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

From: Jeffrey Blankfort (
Date: 11/04/00

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    Was that rally against directed against nuclear power or against Carter?
    The reason that I exempted LBJ was that there were demonstrations
    against him and the Democrats which to me was one of the more important
    aspects of the movement: the recognition that there was no fundamental
    difference ifefrence between the two parties, something that folks who
    should know better today, have failed to realize.
    Jeff Blankfort
    Todd Jones wrote:
    > I appreciate Jeffrey Blankfort's arguments regarding Nader and have lots
    > of thought on them.   But let me just quickly respond to his direct
    > challenge:
    > "If I am wrong in my facts and anyone can point to a major protest
    > against a Democratic president from JFK to the present, with the
    > exception of LBJ, I would appreciate having my mistake pointed out to
    > me."
    > 1. I was at an enormous rally in Washington directed against nuclear
    > power and Jimmy Carter's support of it in the post three mile island days.
    > 2. Why would Jeffrey except LBJ?    The protests against LBJ seem to me
    > to be demonstrative proof that the left does not fall down and play
    > dead during democratic administrations.
    >                                 Todd Jones
    > On Tue, 31 Oct 2000, Jeffrey Blankfort wrote:
    > > I don't wish to repeat what I wrote in my reply to Todd except to point
    > > out just two of the fallacies in Peter's reponse:
    > >
    > > The first is in regard to Taft-Hartley. To indicate how far the AFL-CIO
    > > has descended into the abyss of Democratic Party politics, they never
    > > even mention it, let alone demand its repeal. Embarassing is the last
    > > thing John Sweeney or the other labor bureaucrats want to do. Nader's
    > > mentioning it, of course, was the last thing the AFL-CIO wanted. So if
    > > Levy believes that there is a chance of ANY positive labor legislation
    > > coming out of a Gore administration, he is dreaming.  Unfortunately he
    > > is not alone.
    > >
    > > Finally, the notion that we will put press ure on Gore from the streets
    > > is equally unrealistic. Not since LBJ up to the WTO have there been any
    > > street actions that are critical of a sitting Democratic Party president
    > > and the WTO and IMF/World Bank were directed more at the corporations
    > > than at the administration. As I wrote to Todd, all the major groups
    > > that would be critical of a Republican administration, roll over and
    > > play dead when a Democrat is in office.
    > >
    > > If I am wrong in my facts and anyone can point to a major protest
    > > against a Democratic president from JFK to the present, with the
    > > exception of LBJ, I would appreciate having my mistake pointed out to
    > > me.
    > >
    > > Jeff Blankfort
    > > Peter Levy wrote:
    > > >
    > > > 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
    > > > sixties.
    > > > Peter B. Levy
    > > > Dept. of History
    > > > York College
    > >
    > ------------------------------
    > Date: Thu, 2 Nov 2000 10:00:52 -0500
    > From: "Lauter, Paul" <>
    > Subject: [sixties-l] RE: Election and identity politics
    > I thought folks might find the following letter from Barney Frank to Ralph
    > Nader of interest, given the discussion that has been on-going.  But it also
    > raises a more general question about the relation of what Frank focuses
    > on--forms, really, of identity politics--to the kind of issues of class and
    > corporate power that Jeff has consistently, and well, illuminated.  (Yes,
    > I'm oversimplifying on both hands.)  There are those on the left (we could
    > all name some) who have tended to blame identity politics for the decline
    > and fragmentation of the movement.  There are others of us (myself included)
    > who believe that no movement for change will get far in this country unless
    > it is as responsive to the priorities of what's called, often slightingly,
    > identity politics as to those of class.  In fact, my own sense is that part
    > of the problem in the anti-war movement of the 60s--one that came up every
    > time we scheduled a demo in DC--was its tendency to marginalize the kinds of
    > issues to which Frank speaks.
    >         At any rate, here's the letter:
    > Mr. Ralph Nader Nader 2000 P.O. Box 18002 Washington, DC 20036
    > Dear Ralph:
    > Because the debate between us concerns some of the most important public
    > policy issues facing this country, I thought it best to write directly to
    > you
    > in the interest of better clarifying issues for the voters.
    > In your comments at the National Press Club, you noted that you had been
    > concerned about civil rights and civil liberties for some time, and
    > specifically mentioned your opposition to the exclusion of women from juries
    > during the 1950s. (Since you apparently think it relevant as to where I was
    > in
    > school at that time, and what I was doing there, I should note that I left
