by Jan Baughman
(Swans - October 20, 2008) The presidential election year -- or two years, as they have now become -- can be a very lonely time for a Naderite. Friends and acquaintances with whom you share a common socio-political outlook instantly part ways when confronting the election fork in the road that veers to the left for Nader and to the right for the Democrat. At that turning point you may as well be a Republican; but as a Naderite, you become that ever-feared traitor to the cause -- a Spoiler. Nothing can spoil a conversation faster than pointing out the Democrats' failure of Party ideals and praising Nader's steadfast fight for all those ideals that we otherwise share in the off-election years. The least noxious response you can hope for is the condescending pat on the arm. "You are entitled to vote for the candidate you believe in," they say, but you know the underlying wish is that said right would once and for all disappear and not continue to threaten the two-party system.
Fortunately for the Naderites this campaign has been a dream. It is wonderfully organized and energized by a new generation of fiercely dedicated individuals that will hopefully continue Ralph's work into the future and on a year-round basis, both at the local and national levels. Much creativity has been spent on producing the campaign ads and videos to reveal the depth, breadth, and humor of Ralph. Ralph and Matt have campaigned without respite in all 50 states and have created a real and a cyber community of supporters despite the virtual media blackout imposed on them. For Ralph Nader, there is too much at stake for the future of our Democracy to give up his fight.
And yet, the past three elections were characterized by the Democrats' argument that "there is too much at stake this time." There was too much at stake to risk another four years of George W. Bush; there is too much at stake to risk a McCain presidency; yet, with all of the backlash from the last eight years of Bush's rule, why is the support for Barack Obama and John McCain so evenly split? Recent polls have asked, "All in all, do you think things in the nation are generally headed in the right direction, or do you feel that things are off on the wrong track?" Eighty percent of Americans today feel that things are off on the wrong track. The interpretation of this result is typically that the overwhelming majority of Americans reject the policies of the Bush administration. Yet the pollsters do not provide a logical follow-up question -- In what direction should America be heading? It is completely feasible that half of Americans believe the country is not conservative enough. The Sarah Palin phenomenon supports this notion. But if this notion is incorrect, then one must ask, if the Democrats are so different from and have a better vision for the country than the Republicans, then why aren't they winning by a landslide when so much is at stake?
To those who say to me, "if McCain wins, I will have you to blame," I answer: "When we're left with one party to choose from, I'll have you to blame. What have the Democrats given you in exchange for your votes? An end to the Iraq War in response to your 2006 mandate? Impeachment of George W. Bush? Universal health care? Quality education for all? A living wage? Preservation of Roe v. Wade? A fair tax system? Union support? Accountability for corporate crime? Repeal of the Patriot Act? An end to warrantless wiretapping?"
The silence is deafening.
I've never before donned a bumper sticker on my car, but this year my car proudly boasts two: one that reads "Nader-Gonzalez '08," and another that reads "End War, Vote Peace." I've yet to be run off the road, rear-ended, or shot at, but I did get a stalker! There is a Prius-driving man who works in an adjacent building and for two years has parked in the same spot under the same tree every single day. And then it all changed. One evening, I was leaving work and noticed the Prius parked directly to my left, and on his passenger window facing my driver's side was a "bumper" sticker that read "Democrat for McCain." Every day he'd park next to me, and in response I began to move my car around. Wherever I parked, he would appear on my left. This went on for months, until there was a temporal relationship between McCain's announcement of Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential running mate and the disappearance of his sticker and the return of the Prius to its former spot under the tree. Whether her politics or her gender changed his mind is something I'll have to poll him on one day. Meantime, I hope he became a Democrat for Nader...
While I admit I am frightened by the possibility of a reactionary McCain-Palin administration, I also fear an Obama-Biden administration that will continue to cater to the military-industrial complex that controls our political and economic agenda, bringing us no closer to re-embracing the Constitutional framework on which this country was founded and from which we have so blatantly strayed. I would submit that this year there is too much at stake to exclude independent candidates like Ralph Nader and Matt Gonzalez, who will not simply continue to use the tools and individuals that created the economic and Constitutional crisis we are in -- the Washington and Wall Street insiders -- to try to fix it.
As avowed by Eugene Debs and oft quoted by Mr. Nader, "Better to vote for someone you believe in and lose, than vote for someone you do not believe in and win, because that someone will surely betray you." With each passing election, that betrayal becomes ever more costly.