Why You Should Support Nader in 2004
The moment Ralph Nader announced his presidential run, the entire political establishment and the media unleashed a torrent of abuse and condemnation. “It’s about [Nader], it’s about his ego, it’s about his vanity, and not about a movement,” thundered New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.
What nerve! While Nader has spent decades fighting for ordinary people, politicians like Richardson and John Kerry have been focusing on the “important” tasks of advancing corporate interests and their own political careers.
Socialist Alternative strongly supports Nader’s insurgent campaign against the Democrats and Republicans, as we did in 2000. Here are some common questions people are asking about his campaign and our responses.
Q: What does Nader stand for?
A: Nader is challenging the war in Iraq, and exposing the Republicans and Democrats for “dialing for dollars from the same corporate interests” while ignoring the concerns of ordinary people.
Nader is campaigning on real issues that Bush and Kerry won’t touch, such as:
- Public works programs to create millions of jobs
- A universal single-payer healthcare system
- Same-sex marriage rights
- Repealing the Patriot Act
- Abolishing the death penalty
- Ending the war on drugs
- Expanding workers’ rights and repealing the Taft-Hartley Act
Q: Wouldn’t John Kerry be better than Bush?
A: There is no doubt that George W. Bush is a very real threat to workers and oppressed people in the U.S. and throughout the world. We would love to see Bush and his right-wing, corporate agenda defeated. Unfortunately, Kerry and the Democrats offer no real alternative.
In his 20 years as a Senator, Kerry has proven he is a reliable defender of big-business interests. In fact, Kerry is the richest man in Congress, worth over $550 million! While he now poses as an opponent of “special interests,” he has taken millions from Corporate America.
Kerry voted for many of Bush’s policies – the Iraq war, the Patriot Act, the “war on terrorism,” and “No Child Left Behind,” to name a few. Kerry has declared that he would continue the occupation of Iraq and that he opposes same-sex marriage rights.
Kerry has a long record of firmly supporting “free trade” deals such as NAFTA and the WTO. In response to Republican attacks, he bragged of his support for Clinton’s destruction of welfare.
While it is entirely possible that Kerry will defeat Bush, it is completely ruled out that Kerry or the Democrats will end the corporate domination of society, the occupation of Iraq, racism, sexism, or the many other urgent problems capitalism breeds.
Q: Didn’t Nader throw the 2000 election to Bush?
A: Contrary to the “Nader elected Bush” mantra, Al Gore won the popular vote in 2000 by over 540,000 votes. More concerned with protecting the legitimacy of the ruling class’s political system, Gore and the Democratic Party leadership refused to challenge the undemocratic Electoral College and actively stopped attempts to organize mass protests against the Republicans’ racist theft of Florida’s election.
It was Clinton and Gore’s policies that paved the way for Bush, not Nader. During their eight years in power, they ruthlessly attacked the living conditions and rights of groups they claimed to represent. In disgust, half of eligible voters – 100 million people – refused to vote in 2000.
They rammed through NAFTA and the WTO, destroyed welfare, and broke promises on universal healthcare, striker replacement laws, abortion, gays in the military, and more. Under Clinton, the prison population exploded from 1.2 million to 2 million. Clinton was the main enforcer of the genocidal sanctions on Iraq, which killed more than 1 million Iraqis.
Nader’s real “crime” was offering a radical alternative to the two parties of big business. His campaign gave political expression to a growing movement against the corporate domination of politics and society, a movement that first announced its presence at the 1999 WTO protests. Nader’s anti-corporate stand won 2.8 million votes – the first credible, left-wing U.S. presidential candidate in 50 years.
Q: What’s wrong with “lesser-evilism”?
A: The only way workers and oppressed people have ever won significant reforms have been through mass struggle, which were won in spite of the resistance of the two corporate parties. It was by building our own mass movements that we defeated Jim Crow apartheid, stopped the Vietnam War, won abortion and unionization rights, etc.
However, the strategy of supporting the “lesser evil” Democrats has repeatedly led to the weakening and destruction of social movements. Lesser-evilism restricts movements to demanding only what is acceptable to the Democratic Party and its big business backers, preventing our movements from fighting consistently for our interests.
