Ralph Nader—Not a Wasted Vote


The president transformed our party. He brought it a whole new ground . . . really connecting with the values of the American people.
Joseph Lieberman, Meet the Press, NBC, August 13

Our country needs, most of all, a Democratic conscience!
Bill Bradley, at the Democratic convention

I think the Democratic Party has become a party without a purpose, except to win elections. The campaign money chase has seriously diluted our policy purpose, and there is a belief that talking about the poor is a losing strategy. . . . We don’t inspire people.
—Democratic senator Paul Wellstone, The Washington Post, August 13

The transmogrification of the Democratic Party by William Jefferson Clinton is clearly exemplified by Al Gore and by Joseph Lieberman, who is so swiftly stripping himself of his principles that he now stands naked in the public square.

The reason to vote for Ralph Nader was clearly, if unintentionally, demonstrated in James Dao’s July 30 New York Times account of the writing of the Democratic platform—”dominated by Gore supporters [who] again and again knocked down efforts to tug the party back toward the left.”

The platform was pushed through by operatives of the Democratic Leadership Council, which has long since taken over the Democratic Party. Its chairman is that eminent white sepulchre, Joseph Lieberman.

Here is James Dao’s report in the Times:

“Proposals supporting universal health care, a moratorium on the death penalty, punishments against corporations that pay low wages, tougher rules for international trade, and better health care for prisoners were withdrawn or overwhelmingly defeated. . . .

“Tom Hayden, a state senator from Los Angeles who is also a Gore delegate, said the platform had failed to address the challenge of Ralph Nader.”

Also voted down was “increased spending on the poor.”

Another perspective on the New Democratic Party was that of host Juan Williams on National Public Radio’s August 16 Talk of the Nation:

“The Democratic Party this year stands for the death penalty . . . and for cutting welfare rolls. In a real thumb in the eye of labor unions, the party also stands for global free trade.

“In its platform, this new centrist or even conservative Democratic Party also turns away from the antinuclear activists by endorsing development of a national missile defense system. . . .

“Bill Clinton’s centrist New Democrat policies specifically appeal to suburban white voters. . . . Clinton proved that the party could rely on the loyalty of black and Hispanic voters even while he distanced himself from core liberal policies.”

On the stump, Hillary Rodham Clinton proudly declares herself a New Democrat.

As for the labor unions, I am disgusted that the union to which I belong, the United Auto Workers, has endorsed the Gore-Lieberman solidification of the Democratic Leadership Council’s control of what used to be the Democratic Party.

In his July 30 New York Times report on the New Democratic platform, James Dao quoted “an observer for the United Auto Workers” as saying that “the platform committee had addressed the union’s concerns in private negotiations.”

Will the UAW tell its members exactly what those “private” mollifications were? Will the UAW’s concerns for workers’ rights and environmental protections be guaranteed now by the World Trade Organization in a public, basic change in the WTO’s governing rules? When will our union tell us dues-paying members at the Voice?

Or is this going to be the usual shell game in which the New Democratic president and Democratic congressional leaders pledge that there will be (toothless) oversight of globalization practices to insure workers’ rights—while the WTO stays on its antiunion course?

I understand the realpolitik based on organized labor’s legitimate fear of a Bush administration. I’m also under no illusion that labor’s leaders will pay any attention to the growing number of the rank and file who see very clearly the corporate control of both parties.

For example, a lead editorial in the August 14 Washington Times notes that “while Mr. Gore spends many of his waking hours condemning the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, Mr. Lieberman spends much of his time raking in their campaign contributions.

“According to a recent analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics—a nonpartisan organization that compiles campaign finance data—no other senator of either party has received more contributions this year ($197,419) from the ‘Big Insurance Companies’ than Mr. Lieberman, who ranks second in the Senate for contributions ($91,150) from the ‘Big Drug Companies.’ Larry Makinson, director of the Center for Responsive Politics, has told the Los Angeles Times that Mr. Lieberman has ‘more in common with Bush that he does with Gore.’ ”

Back in the 1960s Mary Meehan—whom I’ve known for a long time—was an active, persistent anti-Vietnam War and pro-civil rights member of that rank and file. In the July issue of the monthly Harmony: Voices for a Just Future, she writes:

“Those who accept the civics-class approach that we learned in junior high school—in which the people truly run the country—are caught in great naïveté. They constantly spin wheels, flail arms, and wonder why they make so little progress as they try to change the world for the better.”

Or, as Ralph Nader puts it in confronting Al Gore’s “don’t waste your vote”: “Now is the time to reject the politics of dismal choices. To stop settling for the least-worst candidates, as we have done every four years for so long.”

Gore is to Nader as, in New York radio, WABC’s Sean Hannity is to WNYC’s Brian Lehrer—bluster versus the light of plain reason.

Don’t waste your vote by strengthening the politics of dismal choices.