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Swing-Along-With-Ralph

Nader in the Battleground States

by JOSHUA FRANK

"I hear many condemn these men because they were so few. When were the good and the brave ever in a majority?"

­ Henry David Thoreau

John Kerry may as well drop out of the presidential race, as he is getting brow beat by his stocky opponent, George W. Bush. At least Ralph Nader said as much on Thursday September 9.

"There’s no strategy by the Democrats," Nader told a gathering in Ohio. "Bush is mocking him, he’s taunting him."

Ralph Nader claims that the margin by which Kerry will lose in November will be so large that Nader’s candidacy will not be seen as a factor in the outcome.

"They’re going to lose it because John Kerry has surrounded himself with corporate consultants who represent some of the seediest and most craven companies and industries, and they are not letting him think for himself," said Nader.

Kerry has already blown his chance by "me-tooing" Bush on the war in terror, and the disaster in Iraq. But it is not only foreign policy that is an indicator of Kerry’s looming defeat; it’s also his domestic policy outlook. Or lack thereof.

"The biggest winning strategy for the Kerry campaign is the living wage. One of every three workers doesn’t make a living wage." Nader contends. "That is what the Democratic Party used to stand for [Kerry] blew it."

Nader is currently on 22 state ballots, while his campaign continues to battle it out in the courts for his right to be on the ballot in 11 more.

The Nader campaign has come under fire from Democrats who are continuing to cause problems for Nader’s ballot access, by pointing out that a Republican law firm in Florida is representing his case in the Sunshine State. "What do people expect?" Kevin Zeese, Nader’s campaign spokesperson says. "Certainly the Democratic lawyers don’t want to help us, that’s for sure. Everyone is more interested in our choice of lawyers than the battle we’re fighting. I find it very amusing."

Of the 22 states where Nader is currently on the ballot, ten are battleground states, not securely in either Bush or Kerry’s camp. Those states include; Arkansas, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, Washington and West Virginia, along with Florida, Oregon and Colorado. By October 1, Nader will most likely be on three other contentious state ballots including Minnesota, New Hampshire and Wisconsin.

All this is good news for progressives who would like to make an impact on the forthcoming election. The more swing state ballots that Nader can attain, the greater the chances are that we will have a progressive voice heard on the national stage.

Fearful of another four years of George Bush, some Green Party members are urging Greens to vote for Kerry in such states, "We ask progressives to support John Kerry for president in battleground states such as Wisconsin, and Green Party nominee David Cobb in the states where the November outcome is a foregone conclusion," a group by the name of Greens for Impact wrote in the first week of September.

Unfortunately, it seems, these Greens intend on doing the opposite of what they claim to represent. In fact they would like nothing more than to have no impact whatsoever on the upcoming election, and indeed they have admitted that they see a substantial difference between the Republican and Democratic parties. Not a wise position for any third party to endorse.

Another group led by Jeff Cohen, founder of the media watchdog group FAIR, is heading an election cartel by the name of Vote to Stop Bush. This group, made up of ex-Nader supporters, is also urging progressive voters to pull the lever for John Kerry in swing-states.

Vote to Stop Bush is made up of many long-time radicals, and activists including heavy hitters such as, Noam Chomsky, Phil Donahue, Barbara Ehrenreich, Jim Hightower, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Saul Landau, Ed Vedder, and Howard Zinn.

Unlike the Greens for Impact, this group does not call for voting against Nader in every state, only in states that truly matter in the electoral outcome.

Responding to this development, Kevin Zeese had an email exchange with Jeff Cohen, in which Zeese wrote:

"My concern is that the ABB (Anybody but Bush) approach you are taking is weakening Kerry as a candidate — and if he wins, as a leader. Swing voters see the slogan as acknowledging Kerry as a weak candidate — just an "anybody" who stands for nothing. In addition, the pull of the corporate, money which is funding the Kerry campaign, is not balanced by any pull from progressives since they are giving support without demands. As a result Kerry is being pulled to the DLC-corporate wing of the party and is becoming a weaker candidate. For example, on Labor Day he did not even mention worker’s rights! He was a short distance from a large Jesse Jackson rally in West Virginia and did not even bother to show up I fear you and your ABB colleagues are undermining your own goal — you may be actually increasing the chances of Bush getting re-elected. This unintended consequence of your ABB advocacy is not something I realized until the campaign began to unfold and Kerry began to lose so badly in the polls. Won’t you feel lousy if you gave up your principles by supporting a candidate you acknowledge you don’t agree with AND you help re-elect Bush?!"

Zeese is right. Who would have thought that the ABB crowd would actually damage Kerry’s candidacy more than Nader himself? By backing John Kerry, and not demanding anything in return, Kerry has had little pressure from the Left. Such force cannot begin after Kerry is elected. It must happen now. How many more soldiers and Iraqi civilians will perish before Election Day? How many Palestinians will die, or become homeless before we feel it is the right time to press Kerry? How can anyone that is truly anti-war be asked to support a pro-war candidate in any state?

By opting to support Kerry at all costs, the left is continuing to marginalize itself. And because much of the left has done so, Kerry is continuing to move rightwards. It certainly is a disgusting display of moral cowardness, and it is costing Kerry numbers in the polls. The only way to force Kerry to differentiate himself from Bush, and win back voters, is for progressives to pressure him where it counts. In swing states. Perhaps that is where Nader should fight the majority of his campaign battles.

JOSHUA FRANK, a contributor to CounterPunch’s forthcoming book, A Dime’s Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils, is putting the finishing touches on Left Out: How Liberals did Bush’s Work for Him, to be published by Common Courage Press. He welcomes comments at frank_joshua@hotmail.com.