An Open Letter to Ralph Nader: From the Author of "When Corporations Rule the World"

Dear Ralph:

You have publicly expressed your dismay at what you perceive to be a loss of nerve by those of us who supported you in the 2000 presidential race, but now endorse Senator Kerry. It is not a question of nerve. It is a question of pragmatic good judgment in a time of deep national crisis.

I bought into the argument in the 2000 election that there was little consequential difference between Bush and Gore and joined with you to send a signal to the Democratic Party and build the Green Party. The judgment that there was no consequential difference between the two establishment candidates has proven to be more wrong than I ever imagined possible. If Gore were president, the United States would not be bogged down in a pointless and unwinnable war in Iraq; we would not have the biggest budget deficit in our history; and we would not be experiencing a massive rollback in civil liberties and in environmental, health, and worker protections. We might not even have had 9/11. You more than anyone should be aware of this.

With regard to differences between Bush and Kerry, I must admit to having serious questions about a political system that offers us a presidential choice between a rich white male graduate of Yale University and a rich white male graduate of Yale University. However, to deny the significant differences between Bush and Kerry on issues ranging from environmental protection, nuclear proliferation, women's rights, civil liberties, the Supreme Court, labor rights, and national security is intellectually dishonest. Furthermore, Kerry has a stunning advantage over Bush in his intelligence, honesty, emotional and moral maturity, understanding of the world beyond America's borders, respect among foreign leaders, his ability to admit and learn from mistakes, and his capacity to articulate a coherent sentence. These are far from inconsequential differences.

Bush stands on his record. Indeed, the accomplishments of his administration have been breathtaking. In less than four years it has turned the largest budget surplus in our nation's history into the biggest deficit; presided over the first net loss of jobs since President Herbert Hoover; squandered lives, money, and international reputation on an unwinnable war with no exit strategy against the wrong enemy; weakened milestone environmental protection laws like the Clean Air Act; exacerbated inequality, threatened Social Security and Medicare, undermined guaranteed overtime compensation and key labor rights; dismantled what once were considered unassailable Constitutional rights; appointed extremist judges to our country's courts; and established a new military doctrine of pre-emptive nuclear war.

Perhaps Bush's greatest failure is in the area he claims to be his greatest strength: national security. The most devastating terrorist attack in human history occurred on his watch. Three years later his administration has yet to identify and charge a single U.S.-based accomplice. Nor has it charged anyone with responsibility for the subsequent anthrax attacks. The administration that immediately identified Osama Bin Laden as the September 11 ringleader could not find him in Afghanistan; so it invaded Iraq and captured Saddam Hussein instead.

I have no illusions that Kerry will be a great progressive leader, but he will at least be a competent leader. At this point a return to competent plutocracy as usual will be a major improvement over gross incompetence and naked fascism -- and this improvement is the best we can hope for in the 2004 election.

Whatever the original intention of your campaign, the only issues that have gained any attention center on personal ballot access for a candidate whose main support comes from his sworn enemies. You have not even positioned your run to build a third party.

Like Bush's war against Iraq, your campaign is the wrong war against the wrong enemy for the wrong reason. Tragically, it has come increasingly to appear that its primary intention is to throw the election to Bush to extract your personal vengeance against the Democratic Party, an outcome that will serve only to further harm your reputation and the hard-won victories of your lifetime of service.

George W. has become well known for his inability to admit a mistake and his self-righteous dismissal of all who challenge him. You risk history saying the same for Ralph Nader. When so many of your once closest friends and most ardent lifetime supporters urge you to withdraw and your main support comes from those on the Republican far right who detest everything you stand for, perhaps you should take note. Your one hope of avoiding further harm to your country, your cause, and your own reputation is to announce that you have made your statement and that now it is time for your remaining supporters to cast their ballots for Kerry.

This is a time for unity among all of us concerned for democracy and the future of America. We simply cannot afford four more years of what may be the most extremist, corrupt, and dangerously incompetent administration in U.S. history.

David C. Korten

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