[sixties-l] my final thoughts on Nader

From: TODD JONES (tjones@nevada.edu)
Date: 11/03/00

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    Well I've now read and reread the responses to my post on the Nader issue,
    trying to make up my mind on how to vote. I appreciate everyone's
    comments.  I thought there were good arguments on both sides.  Here's why
    was ultimately persuaded to vote Gore.
    1. On "voting your conscience" 
      There are two rough approaches to moral decision making --
    consequentialism, the idea that good actions are the ones that have good
    results and various sorts of non-consequentialism.  
    I am a consequentialist. (Brad Duren is not.)      I believe that doing an
    act that makes you feel good, and leaves you with a clear conscience but
    does not have good consequences is moral self-indulgence.   Too many
    people can suffer from it.  
    So the question for me  whether a vote for Nader would have good
    2. And note, I'm concerned here with the consequence of VOTING a certain
    Voting is different than educating, party building, protesting, and all
    kinds of other activities. 
    Voting can only do so much, but the question here is how will the vote you
    cast do the maximal good and the least harm?
    In this election, voting Nader can cause a lot of harm.  And I don't see
    that it does a lot of good that couldn't be gained in other ways (like
    working for Nader organizations (which I have done)). 
    In 1964, I would have voted for Johnson over Goldwater, but would also
    have joined various organizations to vigorously protest Johnson's war
    I must say, I find the idea that it would be GOOD if the Democrats lost
    (which Jeffrey Blankford hinted at, with his comments that NAFTA would
    never have passed under Dole)
    to be just as implausible as the (sometimes suggested) idea that voting
    for Nixon over McGovern would actually produce good results for
    progressives.    Do we really want to be in a situation where things like
    "The Contract with America" can easily pass in its entirety and be
    immediately signed by a republican president?    Under Nixon, at least
    there was a democratic congress.   
    3. Even though my concern here is with voting,  I have two comments on
    progressive activity outside of voting.
    A. I completely disagree with the idea that more things necessarily get
    accomplished by direct action, than by passing laws.    Nothing anyone
    could do in direct charity work could have helped de-impoverish the
    elderly than social security did.    Wonky things like the earned income
    tax credit have done much more to help the working poor (while keeping
    intact their self-esteem intact) than any private charity work every
    B. Even large popular movements aren't worth much of they don't get large
    or powerful enough to influence policy.   One of my biggest frustrations
    with working with the Nuclear Freeze movement was constantly encountering
    the attitude of "Well at least we are out here: at least we are trying."
    As a consequentialist, I want to see my actions really having good
    results.    I must agree strongly with Marty Jezer, here:
    "Direct action is essential for getting issues into the news, for movement
    building, manifesting (but not wielding), rallying the troops. But without
    an electoral component it goes nowhere and, worse, builds frustration
    within the movement. Seeing our activism going nowhere, having no
    influence in the arenas where policy and laws are made, we got frustrated.
    We raised the ante of direct action without addressing our lack of
    electoral strategy.  This was one of the decisive mistakes of the 1960s.
    Miltance for its own sake is a dead-end."
    Bill Mandel talks about "changing the rules of the game"    It seems to me
    that we also have to try to win the game we're playing WHILE we work to
    change some of the rules.   It seems that's what successful progressives
    have always done.  Bill writes that,  "We who were Communists in the
    thirties were able to win welfare, unemployment insurance, social
    security, and legalization of the right of labor to organize, although we
    started with only ten thousand members and never rose to over ten time
      No -- the communists did none of those things on their own.  Those
    things were  accomplished because Roosevelt's New Deal democrats, rather
    than Hooverian republicans were in power.   And less people suffered
    because of it.  
    I love Ralph Nader.  But think that truly learning from the sixties tells
    us that totally eschewing established party politics leads to
    opportunities wasted.   So I think that voting for Gore is the morally
    right thing for progressives to do. 

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