The Nader Dilemma : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread

The following essay is long but well worth the read. I think it's a perspective changer.

Have you been hearing statements like these lately?

Nader can't possibly win; you're throwing your vote away if you vote for him.

Any vote for Nader is a vote stolen from Gore. Gore can't win if people vote for Nader.

If we don't get Gore in, Bush will win.

Therefore, if you vote for Nader, Bush will win; a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush.

If Bush gets in, he'll stack the Supreme Court with right-wing Christian conservatives and overturn Roe vs Wade.

Therefore, if you vote for Nader, abortion will become illegal, and it will be your fault.

Therefore every feminist has to vote for Gore. To vote for Nader is antifeminist. It's irresponsible.

Many progressives in America today are facing a crisis of conscience over their vote this November. A lot of people are disgusted with and disaffected from the Democratic Party; and some registered Republicans are also disgusted with their own party. The reasons are largely the same: the moral and intellectual poverty to which our two-party system has been reduced, the blatant corruption practised by the politicians of both parties. For the progressive or liberal voter, the Democratic Party's rightward slithering over the last eight years, and the corporate ass-kissing lavishly indulged in during the Clinton presidency, have left depression and anger in their wake. Many people who voted for Clinton describe themselves as having been "betrayed," and they are looking for some kind of viable alternative, a way to cast their vote without completely violating their personal principles.

However, it's very difficult for a lot of us to figure out how to vote for our principles in this election. On one level, it seems perfectly simple. There's only one candidate out there for a progressive voter.

There is only one candidate who has anything concrete to say about any of the issues dearest to a progressive person's heart. Only Nader has any substantial platform at all when it comes to labour relations, the supralegal power of transnational corporations, the flight of capital from the US industrial sector; only Nader even admits that these things are major issues for large numbers of people. Only Nader has anything solid to say about environmental degradation; only Nader has any real stance on corporate domination of media, suppression of information, theft of the public airwaves, and many other very hot topics that are on our minds these days. We live in times when corporate power, not Federal or State power, is the most invasive and frightening new force in most people's lives; only Nader is even willing to admit that corporate power is anything but wondrous and benign.

And frankly, only Nader has any credibility or integrity. Like him or not, he's been consistently working for what he thinks is right for the last 30 years. He's never been bought off, bribed, suborned, co-opted, or watered down. He's never been caught with his pants down and a startlingly youthful campaign aide in his lap. And he's never been found with his pockets full of major stock holdings in companies he just said something nice about in public. For a fellow whose word carries a certain amount of weight, who has some degree of celebrity, a little media exposure, he behaves rather decently. Like an honest citizen, in fact, trying doggedly to work in the public interest.

What a concept eh? A public figure, engaged in political life, who actually behaves rather decently. After our last sorry 20 years of sex scandals, sell-outs, violations of the Constitution, shabby little wars serving shabby political agendas, and open bribery in high places, it seems almost too good to be true. Is this guy for real?

And it doesn't stop there: his running mate Winona LaDuke is (a) a woman, (b) a woman honoured by both Ms and Time for her leadership and vision, and (c) a Native American woman who makes strong and unambiguous public statements about indigenous land rights, the exploitation of women, environmental injustice, and the need to re-enfranchise the poor and marginalized people of this country in general. She's a co-founder of the Indigenous Women's Network, and she helped to lead a successful campaign that prevented the massively destructive James Bay large-hydro development in Canada. If Ivy League name-dropping impresses you, she just happens to be a Harvard-educated economist as well. The only woman we're used to seeing on the podium with a presidential candidate is a Candidate's Wife; Winona is a refreshing change.

Her speech at the Beijing International Women's Conference is a worthwhile read. To quote her very briefly on the subject of indigenous women, "We, collectively, find that we are often in the role of the prey to a predator society, whether for sexual discrimination, exploitation, sterilization, absence of control over our bodies, or being the subjects of repressive laws and legislation in which we have no voice." Gee, she sounds rather like a feminist to me.

Of course, at that same Beijing Conference, another politically visible woman from the US was speaking; Democrat Hillary Clinton stood up and said, "It is a violation of human rights when women and girls are sold into the slavery of prostitution." In Iceland, on her speaking tour, she called for an end to the international trade in women's bodies. She has publicly condemned many abuses of women and girls. Hillary, in fact, has often sounded like a fairly reliable feminist when in front of a microphone. Pity she's not running as Gore's VP, right? Well, maybe.

When I consider how very little she has had to say about her husband's sexual misconduct, I get an uneasy feeling about her much-touted feminism. Let's suppose you can overlook or discount a charge of rape from 20 years ago; many feminists can't, but let's suppose for the moment that you can. It's harder to overlook the contemporary incidents, Clinton's sexual harassment of campaign and White House staff. Raving Republicans rightly pointed out that mainstream US feminists were in a strangely forgiving mood when Clinton committed offences even more blatant than Clarence Thomas's; and contributing to the chorus of No Comments and feeble defensiveness was Hillary herself. On the podium she can declaim a pretty good line about women's rights; but on the home front she hasn't the guts to divorce the guy for his repeated infidelities, or even to make a public statement critical of his lousy attitude to women. It's Stand By Your Man time, apparently, when we get too close to home. To paraphrase the immortal Hitch-Hiker's Guide, this is clearly some new meaning of the word 'feminist' with which I was previously unfamiliar.

