Marianne Means' Feb. 4 column "Goodbye, Ralph" exemplifies the sad state of civil discourse and democracy we live in.
I was recently at a party with some wonderful liberal friends who were chastising me and a minor number in attendance for voting for Ralph Nader. I asked all those who voted for Nader to raise their hands. I then asked all those who voted for Nader and did not either work on his campaign or contribute money to his campaign to put their hands down. Nobody put their hands down. I then repeated the same process with Gore. No hands remained raised when I asked who contributed time or money to Gore's campaign.
People with a compassionate vision are too willing to accept corporate democracy that undermines the very vision they profess.
Means perpetuates myths that are useless except to those invested in the status quo.
Myth 1: Ralph Nader cost Gore the election.
Putting aside that the election was decided by a corrupt Florida government in concert with a corrupt U.S. Supreme Court, financed by corrupt corporations after a corrupt election where African Americans were routinely disenfranchised, and accepting the questionable underlying premise, it was not Nader who cost Gore the election but the 97,000 Florida citizens who exercised their democratic rights and voted for Nader rather than someone else, possibly Gore.
This argument implies that 97,000 Floridians were too stupid to be given a choice at the voting booth. The underlying premise of this myth is that a person who offers an option to voters is bad. It says that voters are not quite as smart as sheep and we need to vilify the naysayer who confused the poor sheep. Nice.
Myth 2: The Democrats are justified in blackballing Nader because he cost them the election.
Every year Democrats beat Republicans and Republicans beat Democrats, but members of the two parties work in collaboration year after year. They allow each other to testify and be part of the gang even though they clearly cost each other elections. Why is that?
Because they are both drinking from the same trough and know that while the faces occasionally change, their power is dependent on the two-party system. But if someone says, "Hey, this two-party system is corrupt," he or she becomes a pariah. Why is this?
To ask the question is to know the answer. It has nothing to do with costing the other party the election. The reason Nader is attacked is because neither party is interested in change. They are solely interested in having access to the spoils of the system -- which they have whether in power or out, albeit to lesser or greater degrees. If Nader has useful information to give in testimony, why would the Democrats bar him? It's because what he could contribute to the debate on the issues they profess to believe in is not nearly as important as making an example of him for anyone else who dares to challenge the entrenched party system.
Myth 3: Just look at Bush's Cabinet picks and you know how important it was to have voted Democratic.
Excuse me. Tommy Thompson -- a man who is in the pocket of the tobacco companies and has tried to prevent any money of the tobacco litigation settlement from being used to prevent those corporations from addicting teenagers -- was unanimously confirmed by the Senate.
Gale Norton -- a disgusting blight on the environment who has sided with corporations against the people and was virulently anti-gay as Colorado attorney general -- was confirmed with a majority of the Democrats voting yea.
Christine Todd Whitman -- who as New Jersey governor was videotaped patting down African America youths who were stopped as part of her administration's illegal racial profiling -- was confirmed unanimously.
It reminds me of the argument during the election that we had to vote for Gore or we would end up with justices like Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas This ignores the fact that Thomas was confirmed when Democrats controlled the Senate and Scalia was approved 98-to-0.
Nader's argument was that marginal differences between the two parties are not as important as building a progressive alternative to the corrupt system.
When the system shows itself at its most corrupt -- in Florida with a stolen election, in Washington with Bush's Cabinet and policies belying all he proclaimed, by Democrats refusing to seriously raise the issue of African American disenfranchisement or a stolen election, and by Clinton's pardoning the rich but not those who have languished in prison unfairly for years -- the messenger is blamed. The message is conveniently marginalized.
If Gore supporters had the enthusiasm for their candidate that Nader supporters had and volunteered and contributed money to his campaign instead of relying on the corporate elite, he would have won.
So the question is: Who cost Gore the election? Nader the democrat, or the Democrats?
Robert Adleman is an attorney who was active in Ralph Nader's campaign.
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