Re: [sixties-l] To Nader or not to Nader

From: Peter Levy (
Date: 10/31/00

  • Next message: Ted Morgan: "[sixties-l] Re. Nader & election"

    Todd begins his analysis of whether or not to Nader or not by suggesting
    we should look at what the legacy of the sixties tell us.  It is
    important to remember that by in large the New Left opposed "mainstream"
    electoral politics.  Even before Eugene McCarthy scored his upset
    victory in the Democratic primaries, Paul Buhle reasoned that McCarthy's
    campaign was a waste of time at best and a "positive detriment to the
    process of ideological clarification" at worst.  SDS stuck to its
    strategy of bringing the war home even after McCarthy strung together
    several "victories" in the primary.  Terming electoral politics
    "bourgeois" SDS's national office maintained its opposition to all
    Democratic candidates throughout 1968.  On another occassion, one-time
    SDS leader Carl Davidson welcomed George Wallace's third party candidacy
    on the grounds that Wallace would help bring down the two parties and
    the left would outcompete the Alabama governor for the support of the
    working class.  In 1972, many new leftists adopted the same reasoning. 
    The Guardian  argued that "No fundamental change in the nature of
    imperialism or of the state apparatus are in the offing as the result of
    the contest between Richard Nixon and Geoge McGovern."  Dave Dellinger
    called for build an enlightened, responsible people's movement," rather
    than endorsing McGovern.  Of course, other new leftists challenged this
    strategy, some on the grounds that too much was at stake and others on
    the grounds that little evidence existed to suggest that Dellinger's
    strategy was working.  Paul Cowan, for instance, inquired, "What mass
    extra-legal parlimentary struggles are you referring to?"  
    	There are many different reasons to vote for Nader or Gore in this
    election, but as I see it, the experience of the sixties suggests that
    third party or independent politics produces few results (and this is
    said by someone who did not vote for a "mainstream" candidate until he
    was in his late thirties).  Dellinger's "people's movement" did not
    deveop after McGovern's defeat.  On the contrary, the right took
    advantage of the opening to attain political power, maintaining control
    of the White House for nearly a generation.  Perhaps Gore is more
    conservative than McGovern or McCarthy, but the same can be said for
    George Bush and the GOP leaders in congress, who are more conservative
    that Nixon and Ford.   After all neither of them vowed to repeal the
    inheritance tax, the most progressive form of taxation on the books, or
    to privatize social security, the embodiment of the New Deal. What I
    find most amazing about the pro-Nader people is their refusal to
    consider what might happen if conservative Republicans control all three
    branches of government.  Do they think that a Republican controlled
    congress, Republican president and Republican court are going to pass
    campaign finance reform? Enact pro-labor and environmental laws?  Last
    night I heard Nader support repealing the Taft-Hartley Act.  How does he
    suppose he is going to do this with Republicans in control of all three
    branches of government? Chances are instead the National Labor Relations
    Act will be decimated, along with Social Security, all forms of
    progressive taxation, not to mention Roe v. Wade and much environmental
    protection.  I agree with many on the left that we need to keep the
    pressure on Gore, but that can be done most effectively via political
    protests in the streets, not at the ballot box, as was the case in the
    Peter B. Levy
    Dept. of History
    York College
    TODD JONES wrote:
    > Dear List members
    > I thought it would be useful if some of the discussion on this list in
    > this last week were on what the legacy of the sixties should tell us about
    > whether or not to vote for Nader.
    > For myself, I am leaning strongly against voting for Nader.  Here is my
    > thinking so far:
    > 1. There is no doubt that voting for Nader would help George Bush get
    > elected.  In Washington, Oregon, and California Bush has a real chance of
    > winning, largely because of Nader's support.
    > 2. A Bush Presidency would have tremendous costs, and cause a lot of
    > damage to things progressives hold dear.
    >    Polluters would write major environmental bills.
    >    Gun violence legislation would stop.
    >    Progressive health care legislation would stop
    >    There would be oil drilling in wilderness areas
    >    Right wing judges would dominate the supreme court....etc.
    > It's fair to say that many lives would be lost because of Bush's policies
    > 3. At the same time,  strong support for Nader, and a Bush win might be of
    > some help to the progressive movement.
    >    A. A strong showing for Nader shows people how many progressives there
    > are.
    >    B. A Bush White House would energize people in the progressive movement
    > and help Unite them.
    > 4. The main question then, is whether the gains that would be made by the
    > progressive movement are enough to offset the costs of a Bush presidency.
    > And I don't see the evidence that it would.  The progressive movement,
    > however large, can't be much more than a minor annoyance to corporate
    > forces unless it is willing to make alliances with the Democratic party --
    > a group far less virtuous than progressives would like them to be, but a
    > group that is willing to listen to progressives AND is in a position of
    > political power that enables them to actually do something that can help
    > people.
    > I think one of the important lessons of the sixties is that an unallied
    > "pure" independent progressive party can help the people in the movement
    > feel virtuous, but it does little good beyond that.  What did the Peace
    > and Freedom Party, the Progressive Labor Party, or the Liberal Party every
    > accomplish?
    > Actually,  let me qualify that -- such groups can certainly accomplish a
    > lot.  Protest and dissent can help put pressure on people.  To help change
    > hearts and minds and all kinds of tactics may be useful. But the question
    > I am considering here concerns voting.  Voting is one of the tools in our
    > arsenal.  How can progressives  best use the VOTING tool to help the
    > causes they hold dear.
    > One of the most direct way to help the least well-off people in society is
    > by passing legislation that protects them.    Such legislation will never
    > be pass unless progressives use their power, not just to condemn loudly,
    > but to help elect representatives that share some of their agenda.
    > So, as far as I can see, a Bush win would be horribly costly. And even if
    > voting for Nader helps the progressive movement grow, a larger progressive
    > movement can do little unless its willing to make alliances with
    > Democrats.   But if the way progressives can help people is by helping
    > Democrats get elected, then the time to start is now, by  voting for Gore.
    > I'm interested in hearing others' thoughts.
    >                                                         Todd Jones

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