By J. Carlos Jiacinto and Mike Hersh
Each day, progressive Americans watch in anger while Bush's
administration destroys the legacy that Clinton and his Democratic
predecessors spent decades building. This Administration replaces
the New Deal and Great Society with social Darwinism. The
2002 elections offer the first step in reclaiming our government
from the illegitimate conservatives. Progressives of all kinds
must unite against the right wingers. The next two election
cycles are critically important.
The 2002 and 2004 elections offer progressives of all stripes
an opportunity to first undermine Bush's support in Congress,
and then remove Bush from office. Unfortunately, hard-core
Nader supporters do nothing to help us achieve these objectives.
Willingly and knowingly or not, they help Republicans beat
even the most liberal Democratic candidates. In the past,
Nader achieved important progressive victories, but now he
seems intent on undermining progressives and moderates. Actions
speak louder than words, and it is clear that through his
behavior that Nader is not helping progressives.
Unfortunately a small group of progressives insists on attacking
the Democratic Party. No matter their motivations, they will
only help the right wing solidify its stranglehold. We have
seen this before, and we are re seeing it again.
In the 2000 election, Ralph Nader intentionally helped Bush
and hurt Al Gore. He broke his promise to avoid swing states,
and thereby swung power to Bush. Al Gore would have easily
carried states like Michigan, Oregon, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin,
and Washington but for Nader's efforts which helped Bush keep
them competitive. Al Gore won all of them, but had to focus
his scarce time and resources in those states, undermining
his efforts in states he lost. Nader handed Bush victories
in West Virginia, Missouri, New Hampshire, Arkansas, Tennessee,
and, of course, Florida.
In Florida alone, Nader's last minute swing before Election
Day kept the State close enough to steal and his silence afterward
gave the right wing free reign to trample the Constitution
and the right to vote. His callous answer: "Flip a coin" indicated
that Nader is, at best, indifferent to voting rights - the
very basis of democracy.
Nader and his supporters spread lies about Al Gore and the
Democratic Party. They made dishonest cheap-shot personal
attacks a cornerstone of their campaign. Support for Al Gore
from unions, gay groups, environmentalists, feminists, civil
rights groups, and their rank-and-file members put to lie
Nader's claims that Al Gore "abandoned" their principles.
Nader argued that Gore and Bush were "similar". Every day
we see more proof those arguments were untrue.
Almost two years later, Nader and some of his followers
are still attacking Democrats and helping the right wing.
Author and film maker Michael Moore still defends his attacks
against Al Gore and the Democrats, and still attacks us. Others
among Nader's prominent supporters still threaten to help
Republicans win 2002 elections. These individuals have every
right to speak out, but we should recognize the time has come
to stand up to them. They are not our allies. Their efforts
do not help us defeat right wing Republicans.
Many Nader supporters, even some here at DU, still defend
their vote on the fact that the parties are "just the same".
They refer to the Democrats as "corporate apologists" and
"corporate whores". They focus on the narrow issues of free
trade, NAFTA, the WTO, the IMF, World Bank, and globalization,
forgetting that Al Gore supports FAIR trade and demanded an
overhaul of any agreements which threatened labor rights or
the environment. And what about the rest of the agenda: all
the other issues so critically important to millions if not
billions of people?
Nader may want to think otherwise, but a Gore administration
would have never included the reprehensible Bush appointees.
Gore would not have appointed John Ashcroft to mislead the
Department of Justice. Gore would not have nominated Judge
Pickering. Gore would not have appointed Gale Norton to the
Department of the Interior, or others hostile to the very
concept of government in the public interest to run the other
departments, commissions, and agencies. Gore would not have
appointed extreme right wing Federalist Society judges to
the bench. Gore would not have returned the country to deficit
spending, ripped up the antiballistic missile treaty, or walked
away from peace talks and the global warming negotiations.
Gore would have built on the successes of the Clinton /
Gore years: The lowest minority poverty rates and highest
minority employment rates. Support for working families such
as billions of dollars for child care, health insurance for
all children expanded to cover all Americans in a step-by-step
approach most Americans support. Affirmative Action -- not
the joke Bush calls Affirmative Access. Strong enforcement
of environmental, consumer, and occupational safety protection
-- not gutting regulations or putting corporations on the
honor system. "Green Growth" policies to promote alternative
energy, hybrid and electric cars, and the other 21st century
approaches Al Gore outlined in his excellent book Earth
in the Balance. By ignoring and denying the differences
between progressive Al Gore and right-wing George W. Bush,
Naderites stuck us with the latter.
When confronted with these facts, Nader dissembles. He claims
Al Gore lost because of Al Gore; Bush, Harris, and the Supreme
Court "stole" the election absolving him of any responsibility;
and it is good Bush won because things have to get worse before
they get better. Nader, Moore, and others cling to these rationalizations.
They have every right to do so, but we should understand they
are completely misguided across the board.
