Feb. 27, 1:15 p.m.: More on Nader

Opening the mail bag on Ralph Nader and friends.

By: Hank Kalet
   OK. Perhaps I should have expected this.
   The South Brunswick Post on Thursday ran my Dispatches column as it does every week. (It runs today in the Cranbury Press.)
   This week, I criticized Ralph Nader’s decision to run for president, saying that his presence in the race is far less likely to affect debate than to affect the Democratic candidate. My sense is that the most important thing to do from a progressive standpoint is to get the Texas nightmare out of the White House.

   So, over the course of a few hours I received quite a few e-mails from committed Naderites who accused me of abandoning democracy and my principles, of being reckless and pathetic and the like. Wow.

   Now, I’ll be the first to admit that John Kerry and John Edwards are not the perfect candidates. I personally like Dennis Kucinich and respect what Ralph Nader has always stood for. And I agree, as I say in the column, that there are many flaws in the system that will not be addressed by a Kerry or Edwards presidency.

   But, and this is the key to me this year, the Bush administration is a direct threat to everything I believe in. It has brutally assaulted the Constitution and the environment and has made a mockery of multilateral relations. It has single-handedly created the largest budget deficit in history to cut taxes for the wealthiest of the wealthy and has undermined Medicare. I could probably go on, but it might be easier to offer this previous Dispatches to get a sense of where I’m coming from.
   Suffice to say, I think Mr. Nader is playing a dangerous game.
   But in the interest of fairness, I offer a selection of the e-mails I received:

* * *

   "I think your article about Ralph Nader was reckless.
   "I am voting for Nader because even though I would like to see Bush out of office, it is my right and responsibility to vote for the candidate who I feel most accurately represents my viewpoints.
   "To shoot down Ralph because he chooses to run for president and blow it for Kerry (who is just as bad as Bush minus thereligious freakiness) is ignorant.
   "I would rather have Bush win because I voted for Nader so that next time around the Democratic party will adopt a more liberal Pro-America/Pro-environment agenda in 2008. I can at least say with confidence that I did my patriotic duty.
   "Vote Green.
   "— Paul Tyska "

* * *

   "I just read your piece on Nader, and thought I would let you know that I will not sell out again this election. Instead, I am going to stay with the courage of my convictions this time around.
   "Knowing what I now know about my government and how it really works, versus how it is supposed to work, I can not consciously toss my vote at any party suggesting my right to vote to elect a great leader for my country no longer holds true.
   "I did it in 2000 when and look where it got me. You know what they say, "what comes around, goes around," and payback for my compromising my morals and values to keep the other party out of this office has been war, unemployment, still no health care, lack of credibility around the world, a nation more divided, and a government I can not trust to serve the People and not big business and special interest.
   "Additionally, the Democrats got my vote and then sold out when it came to the war, among a number of other promises made during their campaign.
   "This year, I will be voting for a third party.
   "Just thought you should know.
   "Kind regards.
"— Cisca "

* * *

   "I just wanted to take the time to say how unfortunate I think it is that you as a representative of the media and one who self confesses to have supported Nader in the past, use your "role" as journalist to denounce his run.
   "You overlook a key fault of our system, that it is an endless debate of the lesser of two evils. Instead of throwing stones, why not support alternatives and give ever more voice for change instead of the status quo. We should be encouraging third parties and proportional representation.
   "Nader didn’t make Gore lose the last election, Gore managed that all by himself. And what of the representation the Greens should have won from Nader’s last showing? Were they allowed in TV debates? Nope, "the man" just shifts the goalposts one more time, but why raise that issue again right? We wouldn’t want the common man in on the game right?
   "Instead of given some sad lip service about how you used to be so liberal in the ‘ole days and supported Nader, how about giving voice to what the real issues are? But I suppose that’s beyond your role within the status quo. That certainly in my opinion is outdated and clear.

"— Mike Murphy"
* * *

   "I came across your column on Nader. Have you considered that given that progressives all over America are calling his decision ego-driven that it is courageous of him to run? He knew what would be said of him, how vilified he would be, and yet he went ahead to press his point when—let’s face it, no one is saying what he is saying.
   "If Nader was not running you might not have published these important two paragraphs summarizing them:
   "’His critique of the American political system remains valid — but only to a point. There is too much corporate influence on policy and it is having and will have dangerous long-term consequences on our economy, our air and water, on our rights as workers and citizens. There is a need to rebuild democratic institutions, a need to cleanse the process of the obscene quantities of cash that infect it, a need for alternate voices and political parties.
   "’There remain too many places in the United States where the minority party is nothing more than a shell, where the majority party faces little or no real opposition. I’m thinking in particular of Middlesex County Democrats, who raise nearly 20 times what the county GOP can raise and rarely garner less than 60 percent of the vote for freeholder, or of a town like Monroe in which the local Republican Party sometimes has difficulty even fielding candidates.’
   "I am not sure where you draw the line ("…but only to a point") in terms of the validity of his critique, but if Nader wasn’t running there would be no one raising the issues.
   "Best wishes.

"— Stephen Dear
"Chapel Hill, NC"
* * *

   "Your article attacking Ralph Nader was really pathetic. I could understand if you never liked him, but here you are, a previous supporter of his twice, and now you have turned away. Ego ego ego, that’s all the press is saying. So what. It takes ego for you to write a column, doesn’t it? Nader is absolutely dead spot on. There will be no change in the Democratic Party if Kerry the Corporate Stooge is elected. I’ll vote my conscience and let lame-brain pundits worry about "electability.

"— Paul Loeber"
* * *

   "I think that Mr. Nader’s recent announcement is more heroic and more praiseworthy than his other two efforts. He runs because of a certain ingrained sense of duty to the United States. Also, despite your commentary I think that there is almost no difference between Mr. Kerry and Mr. Bush, and both represent the same corrupt corporate mentality that dominates our country. It is very important that Nader be in the race so that the message of progressives be heard.
   "Without Nader as a candidate I would have no one for whom to vote, and I resent that. I also resent statements by pseudo-progressives like yourself who would seek to curtail one of the most sacred rights that we have in this country, the right to run for public office. It is Mr. Nader’s right to run for office and he should be congratulated for his effort by everyone, including yourself.

"— Tom Pate"
* * *

   As I said in introducing this entry, I do see a great difference between the likely Democratic candidate and the current president.
   What I find striking is that my criticism of Mr. Nader is being taken as a criticism of someone’s right to run for office. I don’t think he should have run. I think it was reckless of him. But it ultimately is up to him. It is up to me, however, to point out how reckless and dangerous it is.
   So anyway, I was going to respond to all of the above, but decided it would take too much time. I did send off this missive to Paul Tyska, who made the odd claim that electing Bush would make the Democrats more progressive next time around:

* * *

   "Sort of like it’s done this time around?
   "As I said in my piece, I do believe in much of what Nader stands for, but I think he is the one being reckless. Unlike the 2000 race, when Gore ran a tepid campaign that failed to incite any populist fervor, Kerry and Edwards are both talking about jobs, the war, etc.
   "Kerry is not exciting, nor would he be my perfect choice, but if you think electing Bush makes good progressive sense, you are nuts. The last four years prove that pretty convincingly.

"— Hank"

   To which Mr. Tyska replied:
   "Voting for someone who is the best candidate to beat Bush rather than voting for the best person for the presidency makes a mockery of democracy. I don’t know, I guess I have this idealist notion that the US is still a democracy.
   "I guess I should know better by now.
   "Thanks for your response.

"— Paul"