Nader: Unsafe in any state

By Todd Gitlin

Published November 1, 2000 8:42AM (EST)

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Todd Gitlin makes one of the better arguments for voting for Gore that I have read but, for me, nothing anyone says can change my mind. It all comes down to trust. Ralph Nader is not perfect but he is an American hero. He is the only one speaking the whole truth. I can no longer expect the Democratic Party to do that. If Ralph Nader believes that what he is doing will benefit the country, then so do I. I TRUST HIM.

-- Carol McCurry

Todd Gitlin makes his own best counterargument when he says that many of the things lost to Reagan have never been regained. Why is this? Because the Democrats, for whom I have always voted, have done nothing. Did they pass any campaign reform legislation while they had the chance? Did they lift a finger to slow the astonishing rise of corporate power? How about something as simple as enforcing EPA automobile mileage increases? We've had eight years to try to regain something, anything. Instead, our "choices" are men who helped vote both Scalia and Thomas onto the Supreme Court. They have also brought us NAFTA, "free" world trade and the V-chip. With pragmatists like these at the helm, who needs Republicans?

I don't want Bush as president, but the fact that he is even in contention screams out that we need to start something new, regardless of the pain that may be involved. The people joining the Green movement are not necessarily looking for a "left-wing alternative," but ANY alternative to corporate power. Does one have to be left wing to object to the obscene amount of power multinationals possess? To want fair elections? To advocate the building of schools instead of prisons? I don't think so.

As Gandhi said, "First they ignore you/Then they laugh at you/Then they fight you/Then you win."

I think we're doing pretty well. We're already to the third stage.

-- Larry Strub

I live in a swing state (Michigan) and I intend to vote for Nader. I would love to read the headline, "Bush Wins, Nader Blamed." That would make my day.

If Gore really wanted my vote, then he'd answer concerns about corporate welfare and corruption, as well as the other unheard issues that Nader wants to solve. Instead, Gore has done his best to dodge those issues, ignore Nader and focus on stealing approval from potential Republicans. Gore has demonstrated that he will continue to represent the very worst that I hate about elections: scumming votes from the most impressionable voters through TV ads funded by massive soft money contributions.

Todd Gitlin's assertion that I would vote for Gore in the absence of Nader is a mistake. Gore never earned my vote. If I was forced into such a lose-lose decision, then I would repeat my '96 performance: not vote. I have always been turned off by TV politics. Nader is the first candidate who ever inspired me to vote in a presidential election. I believe that most of Nader's constituency is comprised of similarly disillusioned citizens who demand serious solutions to tough problems. Hence, the name of Nader's campaign: "The Non-Voter Tour."

If Gore is elected in 2000, then you can expect more of the same in 2004: more single-party politics and more Democrat efforts to mold their platform into an ambiguous Republican-friendly gel.

-- David M. Moore

Perversely, it is thanks to Todd Gitlin's thesis in "The Twilight of Common Dreams" that I chuckled and took no offense when Ralph Nader professed a lack of interest in gonadal politics. As a gay man, I ask only for equality and respect -- a low bar over which Nader sails effortlessly but on which Gore's Senate voting record stumbles and fails. Beyond that I wanted to join Gitlin as a citizen in his quest for common dreams. So the fact that Gitlin now teams with Eric Alterman in berating Nader because my affinity group didn't register as a cluster of pink T-shirts at his rallies is nothing short of astonishing.

-- Eric Smith

As a liberal Pennsylvania Democrat from a long line of liberal Democrats, I face the next week with great apprehension. Over the last few weeks I have been chastised for saying that I was leaning toward voting for Nader. And with each criticism, my resolve has grown. Al Gore has not courted my vote; he has repeatedly taken stands that are directly contradictory to my values and political hopes. Why should I continue to support a party machine that has chosen to abandon its core? I am extremely fearful of a Bush administration, but similarly mistrustful of the ever-more conservative Democratic Party of Al Gore and the DLC. If Gore and the Democrats so covet my vote, they would be wise to change their positions on the death penalty, free trade and defense spending, rather than expect me to abandon my values as they have.

-- Elizabeth Zogby

Todd Gitlin makes some good points, but fails to address some pretty standard rebuttals. One is that only a strong third party candidacy will push Gore to the left. Another is that, while there may be a difference between Gore and Bush, this difference will not make a difference. What Gore now says he wants has virtually no implications for what will actually make it through the legislative process should he win.

