The Patriot

Ralph Nader Keeps Democracy Alive

But what of the Supreme Court? A history of Supreme Court appointments shows there is no bright line connecting the political affiliations of the presidents who chose the nominees to the subsequent performances of those justices. Dwight Eisenhower, who didn't have the courage to attack Joe McCarthy, nominated Earl Warren and William Brennan. Gerald Ford picked John Paul Stevens, the only unabashed liberal now on the Supreme Court.

In the last term, in four of the five key First Amendment decisions, the justices with the best record supporting the First Amendment were Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas. And Antonin Scalia, over time, has been quite skeptical of police justifications for attacking the Fourth Amendment. Scalia, by the way, voted for the First Amendment right to burn the flag.

Both Scalia and Thomas have indeed written some appalling decisions; but Clinton's appointee, Stephen Breyer, is hardly a champion of either the First or the Fourth Amendments. And as for the other Clinton choice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, she is more reliable than Breyer, but hardly a distinguished justice.

New Democrat Gore gives no indication of wanting a William Brennan, William O. Douglas, or Earl Warren on the High Court, since he seldom, if ever, mentions the Bill of Rights.

As for foreign policy, it was Clinton who could have stopped the genocide in Rwanda, but chose to say nothing about it. He refused to encourage the United Nations to send in its force, even though there was ample advance warning of the holocaust. There was no objection from Gore.

Nor does Gore say anything about the increasingly savage state terrorism against dissidents in China, including people whose only crime is advocating democracy. Among other subjects of repression are those who refuse to allow the Chinese government to decide which of the official churches they will be forced to join. And, of course, both Gore and Bush are deadly silent on slavery and genocide in Sudan.

Despite the contumely heaped on him by Jack Newfield, Sean Wilentz, Hillary Clinton, Senator Joseph Biden, Gloria Steinem, Todd Gitlin, the utterly predictable Marie Cocco, Joe Conason (who should surely have been awarded an ambassadorship by Clinton in gratitude for his service), and all the other erstwhile believers in the right of choice and conscience in a democratic society, Ralph Nader is keeping on.

As John C. Berg, director of graduate studies in the department of government at Suffolk University in Boston, says:

"In the years before the Civil War, antislavery voters were told they had to vote for the lesser evil—slave-owning Whigs like Henry Clay. They refused, in small but growing numbers.

"The Whigs collapsed, the Republican Party was born, Lincoln became president, and the slaves were freed. Today, anticorporate voters are being handed the same lesser-evil logic. But the sweeping political changes we need will only come when voters refuse this logic, and thereby force the collapse of the two-party monopoly."

This is clearly a pivotal time in American history, and Ralph Nader is trying to renew the forces of democracy. He has nothing whatever to be ashamed of. Quite the contrary.

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