On Sunday February 24, Ralph Nader announced that he was running for president on Meet the Press. This produced the usual storm of derision especially from the Democratic Party hacks in the big business media. We in Socialist Alternative support Nader’s decision to enter the race because it draws attention to the desperate need for a left alternative the Democrats and Republicans. Owing to his previous runs for the White House, particularly in 2000 when he received nearly three million votes and his many years of consumer activism, Nader has become a household name and a symbol of resistance to the corporate domination of politics.

The desire of ordinary working class and middle class Americans for change has been very evident in the election season so far. The US is stuck in seemingly endless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (whose total cost is now well over $1 trillion) while the economy is sinking into recession, millions are losing their homes and job losses are mounting. This is not to mention the disastrous state of the healthcare system, the deterioration of the environment or the poisonous legacy of Bush administration’s assault on civil liberties.

This desire for change is not new. In 2006 the Democrats had a sweeping victory in the midterm Congressional elections. The key expectation people had was that a Democratic Congress would end the war. Now there are actually more troops in Iraq and no end in sight. No wonder Congress’ support is at about the same level as Bush’s. A USA Today/Gallup poll from July showed that 58% think a third party is needed.

But the Democrats’ failure on this front is not really a surprise since they voted for the war in the first place just as they voted for the Patriot Act in 2001. When Bill Clinton was president they supported NAFTA which both Hillary and Obama now criticize on the campaign trail. Now they have brought forward a “stimulus” package for the economy which will do more to support big business and the rich than the working class and poor who are suffering from foreclosures and rising inflation.

At the moment it is Barack Obama’s campaign that is fuelling the most intense hopes. It is entirely understandable why the prospect of the first African American president would produce enthusiasm. Unfortunately, Obama does not make an unambiguous pledge to bring the troops home and, like Hillary, his idea of health care reform is to force everyone into the nightmare of private insurance rather than ending the for-profit basis of health provision once and for all. Both Obama and Hillary have received extensive corporate support and both are seen as a “safe pair of hands” to defend the interests of capitalism both domestically and abroad.

We have consistently called for the strongest possible anti-war and anti-corporate left challenge in the 2008 presidential election. In our opinion, now that Nader has declared he should approach Cynthia McKinney to form a joint ticket. McKinney was an African American congresswoman in Georgia before being driven out of the Democratic Party for her resolute opposition to the war and the attacks on civil liberties as well as championing the fight to rebuild New Orleans in working peoples’ interests. She declared her campaign for the Green Party’s nomination a few months ago and, while she hasn’t received as much media attention as Nader, in our opinion a Nader-McKinney ticket, with Nader as the presidential candidate and McKinney for vice president, would be the best placed to reach the widest possible audience with an anti-war, anti-corporate message. It would be a mistake if there were competing anti-war, anti-corporate campaigns; there needs to be a united left challenge to the big business parties.

For the same political reasons we have also welcomed antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan’s decision to leave the Democratic Party and stand against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in California.

Of course, the usual attacks have already begun against Nader including that he was a “spoiler” in the 2000 elections and somehow responsible for the election of George Bush. The truth is that Al Gore won in Florida. The real reason he did not take office is that the Democrats refused to mobilize working people and African Americans against the right wing coup engineered by Bush and his buddies on the Supreme Court. This demonstrated the true nature of the Democratic Party. They would rather not win than be in any way beholden to a mass movement of ordinary people.

But a mass movement of working people and youth for real change is precisely what is needed now. A serious left campaign should organize rallies around the country to mobilize the widest possible support for their campaign as well as giving voice and solidarity to ongoing working class and community struggles. As the best known left challenger Nader must take the initiative now in launching such a campaign and striving to involve all other anti-war, anti-corporate left forces.

This campaign should become the voice of unions fighting layoffs and attacks on working conditions; undocumented workers facing the threat of deportation; African Americans standing up against hate crimes and police brutality, women defending reproductive rights and high school students trying to stop military recruitment in the schools.

In 2004 the Democrats’ fear of any left challenge and their tenuous commitment to democracy led to an all out offensive to keep Nader off the ballot funded to the tune of millions of dollars. Undoubtedly they’ll be trying to suppress the left alternative again this time.

We have to build a movement that goes beyond November’s elections recognizing that free universal health care and the massive investment needed to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure and create decent well paying jobs for all will require serious struggle. Most of all it will require the creation of a new, democratically run, political party that will challenge the domination of society by the big corporations and instead base itself on the interests of working people and the oppressed.

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