    > elementary school in 1953 and graduate from high school in 1957. As a
    > further
    > cultural note, I am not aware that any elementary or high school students
    > were
    > playing soccer in Bayonne during that time. My elementary school sports were
    > baseball and football when we could get to a park, and stickball when we
    > couldn't.)
    > I admire your opposition to blatant sexism in jury service, but that does
    > not
    > seem to be of great relevance to the specific issues I have been discussing
    > concerning your view that there are no important differences between
    > Governor
    > Bush and Vice President Gore. My explicit points are that Gore and Bush
    > differ
    > sharply on whether or not a woman should be allowed to decide to have an
    > abortion; whether or not the federal government should act against
    > discrimination based on sexual orientation; whether or not the federal
    > government should seek to regulate gun ownership further; and on important
    > aspects of how to deal with racial prejudice, including the subject of
    > affirmative action.
    > What I have said and am saying is that your assertion that there are no
    > important issue differences between Bush and Gore is either flatly
    > inaccurate
    > or reflects your view that the issues I have just cited are not important.
    > And
    > I have further argued, based on my own experience in Congress in dealing
    > with
    > these issues, and my recollection of your advocacy, that since you have
    > generally ignored these issues in your career, it is reasonable to assume
    > that
    > the answer is that you do not believe that they are important. Obviously, as
    > a
    > citizen advocate you are free to choose for yourself which issues to become
    > involved with and which ones to ignore. But, now that you have become a
    > candidate for President, your dismissal of the relevance of these issues to
    > the Presidential election undermines the efforts of those of us who are
    > working on them.
    > Apparently, you are beginning to recognize that this posture is an obstacle
    > to
    > your gaining votes among many liberals and others to whom these are very
    > significant concerns. And I take it that is why you asserted at the Press
    > Club
    > that you are a "superior" candidate to Gore on gay and lesbian concerns. On
    > this point, the record flatly contradicts you. Vice President Gore has been
    > an
    > active advocate for the rights of gays, lesbians and bisexuals for many
    > years.
    > On the one issue where he falls short -- the question of marriage -- I
    > remember when we were fighting this battle in 1996, you refused to take a
    > position against the Defense of Marriage Act on the dismissive ground that
    > you
    > did not wish to get involved in "gonadal politics."
    > Your desire to avoid what you deride as "gonadal politics," and I think of
    > as
    > the fight for gay and lesbian rights, has been consistent. Having been
    > actively involved in the fight against gay and lesbian bias in Congress
    > since
    > 1981, I cannot remember ever hearing from you on this subject. And the
    > record
    > shows that you have similarly avoided the subject of abortion. To the extent
    > that you have now decided that in your search for votes you should take a
    > position on at least some of these issues, I welcome that. But, it is
    > inconsistent with recognition of the importance of these issues to continue
    > to
    > claim that there are no major differences between the Democratic and
    > Republican Presidential candidates.
    > The leading organizations fighting for the right of women to choose
    > regarding
    > abortion, and for the ability of gay, lesbian and bisexual people to be free
    > from discrimination, endorsed Vice President Gore during the primary season,
    > reflecting their understanding of his strong commitment to these issues.
    > Your
    > decision to join him in this advocacy is encouraging and reflects the
    > progress
    > we have made in helping create a strong constituency for them. But your
    > support will be incomplete as long as you continue to maintain that these
    > issues are irrelevant to the choice of a President.
    > I should add that I am prepared to apologize for describing you as
    > indifferent
    > to these issues during your career as an advocate if you can provide me with
    > evidence that I am wrong. In your discussion at the Press Club, you
    > mentioned
    > discrimination against women on juries four or five decades ago as an
    > example
    > of your concern. If there are more recent examples -- say, from the 80s or
    > 90s
    > - -- of your working to protect a women's right to choose, oppose
    > discrimination
    > based on sexual orientation, or support affirmative action for racial
    > minorities, I would be glad to learn of them. No one I have spoken to in
    > Congress or in the relevant advocacy groups can recall your playing such a
    > role.
    > ------------------------------
    > End of sixties-l-digest V1 #378
    > *******************************

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