So what's the point of this depressing digression? Hillary-bashing is pretty boring; I actually don't have it in for Hillary in particular, she's no worse than the average career politician and a bit better than some; and so I'll leave off being mean to her in just a moment. My point is that, just as with Gore's soi-disant environmentalism, Ms Clinton's feminism seems to be coming in a distant second to the advancement of her political career. In sharp contrast, Winona LaDuke's activism is her career. Just like Nader's activism is his career.

This is a significant difference, an important difference, for people who are feeling tired of the Democrats -- tired of betrayal, tired of hearing high and inspiring rhetoric that turns out to be flak-written ad copy as sincere as a Hallmark card, talk that is never walked and was never meant to be. People who actually have principles and act on them -- people like Winona and Ralph -- are an attractive novelty these days. A breath of fresh air, in fact.

So it should be simple, right? Just vote for the guy who does walk his talk, the guy who has some brains, some ethics, some sincerity, genuine compassion for working people, genuine loyalty to fundamental ideals like justice and democracy, and a real live Outspoken Female Activist running mate who also walks her talk. Should be an easy call for the average feminist, no? But of course, in a rigged two-party system with a lot of big money on the table, it's never that simple. Nader's a third-party candidate, and we all know about third parties and the US electoral system.

It's easy to sum up the "reasons why Nader can't win." I've been hearing them recited lately in every tone of voice from dreary despondency to spittle-flecked ranting. The Greens don't have any money; he's got no media coverage; he entered the race too late; no third-party candidate has ever won a US election; he's not an insider and he hasn't been preparing for the last 20 years; he has no experience in elected office; he's too self-righteous; he's too smart, the American people won't like him; the public is stupid, they think everything is fine; everything is fine, there's no place for reformers in a fat and happy economy. And so on. I'm sure you've heard it all.

And to be honest, no matter how keen you are on the Greens, it's hard to believe confidently that they are going to rush up from behind and have a runaway victory at the eleventh hour. It would be great, it would be a priceless moment in history for us all to witness, but if you asked me to bet my life savings on it, I wouldn't. I'm not saying it is flat-out impossible; just that the odds are not real good.

This is why there's a crisis of conscience. If Nader seemed likely to win, there would be no question; every progressive in the country, and some maverick conservatives, would have their ballots all pre-marked right now. But if you think the Right Candidate can't win, or that the odds are bad anyway, then you're asking yourself, "Am I right to cast my vote for the Right Candidate? Or should I be using my vote for the Wrong Candidate, just to shore up the wall against the Worst Candidate?" And that, beyond a shadow of a doubt, has to be the Shrub, Dubya, the Lord High Executioner of the Lone Star State. (Now, I don't really have to tell you everything that's wrong with Dubya, right? If you haven't figured it out, go read Molly Ivins' book.)

When Democrats sit down to tell you why you really should vote for Gore instead of Bush, there's an awkward pause. What can you say about Gore, really? I mean, what's to like?

Gore's lost any credibility he had as an "environmentalist." As many have quipped, it's as if he never read that book of his, let alone wrote it. He sat there in DC with his fearless leader Mr Clinton and said "Nuffin" while our national forests were (are!) being sold off at bargain basement prices to clearcutters; while our environmental protection laws were bent and broken for the convenience of corporate profit-hounds; while Detroit thumbed its nose at air quality standards and fuel conservation; Mr "Environmentalist" Gore reliably had Nuffin to say every time. The US continued to pout and drag its feet in world environmental councils and negotiations over greenhouse gases and global warming; Mr Gore said and did Nuffin to change our national stance. SUVs take over our roads, 30 thousand Americans die every year from air pollution; Mr Gore says and does Nuffin.

Now, here you have a guy who goes to all the trouble, prior to an election, to write a book (or have one written for him) telling us all how concerned he is about our planetary environmental crisis. Then after he gets elected -- when he's actually in a position of high office, with the ear of the media and the spotlight on his desk -- he says Nuffin so loudly that you can hear the trees falling in the distant forests. You gotta wonder about that guy's campaign promises this time around. You're gonna trust this known poseur and liar?

This pretty much leaves his defenders and his party with Nuffin to say also; but they have one trump card. Bush is so awful. Bush is so scary. Bush is even more corrupt, even more cosy with corporate power, than Gore. Gore's pro-death penalty? Yeah, but Bush actually seems to get a kick out of signing the warrants. Gore's a born-again who thinks gays are "abnormal"? Yeah, but Bush's right-wing Christian buddies make Gore look like a Unitarian Universalist. Gore's a rich boy from a rich family with investments in companies who are messily involved in our international policy? Yeah, but wait till you see what the Bush clan and their interests add up to. Gore's a bit of a liar, a touch of the sleazebag? You ain't seen nothin' folks, Bush is the Godfather himself, with a colourful fantasy life as Attila the Hun. There's just one wonderful, irresistible, charming, delightful, untarnished thing about Gore: he isn't Bush.

