A Vote for Nader Is A Vote for Nader

by Alexander Cockburn And Jeffrey St. Clair

“A vote for Nader is a vote for Bush.” How quickly the Gore liberals adopt a totalitarian mindset, sounding like Soviet commissars back in the old days who would urge the voters towards a 98 per cent turn-out for the Communist candidate, arguing that any deviation from absolute loyalty would “objectively” play into the hands of the imperialists.

A vote for Nader is first and foremost a vote for Nader. And since the programs of the Democratic and Republican candidates are pretty much the same on issues ranging from corporate welfare to Wall Street to the war on drugs to crime to military spending, a vote for Gore is actually a vote for Bush, and a vote for Bush is a vote for Gore. It was the same in 1996. Clinton or Dole? Vote for Clinton and you got Dole anyway.

These waning days of the campaign there’s a desperation to the alarums of the Gore people about the Nader. For one thing, they know that the Nader super-rallies in New York, across the upper midwest and in the north-west have had a hugely energizing effect on young people. There hasn’t been anything like it since Jesse Jackson’s populist bid for the nomination back in 1988. Back that time Jackson rolled in behind the Democratic ticket and rolled up his Rainbow, leaving hundreds of thousands of supporters with nowhere to go and nothing to do.

Having spent the past month speaking about Gore and Nader on campuses along the track of these rallies, we can say with certainty that the enthusiasms of these young activists aren’t about to be quelled by lectures from Gloria Steinem or Barney Frank or Jesse Jackson Jr about the need to take the mature view, and root for Gore-Lieberman. For one thing, they watched the debates. Did they take from those labored encounters any nourishment from Gore on issues that they have an appetite for, like trade or sweat labor or the drug war or the growing divide between rich and poor?

Gore liberals such as Steinem, or Patricia Ireland of NOW, or Carl Pope of the Sierra Club have been trading in false currency for so long that they don’t realise that as shills for the Democratic Party their credit was used up long, long ago. When Steinem of all people wags her finger at greens and tells them that poor people don’t have the luxury of voting for Nader, it doesn’t take longer than a second to hear the response: “Then what about the welfare bill. Was that good for the poor?” And only middle class women enjoy the luxury of Roe v Wade since Gore and others voted down federal aid for abortions for poor women long ago.

Listen to Ellen Johnson, an organizer for the Arizona Greens, who
teaches at Arizona State in Tempe. “Since the onset of the Clinton
presidency NOW’s once stalwart support of many women’s rights issues has eroded. While reproductive rights are important, so is quality childcare, a living wage, eradication of environmental toxins, and health care. Although Clinton/Gore promised to address these issues in ’92 and ’96, no acceptable plans for improvement have been implemented.

Why is NOW so willing to give Gore another chance? Oh yeah, we forgot, for abortion rights. What is Roe vs. Wade worth to you, NOW? If it’s the wholesale sellout of a constituency you once pledged to serve then you are on the right track.”

In mid-October, we went to a debate at the Hothouse in downtown Chicago, a great club featuring jazz, blues and political events. Here were ranged advocates of the Nader/Green third party bid against Democratic loyalists. we heard an organizer from the United Electrical Workers (one of the few unions to endorse Nader) put up a strong argument as to why labor should rethink its loyalty to the Democrats. He pointed out that at the stroke of a pen Clinton/Gore could have helped labor immensely by any number of executive orders. No such orders came. After eight long years there’s been nothing on striker replacement.

Despite all the bright talk of New Labor, unions have actually lost
ground in the Clinton/Gore years, simply because the legal playing field is so tilted in favor of the employers. There’s no prospect on earth that a Gore-Lieberman administration would work to tilt this playingfield the other way. Back in 1993 and 1994 when Democrats held the White House and Congress, what did Clinton-Gore do for labor? They pushed through NAFTA.

Nader has actually grown in stature and in political skills these last two months. From a pedagogical style that could tend to the soporific he’s been transformed by the energy of those rallies into an inspirational orator. He’s outcampaigned the man who has most to fear from him. Visions do count . Gore hasn’t offered one and Nader has. Unlike Jackson in ’88 he’s not going to quit and neither, we suspect, are most of his supporters. They’re already thinking about what to do after November 7. CP

Alexander Cockburn’s Guillotined! and A Colossal Wreck are available from CounterPunch. Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His new book is Killing Trayvons: an Anthology of American Violence (with JoAnn Wypijewski and Kevin Alexander Gray). He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net.

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