Re: [sixties-l] Nader Fiasco

From: Jeffrey Blankfort (
Date: 11/29/00

  • Next message: Tony Edmonds: "Re: [sixties-l] Re: Nader Fiasco"

    I appreciate Richard Scheneirov's efforts to take us through several
    interesting presidential battles and the issues that were contested in
    each, but in blaming Nader for Gore's loss, he fails to mention the
    critical issues that distinguish this year's Democrat from this year's Republican.
    Does he or others seriously think that Hitler and the economic forces
    behind him would have withdrawn from the scene if the Communists and
    Socialists had cooperated in that instance? The conventional wisdom on
    this issue rarely contemplates how unlikely that would have been.
    Moreover, does Scheneirov or anyone seriously believe that the success
    of "manifest destiny" which required the annexing of Texas and the
    taking of what is now the Western United States from Mexico was
    dependent on Polk's candidacy alone? I do admit that by international
    historical standards, Polk might be considered our "greatest" president,
    because the victory over Mexico and the completion of the US move across
    the continent certainly ranks among the great conquests of history. When
    one adds Texas to the pot the total area, as I recall, was 998,000
    square miles. But it would have happened, sooner or later, under whoever
    would have become president since president's, as we have come to learn,
    are rarely their own men. And since the pockets of both Gush and Bore
    are weighted down with corporate contributions that could only have been
    dreamed about in Polk's day, this election was largely about which of
    these two corporate puppets would be in the position to distribute the
    spoils to those who didn't have to vote to be assured a lion-size share.
    Jeff Blankfort
    Richard Schneirov  wrote:
    > As a historian I can't help but bring up two historical parallels to the
    > recent Nader campaign.  One occurred in 1930s Germany when the Communist
    > Party took a "principled" revolutionary stance and refused to unite with
    > the Socialists (the liberal compromisers of that time) to stop Hitler.
    > The combined vote of the Communists and the Socialists would have been
    > enough to deprive Hitler of power.  But, the Communists refused to have
    > anything to do with the Socialists whom they derided as "Social
    > Fascists." The Communists argued that voters should take the long run
    > point of view, hence their slogan, "After Hitler, Us."  The rest, as they
    > say is history.
    > But, of course, Nader and his supporters are not Communists, and neither
    > is Bush a Hitler.  Perhaps an American example would make the point
    > clearer.  In 1840 and again in 1844 a group of "principled" abolitionists
    > left the Whig party and nominated James Birney for President.  In the
    > 1844 election Birney polled enough votes in New York and Michigan to
    > defeat the Whig candidate Henry Clay and give the election to the
    > Democrat James Polk.  Polk proceeded to do exactly what antislavery
    > forces feared: provoke a war with Mexico that eventually was used by
    > pro-slavery forces to annex land adjacent to slaveholding states.
    > What the two cases have in common is that in refusing to make compromises
    > with potential allies in the name of maintaining purity, small groups on
    > the left wing of the more progressive party ended up bringing disaster on
    > their causes.
    > Is the lesson to always maintain unity with one's allies at all costs?
    > Not necessarily.  Let's briefly return to the pre-Civil War era.  With
    > the annexation of the Mexican cession lands, a third party grew up, the
    > Free Soil Party, to protest the expansion of slavery into the
    > territories.  Six years later that party gave way to the Republican
    > Party.  And as we know, the Republican Party led the nation through a
    > Civil War that ultimately abolished slavery.  But the Free Soil and
    > Republican parties were different in several ways from the old Liberty
    > Party.  First, both eschewed moralism and appealed to "interest."  And,
    > most importantly, each party was positioned to attract voters of the two
    > major parties.  That is, they were positioned BETWEEN the two parties.
    > When a group of voters can position themselves between two closely
    > divided parties, they can have great power in a two party, "first past
    > the gate, winner take all" system.  One only has to look at the case of
    > Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996 and how the issues he championed have become
    > nationally viable.  To go back to the Civil War era, the Republicans
    > attracted Free Soil or Western Democrats and Conscience and Know-Nothing
    > Whigs to fashion a winning coalition in 1860 and thus bring slavery into
    > American politics as a viable issue.
    > Where does the Nader campaign fit in all this? The Nader campaign took
    > the majority of its voters (though not all), from the Democrats.  They
    > were not a major attraction for Republican voters.  All estimates make it
    > clear that Nader cost (it seems now) Gore Forida and the election.
    > Hence, the Nader campaign, unlike the Free Soil and Republican parties,
    > was counterproductive electorally.  Nader voters hurt their closest
    > friends and helped their enemies.
    > But, sometimes the lessons of history have to be relearned.
    > Richard Schneirov
    > Dept of History
    > Indiana State University

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