We may remain kind of unconvinced. These are differences of degree we're talking about here, not differences of kind. Is he really all that different? Is one rich dishonest guy much different from any other rich dishonest guy? Would a Bush regime be able to accelerate and encourage corporate mergers and the consolidation of power and wealth any faster than the Clinton regime has? Would a Bush invasion of Iraq have killed even more civilians? Would a Bush embargo of Iraq be killing even more people than Clinton's still is? Could a Bush regime possibly waste even more money than Clinton is wasting on the pathetic sequels to Star Wars?

Would a Bush refusal to discuss electoral reform be any more final than Clinton's was? If a Bush administration sites a toxic waste dump in your town, is it any more toxic than if Gore put it there -- as Clinton did in Ohio, after promising voters there that he would not -- ? Are 45 million Americans without health care any more without health care if Bush is president, than they already are under Clinton? And are the homeless people any more homeless under Bush than they are now under Clinton, or than they would be under Gore? How can they have less than they've got, when they've got Nuffin?

Will Bush's presumable outright refusal to allow us access to RU-486 be substantially different from Clinton's or Gore's 8-year foot-dragging and temporizing in making it available to US women? Either way, we still don't have access to it. A difference that makes no difference, as the old saying goes, is no difference.

But no, there's a difference, there's this one difference, insist the Gore defenders. There's just this one difference you can't brush off. Say what you will about them, the Democrats still defend a woman's right to choose.

Specifically, Gore's advocates say that Bush, if elected, will promptly pack the Supreme Court with Bible-thumping Neanderthals who will do their damnedest to speed up the erosion of women's right to safe and legal abortions (an erosion which hasn't slowed down noticeably during Clinton's Democratic presidency, we have to note in passing). At least Clinton devoted some FBI resources to protecting clinics from mad right-wing assassins. Reagan just grinned vacantly and looked the other way, and Bush will do the same. Worse, Bush owes favours to some very rich people with some very weird ideas about women's rightful place in the world. "Afghanistan isn't that far away," as one very sincere gentleman wrote to me recently. Keep an eye on those Promise Keepers, folks, and dust off your copy of The Handmaid's Tale.

So here's the rub. Obviously the Democrats, running scared with a candidate who's barely saleable (except to corporate backers, of course), need to capture some electorate. Time to woo the women's vote (gee, have we seen this happen before?) or rather, to threaten it, to browbeat it, to bully women into voting for Gore by painting an apocalyptic picture of what will happen if we don't.

If Bush wins, say the Democratic honchos and honchas, Roe will be overturned. Abortion will once again be illegal in the US. (And if you take the "Afghanistan" fellow literally, this will shortly be followed by a loss of the franchise, imposition of the veil, deprivation of medical care, stonings in the streets, and purdah.) And it will be all your fault if you didn't vote for Gore. You will be personally responsible for every woman who dies from some lousy self-induced or back-alley abortion, because you irresponsibly and stupidly threw your vote away when you could have helped us to fight the Antichrist!

On the other hand: if the Green party doesn't get at least five percent of the national vote, they will lose their chance to get at least $12 million in matching funds from the Federal government to use in 2004. Without some more capital to buy some more media coverage and to fuel some more outreach, the Greens are going to have a hard time keeping it together. The two-party system that's stifling US political life, keeping this country in a state of social stagnation and under the thumb of an almost-hereditary ruling class, is really tough to crack. The Greens need those votes, to get that money, to strengthen their party, to give us some kind of freedom of choice in future elections. Or we could be stuck with these same two rich-people's-parties for another how many years?

If we cast our votes for Gore then we do, in a sense, tacitly endorse the rule of the super-rich, the blatant corruption, the warmongering, the lying-cheating-and-stealing that has distinguished our most recent Democratic presidency only slightly less than that of its Republican predecessor. Not appealing. Revolting, in fact. But if we cast a vote for Nader, we feel a sense of risk; will Bush win because of my vote?

I'm no Pollyanna myself. If Bush is elected, he may indeed pack the Supreme Court at the behest of his buddies and his bankrollers. They may indeed overturn Roe. If that happens, there will indeed be lives lost. There will be suffering. A certain number of American women will go to jail for providing or attempting abortions, a certain number will die from incompetent abortions. Wealthy women, of course, will continue to have access to safe abortions.

But under a Gore administration that continues along the lines dictated by Wall Street, the lines to which the Clinton administration has obediently hewn, millions of women will have no medical coverage to pay for an abortion; millions of women do not live near any of the few remaining hospitals that offer abortion services in the US. Wealthy and upper-middle-class women will continue to have access to safe abortions. Poor women and working class women will have unwanted children, or will risk their lives with amateur abortions or quack abortionists.

Looks like we have a choice between only wealthy women having access to safe abortions . . . or both wealthy and well-off women having access to safe abortions. Real meaningful choice, eh? Talk about the lesser of two evils!

Here is my own moral dilemma. The freeing of women from brood-mare slavery hinges on women's ability to prevent pregnancy, and when necessary, to terminate unwanted pregnancy. I'm not denying for one second that this is a fundamental feminist issue. But surely it's not a fundamental feminist solution to ensure this freedom only for women above a certain income level, preserving "rights" which in practise only the wealthy and the well-off can exercise.