-- Michael Neumann

Gitlin correctly notes that Nader's success could -- in the short term, and perhaps indefinitely -- set back gains in environmental policy and other issues of concern to people on the left. But if Gore is defeated, the fault lies in New Democratic, not Green political strategy.

-- Dean Robinson
assistant professor, University of Massachussetts
department of political science

I learned the hard way back in 1996 that voting outside the two-party system simply to enjoy the luxury of "sending a message" can backfire big time.

I was (rightfully) disgusted with both major parties over fundraising corruption -- and despite what has been reported, the Republicans were just as corrupt, if not more so, than the Democrats that year -- and figured Clinton had such a large lead here in Florida that it wouldn't hurt if I indulged my outrage. I voted for crazy Perot. Not because he was my choice, but to register my disgust with the major parties.

Guess what? My vote was one of those that resulted, four years later, in Pat Buchanan getting $12 million from the public till to boost his hateful agenda.

I am mortified. And will remain so the rest of my life.

"Sending a message" in the voting booth is a luxury this nation can ill afford.

There's a real lesson here for you Nader supporters.

-- Rod Proctor

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Todd Gitlin!

Your clear-eyed assessment of the political landscape should be required reading for anyone who is disappointed in Gore and wants to resurrect the '60s. If Bush wins because left-wing purists can't stomach Gore, then they are responsible for the rise of the right wing under Bush.

I'm so tired of left-wing purists who can't take a long view or a realistic view of America. Most of them are safe in liberal districts. I'm not. I work with right-wingers and know that Nazi skinheads live in my part of Ohio. They are all too happy to vote for Bush and against a Jew. Wake up, liberals! The life you save may be your own. Vote for compromise. Vote for Gore!

-- Michael Allen

I find Todd Gitlin's arguments in favor of Al Gore's candidacy convincing. Lots of liberals/progressives are frustrated and would prefer another choice. Nader, although I voted for him in 1996, isn't the answer this time. Gore has made some embarrassing compromises along the road to power, as all politicians must do, unfortunately. But I don't doubt he is the best choice for common sense and common decency in this election. Nader is a great man but shouldn't be allowed to play the spoiler's role in this election. Gitlin is correct in referring to Bush as a "country club airhead." I urge those considering voting for Nader to think again as responsible mature persons. Al Gore deserves our support.

-- Michael McDonald

As a lifelong progressive voter who takes the act of voting seriously, I was, up until a week ago, incredibly conflicted about who I was casting my vote for, Nader or Gore. Not because of any ambiguity between the two on the issues -- Nader is clearly more deserving of the presidency than anyone else running in any other party, as far as I'm concerned. Problem is, as Gitlin and others in Salon and elsewhere have pointed out, Bush and his Cold War handlers threaten to take this country politically, economically and socially back to the Stone Age. I know who I must vote for (although I'll be holding my nose the entire time, if not the next for years): Gore.

I'm an African-American man who cares deeply not only for other African-Americans but for all people of color, the poor and the working class. The Clinton/Gore administration has, for the most part, addressed the issues of these groups with short-term superficial benefits while hypocritically implementing other policies that will result in long-term, potentially irreversible damage. The thought of voting for Gore makes me want to retch. The thought of Bush winning, however, terrifies me to the bone. I ask -- fuck it, implore -- all Nader supporters and fence-sitters who truly care about progressive causes to vote pragmatically this election. Vote Gore, then continue to fight for real change in the myriad of ways that Nader and other great Americans like him have led the way on.

-- Roland Poindexter

Maybe Ralph Nader doesn't understand the nature of the American political system: that we don't live in a Western European-style parliamentary democracy; that small third parties only serve the role as spoiler in our system; that if the Republicans gain control of the executive branch of our government, they will fundamentally affect the American national policy regarding a woman's right to choose, the environment and taxation.

But I think not. Nader is a smart guy, and that makes his decision to lie about the issues in this campaign all the more repulsive. He knows that there are choices in this election. But his decision to feed his ego, and pretend that if voters don't believe 100 percent in his views that they are irrelevant, makes him the biggest hypocrite in the race and erases whatever good he has done over the last four decades. What a sad end to a person who has done so much for progressive politics, to end his career as the left-wing Jerry Falwell.

-- Dan Tyack

By Letters to the Editor

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