The world according to St. Ralph

By Charles Taylor

By Letters to the Editor

Published November 17, 2000 8:40AM (EST)

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Charles Taylor's article was wonderfully revealing -- of Taylor's own shortsightedness. He refers to "St. Ralph" and "Naderites" to belittle those of us who voted for Ralph Nader, but he doesn't notice that, even in jest, the notion of "St. Al" and "Gorites" is ludicrous because there's so little to admire in Al Gore.

Is Al Gore a better man than George W. Bush? Certainly. But Taylor is content to live in a world in which the choices are Coke or Pepsi. If you love Pepsi, you see a clear and enormous difference between the two. But if, like me, you'd prefer a dark beer or a lemonade, you have to vote for a third choice. Otherwise, you'll be drinking cola for the rest of your life.

-- Will Shetterly

I am one of the idealistic, college-age Nader voters you think so little of. I am also a member of the majority (yes, majority) of Naderites who would not have voted for Al Gore if Ralph's name hadn't appeared on the ballot. I am not blind to the reality of American politics (and it's exceedingly condescending for you to assert that any of us are), but when I examined my values and attempted to decide how many of my principles I was willing to subvert in the process of casting this, my first-ever presidential ballot, I found that voting for Gore fell well outside the level I was comfortable with.

Where do you sycophantic, pandering, Democratic lackeys get off, making assumptions about what values I hold dear? As a young woman, I am offended by the fact that throughout this campaign I have been a target of Gloria Steinem-orchestrated, Democratic abortion-rights propaganda. Abortion rights are hardly the only issue on my mind. For those of us for whom regulating free trade and corporate influence were priorities, there was little alternative choice on this year's ballot.

So, please, quit telling me whom I "should" have voted for. I voted for Ralph Nader, and you're damn right I'm not sorry.

-- Lila Byock

I'm responding to Charles Taylor's excellent article on the demise of democracy due to the intervention of Nader's third-party bid. There is much of what Taylor writes with which I concur, but there is one crucial point where I take umbrage: I am a minority (Hispanic and gay) who earns (if I'm lucky, as a freelance writer, and from the ever-so-friendly and available temp jobs that dot South Florida) $18K-$24K in a good year. I ride the bus, I don't own a car. I encounter people poorer than me daily and I try to do the Good Samaritan thing by volunteering and helping out.

So I'm not a member of the white male upper-middle class who looks with a patronizing eye toward others as if I "know better." I voted for Nader because I did want to make my vote count (and as aforementioned, I live in Florida!), and I couldn't be happier with my decision -- because history is being made. It might not be the historical outcome that Taylor, his readership or even I will be comfortable with, but Nader and those of us who voted for him have proved to be valuable gadflies for true social change. Let the petulant Democrats be the ones to put down "Catcher in the Rye" and maybe pick up "Grapes of Wrath," but let them truly wake up.

-- Roberto Jose Burnett

Thanks to Charles Taylor for reminding me why I stopped calling myself a liberal. In his diatribe of a column he displayed the same reactionary liberalism displayed by so many actors every night on "Politically Incorrect": We're right, anyone who disagrees with us is not just wrong but evil and anyone who agrees with us but differently is evil and gullible.

He completely mischaracterized Ellen Willis' thought-provoking article, which suggested that by not having to constantly fight for abortion rights, women have allowed that right to be nibbled away into nothingness, as being a call in favor of back-alley abortions. (Way to trot out the coat hanger visual -- I'm surprised he didn't illustrate the article with Nader sporting horns and a pitchfork.)

And it's not enough to disagree with Nader -- he has to portray him as the enemy, half-jokingly suggesting he's about to work for General Motors. (I'd be happy to compare what Nader has done for this country with what Gore has accomplished.) OK, one more time and simply: Gore could have had my vote anytime he wanted it -- all he had to do was earn it like Nader did.

-- Mark Fradl

Ralph Nader's recent bid for president was, at best, incredibly flawed, and his smirking reaction to the Florida hand count leaves much to be desired. That said, not all of Gore's campaign problems can be pinned on Nader and the Green Party. Gore should have been able to steamroll Bush, since he is among the most active vice presidents to date, working under a popular incumbent president, and his opponent was not the sharpest tool in the shed. No matter how much more superior to Bush Gore is, he had the ability to run a more effective campaign and was also in a position to address many of the issues that Nader brought up in his stump. Since Nader is not Gore's campaign manager or speechwriter, one cannot lay these problems on the doorstep of Nader or his Raiders.

-- Chelsea Spear

Ralph Nader has let success and the lure of power and influence go to his head. He has obviously forgotten the ideals and issues that were responsible for his initial popularity. I think it is worth reminding Ralph Nader that he too is a presidential candidate who did not carry his home state. By his own twisted logic, Ralph Nader must be considered an inferior candidate for president and unfit to rule. But then again, 3 percent of the popular vote already told us that.

It is not lost on me that Nader was once featured in the Brilliant Careers column on Salon. It saddens me to think that six months of selling your soul and chasing a foolhardy dream can destroy the respect won by 30 years of worthwhile work for the protection of everyday consumers.

-- Barry Cameron

I completely agree with Charles Taylor's response to the sanctimonious delusion of Nader supporters in this election. I have had enough of the so-called liberals patting themselves on the back for their refusal to abandon progressive ideals. What they don't seem to realize is that if they don't work in the service of those ideals -- in public policy, or for a nonprofit group, or by volunteering on weekends at the very least, then they have already abandoned them. How "sick and tired" are they of poverty, inequality, corporate power and being forced to choose the lesser of two evils? Tired enough to work for change -- as Nader has for decades -- or only tired enough to walk to the nearest school once every four years and check off one ballot box instead of a different one?

-- Rachel Federman

Perhaps the supreme irony of Nader's showing in the election is that he was only able to "make a difference," that is, affect the outcome of the election, through the persistence of the most profoundly antidemocratic institution in American politics: the Electoral College. So his lasting legacy might not just be that of a "populist" who managed, through sheer hubris and mad-dog determination, to elect a conservative Republican, but as a man who could only accomplish his goals through an antiquated, antipopulist institution. If American politics were freed of the Electoral College, Gore would be president, Bush would be the narrow loser and Nader's pathetic showing would be an afterthought to historians and the public alike.

-- David Johnson

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