FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Letter from a Minnesota Highway

by RALPH NADER

 

Some seventy lights of the liberal intelligentsia–some my long-time friends and political associates–recently signed a petition calling upon voters in contested states to vote for John Kerry, despite their “strong disagreement with Kerry on Iraq and other issues.” These distinguished academics, artists, and writers together are at the core of America’s liberal intelligentsia. We share much the same political analysis. Together we have shared podiums, rallies, and dreams, though they deigned any mention of the Nader-Camejo candidacy even in the “safe states.” Yet I must conclude that they have lost their nerve.

Their petition is simply the latest chapter in the operational and political collapse of an intellectual elite paralyzed by the specter of a second term for George Bush. This rush to unconditional surrender began in February of this year when the liberal flagship, The Nation, proclaimed in an editorial, “Ralph, Don’t Run,” meaning don’t speak inside the electoral arena. We had worked together for forty-five years. As I discussed in my letter to The Nation, “Whither The Nation?” (Mar. 8, 2004), the new mantra of progressives is “anybody but Bush, leave Kerry alone, make no demands on Kerry.” At the very moment their voices are most needed, these good people fear that trumpeting their demands on Kerry-Edwards will only make November 2 riskier. Not pulling Kerry in the direction of a peoples’ agenda allows the corporate oil, drug, food, munitions, auto, financial and other commercial interests to pull him in their direction. He abandons his party’s traditional base and loses votes that way.

The American people know the truth about Iraq, that occupation creates resistance. The resistance will only end when we announce that an exit deadline with internationally supervised elections, after which we will leave Iraq to the Iraqis. On Iraq, as on so many issues, those who should be pressuring Kerry–especially the recent anti-war groups–choose instead to apologize for him.

In blunting the justice edge which has always been its greatest asset, the intelligentsia has abandoned John Kerry to the tender mercies of his close corporate advisors and financiers, assuring that his message will continue to be muddled, and possibly helping to seal his loss in November. By delineating bright lines between his positions and those of Bush, Kerry can win, yet by insisting that Kerry take their support for granted rather than earn it, the intelligentsia has enhanced Kerry’s move to the corporate right. This rush to surrender to Kerry under the “Anyone But Bush” banner has also included the traditional Democratic core groups supporting civil liberties, the environment, union, consumer, and minority rights. Should he somehow win, Kerry would not be obliged to recognize any mandates vis-à-vis the always mandating power structure.

The result is a national election in which the issues of poverty, corporate domination, corporate welfare, the swollen, wasteful military budget, global warming, race, civil liberties, healthcare for all Americans, and support for dictatorships abroad have all been taken off the Democratic Party electioneering table.

Our campaign serves the traditional third-party role of pressing political regeneration by promoting needed reforms that the major parties ignore unless pressure builds. The Nader/Camejo campaign has also provided a road map for Kerry to defeat George Bush, if only he would recognize and seriously embrace such majoritarian issues as opposing corporate welfare that drains public revenues meant for public works; ensuring a living wage and safe workplace, workers’ freedom to form unions; providing efficient healthcare for all; and confronting corporate crimes against consumers, pension holders, investors, and the environment. (See votenader.org).

Yet instead of using even conditional support for our campaign to draw Kerry away from the relentless pull of corporate power in the wrong directions, progressives have let Kerry go, and the result is as pathetic as it was predictable ­ Bush has to win it for Kerry.

The liberal intellectual and political leadership has shown itself un-willing to fight for its beliefs, hiding behind the claim that George Bush is such a unique threat that courage, reason, and studied belief all must be abandoned this year. Is Bush really more sinister than Nixon? More frightening than Reagan with his missiles and unworkable missile defense? Think of those times when the missile-loaded US and the USSR were less than an hour from mutually assured destruction. Will the intellectual leaders of the left feel more comfortable with the next GOP nominee in 2008 or 2012? If not, is it too soon for them to prepare for their next surrender? Is there any end-point logic to the “least worst” candidate?

