I circulated this article via email in early October 2000,
to all the lists, listservs and websites I could. It travelled a fair amount around the
Internet, but the networks were far less developed than now. I wish it had gotten out just a bit more widely in Florida and New Hampshire, the states where Nader's vote exceeded Bush's official margin.
WHY IM HOLDING MY NOSE AND VOTING AND VOLUNTEERING FOR GORE
As state after state seems to now swing by a razor thin margin thats less than
the number of people now voting to Ralph Nader, I think the risks of voting for Nader in
key swing states now outweigh the gains. I dont want to repeat on a presidential
scale what occurred a few years ago, where Mitch McConnell, the most implacable foe of
campaign finance reform in the Senate, got elected in Kentucky by fewer votes than the
candidate of the Socialist Workers Party.
So Im writing you and all my contacts to offer my perspective and hope
youll do what you can (including talking with students if you teach), to get as many
people as possible to make sure that the Republicans dont capture the White House,
Congress and the Courts. That means voting but also volunteering, and doing our best to
get the turnout thats needed for the Democrats to win at as many levels as possible.
I admire Ralph Nader tremendously, always have. His campaign has raised critical issues
and reminded Gore that there are loads of people disgusted with his political timidity. To
my mind, hes on the wrong side on global trade issues, and unacceptably compromised
to corporate elites. To do anything decent, hes going to have to be pushed hard and
consistently by organized grassroots citizens.
But that said, I think that those of us in swing states need to do everything we can to
defeat George W. Bush, even if it means actively supporting and even volunteering for a
man we have little respect for. Because I think a Bush presidency would be a disaster in
the following key ways.
The Supreme Court: I wish Beyer and Ginsberg were even close to the league of
Justices William ODouglass, Hugo Black or even William Brennan. But theyre a long way from Scalia and Thomas. Those folks are vicious, siding with the powerful and against the
powerless on every conceivable issue, from regulatory questions to the environment to
campaign financing, let alone abortion choice. The margin on most key votes is razor thin
already. Whoever wins will probably appoint two or three justices. As Tom Wicker points
out in a recent Nation article, a Bush presidency could move the Supreme Court and all
other Federal Courts backwards in a way that would hamper citizen efforts at justice for
thirty years to come.
Labor rights: Finally, we have a revived union movement, organizing several hundred
thousand new workers each year. Gore may not help it much, but he isnt going to
attack it, and has made some pretty explicit pledges that will help. And for a Senator
from a largely non-union state, he actually voted pretty decently on these issues, better
actually than Bill Bradleys record in New Jersey. Bush will go directly after the
union movement in every subtle way he can, from "paycheck protection," to an
unequivocally hostile NLRB, to worsening the already dreadful rules on how union elections
are conducted. A Republican Congress will go along. Given how much organizing has been
damaged by the fifty-year legacy of Taft-Hartley, I dont want to see the barriers
raised even higher.
The Environment: I agree Gore has been cowardly. I was part of a meeting with his top
environmental advisor where everyone present lit into his timidity, including people
wearing Gore buttons, like the Northwest head of the Sierra Club, and one of the directors
of League of Conservation Voters. Still, hes pledged to protect the Arctic National
Wildlife Refuge; Bush wants to drill in it. He offers tax credits for energy efficient
technologies; Bush makes snide jokes about them. He has pushed for a long while, if
ambivalently, on Global Warming; Bush denies it even exists. Hes supported
Clintons protection of national monuments; Bush opposes it. For all Bushs
talk, I see no indication that he would do anything than let the worst polluters directly
write the laws.
Campaign Finance Reform. Gore can be pretty craven, but hes pledged to back
McCain-Feingold, and the people at Public Campaign think his democracy endowment is
actually pretty decent. Bush has opposed campaign finance reform at every turn, is totally
opposed to any such legislation, and will try to sandbag or veto any that comes about.
Theres a major grassroots effort to change the rules of the gameas in the
example I wrote about from Maine, and similar laws that passed in Arizona, Vermont,
Massachusetts. I cant see that Bush would do anything other than place as many
obstacles in the way of these efforts as he could.
Abortion choice: a huge clear difference. We take it for granted. We shouldnt.
Bush will do everything he can do erode or end it. That matters, especially to poor women
who will suffer the most if access is eroded.
And Gores at least pushing for childrens health care is something, though
far from the universal coverage Id like. Whereas Bush is unequivocally opposed.
Those to me add up to significant differences. Well still have to push Gore like
Hell on globalization, militarization, the death penalty, and a bunch of other issues.
Nader will be there, I assume, to help build on the momentum hes created. And as
Nader said, Gore could and should have reached out to capture the voters currently
defecting. Naders running was good and important. But to me, given the current
choices, I think it would be a disaster if he let the presidency, Senate and Congress be
captured by Bush and the Republicans.
I know many of my friends and many people I admire will disagree with me. Whoever gets
elected, I hope the progressive momentum Nader has helped coalesce will continue long
after this election. But I think the time for visionary organizing is afterwards, and that
for now, in states that are on the fence, its better to get Al Gore in the White
House, and then to go back to all the hard and ongoing work that will create enough
pressure for him to move this country toward a more just society, whether his instincts
lead him that way or not.