Published on Friday, October 27, 2000
Ralph Nader Attack On Environmentalists Who Are Supporting Vice-President Gore
by Carl Pope
 
Yesterday I received from Ralph Nader a letter addressed to concerned environmental voters, but distributed also through the Nader press list. The letter attacked Vice-President Gore, but went beyond that attack to criticize those environmentalists who are endorsing Gore for adopting a "servile mentality." While the letter raised, legitimately, a number of valid issues on which Nader and Gore differ, it also contained a number of inaccurate and utterly unfair attacks.

Additionally, Green Party spokespeople have begun attacking the Sierra Club, and other environmentalists who are supporting the Gore-Lieberman ticket, in increasing harsh terms, terms that go far beyond anything that we have said or would in any conceivable world want to say about our differences with the Nader candidacy.

I have responded to this attack, and my response is attached. I would appreciate it if folks could distribute this as widely as possible to environmentalists outside the Club. We will get it out to the entire Club leadership list on email.

Ralph Nader
Nader 2000
PO Box 18002
Washington, DC 20036

Dear Ralph:

Yesterday you sent me(and many other environmentalists) a long letter defending your candidacy and attacking "the servile mentality" of those of us in the environmental community who are supporting Vice-President Gore.

I've worked alongside you as a colleague for thirty years.

Neither the letter nor the tactics you are increasingly adopting in your candidacy are worthy of the Ralph Nader I knew.

The heart of your letter is the argument that "the threat to our planet articulated by Bush and his ilk" can now be dismissed. But you offer no evidence for this crucial assertion. Based on the polls today Bush is an even bet to become the next President, with both a Republican Senate and a Republican House to accompany him.

You have referred to the likely results of a Bush election as being a "cold shower" for the Democratic party. You have made clear that you will consider it a victory if the net result of your campaign is a Bush presidency.

But what will your "cold shower" mean for real people and real places?

What will it mean for tens of millions of asthmatic children when Bush applies to the nation the "voluntary" approach he's using in Texas to clean up the air. And what about his stated opposition to enforcing environmental standards against corporations?

What will it mean for Americans vulnerable to water pollution when Bush allows water quality standards to be degraded to meet the needs of paper mills and refineries as he has consistently done in Texas, most recently at Lake Sam Rayburn? And what if he eliminates federal financial support for both drinking water and water pollution, as his budget calls for and his record in Texas (46th in spending on drinking water) suggests?

What will it mean for communities of color and poverty located near toxic waste sites, when Bush applies his Texas approach of lower standards and lower polluter liability to toxic waste clean-up?

What will a Bush election mean to the Gwich'in people of the Arctic, when the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is turned over the oil companies and the calving grounds of the Porcupine Caribou herd on which they depend are destroyed and despoiled?

What will it mean for the fishing families of the Pacific Northwest when Bush amends the Endangered Species Act to make extinction for the endangered salmon a legally acceptable option? If he refuses to remove the dams on the Snake River or reduce timber cutting levels to preserve salmon?

What will it mean for millions of rural Americans whose livelihood, health and communities are being destroyed by unregulated factory feeding operations, if Bush weakens the Clean Water Act? When he appoints Supreme Court justices who complete the task of shutting down access to federal courts for citizens trying to enforce environmental laws?

What will it mean for the wildlife that depend upon our National Forests when Bush undoes the Clinton-Gore Administration reforms, reverses their roadless area protection policy, and restores the timber industry to the mastery of the forests and the Forest Service that it enjoyed under his father? If he doubles, or triples, the cut on those Forests?

What will it mean for millions of people in Bangladesh and other low-lying countries when an American refusal to confront the problem of global warming unleashes the floods and typhoons of a rising ocean upon them?

Your letter addresses none of these real consequences of a Bush victory. Nor has your campaign. Instead, you indulge yourself in the language of academic discourse when you claim:

"Bush's "old school" allegiance to plunder and extermination as humanity's appropriate relationship to our world speaks a language effectively discounted by the great tradition of naturalists from John Muir to David Brower. Bush's blatant anti-environmentalism will lose corporate favor as it loses popular support. It is a language of politics fading rapidly, and without a future."

Candidate Bush may well be speaking a fading language. So was candidate Reagan in 1980 when he ranted that trees caused air pollution. It is power, however, not language, that determines policy. President Bush would be vested with the powers of the government of the United States, and he is an even more devoted servant of environmental counter-revolution than Reagan ever was.

Because your letter is couched in this language, so divorced from the real world consequences of your candidacy, and the real world choices that face Americans, it is difficult to respond to all of its selective misrepresentations and inaccuracies. A few samples, however, may show you why I am so disappointed in the turn your candidacy has taken:

You claim that "Earth in the Balance" was "an advertisement for his calculated strategy and availability as an environmental poseur." Can you offer a single piece of evidence to support this quite astonishing statement?

You claim that the Clinton Administration stood up to the oil industry on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge only because "focus groups have shown him he cannot give" it up.In fact, most polls show that the public is somewhat split on this issue, and there are certainly no focus groups I know of showing that it is a third-rail which no President can cross at his peril. Can you cite your evidence?

You lament that the Administration has "set aside lands not in National Parks, but rather in National Monuments...." You are surely aware that a President cannot legally create national parks, which require an act or Congress; nor can you be under the misapprehension that this Congress with Don Young as the head of the House Resources Committee and Frank Murkowski as his counterpart in the Senate would have designated these areas as parks however long a battle Clinton and Gore might have fought. No, you simply took a cheap shot, and ignored the facts.

You have also broken your word to your followers who signed the petitions that got you on the ballot in many states. You pledged you would not campaign as a spoiler and would avoid the swing states. Your recent campaign rhetoric and campaign schedule make it clear that you have broken this pledge. Your response: you are a political candidate, and a political candidate wants to take every vote he can. Very well -- you admit you are a candidate -- admit that you are, like your opponents, a flawed one.

Irresponsible as I find your strategy, I accept that you genuinely believe in it. Please accept that I, and the overwhelming majority of the environmental movement in this country, genuinely believe that your strategy is flawed, dangerous and reckless. Until you can answer how you will protect the people and places who will be put in harm's way, or destroyed, by a Bush presidency, you have no right to slander those who disagree with you as "servile."

You have called upon us to vote our hopes, not our fears. I find it easy to do so. My hope is that by electing the best environmental President in American history, Al Gore, we can move forward. My fear is that you, blinded by your anger at flaws of the Clinton-Gore Administration, may be instrumental in electing the worst.

Sincerely yours,

Carl Pope
Executive Director
The Sierra Club

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