Ours is a long-term struggle to restore the human future to human control of the corporate/government complex. The great lesson to be learned from Kerry’s wobbly and fearful campaign to date is that we will not prevail in the historic struggle against imperial corporate power by yielding to it. Unconditional surrender to the “least worst” candidate is an intellectual dead-end, an endless retreat. One need look no further than Kerry’s recent endorsement of Bush’s plans to reconquer the southern cities and towns of Iraq to recognize that failure to resist is complicity. Remember the immortal words of Frederick Douglass, the great abolitionist: “Power concedes nothing without a demand.”

Those who have influence over others have a special obligation to consider–and reconsider–their role in terms of the old labor ballad: “Which side are you on?” Are you on the side of the citizens, the workers, the families of America, or the global corporations that have no loyalty to our country? Those who consider themselves on the side of the people, justice and democracy must stop cowering in fear. They need to call the anemic Democratic Party to account for its ten years of losses–local, state and federal –to the worst of the Republicans. If they do not exert open pressure on their Party, progressives can surely expect more of the same.

 

More articles by:

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 

January 22, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
It’s Time to Call Economic Sanctions What They Are: War Crimes
Jim Kavanagh
Behind the Money Curtain: A Left Take on Taxes, Spending and Modern Monetary Theory
Sheldon Richman
Trump Versus the World
Mark Schuller
One Year On, Reflecting and Refining Tactics to Take Our Country Back
Winslow Wheeler
Just What Eamark “Moratorium” are They Talking About?
W. T. Whitney
José Martí, Soul of the Cuban Revolution
Uri Avnery
May Your Home Be Destroyed          
Wim Laven
Year One Report Card: Donald Trump Failing
Jill Richardson
There Are No Shithole Countries
Bob Fitrakis - Harvey Wasserman
Are the Supremes About to Give Trump a Second Term?
Laura Finley
After #MeToo and #TimesUp
Howard Lisnoff
Impressions From the Women’s March
Andy Thayer
HuffPost: “We Really LOVED Your Contributions, Now FUCK OFF!”
Weekend Edition
January 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Dr. King’s Long Assassination
David Roediger
A House is Not a Hole: (Not) Caring about What Trump Says
George Burchett
How the CIA Tried to Bribe Wilfred Burchett
Mike Whitney
Trump’s Plan B for Syria: Occupation and Intimidation
Michael Hudson – Charles Goodhart
Could/Should Jubilee Debt Cancellations be Reintroduced Today?
Marshall Auerback – Franklin C. Spinney
Boss Tweet’s Generals Already Run the Show
Andrew Levine
Remember, Democrats are Awful Too
James Bovard
Why Ruby Ridge Still Matters
Wilfred Burchett
The Bug Offensive
Brian Cloughley
Now Trump Menaces Pakistan
Ron Jacobs
Whiteness and Working Folks
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Keeper of Crazy Beats: Charlie Haden and Music as a Force of Liberation
Robert Fantina
Palestine and Israeli Recognition
Jan Oberg
The New US Syria “Strategy”, a Recipe For Continued Disaster
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
The Return of the Repressed
Mel Gurtov
Dubious Partnership: The US and Saudi Arabia
Robert Fisk
The Next Kurdish War Looms on the Horizon
Lawrence Davidson
Contextualizing Sexual Harassment
Jeff Berg
Approaching Day Zero
Karl Grossman
Disaster Island
Thomas S. Harrington
What Nerve! In Catalonia They are Once Again Trying to Swear in the Coalition that Won the Most Votes
Pepe Escobar
Rome: A Eulogy
Robert Hunziker
Will Aliens Save Humanity?
Jonah Raskin
“Can’t Put the Pot Genie Back in the Bottle”: An Interview with CAL NORML’s Dale Gieringer
Stepan Hobza
Beckett, Ionesco, and Trump
Joseph Natoli
The ‘Worlding’ of the Party-less
Julia Stein
The Myths of Housing Policy
George Ochenski
Zinke’s Purge at Interior
Christopher Brauchli
How Trump Killed the Asterisk
Rosemary Mason - Colin Todhunter
Corporate Monopolies Will Accelerate the Globalisation of Bad Food, Poor Health and Environmental Catastrophe
Michael J. Sainato
U.S Prisons Are Ending In-Person Visits, Cutting Down On Reading Books
Michael Barker
Blame Game: Carillion or Capitalism?
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail