There are a lot of confusing messages swirling around the endgame of
Ralph Nader's presidential race. We need help trying to sort them out.
Ralph Nader is running to get 5 percent of the vote in order to
confer national minor party status on the Greens. OK, got that. However,
he wants to generate a third party which is not really a third party,
but a force that can "prod the Democratic Party to the left," to quote
feminist Nader backer Barbara Ehrenreich.
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Next, we find out that, in addition to the fact that the Nader
strategy isn't designed to create a real party, he doesn't want to hurt
Al Gore. This though Gore is the main target he is assailing as an
architect of the Democrats' move to the right. A new advertising
campaign assures Nader sympathizers in New York and other states firmly
in the Gore column that "a vote for Nader is not a vote for Bush. Gore's
double-digit lead means he's a sure win in this state." We're confused.
We thought Nader doesn't like Gore because he is a corrupt
pro-corporate, globalist, anti-poor polluter just like George Bush.
Didn't Nader start out this campaign saying there was no difference
between them? OK, so he got hammered for saying the Democrats and
Republicans are the same. We thought he was right. So apparently did
the 30 million Americans who voted for Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996 and
elected Jesse Ventura in 1998. But the left (a.k.a. the Democrat
socialists) doesn't like it when you say that. So Ralph seems to be
changing his tune. Now he's saying, vote for me, it won't hurt Gore,
we'll create a party that has no intention of being a real party, and,
by the way, we'll get $7 million in public funding for the 2004
Wait a second! Isn't this the guy who is supposed to have political
principles? How different is that from Bush telling taxpayers they'll
have more disposable income if they vote for him or Gore saying he'll
spend more on childcare? Nader might argue he's trying to help the
Greens get their hands on money that will make them more politically
competitive. Fine. The only problem is that he doesn't seem to want to
be competitive! He only wants to "prod the Democratic Party to the
left." He wants us to know he won't hurt Gore. What kind of
competitive spirit is that?
Look, it's hard for Ralph. The New York Times is calling him
"self-indulgent" with an "ego run amok." Ouch! And the Gore campaign
has put their A-team on the road -- Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sen. Paul
Wellstone and Gloria Steinem (she's on the A-team?) with Robert Redford
thrown in for a little glam. These guys and girl (oops, woman!) are now
on the stump against Nader and the independent political movement. It's
Big Bad Bush we're supposed to be upset about, not corporate control of
the Democratic Party.
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Here's what we think is remarkable. Ross Perot and Jesse Ventura ran
with an anti-establishment, anti-two party "we've got to take back our
democracy" message. They didn't worry about costing a Democrat or a
Republican the election. They were just populist independents and tens
of millions of ordinary Americans started a political revolution by
voting for them. The left, on the other hand, can't make up its mind
whether it wants to be independent, whether it wants to challenge the
two-party system or not. Hey, aren't the leftists supposed to be the
revolutionaries? Didn't Nader go with the Greens and stay away from the
Reform Party because he thought its base was too conservative?
Ralph Nader is a good guy and he's got the right positions on lots of
issues. But why run an independent campaign just to capitulate to Al
Gore? It's one thing for the right to back Republican power. The right
supports corporate dominance of American life. But it makes no sense
for the left to protect Democratic power if it's challenging corporate
special interest control of government and elections. If it's not going
to do that, what's the point of having a left at all?
Writer Jacqueline Salit co-wrote this column with Dr. Fulani.