I look forward to The Progressive Populist and its role in our ongoing conversation, however it seems that there has not yet been enough discussion of the Nader issue. Although we are mostly in agreement on the issues, there are many of us on the Left still angry with Ralph Nader and the Greens, and it seems hard to believe that he and many of his supports still don't get it.
Ralph Nader conducted a boutique candidacy for the Presidency, an exercise in arrogance and disrespect that was beneath him. No matter how noble his motives, he was not qualified for the presidency, because neither he nor his party has the broad national constituency or the basic political infrastructure necessary to govern.
Few of us are edified by the argument that Ralph Nader wasn't running to govern, but to "make a point." Such a justification is disrespectful and little more than an unfortunate footnote to an otherwise important public life.
Coalition, mutual respect and the primacy of the majority are defining elements of the society toward which we all work. In such a society you don't always get exactly what you want, at exactly the moment you want, but when we form coalitions, we make good progress and our darker individual impulses are moderated. That is the soul of democracy and is what gives it moral legitimacy. Compromise is not always the most ideologically pure approach, but it works well to achieve our goals and make better, more tolerant citizens.
Ralph Nader styled himself the lone voice in the wilderness, presumably the prophet; but his campaign suggested distaste for the messy business of democracy. Nader disappointed us because he adopted the morally bankrupt disdain of the hard right wing for compromise. His campaign had little of the spirit of democracy and tolerance about it, no respect for the office of the presidency. He gave scant consideration to those of us who have equally sincere convictions and have dedicated years of hard work in the Democratic Party. Instead of high ideals and higher purpose, his campaign was sadly little more than a calculated tactic to engineer a loss for Al Gore to force reform on his own terms and schedule. Frankly, if I were Nader, I'd be ashamed of that arrogance.
That arrogance made it possible for the Right wing to slip into power without a plurality. Nader chose to campaign on the notion that there was no difference between Al Gore and George W. Bush, and now his supporters are astonished and embarrassed at how untruthful that notion was.
It is too bad that Nader now has to take his medicine, but he shouldn't expect too prominent seat at the table for the immediate future. When it was clear that Ralph's final push for votes in Florida and other swing states was responsible for the loss of the election, many of us were furious at Nader's arrogance and shortsightedness. Now, I am simply sad for both the lost opportunities for progress and the loss of the leadership and guidance of a good man with great ideas. I can only hope that neither is lost forever.
RICHARD J. CONDON
Joseph Nagarya says shame on Nader voters [Letters, 2/15/01 PP]. I say shame on Mr. Nagarya for having the anti-democratic arrogance to suggest that other people had an obligation to vote according to his beliefs and dubious notions of strategy.
Gore lost because he was too pusillanimous to risk offending big donors (during a campaign, when voters matter. What would he have done if elected?). He lost because Jeb Bush illegally disenfranchised thousands of voters prior to the election. He lost because of gross irregularities in the election, and because five crooks on the Supreme Court flouted the law. He did not lose because 2.7 million people voted their conscience. We are not about to shut up, Mr. Nagarya. Get used to it!
KATHARINE W. RYLAARSDAM
Don't let anyone tell you that your support of Nader contributed to Gore's loss. Gore didn't want to be president. He would have campaigned if he had wanted to. He could have sunk the idiotic Republican Congress. He could have humiliated the idiot, Bush. He might have told the truth about Social Security, the military, banks and Hollywood. He didn't.
ROBERT C. SOMMER
New York, N.Y.
Reading Micah Sifry's "What went wrong for Ralph?" [1/1-15/01 PP], I was struck by commentary from Nader campaign manager Theresa Amato, and seemingly bolstered by Sifry, that it was wrong for the Association of State Green Parties to have issued a statement of support for the UN resolution condemning Israeli violence against Palestinians. Not for moral or philosophical reasons, but because it was strategically unwise to alienate a segment of the Jewish electorate.
This leads to an inescapable question: If the Greens are willing to chuck principles in order to get votes and appease pressure groups, just how are they any different from the two mainstream parties?
