JAZZMAN CHRONICLES: DISSEMINATE FREELY.
A RESPONSE TO A LETTER FROM MINNESOTA
By Jack Random
As a voice for independence from political parties and an advocate for third parties as a means to that end, it was an agonizing decision to dedicate whatever small measure of influence I could muster toward replacing George W. Bush with the Democrat John Kerry. It would perhaps have been less agonizing had the Democrats found the courage to nominate a candidate with a strong antiwar position, but I have grown accustomed to disappointment in both sides of the mainstream political aisle.
The unwavering gravitation of the Democrats to the muddled middle ground has forced the Republicans to the far right so that the progressive left is no longer represented in what passes for fair and balanced political discourse.
To those who would question Nader’s integrity, sanity or character, save your breath. Do not give the words you will have to swallow in the next campaign. Nader is right: The politics of pragmatism is the foremost enemy in the battle for independence.
On the other hand, when Ralph Nader decries such luminaries as Studs Terkel and Howard Zinn as “liberal intelligentsia” and laments that they have lost their nerve, he is no longer fighting the good fight. He is no longer fearlessly striking out at the powers of corporate corruption. He is attacking the heart and soul of the progressive movement. He is further alienating those who were honestly torn by this critical dilemma.
It is one thing to disagree on the relative harm of GW Bush; it is another to accuse those who have arrived at a contrasting view of spinelessness.
On substance, Ralph Nader is right on every major issue and most especially on the matter of extracting ourselves from the disaster in Iraq, but he is wrong when he suggests that we have not pushed Kerry toward a more progressive stance, most especially on the war. That we have not done so in the name of Ralph Nader does not render our efforts meaningless. In fact, I believe we have had some effect.
I would also note that my perception of the role of a third party movement differs from Nader’s in one important respect. He appears to believe that the goal is to apply pressure to the lesser of two evils (i.e., the Democrats). This is also the politics of pragmatism. I believe that the only goal worth pursuing is the defeat of the two-party system.
The real question at this time and place in history is this: Who has done more to forward the cause of independence in this election: Ralph Nader, standing strong on principle and sacrificing much of the dedicated support he once enjoyed, or those of us who have compromised by acknowledging that there are times when our own cause must yield to a greater cause – in this case, the cause of peace?
It is not an easy question. It is a question that each and every one of us should ask and answer conscientiously. It is a question that has the power to divide. Bear in mind that we have not asked the gay and lesbian community to stand down because the issue of gay marriage can only feed the religious right and therefore help George Bush. We have not asked abortion rights to take a holiday. In fact, we have not asked any group or individual to sacrifice their cause for political expedience, nor should we, except for the candidacy of Ralph Nader.
I will never side with those who claim that Nader betrayed the cause or the greater good. It is rarely that simple and the electoral dilemma of this election is no exception. When all is said, Ralph Nader’s legacy will place him alongside Martin Luther King and Cesar Chavez as a champion of the common people. His virtue has always been that he never regarded the working people as somehow inferior or less deserving of American justice and prosperity as the members of the elite.
In the waning days of this campaign, let there be peace within the progressive ranks. Let there be no more recriminations between Nader and those who stand with him on all matters but one. Let us look beyond Election Day and recognize that our cause and movement begins anew on November 3.
We stand together against the war, against corporate corruption and against the inherently corrupt two-party system. We stand for the rights of workers both here and abroad. We stand for living wages. We stand for civil liberties. We stand for universal health care. We stand for real equality and a woman’s right to choose. We stand for reparations for the American Indian and all oppressed minority communities. We stand for debt forgiveness of third world nations and an end to the global dominance schemes of the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization and the World Bank. We stand for the right of all the world’s inhabitants to be free of industrial contamination. We stand with the world against the war machine.
Let us not forget that when we supported Ralph Nader in the year 2000, we also supported Winona LaDuke. We stand with LaDuke today.