What does it mean to define this constrained choice -- between access to safe abortions for a slightly narrower, or a slightly broader, set of fairly privileged American womanhood -- as the only choice that matters? Does it take priority over all other considerations of social justice for all American women? and what about all those people in other countries in the world as well, whose lives are affected, often ruined, by American commercial empire, aka our foreign policy? As feminists, can we persuade ourselves to vote for the continuation of our government-by-wealth which yearly condemns hundreds of thousands of people to death, millions to privation and disease? When we recall that women are foremost among those millions?

When we are told that Gore is the only candidate for the feminist voter to consider, are we really being told that Gore is the only candidate for the wealthy or upper-middle-class feminist voter? I have to wonder. And I have to admire the political savvy of the boys who have managed to back us into this corner.

Working-class feminists, poverty activists, or feminists who feel a loyalty to all women regardless of class, are being put in an invidious situation here; asked to ignore all other considerations, betray our loyalty to the working class and the poor, postpone all our concerns about peace, justice, and planetary survival, and vote the corporate ticket in order to preserve access to abortion for what looks more and more like a privileged few among us in either case. A larger privileged few with access to legal abortions, or a very tiny privileged few with access to top-dollar illegal ones; is this a difference that makes no difference? Or is the upholding of Roe essential, no matter how restricted the numbers of women actually able to exercise the legal right it protects?

What's Roe worth to ya? That's what the Dems are asking us, with cynical confidence, holding Roe hostage for our complicity in their other crimes against women.

As feminists we are used to, and sick'n'tired of, the call to "postpone" our feminist agenda in the urgency of a larger cause. If the Democratic candidate for office is anti-abortion, or ignores the issue (remember McGovern?) we're supposed to vote for him anyway; after all, it's "selfish" to put specific women's issues ahead of national issues like stopping the war or fighting poverty -- and of course we mustn't let those Republicans win!

In other words, if abortion rights are not what the Dems are selling in any particular election, then both personal and media bullying will be directed against this particular feminist priority, stigmatizing feminists for having too narrow a political vision. But when it's the only card they have left to play, all of a sudden the Dems are more-feminist-than-thou-ing it all over the op/ed pages, telling us that the one and only issue on which we should base our voting decision is the preservation of Roe.

That's today. Today, when the Democrats instruct women in how we should vote, the call is to narrow and specialize our feminist agenda to one issue, to make that our only cause. We are now being wooed as a single-issue special interest group, and the larger polity be damned.

But we have known for decades that feminism is by its nature not a "special interest" politics, but a consistent and inclusive political and ethical stance. Women come in all colours, so racism is a feminist issue. Women bear the greatest burden, suffer the most, in poverty and deprivation; so poverty is a feminist issue. Women are consistently underpaid, sexually harassed on the job, denied promotion, exploited; so labour rights are a feminist issue. Women suffer most in war-stricken countries; peace is a feminist issue. Women's reproductive systems are sensitive to persistent toxins; environmental degradation is a feminist issue. Women make less money than men, and are slipping into poverty faster than men; affordable health care and housing are feminist issues. Women are mothers, or at least all mothers are women; child care, child support, and quality of life for children are feminist issues.

There is hardly any social justice issue that does not bear directly upon women and therefore rightfully engage the attention of feminists. Even the corporate new world order, the malfeasance of the IMF and World Bank, the machinations of the WTO, all bear harder on women around the world; it is the women who are locked into the sweatshops, exploited in the brothels, exported as mail order brides. The prevailing GNP/GDP method of assessing and reporting national wealth and productivity erases women's work and women's worth; even the way governments do their book-keeping is a feminist issue. Feminists have been writing and campaigning and struggling on all these fronts for decades.

And on all these issues, the Democrats have failed and failed and failed again. They have refused to treat women and women's rights as anything but expendable and irrelevant, very low indeed on the priority list as compared to really important stuff like corporate profit and political gamesmanship. We are being asked to vote for people who have betrayed us time and time again. They got some nerve, these guys.

Anyway, what the Democrats are asking of -- or demanding from -- women voters today is to forget every feminist issue except Roe. If you vote for us, for the corporate establishment, they tell us -- if you are good girls -- we will not take Roe away. But you must not disobey your kindly masters by voting for that other guy. (You know, the guy who actually has something substantive and positive to say on all those other feminist issues, the guy who actually takes women seriously enough to share the rostrum with one... and by the way, who supports abortion rights as well.) If you disobey us, the not-so-kindly masters will get into power and then you'll really catch hell.

Well, no matter how angry we may feel about this hectoring from people who have betrayed us time and again, it's not an easy call.

Bush is evil, that's pretty obvious. Gore is almost as evil, that's also pretty obvious. They're both rich boys who don't give a damn about anything but how their investments and their friends' investments are doing -- that's glaringly obvious. Any comparison with these two white-collar criminals makes Nader come away looking like Honest Abe Lincoln -- also pretty obvious. But alas, it doesn't end there.