The logic of supporting Kerry and the Democrats in 2004 will put tremendous pressure on the anti-war movement to not call for the immediate withdrawal of the troops or repealing the Patriot Act, in order to avoid embarrassing “our friend” John Kerry. The same will happen to movements for universal, national healthcare or same-sex marriage rights.
Q: Many say Nader shouldn’t run in this crucial election. Isn’t 2004 different than 2000?
A: Many of these same forces, like The Nation magazine, also opposed Nader’s run in 2000 and supported Gore. These same lesser-evil arguments were made in 1996, 1992, and all the way on back to the 1930’s.
If not now, then when should we break from the Democratic Party? If Kerry is elected in 2004, we will be told we must vote for Kerry in 2008 to keep the “greater evil” Republicans out. If we must back the Democrats in 2008, what about 2012? Could we break from the Democrats then? What about 2016? Maybe 3016?
A Kerry Administration will continue the occupation of Iraq and attack workers, which will provoke a massive backlash and pave the way for Bush III in 2008, unless an anti-war, progressive political alternative is built.
As long as we stay locked into the endless cycle of lesser-evilism, we will never get anywhere. Big business will continue to control politics and set the terms of debate, while workers’ interests will be ignored.
Because of the strong “Anybody But Bush” mood, if the election remains close, Nader will face a more difficult political climate than in 2000 and get fewer votes. Nonetheless, it is necessary to take a stand and start somewhere in our fight to break free from the trap of big business politics. It is necessary to warn workers and activists that there is no way forward via the Democrats – a party of war, racism, and sexism.
Q: How Can Nader Build the Strongest Possible Campaign?
A: In our view, opposition to the occupation of Iraq should be at the forefront of Nader’s campaign, with a clear call to “Bring the troops home now” and immediately end the occupation. Unfortunately, so far Nader has mistakenly not highlighted his opposition to the occupation and is calling for the UN to take over Iraq. (See “Why We Call for an Immediate End to the Occupation of Iraq,” for why socialists do not support a UN administration of Iraq.)
It is also vital that Nader actively takes up the crucial issues of concern for women, people of color, and LGBT people. Nader should highlight same-sex marriage rights, abortion rights and the April 25 demonstration, immediate amnesty for all undocumented immigrants, and an end to police brutality. If Nader does not adopt such an approach, his support will be significantly reduced, leaving the Democrats an open field among these groups.
Q: Why Should I Vote for Nader?
A: Since the leaders of the unions, women’s, and civil rights organizations are supporting the Democrats, and there is no party representing working people, Nader’s campaign will be the best way in the 2004 elections to advance the interests of workers, women, people of color, LGBT people, the environment, and the anti-war movement.
Every Nader vote registers a protest and strikes a blow against the establishment and their two parties – the people who are responsible for the war in Iraq, poverty, sexism, racism, the lack of healthcare, and the millions rotting in hellholes called jails.
Nader’s campaign presents a real choice for anti-war, labor, and other progressive activists. While Kerry supports the occupation of Iraq, Nader opposes it. Kerry opposes the right to same-sex marriage; Nader supports it. Kerry opposes single-payer universal healthcare; Nader supports it. Kerry has taken millions from big business; Nader is campaigning for workers’ rights.
A vote for Nader is NOT a vote for Bush – it’s a vote for radical change. Ralph Nader is not a “spoiler” – it is Bush and Kerry who have already spoiled too many lives.
In 1908, union leader and Socialist Party presidential candidate Eugene Debs replied to a heckler who shouted that a Socialist vote was a wasted vote: “That’s right. Don’t vote for freedom – you might not get it. Vote for slavery – you have a cinch on that.”
But our struggle is about more than just casting a vote on November 2. We need to build a movement that continues to fight beyond the election, that addresses the root causes of society’s problems. As socialists, we are fighting to build a movement to overturn this whole rotten capitalist system that breeds war, corporate rule, poverty, racism, sexism, and environmental destruction. Join us in the fight for system change!
Justice #38, March-April 2004