When consumer activist Ralph Nader appeared on the University of Wisconsin
campus last week, the Green Party presidential candidate suggested that the
Democratic and Republican parties had become the flip sides of the same corrupt
To raucous cheers from a crowd that numbered more than 1,500, Nader argued
that the only difference between Democrat Al Gore and Republican George W. Bush
was the knee each man bent as he prayed before corporate special interests.
For some veteran Democrats, the fact that Gore goes down on his left knee as
Bush uses his right may be enough justification for sticking with the party of
Roosevelt, Truman and Kennedy in this presidential election year. But Gore and
his fellow "new'' Democrats are making the job of their sincere supporters
tougher at every turn -- and the impact of their missteps is easily measured, as
the vice president's poll position slips even in Democratic-leaning states such
It's not just that Gore agrees with Bush on economic, trade, military
spending and foreign policy -- right down to and including Elian -- that makes
it hard for Democrats to sell their candidate. The thing that is really galling
to voters is the clear evidence that Gore's stands parallel Bush's not because
of principle, but because Gore and the Democrats are trying to collect campaign
money from the same special interests as Bush and the Republicans.
As Gore is traveling the country claiming that campaign finance reform is one
of his top priorities, his party has established a new fund-raising category
that is every bit as obscene as anything the Republicans have come up with. At a
barbecue in Washington on May 24, Democratic donors will be asked to "contribute''
$500,000 apiece to what once was the party of the working class.
Of course, this is no contribution. Givers are paying for a private audience
with President Clinton. And, far more important to the millionaires who will be
inking these checks, they are paying for Al Gore positions and Democratic Party
On May 24, some of the wealthiest people in America will buy Democratic party
silence on issues such as the widening gap between rich and poor in America, the
surrender of trade policy decisions to multinational corporations, the attack on
family farming by agribusiness and other issues that used to distinguish
Democrats from Republicans.
Come November, a lot of traditional Democrats may still vote for Al Gore. But
they will not be casting their ballots for a hero of the people. Rather, they
will be opting for the lesser of two evils.
Frankly, if the Democrats continue to bid out their policies in return for
$500,000 contributions, they may lose the "lesser'' title and simple be the
other of two evils.
John Nichols is the editorial page
editor of The Capital Times.
© 2000 The Capital Times