I refuse to even lose energy arguing over the delusional question, "Why did Gore lose the election?", strategically put out by so-called central Democrats and right-wing talk-show radio hosts to immerse the "masses" in petty squabble and divisive "brain games." Gore won the election, or vote, and including the Nader votes the public should not fall into the blame game, but see the "score" as a realistic representation of where the voters stand. Those who didn't get their votes counted in Florida is where this rests and we know the "systematic" crisis from there to where we're at now: Our US "true" electorate sits up against the wall of a right-wing conservative administration. It's unfair, ugly, scary, you name it, but it is here. These "central" Democrats, many of them, are Republicans in Democrat's clothing. And there are "central" Republicans as well. I think the Democrats and Republicans alike would do better to assign these centrists into their own "Center Party", but I'm afraid they never will because they are afraid that the progressive wing will win. Pressure needs to be put on the Democratic Leadership Council so the Democrat Party will respond to its base and constituents. And it has to come from grassroots involvement. In Minnesota, for example, the Democrat Party is still officially named the Democratic Farmer-Labor Party (DFL). But in 2000 even at our state level we had protests in our northern caucuses over too much centralized State Board control. We're not done fighting for our local caucuses to be heard at the county and state levels.
It is interesting to me that the same bright senators who think Bill Clinton was wrong to sell pardons don't mind a bit when they themselves sell political policy for campaign donations. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is ready to impeach Mr. Clinton all over again. Senator McConnell takes money from the coal mining and other interests all day long, bends every law in their favor (and against the interests of the people he is supposed to represent), and he worries that Bill Clinton is doing what? I once saw some prostitutes arguing over who had the rights to a particular streetcorner, and this whole thing somehow reminds me of that scene.
Well here is the law of the land that needs to be enforced by our new law-and-order Attorney General:
United States Code, Title 18, Chapter 11, Section 201:
"Whoever directly or indirectly, corruptly gives, offers or promises anything of value to any public official with intent to influence any official act; Or, being a public official, directly or indirectly, corruptly demands, seeks, receives, accepts, or agrees to receive or accept anything of value personally or for any other person or entity, in return for being influenced in the performance of any official act, shall be fined under this title or not more than three times the monetary equivalent of the thing of value, whichever is greater, or imprisoned for not more than fifteen years, or both, and may be disqualified from holding any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States."
I urge Mr. McConnell and his friends to dust off this law and use it as they will. I hope that, once dusted off, it will be applied against the way they sell themselves to their campaign donors. I insist that Mr. Ashcroft enforce this law all over town.
I hope you will write your local newspapers and make this point. Bribery of public officials is what we are talking about. Let's end this shameful era in our history by ending the special interest funding of political campaigns and by enforcing the bribery laws, state and national.
DORIS "GRANNY D" HADDOCK
The Banana Republican Party sold you a bill of goods. They claimed Clown Prince George was a "centrist." His first few fraudulent weeks in office have proven that he is in fact a right-wing reactionary. Like Sen. John McCain said during the Virginia primary: "George W. Bush is a 'Pat Robertson Republican'."
The Thief-in-Chief, realizing that the chances of stealing a second presidential election four years from now are nil, is wasting no time in forcing his fanatical agenda on the majority of Americans who voted against him. First, Cotton Mather Bush picks Ayatollah Ashcroft to be the nation's top cop. Second, he cuts off international family planning funding, and (domestically) orders the FDA to review the legality of RU-486 [the abortion pill], which is merely a prelude to banning it. Who is this interloper to review the legality of anything! How about ordering the Justice Department to review the legality of the election in Florida instead? Not likely. And third, in one of the silliest governmental cop-outs in recent memory, Junior proposes surrendering social services to religious organizations! "A uniter, not a divider?" Indeed. Anyone with their eyes open must admit that His Fraudulency is not merely a liar, he is incompetent. His "faith-based solutions" simply sow the seeds of sectarianism by pitting different religious denominations against one another in competition for taxpayer dollars, not to mention violating the First Amendment. I can scarcely wait to see what Shrub tries next! Does President-Select Bush plan on "uniting" us by removing evolution from biology textbooks nationwide, the way fundamentalist Republican bureaucrats did in Kansas?
The US airline industry is already a functioning cartel -- inflated prices, wretched service, and all the rest of monopoly's fruits.
Yet today we have news of still more mergers among the giants. How come? They employ very good lawyers -- whose job is to tell them what the US Justice Department will allow. Under Clinton, the answer was, "almost anything." Under "Dubya" Bush, it's been amended to read, "anything goes."