If you believe the Doomsayers for Gore, then the choice you're faced with as a feminist voter is a classic moral dilemma. It's the moral dilemma of, let's say, the Resistance fighter.

You know the scenario, right? You've read about occupied France or occupied Viet Nam or occupied Anywhere. Or at least you've seen the movies. Your country is occupied by Bad Guys. You want to run away and join the Resistance -- join the underdogs, fight the good fight, get a few licks in at the people who are ruining your life and everyone else's. BUT. If you get caught and they find out who you are, they'll kill your entire family. They'll probably do some pretty nasty things to those you love before killing them; and that's not even counting what they're likely to do to you.

So you're in this moral dilemma; if you do what your conscience says is the right thing to do -- join the resistance, make the gesture, take that potshot at the great and powerful -- then you take the risk that you individually, or the resistance collectively, will lose. If you lose, your actions may bring harm to others that you care about. They may even blame you and hate you for having "caused" this harm. And your conscience also tells you that it's not fair for others to suffer for your actions. No matter what the Hollywood version says, the moral character of Resistance fighters is very much up for debate. Some of their surviving relatives and friends still see them as self-indulgent, egotistical wannabe heroes, making their grand gestures at everyone else's expense. Others simply see them as Heroes.

This is the moral dilemma which the doomsayers have set up for feminist and female voters. If you vote for Nader you are increasing, by your tiny little pico-percentage, the risk of a Bush victory; and if Bush wins and all the threats that are made about his winning come true, then women could be deprived of legal abortions; and that would definitely be harm to people you care about. Yet, the other horn of the dilemma is also a sharp pointy one: if you vote for Gore, you are endorsing a corrupt and increasingly repressive political system which is also harming women here and abroad, and you are diminishing the chance of any successful challenge to that system ever being possible, by weakening the showing of the Green party in this historic election. There's a lot of money for the Green party riding on this vote.

Did you think I was going to tell you how to vote? You gotta be kidding. I wouldn't presume to do that. All I'm trying to work out here, for my sake as much as anyone else's, is the nature of the Nader Dilemma. I'm trying to summarize all the smoke and flames and competing claims, and bring it down to the bare bones of the issues. People are feeling very, very passionate about this, you know. There are progressive-type people who think Nader should just get the hell out of the race -- now this is a real tribute to the political deadlock that the corporate backers have engineered here, when progressives want the only progressive candidate to drop out!. There are also progressive-type people who are trying to get every person they know to vote for Nader. Both are equally sincere. Friendships are being endangered here, heated rhetoric is being exchanged. It's the most exciting election in years, actually.

It all comes back down to the original argument at the head of this article. You have to figure out how convinced you are by each item on the list, and how you assess your particular voting situation. Aside from the cynical Democrat spinmeisters who are just trying to bully you into voting for Their Guy, there are lots of good people out there who are deeply convinced by the "Nader Kills Roe" argument, and they will quite sincerely tell you that voting for Nader is antifeminist.

Obviously, I personally don't believe this. If I did, I wouldn't be writing about a dilemma, because there wouldn't be any dilemma (in my mind anyway). If voting for Nader were patently antifeminist, no one would be agonizing over this decision. But to cast a vote for the only candidate with a social justice platform, the only candidate who addresses such a long list of issues all affecting the quality of women's lives -- this can hardly be called "antifeminist". To vote for Nader means that you've wrestled with the dilemma, and with difficulty decided that you think that supporting the Green Party now, despite a degree of risk, is the best investment you can make in a decent future for women in this country and elsewhere in the world. No one can do more with her (or his) vote than that.

Those who vote for Gore, because they have come to a different conclusion after wrestling with the dilemma, are also trying to do their best. It would be foolish to say (as the Democrats and the pundits surely will) that a Gore victory implies the whole-hearted support of the American people for another four years of presidential malfeasance, corporate domination, and rich folks generally running riot... or that the war on Colombia will be all your fault because you voted for Gore. That kind of blame-throwing is silly.

Most feminists who vote for Gore will do so, figuratively speaking, with a gun held to their heads. The questions for all of us now are, Is the gun loaded or not? and How do I feel about voting with a gun held to my head?

-- Debra (, September 11, 2000


The Greens are a bunch of socialist kooks. But the only vote worth casting is a vote of conscience, so if you like Nader I say vote for him.

One vote, your vote, does not an election make. One vote has never by itself decided a presidency, therefore YOUR vote will not decide a presidency. After taking the time to register, drive to the polls, and go to the booth you should vote for the candidate that you think would best serve YOU, even if that candidate "cannot win". If you do not, if others like you do not, you will face the same lesser of two evils dilemma for eternity. Bad interim policy can be reversed later, but things will not ever change from the Republicratic system we have now unless third party candidate supporters have the courage of conviction in the voting booth.

I plan to vote for Harry Browne, even if doing so means that Al Bore is one vote closer to the White House. If I do not, I will just have to choose from two more Bush-Gore clones again in the future, and again, and again, and again.....

-- Uncle Deedah (, September 12, 2000.

First, Debra, thank you. If you did not write this yourself, it is clear it speaks to you personally and deeply.

