court. But as Alexander Cockburn and others have documented, any analysis of Supreme Court appointments over the last 50 years cast serious doubt on any argument that the totality of Democratic appointments are that much better than Republican appointments; even the most liberal current Judge, David Souter, is a Republican appointee. And even if Gore were inclined to select a progressive nominee (trust this he won't), that candidate would have virtually no chance of confirmation.

Go Ralph Go.

Can we let this opportunity pass? Will we get another chance? Or shall we retreat to the same "beat the right" slogan?

The Democrats have correctly assumed that they can take most of labor and many people of color and progressive activists for granted. That will not change with the election of Gore. In this election, in this context, "beat the right" simply means tacit acceptance of the two party system and the existing corporate power structure.

To assist with the Nader campaign, visit www.votenader.org, e-mail campaign@votenader.org, or call 202-265-4000.

I welcome any dialogue.
Chuck Idelson

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