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Mr. Nader, please back out: My open letter to Ralph Nader
February 24, 2004
By Jack Rabbit

Dear Mr. Nader:

You may be tired by now of open letters concerning your run for the presidency, but here is another.

This is written in response to the dialog which you have had during the last month with the editors of The Nation. On January 29, The Nation published an open letter to you urging you not to run for President this year. Their reasons were simply that this is the wrong year for a third party effort on the Left to take votes away from Mr. Bush’s Democratic opponent. The editors of The Nation listed as the reasons for the importance of defeating Mr. Bush:

  • Bush’s illegal war in Iraq, sold to the American people with a pack of lies;
  • Bush’s assault on constitutional civil liberties;
  • Bush’s economic and tax policies, aimed at benefiting only those who have foot the bill for his political career at the expense of all others.

Add to The Nation’s rationale the fact that Bush actually lost the election of 2000, and you have a picture of America being run like a banana republic.

According to the editors of The Nation, these are the reasons why those who supported your candidacy in 2000 will not support you in 2004. This election is not about casting a protest vote. This election is about something bigger.

Your reply to The Nation should not go unnoticed. You hit back at The Nation by throwing at them those values for which that publication has stood over the years, values which you have shared with those who have worked there when you were a young consumer crusader as well as now. Your reply was eloquent. You spoke to the problems of the existing two-party system, of how that system gives disproportionate weight to special interests, large campaign contributors and swing voters.

I share those concerns with you now, as I did four years ago when I cast my ballot for you.

I saw you on NBC News' Meet the Press Sunday, announcing your candidacy. You spoke passionately about the outrages of corporate power and the sins of George W. Bush.

I share that passion and outrage with you.

However, in your reply to The Nation and in your appearance on Meet the Press, you did little to answer the fundamental question of the 2004 election. As The Nation said, the focus of this year’s election is to defeat Mr. Bush. How does your candidacy advance that cause?

You suggest in your reply to The Nation that you do not believe your candidacy will greatly hurt the Democratic nominee’s chances:

The Nation's open letter does not go far enough in predicting where my votes would come from, beyond correctly inferring that there would be few liberal Democratic supporters. The out-of-power party always returns to the fold, while the in-power party sees its edges looking for alternatives. Much more than New Hampshire in 2000, where I received more Republican than Democratic votes, any candidacy would be directed toward Independents, Greens, third-party supporters, true progressives, and conservative and liberal Republicans, who are becoming furious with George W. Bush's policies, such as massive deficits, publicized corporate crimes, subsidies and pornography, civil liberties encroachments, sovereignty-suppressing trade agreements and outsourcing. And, of course, any candidacy would seek to do what we all must strive for-getting out more nonvoters who are now almost the majority of eligible voters.

However, you do concede that you would draw a few votes away from the Democratic candidate. This time, that is a matter of great concern. It will be a close election. The few votes you draw away from the eventual Democratic nominee, whether it be Senator Kerry or Senator Edwards, could mean the difference between tossing Bush out of the office to which he was selected in 2000, and four more years of America under the yoke of Bush’s corporatist tyranny.

Perhaps the Democrats aren’t as good as we’d like, but they are better than Bush. Bush is a threat to American democratic institutions. This is not just a matter of appointing an Interior Secretary dedicated to opening the national parks system to development, or a few judges who would abrogate a woman’s right to choose to terminate her pregnancy. This goes far beyond those matters in regards to which we Americans are used to thinking about politics. In addition to stealing the 2000 election, Bush has used the September 11 attacks as a pretext to assault the Bill of Rights. American citizens are held without charge indefinitely, and Bush sends his justice department to court to defend his denial of these basic rights. He has used his office to promote tax policies which transferred the federal budget surplus to his cronies. He governs in secret, not allowing the decision-making process to be open to any scrutiny. The meetings between Mr. Cheney and representatives of the energy corporations to determine the nation’s energy policy were public matters that should have been held in public. That they were not is outrageous.

And then there is the war in Iraq. Mr. Bush and his people had perfectly good intelligence, but chose to cherry-pick that which suited their pre-determined course of action. They may as well have made up many of their justifications for war. Saddam had no biochemical arsenal, he was ages away from reconstituting his nuclear capabilities and it was foolish to think he had any associations with al Qaida. As you correctly said Sunday on Meet the Press:

When a president misleads, if not fabricates, going to war and sending our sons and daughters to war with no exit strategy, with a quagmire over there, that is very serious, Tim. If there's any better definition of high crimes and misdemeanors in our Constitution, then misleading or fabricating the basis for going to war, as the press has documented ad infinitum, I don't know any cause of impeachment that's worse . . . .

I think this country deserves a serious explanation of why, how, when this country was plunged into war against a brutal dictator tottering over an antiquated, non-loyal army, surrounded by hostile neighbors who, if he made one move against, would have obliterated him. It was oil.

I couldn’t agree with you more, Mr. Nader. That is why I cannot support your candidacy for President this year as I did four years ago. That is why I am going to vote for the Democratic nominee, whether it is Kerry, Edwards, Sharpton, Kucinich or the Devil himself. The only thing wrong with calling George W. Bush the worst president in US history is that it would concede an extremely questionable point, namely, that he is president.

It may be an exaggeration to liken Bush’s tenure in the White House to a foreign occupation, but his ideology is alien to that of our Founding Fathers. Like the French Resistance, made up of socialists, Communists, anarchists and other Leftists, who were willing to follow a sober conservative like General de Gaulle to rid their country of the Nazis – who represented the antithesis of the ideals of the French Revolution – so we must resolve to unite behind a leader who may be less than ideal to rid America of an illegitimate administration that represents the abrogation of the ideals of the American Revolution.

After that task is accomplished, we can go back to fighting for workers’ rights, fair trade, corporate accountability, the breakup of big media and meaningful election reform. We can go back to fighting with those in the Democratic Party who seem too timid to take up these causes. But for now, we will do better to make common cause with them.

A President Kerry or a President Edwards may well disappoint us. He may get us into another colonial war in order to seize a sovereign nation’s natural resources or negotiate an anti-democratic trade agreement that would be a great detriment to working people in America and abroad. If so, we can hit the streets again, as we have during these past years of Bush. However, we would dissent with far less fear that our decision to speak out will result in being put on a no-fly list, or in visitations from federal agents to our local public librarian to find out what we’ve been reading and threaten the librarian with arrest if we are made aware of being targets of an investigation. We would not expect to hear of justice department officials writing proposed legislation to give the president or the attorney general the right to strip an American of his citizenship.

In light of this, Mr. Nader, I must join the editors of The Nation in urging you not to run for president this year. I will urge my friends and all those over whom I may have any influence to ignore your candidacy this year and join me in voting for the Democratic candidate in November.

Now that you have announced, please back out.

I am your admirer,

Jack Rabbit

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