As for the argument made here, I would qualify it, but only minorly. Voting for Nader is a big step for a lot of people who have a progressive agenda and a liberal political conscience. My only addition would be to say, if you want to go maverick, be prepared to:

1) go maverick for 6 to 8 years

2) join the Green Party and work to make it a majority party (though maybe in coalition with Democrats at first)

3) endure a fair amount of strong opposition and political cross-currents until things sort out.

The biggest project for progressives today is to reach out to the non-voting bloc and figure out what issues they think are critical to make their lives better. This may mean concentrating on a few Libertarian-type issues that are compatible with progressive/populist ideas. For example, ending the war on drugs and corporate welfare. It may mean narrowing the focus to a few issues that speak deeply to the disaffected majority.

Be prepared for a lot of political dialogue, if a third party revolt/coalition against corporate power develops. I am certain that there is a lot of untapped frustration out there that can be channeled into good policy decisions that aren't part of the Fortune 500 agenda for the USA. The trick will be pressing on into the areas of agreement among the unhappy and letting the dividions arise more strongly in 12 to 16 years from now.

There is opportunity here for those who are willing to submerge the politics of division and let the anti-corporate majority have a few years to make national policy.

Grab it as best you can. It will require a lot of talking about priorities and a lot of fending off of takeover bids.

-- Brian McLaughlin (, September 12, 2000.

I agree with Uncle Deedah. Harry Browne is the only REAL choice we have. I realize he doesn't have a chance in hell of getting elected, but I can't vote for crap and more crap.

-- Aunt Doodah (Aunt, September 12, 2000.

"Until science can demonstrate otherwise, I must assume that life begins at conception. Thus I believe that abortion is wrong-very wrong. But the government that cant win a War on Poverty or a War on Drugs isnt going to win a War on Abortion.

An unfortunate fact of life is that there always will be abortions, just as there always will be people who misuse drugs, no matter what the laws are.

The only practical solution to either problem is a program of education and persuasion-undertaken by people, not government. I applaud the dedication and efforts of those who work so hard to dissuade young women from rushing into abortions, who arrange adoptions, etc.

So long as we wait for government to solve this problem, the abortion clinics will operate at full speed. And, if we have any respect for the Constitution, it surely isnt a matter in which the federal government has any role-either to facilitate or stop abortion, or to prevent state governments from stopping them." ---Harry Brown

Source: Why Government Doesnt Work, by Harry Browne, p.191 Jul 2, 1995

Any third party candidate is going to need the votes of women. Harry Browne would not have this woman's vote.

-- Debra (, September 12, 2000.

I really do not have time right now for a proper response, this capitalist exploiter of the underclass has to go run his bidness.

In the meanwhile, I wonder Debra, do you believe that prostitution should be legal?

-- Uncle Deedah (, September 12, 2000.

Drugs should be legalized and partakers who harm themselves are to be responsible for themselves, not the taxpayer. I do not agree however that the borders of the United States are to be opened up for anyone and everyone to come here to live and work which is what Harry Brown, if elected, would do.

-- tootsie (, September 12, 2000.

I went to Nadars' website. He is a socialist/communist without doubt. Govt everything.

So you don't like Browne eh, Debsie? He wouldn't outlaw abortion. But just talking about reducing abortions riles your feathers. I guess you wouldn't be happy until every woman used abortion as their sole form of birth control. Pity that you are politically one dimensional.

-- Falstaff (, September 12, 2000.


I have to go to work. For now the short answer is that I don't believe anyone has the right to tell another what to do with his or her body and I believe that prostitution can serve a positive purpose. Like abortion and drugs it's been around forever and is not going away. It's time we re-think it.

-- Debra (, September 12, 2000.

Falsie -

... nevermind.

-- Debra (, September 12, 2000.


You like to characterize the Greens as Populist. What does this mean? Pat Buchanon is also characterized by some as a a Populist. Are the Greens Nativist? Are the Greens Isolationist? What is the Green position on NAFTA? (does Green "Populism" favor US Labor over the US consumer?). I always connected the word "populism" with the word "demagogue".

I won't even comment on the word "progressive" except to say that one person's progessivism is another person's rectionarianism. (is that a word?)

-- Lars (, September 12, 2000.

>> Pat Buchanon is also characterized by some as a Populist. <<

He is also characterized by "some" as neo-Nazi. When used by "some" shallow minded political reporters, "populist" indicates little more than "he seems popular with the working class, but he's hard to place as a liberal or conservative".

>> Are the Greens Nativist? Are the Greens Isolationist? What is the Green position on NAFTA? <<

What you seem to be driving at is: does the Green Party align with Pat Buchannon's positions on these issues (since they are both "populist")?

No. Rather than my going out and cutting-and-pasting parts of the Green Party national platform, here is the web address to go look for yourself:

>> I always connected the word "populism" with the word "demagogue". <<

There is no valid reason to associate this word with demagoguery. The original Populist movement was started in rural Texas in the late 19th century. The small farmers were caught in a squeeze between the freight rates charged by the railroads and the interest rates charged by the banks. The country at the time was caught in a steady, long term deflationary cycle.

