Saturday, March 1, 2008

Ralph Nader isn't responsible for George W. Bush

On Feb. 24, political activist and consumer-rights advocate Ralph Nader announced his bid for the presidency as an independent candidate. Nader has run for president three times previously, as an independent or Green party candidate 

The expected barbs began immediately, focused not so much on any of the issues Nader raised, but simply because he dares to run and challenge the monopoly hold of the two capitalist parties. 

As expected, Nader immediately drew criticism from Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Clinton said, "I remember when he ran before. It didn't turn out very well for anybody -- especially our country." Both candidates are implying, directly or indirectly, that Nader's run helped George W. Bush win in 2000. 

True, the difference between Bush's and Gore's votes in Florida was less than the number of voters who cast their ballots for Nader. Bush beat Gore by 537 votes in Florida, while Nader won 97,421 votes. That year was Nader's biggest electoral success, when he received 2.9 million votes, or 2.75% of the national vote.  

Florida was considered a pivotal state between the Democrats and Republicans, in what became an extremely controversial election, because of the highly irregular manipulation of the recount and the exclusion of tens of thousands of African American voters. The reactionary U.S. Supreme Court intervened and ordered a halt to the recount.  

The myth that Nader cost the Democrats the 2000 election is convenient for the ruling class. Never mind the deep dissatisfaction with both major parties that led to a low turnout nationwide. Never mind that 250,000 registered Democrats in Florida voted for Bush in 2000. Never mind the irregularities at the polling stations in African American communities. Never mind the fact that all eight of the third parties on the Florida ballot that year received more than the 537-vote difference between Bush and Gore. The lesson we are supposed to absorb is that third parties have no place in the country's political lansdscape.   

Nader, like other alternative progressive candidates, has had to work state by state to even achieve ballot status. The obstacles are overwhelming for any party other than the Democrats and Republicans to run in the U.S. national or state elections. Nationwide, the Democrats increase this burden by dedicating a significant section of their staff to challenge progressive third parties that dare to achieve ballot status.

The Democrats claim to carry the mantle of the working class. It is true that a majority of working-class people are registered as Democrats, despite the fact that the party's leadership is thoroughly capitalist and has administered and legislated against the workers and poor, alongside the Republicans.  

The virtually unanimous votes in Congress of both big-business parties for the war budget in Iraq and Afghanistan—as well as the overall Pentagon budget — demonstrates that the Democrats are as devoted to the agenda of empire as are the Republicans. 

But the attitude of both parties toward alternative-party challengers is also proof of their role in the U.S. electoral system, which is a highly-developed vehicle to keep the capitalist class in power. 

When a party other than Democrats and Republicans runs in the elections, especially those that challenge the pro-corporate status quo, they are accused of "taking votes away" from Republican or Democratic candidates.  

This is curious logic, when you consider that the typical voter turn-out for general elections is 25 percent to 35 percent of the eligible voters (counting both registered and unregistered potential voters). The Republican and Democratic candidates never blame the non-voters—those they have failed to inspire— for the outcomes of their electoral battles.  

In the 2004 election, Democrats were so indistinguishable from the Republicans, that most people didn't even bother going to the polls. Across the country, it was a dead-heat as both tried to go further and further to the right. 

And Al Gore and the Democrats shut down a struggle in the Black community that was mobilizing to challenge the likely-stolen Florida vote, by conceding almost immediately to Bush. The African American community activists were organizing around the country, with the NAACP sending busloads of people from as far as California, to come to Florida and demand a recount. 

Although there are several other alternative parties running presidential campaigns, like our Party for Socialism and Liberation, Nader's name and reputation have given him massive national recognition.  

What the Democrats and Republicans fear is a challenge to their system. Imagine a real debate on national television: Nader criticizing the corporate control of Washington, or socialist candidates La Riva and Puryear calling for the $700 billion-dollars in annual military spending to instead be used for free healthcare, education and jobs. 

You can bet that millions, who long ago gave up voting as a futile exercise, would be inspired not only to vote, but to join the struggle to achieve real change. 

You have to imagine it, because neither Nader—nor any other progressive candidate—is allowed to appear on a national presidential debate with  the Democrats and Republicans. 

The closest any alternative candidate got to national exposure and recognition was Ross Perot, and he was allowed a place, because he was a billionaire who bought his way into the elections. 

This is the "democracy" that we are dealing with, where Hillary Clinton can raise $120 million before "Super Tuesday"—and an additional $35 million in February—and still be considered the underdog in the primaries because her competitor has raised more.  

The Party for Socialism and Liberation is using its campaign to challenge this system. Our members and supporters are busily petitioning in Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Florida, Vermont and we will be working hard through the year to qualify on almost 20 states. We welcome you to work with us.


Julia said...

Ralph Nader is the most progressive of all the candidates out there. From what I've seen and heard, Nader has real solutions for the real issues. He's not "playing the game" the way Hillary Clinton and Obama are. Much more, he's actually realistic, unlike Ron Paul and the other offshooters. As far as I'm concerned, Nader would make a much better president for this time.

Anonymous said...

Well said. There's nothing the major parties like less than actual democracy.