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Nader Voters Crucial To A Democratic Congress

Tom Turnipseed

Ralph Nader's candidacy for President will bring a turnout of progressive voters who could furnish the margin of victory in enough close Congressional races for the Democrats to regain control of Congress. Nader will energize many Progressives who would otherwise sit out the election because Gore appears too much in-the-pockets of big corporate power and hesitates and hedges on critical issues of economic and social justice like world trade, campaign finance reform, and the death penalty. Nader voters are largely to the left of the political spectrum and will overwhelmingly choose the more liberal Democratic candidates for Congress.

Gore strategists see Nader as a dark cloud hanging over crucial states like California that could wash away Gore's chances by swinging some closely contested states to Bush, but Democrats wanting to control Congress as much as the White House are beginning to see a silver lining in Nader's candidacy. Clinton is raising big bucks for Democratic Congressional candidates, but many progressive Democrats blame the loss of Congress on the Administration's botching of issues like health care reform and disagree with Clinton's co-opting conservative issues like welfare reform and utilizing cynical and selfish "triangulation" politics.

Some liberal Democratic activists believe that the Administration's "Republican mimicking" has helped produce the greatest shift in wealth from the poor and middle class to the very rich in our nation's history. They feel the Administration's "new Democrat" agenda is selling out the traditional Democratic working class base to global trading corporate interests and is only paying lip service to the cause of economic justice. Since the embarrassing loss on the big issue of health care for all Americans, Clinton has disingenuously disguised his rightward drift with never-ending announcements of nuanced social tinkering, like offering niche voters help in obtaining cell phones for crime watch block patrols and advocating uniforms for public school children.

Mark Penn, Clinton's polling guru, identifies these micro-issues through sophisticated techniques learned while selling the products of corporate giants like AT&T, Procter & Gamble, and Microsoft. The June 18th edition of the N.Y. Times Magazine profiles Penn, who is also polling for Hillary Clinton in New York. Penn and his partner, Doug Schoen, also poll for the Democratic National Committee and were introduced to Clinton by the crafty cross-over consultant, Dick Morris. Clinton, ever fearful of the "L-word" label and always the savvy political pragmatist, saw such incrementalism as a way to carve out enough votes from the moderate middle to win.

Nader voters are big issue activists who are concerned with the alarming statistics on global warming, increasing income disparity, profligate defense spending, and the racial divide. Without Nader in the race, many are disinclined to vote for a lessor of two evils --- an Administration that tinkers around the edges and becomes an accessory to these growing problems. The voters Nader brings to the polls will vote overwhelmingly for Democrats in Congressional races because they are more progressive than their Republican opponents on the issues. Rather than hurting Gore, there is always the chance that Nader's candidacy will spur Gore on to speak out on critical issues like racial justice and will energize the traditional Democratic vote to furnish Gore the margin of victory.

Gore has had little to say about three recent studies that cry out for leadership in the struggle for racial justice. According to Human Rights Watch, five times as many whites use "illegal drugs" as do blacks, but blacks comprise 62% of drug offenders sent to state prisons (in South Carolina it's 86%) and blacks are only 13% of the overall U.S. population. The U.S. Justice Department and five major foundations' study on racial disparities in the juvenile justice system revealed that black youth were six times more likely to go to jail than white youths charged with similar crimes and who had similar criminal records. A 1999 study by the University of Michigan's Survey Research Center, funded by the National Science Foundation, found the net worth for the median African-American family was $7000, and the net worth for the median white family was $84,400!

Randal Robinson of Trans-Africa has signed on as Co-Chair of Nader's National Steering Committee, so we can expect Nader to make racial justice an issue. Nader's straight talk about big issues will bring out more voters for a Democratic Congress and maybe even help Gore if he'll quit hemming and hawing and take a stand on meaningful issues of justice.

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Tom Turnipseed

Tom Turnipseed

Tom Turnipseed is an attorney, writer and peace activist in Columbia, SC. His blog is

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