[sixties-l] In Defense Of Ralph Nader

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: 12/02/00

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    The Black World Today
    November 22, 2000
    In Defense Of Ralph Nader:
    People Have A Right To Vote For What They Believe
    By Ron Daniels <ronmae@aol.com>
    The frightening prospect of a George W. Bush presidency
    has many within the liberal progressive movement angry with
    Ralph Nader and the Green Party. Nader and the Greens are
    being blamed and condemned for blocking Al Gore from a clear
    victory over George W. Bush. The bitterness towards Nader
    and the Greens may well create an irreparable chasm on the
    left as some liberals and progressives are threatening to
    punish Nader and the Greens for being reckless and
    In my view this would be a tragic and debilitating outcome.
    In America people who have the courage of their convictions
    should not be punished for voting for what they believe in.
    There is certainly an argument to be made that had it not
    been for the militant campaigns of Eugene Debs and Norman
    Thomas, where hundreds of thousands of people voted their
    convictions, some of the modest reforms of the New Deal
    would not have been forthcoming.
    By marching on ballot boxes and in the streets, the left
    compelled the Democratic Party and the ruling elite to grant
    more concessions than they would have otherwise. The liberal
    progressive movement and its constituencies owe a great deal
    to those who had the courage to vote and fight for their
    convictions, at the ballot box and in the streets.
    This is not at all to dismiss the critical nature of the
    moment in terms of the 2000 election. While I have been
    a leading proponent of independent politics for years,
    I pointed out that the differences between Gore and Bush
    were incremental not fundamental. I also argued that those
    differences were not inconsequential. Without question,
    Black people, people of color and poor and working people
    have suffered under the rightwing onslaught of the
    Republican Party. However, in my judgment, that onslaught
    has been aided and abetted by the cowardice and capitulations
    of the Democratic Party, particularly under the rise to
    hegemony within the Party of the "centrist" Democratic
    Leadership Conference led by people like Bill Clinton
    and Al Gore.
    I firmly believe the Nader campaign was not only important
    it was essential to advance the progressive cause. At some
    point in history progressives have to take a stand and break
    out of the "lesser evil" mold that has bound us to the
    Democrats despite their considerable transgressions against
    key constituencies within the progressive movement.
    Though the Nader campaign had some obvious weaknesses as
    it relates to people of color, Nader was unquestionably the
    most progressive candidate among the major candidates. His
    relentless exposure of and opposition to corporate power
    and the suffocation of the American political process by big
    money was clearly a stance that neither of the establishment
    candidates was willing to take.
    As a result of Nader's anti-corporate crusade, hundreds
    of thousands of people, particularly young people, went to
    the polls for the first time because finally there was a
    candidate who articulated their deepest convictions about
    the crisis in American democracy and prescriptions for
    creating a more authentic democracy in this country. Though
    it is true that a sizeable segment of the Nader vote would
    have gone to Gore, thousands of others would not have voted
    at all, and Nader must be credited for giving thousands of
    people a reason to vote.
    The real villain in American politics is not Nader, but a
    relatively closed electoral system, which discourages rather
    than encourages participation. For all of the hoopla about
    turnout, the fact is that a little more than 50% of the
    total eligible electorate actually bothered to vote in
    election 2000. The biggest political party in America is
    still non-voters. The second major problem is that Black
    people, people of color, labor and the poor do not have
    a party that uncompromisingly promotes and defends their
    The Democratic Party can no longer claim to be the
    unquestioned champion of poor and working people, let alone
    a party which articulates anything resembling a vision for
    social transformation and real political and economic
    democracy. But in the crunch, the Democrats were forced
    to appeal to the very constituencies they have so woefully
    neglected, Blacks, people of color and labor, to rescue an
    embattled leader of the DLC. Recognizing the incremental but
    consequential differences between Bush and Gore, the majority
    of these constituencies heeded the call.
    But those who elected to pursue the interest of the
    progressive movement by refusing to embrace a Republicrat
    should not be excommunicated from the movement. Whatever the
    ultimate outcome of this election the Democratic party, if
    it is intelligent, will have to look leftward in the coming
    elections if it hopes to remain a force in American politics.
    The Nader-Green voters must now be factored into the political
    calculations and equations for the foreseeable future. The
    challenge on the left is to avoid acrimony, bitterness and
    permanent splits. Given our professed belief in the politics
    of social transformation, neither a Bush or Gore presidency
    will meet our expectations; neither candidate nor party is
    committed to creating the kind of new society we believe in.
    Therefore, rather than blame Nader, progressives should
    use the Nader campaign as the spark to ignite a serious
    pro-democracy offensive in this nation, in the courts, the
    corridors of power and in the streets. Now more than ever
    it is time to come together to discuss our differences and
    explore ways and means of advancing our vision for a new
    Copyright (c) 2000 The Black World Today. All Rights Reserved.

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