Ralph Nader knows better

By Joe Conason

By Salon Staff
Published August 17, 2000 7:05PM (EDT)

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Kudos on a great editorial! I am a realistic leftist, one who sees Gore-Lieberman as not nearly as far to the left as I would like ideally, but who understands that with the relatively conservative American electorate we are stuck with, they represent the best chance of preventing the nightmare of a Bush-Cheney administration.

Many of my friends support Nader, and I have been reduced to sputtering "but ... but ... " when confronted by their many (admittedly valid) objections to Gore's policies. Your article put everything I was thinking down in print so eloquently -- I can't thank you enough!

-- Alan Thomas

The only reason left-leaning third party people say that there is no difference between the Democrats and the Republicans is that they are both backed by big corporations. They overlook the fact that, barring a revolution of our current way of government, any top contender for the presidency will be backed by big corporations. Including Ralph Nader, were he to do well enough ever to be a major contender. As it is, Nader is taking votes that would normally go to Gore in what will be a very close race.

-- Elizabeth Anderson

Joe Conason brings up an excellent point in his recent column on Green candidate Ralph Nader. Caucasian upper middle-class liberals can afford to vote for Nader because, win or lose, they won't be affected in the long run. However middle- and lower-class African-Americans will be the first ones hurt by a Republican administration. Despite a show-face appearance at the NAACP convention, Nader has failed to connect or court this constituency as much as his rich white liberal friends who finance his campaigns. Nor have many in the African-American community -- with the exception of Harvard professor Cornel West -- spoken of Nader as an alternative. Perhaps he's afraid of mentioning to African-American groups his true feelings about the impeachment of President Clinton without being taken to task for deriding a politician who was once called "the first black president" by several prominent African-Americans.

Although I do not support either Gore or Bush I believe this point should be made. The Susan Sarandons and Tim Robbinses of this world are no better than the Bo Dereks and Bruce Willises who support Republicans. They don't have to worry where their next meal is coming from.

-- R.L. Gadsden

The fact that both Conason and the Democrats have to work hard to explain the difference between Bush and Gore betrays the real answer: There is only a marginal difference. Neither party will implement universal healthcare. Both parties are dedicated to corporate interests over labor. (If you think that all the money that the Democrats get from corporations is not paid back in kind, I have a bridge to sell you.) Neither party will address the open bribery system we call election funding. Will voting for Gore change the political system so we don't have to keep splitting hairs? Maybe Nader getting five percent of the vote this election and in the next election cycle including a Green Party with federal matching funds will.

-- G.J. Unick

While I agree that there are vast differences in the positions of our two political parties on the environment, the workplace, women's rights and other important issues, Nader is correct in pointing out that both parties hold the view that capitalism is the only realistic economic system, and the market should define the economy's direction. All other industrial democracies have strong labor parties with a strong counter view to capitalism, and parliamentary governments to assure fair representation. We do in reality live in a one-party state.

-- Scott Ahlf

Joe Conason spends an entire article making the argument that the Democrats care more about liberal social and economic issues than the Republicans do. That is correct. What he neglects to say is that the Green Party positions are much more in line with the liberal tradition of the Democratic Party.

By sacrificing their liberal wing on the altar of moderation (a CBS News/New York Times poll says that only 36 percent of Democratic convention delegates identify themselves as liberal), the Democrats have no one to blame but themselves that many liberals, myself included, have decided to take our votes elsewhere.

Ralph Nader, as president, would be a man who would always think of the welfare of the people before he made a decision. I don't believe that the same could be said of either of the soft-money-fueled major-party candidates.

Conason says that there hasn't been a significant third party in over a century. He may turn out to be right. If the Democrats continue to move to the center, soon there may be only Republicans and Greens.

-- Geoff Clarke

Salon Staff

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