Wednesday, June 23, 2004


“For those of us who believe…that the two party system is corrupt beyond redemption, the prospect of supporting a Democrat is agonizing … and yet, John Kerry versus George W. Bush is something akin to Hubert Humphrey versus Genghis Khan. Such is the nature of war.”

Jazzman Chronicles, Volume II: The War Chronicles.

Barring an “October surprise,” (or perhaps despite it) members of the antiwar movement hold the key to the outcome of the next election. The Bush-Cheney machine is breaking down. Ironically, they appear to be as inept at repair and maintenance as they are at foreign policy. Ironically, they are running out of gas well short of the finish line.

It is not the time for an open assault on the policies of Democratic candidate John Kerry but it is time to reconsider the role of independent candidate Ralph Nader. It is hardly a dark secret that we are discontent with the war policies of Senator Kerry. The idea that we “cannot fail in Iraq” is as tired as the latest appearance of the band of brothers. The admonition against a “cut and run” approach is more appropriate to a football game than a foreign policy. Senator Kerry should mind Einstein’s admonition that folly is repeating the same pattern of behavior while expecting a different result. We have lost in Iraq and no declarations of resolve or pipedreams of internationalization will alter that solemn fact. What remains to determine is the cost.

Either John Kerry does not believe that an antiwar candidate can win the presidency or he has painted himself into a corner. Given the record contributions he has collected and his steady climb in presidential polls, he has every reason to stay the course. Given the rising sentiment against the war, however, the Senator would do well to consider the distinct possibility that he cannot win without the antiwar movement.

Already the more impassioned of our numbers have begun zeroing in on the Senator’s policies and who can blame them? He has seemingly done everything in his power to alienate us. He has issued a call for more troops in Iraq. He has groveled at the feet of John McCain. He has refused to disavow military conscription. He has taken a stand against Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. He has backed away from criticizing the Bush coup in Haiti. If we were to rely on his campaign to inform us on the issues of the day, we would never know there is a war going on for the Senator scarcely mentions it.

Enter Ralph Nader to deliver a well-earned rebuke: There is a limit to our patience and pragmatism. If the good Senator has no ear for our message, if in fact he demands that we vote for a policy of escalation, he will leave us in a quandary like the soldiers in Baghdad.

We have listened to the lamentations of Democrats too long. It becomes a drone like elevator music before Pink Floyd. Ralph Nader did not lose the 2000 election, the disenfranchisement of black Americans did. Why not drone about that? Ralph Nader did not run the most inept presidential campaign since Walter Mondale. Why not drone about that? Would Albert Gore be president today if Ralph Nader had not run? We will never know. My informed opinion is that the fix in Florida was in. Republican operatives were primed and ready to pull as many votes out of the hat as needed. The fact that the Democrats chose to dispute the results based on hanging chads rather than high treason is a scandal equal in proportion to the Republican disgrace. But why drone on about the past?

Ralph Nader is right. We all know it. When he speaks, he speaks our views. When he strikes out against the war machine, he does not pull his punches. He is against the war and the occupation. He favors a scheduled withdrawal of our troops. Most importantly, he is right on target when he claims that he is the only practical means of influencing the Democratic party and its candidate.

Realistically, for most Americans, a vote for Ralph Nader is not evidence of political lunacy. For most Americans a vote for Nader will have no more influence on the election than a vote for Bush or a vote for Kerry. If you live in California, New York or Texas, you can vote freely or not vote at all and it will have no impact on the outcome of the election. In fact, if you live anywhere outside the estimated fourteen or fifteen “battleground” states, your vote is as meaningful as a vote in Moscow. As the Republicans in Florida were so fond of reminding us: We do not live in a democracy. We live under a representative system so corrupted that political parties game it as Enron and El Paso Gas gamed the electrical power system.

For most of us, the only hope of influencing the direction of our nation resides in a vote for independent, third party or mainstream antiwar candidates (that rarest of breeds) in every race from city council to Senator. In congressional elections, we may actually find some success. The major parties have gerrymandered districts to such an extreme, concentrating progressive voters in Republican states and conservative voters in Democratic states, that they are vulnerable to the challenges of true progressives and true libertarians, respectively.

So where does all this leave us in the presidential election?

We must continue to support John Kerry as an alternative to the Bush war machine but, as we do so, we should also support Ralph Nader as he pushes Kerry to assume an antiwar stance, to open his thinking to the possibility of withdrawal, to oppose the draft, the Bush doctrine and the Wolfowitz approach to the war on terror.

Until John Kerry gives us something to vote for we must regard him with the same indifference that Albert Gore inspired in 2000. We are not naïve or stupid and we will not be taken for granted. We are counting on the Kerry campaign to hear our voices. We are imploring the Democrats to embrace the cause of peace. If they fail us, we will still make John Kerry president but we will also make him a one-term president.



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