The founders of the Populist movement analyzed the problems of small farmers as essentially a problem of money supply. They were determined to break deflation by getting the USA to move away from a pure gold standard. The thinking done by these "demagogues" ultimately led to the creation of the Federal Reserve Banking system in 1911.

Unless you are one of the kook fringe who believe the Fed is the devil's spawn, I think you will agree that the ability to control the money supply has led to fewer depressions in the 20th century than in the 19th century.

Since the 19th century Populists don't exist today, and much of their agenda has been embraced by the conservative business community, what do I think "populist" means today? As I use it, it means a political philosophy that emphasizes the ascendancy of the people over money, and recognizes that when money controls people adjustments are needed.

An example of modern populism would be the movement to reclaim power over corporations. Corporations are given their charters by governments. Over the years, court decisions have given them the rights of human beings.

Inevitably, because corporations are not human beings, but both super-human and inhuman, they have acquired a disproportionate power in the lives of we mere mortals. A populist point of view understands this is not natural or necessary. A sovereign people have the right to regulate corporations to fit their needs.

But you can go on believing it is a synonym for demagogue. It's an imprecise word.

Just do me one favor, Lars. Rather than making me constantly defend the Green Party from your unflattering characterizations, wouldn't it be a better idea for you to present a positive view of what you want done to improve our nation?

In terms of politics, attack is a tool that can win elections. But it does squat to improve the civic life of the community.

-- Brian McLaughlin (, September 12, 2000.

Brian, don't be so defensive. IMO the word "populism" is broken. Over the years it has been associated, however incorrectly, with demagogues such as Geo Wallace and Fr Coughlin. You know, the anti-intellectual crowd. It wouldn't surprise me if Perot and Buchanon call themselves Populists. For this reason, I think the Greens use it at their peril.

You didn't respond to my question on NAFTA. (No, I don't intend to look it up in the platform). How would Ralph respond to a NAFTA question in a debate format, I wonder? The Greens purport to be friends of Labor AND of consumers but, in this case, they can't be both. My guess is that, stripped of weasel-words, the Greens oppose NAFTA and other so-called free-trade agreements. So does Buchanon, right?

An anecdote: You said in another thread something to the effect that you didn't see the logic of considering a vote for the Greens (or the Libertarians) to be a wasted vote. Here is what you are up against (I know that you know this). My friend John is a full Prof of Sociology at a U. near here. Not surprisingly he is a valiant man of the Left. I asked him how he would vote. He said if polls showed Bush way ahead in Indiana he would vote for Nader but if it was close he would vote for Gore. He did not want to waste his vote. He is a pragmatist, not an idealist. Catch 22.

Do **I** have a positive view of improving the nation? You mean beyond motherhood and apple-pie? Well, I am a Republican with Libertarian inclinations. But I only vote Libertarian in local elections and not always then. Occasionally I express my opinion on this forum and in personal discussions. I am not a cause-person. I am not a political evangelical. It's a pretty good country.

Read the Mugwump platform.

-- Lars (, September 12, 2000.

Lars, for your edification, this is what the Green platform has to say about NAFTA, GATT and WTO (using the link I provided, this took about a minute to download, find and copy - I hope it formats OK):



1. We reject trade agreements negotiated in secret and unduly influenced by corporate attorneys and representatives. In particular, we oppose the NORTH AMERICAN FREE TRADE AGREEMENT (NAFTA), the GENERAL AGREEMENT ON TARIFFS AND TRADE (GATT), and its progeny, the WORLD TRADE ORGANIZATION (WTO). They threaten the constitutional power of Congress and local sovereignty, and they effectively limit the participation of citizens in decisions. Instead, they create administrative bureaucracies which will be run by corporate interests unaccountable to public input or even legal challenge.

2. We demand that these agreements be updated to include more specific environmental, worker, health and safety standards in the text itself, not as ?side agreements,? and full funding of existing environmental/health commitments (for example, the North American Development Bank and Border Environmental Cooperation Commission).

3. We reject any agreement which threatens the authority of states and local communities to establish more stringent health, safety and environmental standards.

4. We reject agreements that negotiate downward our basic environmental, health, safety and labor standards, including the right to bargain collectively, a reasonable minimum wage, prohibitions against child and forced labor, and which threaten and violate human rights generally. The historic role of the United States has been to raise living standards, not to be dragged down by the lowest common denominator abroad.

5. The Tobin tax, named for the economist who first proposed it, calls for a small sales tax on cross border currency transactions. The purpose is to suppress market volume and volatility and help restore national sovereignty over monetary policy. In view of the growing disparity between the rich and poor in the United States and the world, and in light of the negative impacts of monetary speculation in the "Asian crisis" of Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Russia, as well as similar crises in Brazil, Mexico and many other countries in the late 1990s, the Green Party urges that state and international governments work together to impose an effective form of Tobin tax.

In the last ten years, international moneychanging has grown in volume from $200 billion to $1.8 trillion daily with dangerous consequences for countries caught in a speculative riptide. Even a small tax of .01% to .05% would cool the speculative fever and raise between $75 billion and $250 billion annually. While reining in grievous financial abuses, the Tobin tax receipts could be devoted to reducing world poverty, funding international peacekeeping, and attacking environmental problems.