So how FEW US airlines will "Dubya" permit? Two. His advisers will tell him that, notwithstanding his personal preference for one-firm monopoly, two is better politically.
CHARLES MUELLER, Editor
Antitrust Law & Economics Review
Vero Beach, Fla.
Country crooner Alan Jackson, he of the honey smooth voice, recorded a song, "Little Man," last year. Every time I hear it played, I wonder: "Is the little man doomed? Will the mega-stores, super-farms and multi-nationals roll over the small businessman like a tidal wave?"
Take a walk down the Main Street of almost any small town. Especially those that have heralded the arrival of a Wal-Mart. Count the number of empty stores, windows looking like sightless eyes, read the closed signs and feel the peeling paint. Have we taken the bait for "convenience and low prices" in return for giving up the benefits of good business, customer service and the comfort of actually knowing the people that trade with us?
Last month I went south, toward Mobile. (That's South to me, folks. I live in Alabama!) Along the way I stopped in a couple of small towns. One had a Wal-mart. The other didn't. The one without had a bustling, thriving Main Street. The other Main Street resembled a ghost town.
I won't go as far as my late friend Paul, a former state trooper, traveler and former business owner. Paul said Wal-mart was a cancer that needed to be cut from the body of America. I just say that we need to look at what our fascination with bigness is doing to our national fabric.
That fabric has long been woven of the many small threads formed by small businesses. Now that fabric is being weakened, the threads unraveled. Holes are appearing, lots of 'em. As a matter of good business, I propose we look at repairing that fabric. Or, is it too late?
The favorite phrase for those trying to con us into a big tax reduction to stimulate an economy which is already working just a little beyond the very limits of our natural resources, especially energy, seems to be that "the money belongs to the people".
To put the accuracy of that statement in proper perspective let's try to use it in a very similar situation: let's assume that you or I go into a Cadillac, a Lexus, Lincoln or a Mercedes automobile dealership, buy the best automobile in the world that money can, pay for it, get a title and then say to the dealer "that money still belongs to me." The dealer, and everyone else, would recognize us as the simple dupe we would really be
Best wishes to you. Keep up the good work.
Loved your cartoon in the 2/15/01 issue, where police are barring protesters against George Bush's inauguration and saying "Free speech is limited to political contributions." This is happening in Oregon and it is not so funny.
Attorney General Hardy Myers and Secretary of State Bill Bradbury are likely to appeal a great ruling by Judge Robert Redding that allows the Freedom Socialist Party (FSP) ballot access and declares a state law unconstitutional that keeps them from running candidates. This just decision opens for way for minor parties and should be applied broadly. However, Myers, who recently ruled that the right of corporations to donate to legislators while they are in office is a free speech right, apparently does not think it is a free speech right to allow the FSP, and other minor parties, their first amendment rights to be heard in the electoral arena.
Please contact Hardy Myers, Oregon Attorney General, Oregon Department of Justice, 1162 Court St., NE, Salem, OR 97310 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask him to let the ruling stand. This country needs more left third parties.
Forest Grove, Ore.
There they go again. In their 2/15/01 column, Gonzales and Rodriguez label anyone concerned with the unlimited immigration they espouse as "... xenophobic (anti-bilingual education and anti-immigrant) movements which challenge the legitimacy of human beings". Read this as racist with a "fear of indigenous brown people".
When will unlimited immigration activists realize that there is a population problem in the US and that immigration is a big part of that problem? When will they recognize that people can be concerned about immigration without being racist? We all know the answer to that one -- never, because labeling those opposed to unlimited immigration as racist demonizes opponents to unlimited immigration and advances the propaganda objectives of unlimited immigration activists like Gonzales and Rodriguez.
Isn't it time that we begin to address the population problem and immigration seriously? When will we in the US cease to confuse a concern with unlimited immigration with "the fear of indigenous brown people"? Must we wait until our environment and society are totally degraded before we take population growth seriously?
HOWARD A. PELLETT
There seems to be some talk about making election day a holiday so that more of the working class will be free to vote. I like the idea but feel that it might be wise to attempt to make this act more forceful. I suggest that when the voter actually does vote, that be or she be given a receipt to present to their employer, who would then grant them holiday pay. No receipt -- no pay.
I would also suggest that any poll worker or supervisor that interferes with this process be given a stiff fine or perhaps loss of voting rights and/or not be allowed to work at the polls in the future.
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