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Dirty Politics in Land of "Clean" Government

 

The Supreme Court of Wisconsin ruled 7-0 last Thursday to put Ralph Nader on the ballot, putting an end to the extended ballot access fight for the Nader campaign. Hopefully the ruling will put an end to the intervention of both parties into the Nader campaign.

In the days immediately following our turn-in of 4000 signatures on September 7, twice that required under state law, the Democratic Party called petition signers, claiming to be the “Clean Ballot Organization”. They asked petition signers, among other things, the name of the person who had circulated the petition. After this exercise proved unfruitful, the Democratic Party hired at least 3 well-connected law firms to challenge our petitions forming a legal dream team for anti-democracy. One of our 10 presidential electors, whose only role is to cast a predetermined vote in the case of a Nader victory, mistakenly believed he lived in the seventh congressional district. Due to recent redistricting, he actually lived in the eighth. The Democrats decided that the only remedy for this technicality was to boot Nader/Camejo off of the ballot. The State Elections Board disagreed, arguing we had “substantially complied” with the requirements. After firing ! the first attorney who argued and lost in front of the State Elections Board, the Democrats hired Lester Pines as their lead attorney. (To give the reader a sense of the character of this legal team, Pines was involved in arguing against a proposed sister city relationship between Madison, WI and Rafah, the refugee camp in Palestine, one of the most impoverished and decimated areas in the globe, due to Israeli occupation. At a hearing he claimed that “the real issue is virulent worldwide anti-Semitism”.)

The Dems then filed a lawsuit that made its way to circuit court, where Democratic Judge Michael Nowakowski essentially decided that Nader/Camejo ticket should be thrown off of the ballot because the head of the State Elections Board forgot the word “substantial” in front of the word “compliance” in a memo. He claimed to have no access to the hearing where the idea of “substantial compliance” was discussed at length by the Board. If he had wanted to, he could have spent an hour and a half to listen to the tape. Apparently such matters are trifling when there are the First Amendment rights of voters to trample on. Only a last-minute appeal to the Supreme Court restored a degree of sanity to the situation and saved Wisconsin from setting a new precedent in ballot access restriction and disenfranchising thousands of Nader voters.

The Republicans had some tricks of their own. After claiming in the press for a month that they weren’t going to help our campaign, they attempted to give us 3000 signatures to get Nader on the ballot the day before the filing deadline (we had already collected over 4000), possibly in violation of state law that says signature gatherers “intend to support” the candidacy of the person they are collecting signatures for. (There you are, Democrats. Go after the Republicans. I dare you.) Knowing that we weren’t taking Republican help, the Republicans sent a college-aged student to a meeting of Nader volunteers the night before the deadline. I had met him earlier while collecting signatures and he claimed to support Nader, telling me that “me and some friends” had collected “a few” signatures that he would give me at this meeting. Doing his best to conform to his pre-conceived notion of the typical Nader stereotype, he decided to wear a “Keep Milwaukee Green” shirt to the meet! ing. It turned out that “a few” signatures meant 3000 and “his friends”, the signature collectors, included elected Republican officials and the head of the College Republicans at UW-Madison.

Later, the Republicans submitted an unsolicited brief to the Supreme Court. (It should be noted that this brief wasn’t the basis of the court’s decision). They also asked our independent lawyer, Robert Bernhoft if we needed any legal help. On both occasions we flatly turned these invitations to “help” down. We are unappreciative of the interference of either party with our campaign.

The Democratic Party claimed that their challenge to Nader’s ballot access was only about upholding the law, and they weren’t afraid of the issues that Nader brings up. No sane person believed them.

Apparently, the Democrats don’t think that George W. Bush should live up to the same standards. Because the Republican National Convention was so late this year, Bush missed or would have missed the filing deadline in several states. In each of those states, the Democrats helped ensure that Bush got on the ballot. In Illinois, where an amendment was passed to allow Bush on the ballot, Democratic Governor Rod Bagojevich’s spokesperson said, “(Bagojevich) thinks President Bush should be on the ballot. He should be a choice.”

Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 showed that not one Democratic Senator was willing to challenge the disenfranchisement of Black voters in Florida that allowed Bush to get elected. Yet, the Democrats have waged an all-out war of dirty tricks’ to keep Nader off of the ballot and limit voter choice. What lesson should progressives take away from this?

It should be abundantly clear that the only thing the Democrats can be relied on to do is to attack Ralph Nader. They surely can’t be relied on to oppose Bush’s policies.

Nader’s Vice Presidential candidate Peter Camejo notes that the Democrats gave Bush eighteen standing ovations during Bush’s 2003 State of the Union speech, where he lied and stumped for illegal war. An opposition party would have “walked out of the State of the Union address in protestñcalled on the American people to demonstrate in every single city…”

The Democrats don’t pose much of an opposition because they maintain broad agreement with Bush’s policies. Neither candidate fundamentally opposes the Iraq or Afghanistan war and occupation, or our right to invade and occupy other countries willy-nilly. In fact, Kerry was the only candidate during the debate to call for increasing size of our military.

Both parties take little issue with record corporate profits and stagnating wages. Would Kerry place the tax burden onto corporations? When thousands of corporations pay no taxes, Kerry calls for more corporate tax cuts!

Neither candidate opposes the Patriot Act, which has led to the detention of thousands of Arabs and Muslims. Kerry drafted part of that act and Bill Clinton was responsible for passing its precursor in 1996, the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. Both parties support Israel’s “separation barrier” that is further decimating the Palestinian population. This might have something to do with the latest polls showing that 13% of the Arab-American population supports Nader in Florida.

If there is ever to be a truly progressive agenda advanced in this country, the left will have to set its standards higher than John Kerry and the Democrats. Supporting the Democratic Party not only means that the left has supported someone who doesn’t oppose Bush’s policies, it has lowered its own expectations, consciously or not, and conformed its demands to fit Kerry’s agenda. How else do you explain its unbridled display of excitement for John Kerry’s “victory” in the debates (where he said we need to increase our military size and “get the terrorists before they get us”)?. These lowered expectations will allow for pre-ordained excuses for the Democratic dismantling of the remnants of our social safety net and the imposition of American imperialism, as occurred under Clinton.

To begin building a positive alternative that can oppose the rightward drift of American politics, the left must completely free itself from the two-party system. Ralph Nader’s candidacy is the only opportunity in this presidential election cycle to provide a significant voice and alternative to those who oppose the occupation of Iraq, demand justice for Palestine, demand an end to corporate rule and demand a better world. No matter how many dirty tricks they employ, the two parties will not be able to forever silence that voice.

BILL LINVILLE is the Wisconsin Field Coordinator for Nader/Camejo 2004 and a member of the International Socialist Organization in Madison, Wisconsin. He can be reached at bill_linville@yahoo.com.

 

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