Claiming Al Gore lost is dishonest. Gore won a two-front
war. He beat the Bushes, Nader, and the admittedly hostile
media. Even liberals like Margaret Carlson admit she and others
in the press enjoyed bashing Gore. They booed Gore during
debates, and joined Bush and Nader when they lied about Gore
constantly. Nader cannot campaign as a spoiler -- as he clearly
did in 2000 -- and then deny he spoiled the election for Gore.
Nader focused his efforts on denying Al Gore victory, rather
than maximizing support for the Green Party, which Nader still
refuses to even join.
The rationalization that things have to get worse raises
a key question: worse for whom? The answer is clear. Things
will get worse for hundreds of thousands who lose their jobs,
millions who lose life-saving federal protection of their
health and safety, and billions who suffer because Bush will
oppose efforts to control global warming. Already, Americans
have lost their jobs, their civil rights, their health and
retirement benefits, and their livelihoods. Meanwhile, Nader
and Moore retire to their plush homes. Nader and his wealthy
supporters will not suffer. Therefore it is unfair, immoral,
and dishonest for them to demand others suffer while they
do not, in the hopes some "mass uprising" will emerge against
Bush. Nader and Moore shrug off the fact they did Americans
a major disservice.
Nader supporters wonder why I criticize their hero. They
assume I cannot "get over" the stolen election and the horrors
Bush is causing. My answer is simple: the 2002 and 2004 elections
will either reverse the right wing assault on our rights,
our jobs, our environment and our lives, or else they will
further empower the forces of reaction. I am focused on ending
Bush's control of the White House. Is Nader? Clearly not.
In a May 2001 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Nader
denies that Democrats are better than Republicans. He says,
"For the past 20 years, the Democrats have been telling progressives
that the Republicans are worse. I don't accept that." Even
more alarming, Nader intends to teach Democrats a lesson by
helping the Republicans in the future: "The
Democrats will get the message, but they'll have to lose a
few seats first."
Nader says he is happier when the right-wingers dominate
our society than when Democrats can fight for the poor, working
people, gays, women, minorities, the elderly, the environment,
education, health care, campaign finance reform and so much
more. He has every right to think that, but we have every
right to say he's wrong. Wrong in his strategy. Wrong on the
Nader is wrong when he claims Democrats have sold out to
corporations, as proven by the overwhelming Democratic opposition
to Bush's corporate welfare "stimulus bill" and support for
campaign finance reform. Nader is wrong when he claims environmental,
civil rights, worker safety and other policies were better
under Reagan and Bush than Clinton and Gore. This proven by
toxic waste clean-up, regulation enforcement, cleaner air,
unprecedented prosperity for Blacks and Latinos, hate crimes
laws, gun safety laws, and countless other examples Nader
Nader sabotages elections with his idiosyncratic illogic.
Nader claims the Democrats are just the lesser of two evils,
which is unfair and untrue. But then he deceives people into
de facto support of the right-wing nightmare even Michael
Moore concedes is the real evil. Democrats must work hard
to heal the Green/Democratic divide. However, Nader ignores
our common interests and helps our common enemies. He continues
to attack our morals and principles while he lies about our
aims and accomplishments for his own, narrow purposes.
The time has come for progressives of all stripes to unite
against Bush. If a few still wish to support Nader I say "let
them" because they will never be convinced, satisfied, or
appeased. The stakes are too high to play games with Nader's
neophytes, intransigents, and perpetual malcontents. There
are real people out there with real problems. They need help
NOW. They cannot wait for 2020 or 2030, or whenever we see
the backlash Nader and his followers predict.
Respect is a two-way street. Progressives should respect
each other, because no one has all the answers. That includes
Nader and those who deify him. We should conduct open dialogue
on the issues with open minded people, but those who think
Nader is right on the issues have to respect the vast majority
of Democrats and progressives who disagree. A minority of
progressives should not demand to dictate the agenda to the
majority. Naderites should understand they bargain from a
position of near oblivion -- thanks to the less than 3% of
the vote their hero delivered in 2000
Democrats should listen to everyone, and then try to win
elections. That's the purpose of any political party - Democrats,
Republicans, Greens, Libertarians, Natural Law, Reform, Socialist,
and so on. If the choice is between Nader's 2% and the huge
apolitical undecided vote which is at least ten times more
numerous, which way should Democrats turn? It's not a "sell
out" and it doesn't take advanced calculus to understand a
simple political fact: Embracing an agenda that failed to
deliver even 3% is a formula for disaster. Democrats are not
going to do that.
We look forward to working with those willing to work with
us, as opposed to scream at us or dictate to us. If they are
with us then we are with them. If they are against us, then
they are enemies within whose actions help conservatives win.
People like Nader who only issue "take it or leave it" offers
should expect the majority to "leave it."
People willing to sacrifice and work for the common good
deserve a place at the table. Ralph Nader is not one of those
people. We will confront - not coddle -- the hard-core Naderites,
rather than let their lies and smears against good Democrats
help the right wing again. We will welcome all friends, and
unite with those sensible enough to recognize the common enemy.
We have no other choice.