Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn have stated many times that they favor ousting Bush this election, even if John Kerry is “Bush-lite.” And that stand has been repeatedly used by progressives opposed to Ralph Nader’s campaign.
However, Chomsky and Zinn, both residents of John Kerry’s home state of Massachusetts, say they plan to vote for Ralph Nader.
This may come as a surprise to those who have trotted out Chomsky in an effort to blunt Nader. One example is Jeff Cohen, the founder of the media watch group FAIR (and by way of disclosure, is an author along with both Chomsky and Zinn at Common Courage Press at which this reporter is Publisher). As Cohen stated on Commondreams.org May 7, “Progressives need to be a bridge forward, not an obstruction. Noam Chomsky has described the choice we face: ‘Help elect Bush, or do something to try to prevent it.’”
To cite another example, Doug Henwood, the Publisher of the Left Business Observer wrote in April, “…as Noam Chomsky puts it, to the distress of his many fans, given the magnitude of U.S. power, ‘small differences can translate into large outcomes.’”
But in response to an email query from this reporter, Chomsky wrote,
“Voting for Nader in a safe state is fine. That’s what I’ll do. I don’t see how anyone could read what I wrote and think otherwise, just from the elementary logic of it. Voting for Nader in a safe state is not a vote for Bush. The point I made had to do with (effectively) voting for Bush.”
Chomsky also made clear how he views the election in the context of other efforts for change: “Activist movements, if at all serious, pay virtually no attention to which faction of the business party is in office, but continue with their daily work, from which elections are a diversion — which we cannot ignore, any more than we can ignore the sun rising; they exist.”
In another email exchange, Howard Zinn stated, “I will vote for Nader because Mass. is a safe state. And voters in ‘safe states’ should not vote for Kerry.” He also notes, “I don’t have faith in Kerry changing, but with Kerry there is a possibility that a powerful social movement might change him. With Bush, no chance.”
The question of Kerry’s receptivity to social movements deserves serious consideration, discussed further in the book from which this article is adapted. But returning to the issue of voting for Kerry in safe states, the impact of the Electoral College is virtually absent in discussions about Nader’s run.
As BusinessWeek June 14 2004 points out, 75% of voters live in safe states. Voters casting a ballot for Kerry in those states, regardless of the message they intend to send, will be perceived by the Democratic National Committee as endorsing the Kerry platform of war and moving the Democrats to the right. Meanwhile, voters in safe states have the opportunity to send a message that Kerry’s platform is unacceptable, without risking throwing the election to Bush.
GREG BATES is the publisher of Common Courage Press and the author of Ralph’s Revolt: the Case for Joining Nader’s Rebellion, from which this essay has been excerpted. Bates can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org