-- Brian McLaughlin (, September 12, 2000.


Thanks, I thought it would be like that. The Greens will not get the WalMart shopper vote.

-- Lars (, September 12, 2000.


I find it very interesting that socialist are now calling themselves progressives, quite Orwellian isn't it?


Browne is simply adhering to the Constitutional provision that all powers not expressly given to the feds is reserved to the states. The federal government has gone way beyond that, and it needs to be reigned in. Look at the tug of war between the will of the people in state voting, versus the federal government over medical marijuana for an example of federal meddling gone haywire. The people in the states have passed it, but the feds will not let then have their will. It is a fine example of HORSESHIT!

You are more likely to effect law in your favor at the state level than at the federal level, and the Founders of our country understood that.

-- Uncle Deedah (, September 12, 2000.

>> I find it very interesting that socialist are now calling themselves progressives, quite Orwellian isn't it? <<

Unc, there aren't enough "pure" socialists left in the USA to fill a football stadium at a small college. I define a "pure" socialist as someone who believes that all production and distribution should be managed collectively. That was tried. It failed ten times out of ten. Under the circumstances, you move on.

The Progressive movement at the turn of the 20th century was centered around "good government" and "regulating the trusts". Teddy Roosevelt and LaFollette were their heroes. Progressive actually does a hell of a lot better job of describing the left agenda in the USA than "socialist".

You can call National Health Insurance socialism if you like. But, believe me, the Socialist Party has a few thousand members, and NHI has tens of millions of supporters. Unlike socialism, NHI has been tried and it works relatively well in many places. All people really care about is whether it improves their lives.

-- Brian McLaughlin (, September 13, 2000.

>> The Greens will not get the WalMart shopper vote. <<

Unlike you, I don't see that as a monolithic voting bloc. Many people are willing to give up cheap clock radios made in China, if their quality of life improves in other ways. People see other values in their lives than just 20% sales on consumer goods.

-- Brian McLaughlin (, September 13, 2000.


You said,

[You can call National Health Insurance socialism if you like. But, believe me, the Socialist Party has a few thousand members, and NHI has tens of millions of supporters. Unlike socialism, NHI has been tried and it works relatively well in many places. All people really care about is whether it improves their lives]

Just a few questions:

Are you implying that if the Socialist Party had the millions of supporters, (and NHI thousands) you would be more inclined to support the Socialist party, and not necessarily NHI? Do you feel that more public support for something implies that it's therefore better than if it had less?

Do you think that the people who care that NHI improves their lives should also care whether it's at the expense of others' (e.g., the taxpayers and their families) lives? Or should they block that part of it out?

-- eve (, September 13, 2000.

>> Are you implying that if the Socialist Party had the millions of supporters, (and NHI thousands) you would be more inclined to support the Socialist party, and not necessarily NHI? Do you feel that more public support for something implies that it's therefore better than if it had less? <<

No. In order for me to imply it, the thought had to have been in my head. That doesn't apply to any inferences you draw from it, though.

The point I tried to make (and probably failed to put across) is that Americans don't care for socialism. They can see that state-ownership of the means of production doesn't work. They do support NHI, because it provides a clear benefit.

>> Do you think that the people who care that NHI improves their lives should also care whether it's at the expense of others' (e.g., the taxpayers and their families) lives? <<

Bad observation here, eve. You are defining supporters of NHI as belonging to one group and "taxpayers and their families" as belonging to an "other" group. I can assure you, the vast majority of people who support NHI pay taxes. The expense would be shared, just like the national defense expense is shared.

-- Brian McLaughlin (, September 13, 2000.


There really is no analogy between a national health care program and defense. I'll be glad to explain why...but, first -- to see the problems a national health care plan could create in detail, would you mind taking a look at the following essay? (from 1993)

After that, if you still have concerns or questions, I'll be happy to get into this further with you.

Is There a Right to Health Care?

-- eve (, September 13, 2000.

Do you think that the people who care that NHI improves their lives should also care whether it's at the expense of others' (e.g., the taxpayers and their families) lives?

"Those who worry that NHI would increase taxes should remember that we all pay for health care anyway -- through our paychecks, deductibles and copayments, and the prices of goods and services."

The New England Journal of Medicine -- June 1, 2000 -- Vol. 342, No. 22 -- Patients' Rights Bills and Other Futile Gestures

-- Debra (, September 14, 2000.


Debra, I read the first few pages of Is There a Right to Health Care. It was beginning to look like Libertarian rhetoric, and I don't have time to read such a long article of dubious value.

I personally think that we, as citizens of this country (or any other country's citizens, for that matter), have the right to decide that we have a right to health care, if we wish to do so.

I vote in favor of everyone having a riight to basic health care. I also believe that we need to decide how much healthcare we are entitled to. We can't afford to replace all the organs in every one of our bodies, for instance.


-- jumpoffjoe (, September 14, 2000.


Just to set the record straight ... I didn't post the link to Is There a Right to Health Care. That was posted by Eve. (hi Eve!)

I posted the link to Patients' Rights Bills and Other Futile Gestures (which is short). Like you, I favor the right of everyone to basic health care. :)

-- Debra (, September 15, 2000.

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