Democratic Underground  

Unity For Victory
March 2, 2002
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 facts.

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 ignores.

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.

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