Nader: Unsafe On Any Issue


Only a few of the Voice’s political writers participated in the decision to make a Nader endorsement.

For the first time, the paper’s endorsement is the judgment of editors alone. Had a more recent Voice process occurred—which included only the writers and editors who shape our political coverage—the Naderites among us might well be writing the dissent.

Of course, it should not require a proximity to politics to understand the difference between voting for Nader and endorsing him. Especially in New York, where there is no presidential campaign, whimsical protest votes are unlikely to have any damaging consequences. But endorsements are attempts to use the institutional reputation of this 45-year-old progressive paper to influence elections. The only conceivable influence this endorsement could have would be to contribute—however minimally—to the election of George W. Bush. What could make that clearer than the GOP’s airing last week of a pro-Nader commercial?

Let’s imagine America at the end of a first Bush term.

  • A tax cut for the rich will not only have stolen the surplus, it will have gouged the budget.

  • Defense expenditures will boom, while social and education spending will plummet, with predictable geopolitical effects on Democratic cities and the Northeast.

  • Two or three new Supreme Court judges in the image of Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia will sit poised to reverse Roe v. Wade.

  • Colin Powell will be all that is left of affirmative action.

  • Instead of slumbering in the Lincoln Bedroom, soft money will swamp the Oval Office, with no campaign finance reforms even under consideration.

  • HMOs will remain insulated from courthouse consumer complaints.

  • Clean-air laws will get Houston-like enforcement, and the uninsured will reach Texas proportions.

  • Labor will be suffering through another Reagan winter at the National Labor Relations Board.

  • Not even the bushes will survive on the 40 million acres of national forest where Al Gore, unlike W., would prohibit new roads and logging.

  • The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the voucher-depleted public schools, and even Social Security will be laid open to a variety of foragers.

  • Gay leaders will still be waiting for their first return call from an administration of good-old-boy scouts. The employment nondiscrimination act will be vetoed.

  • There will be no job training or placement funding for the millions forced from welfare.

The second son of a president to become president will end the estate tax and move the country toward an aristocracy of inherited privilege, damaging private philanthropy on the way. The primal assumption of the Nader cause is laughable. To suggest that there is no meaningful difference between Gore and Bush is, to paraphrase Ralph, “unsafe” on any issue. Nader can blur these otherwise clear differences in part because issues that matter to Voice readers don’t matter much to him.

For example, during a 1996 presidential campaign breakfast, he told William Safire that gay rights and abortion were “gonadal politics” unworthy of his attention. He recently returned to the theme: “I’m not going to focus on gonadal politics. I won’t focus on all the social, hot-button-type issues about interpersonal rights.” He has much the same attitude about affirmative action, dismissing any criticism of his failure to reach out to minorities.

With its endorsement, the Voice turns its back on the vital interests of many of our key constituencies—blacks, gays, and women, in particular—to support Nader’s telling critique of the corporate culture. But as wise as the candidate is about life in a conglomerate state, he can’t tell the difference between a party compromised by the culture and a party that embraces it. Until there is campaign finance reform, a Democratic Party that rejects the culture as courageously as Nader could not compete financially at any level, ceding the Congress, as well as state and local governments, to the party of the righteous rich.

At least Gore has not merged the national interest with those of the Big Gun, Big Oil, and Big Drug lobbies. At least Democrats expand the economy by extending it to the left-out—with the lowest rates of Latino and black unemployment in history—instead of defining expansion as keeping one’s capital gain. Even on Nader’s sacred corporate ground, these are differences that matter, with real consequences in millions of real lives.

This paper is a product of the ’60s, when outrage was the fashion. Even then, the Voice knew that shouting and voting were not the same forms of expression. Alcoholics often can’t see a way out until they hit rock bottom, but the same is not so for nations. We will not make ourselves better by making ourselves worse.

The only caring choice on November 7 is Al Gore and a movement to make him do what is right.