Dead Men Left

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Tweedledum and Tweedledumber: why voting Nader is vital

Lenin of the Tomb produces a point-by-point rebuttal for all those Anybody But Bush arguments that will no doubt increase in volume and passion given Kerry's steady, Kinnock-like slide to ignominy.

Not one stands up to serious scutiny. Anybody But Bush appeals to a good instinct, and uses it for a terrible end. When Michael Moore (a fervent ABB convert) is down on his knees begging Nader not to stand on a prime-time talk show, it's clear little else can be said. For what good arguments are there in favour of Kerry? I don't just apply this to the left; I mean from any position not placed in the peculiar fundamentalist Christian/old industry/neo-con bloc around the Republicans - why should anyone positively support Kerry?

Once again, a feeble Democrat campaign is relying on an subservient left to give it the semblance of life.Sadly, it doesn't work; few, in all but the most clear-cut of referenda, vote negatively. In an election where around half the voting age population are likely not to turn up (and only two-thirds of registered voters), negative campaigning - especially conducted in the half-cocked fashion conducted by the ABB gang - will have no impact. Facing a polarising candidate, a "love him or hate him" figure like Bush, few of those intending to vote will be undecided and susceptible to negative pressure. But still fewer of those habitual non-voters will bother.

As I put it elsewhere (it's lazy blogging, but hey):

Behind the Anybody But Bush argument is the assumption that those who vote for Nader would otherwise automatically vote for the Democrat. The truth is quite different. Standing in 2000 on an anti-corporate ticket, Nader was able to mobilise a mass of those disenfranchised by the two-party system, winning over 2 million votes. Exit polls suggested that under half of Nader's support came from those who would otherwise have voted Democrat. Nearly a quarter was from Republican voters, and the remainder from those who, without Nader, would not have voted at all. Only 2 percent of registered Democrats nationwide supported Nader. In the crucial Florida ballot 200,000 registered Democrats - 12 percent of Floridian Democrats - voted for Bush. Gore, after a Supreme Court ruling, lost Florida by 543 votes, and hence the presidential election. If Gore had better propped up his own support, he would have won. Nader cannot be scapegoated for the inadequacies of the Democratic Party and the injustices of the US election system. Nader did not 'steal' Democratic votes - the Democrats failed to win them.

Nader ensures that the Democrats cannot take a 'left' vote for granted. As Nader put it, 'When you are taken for granted, you are taken': by disabling itself politically, and supporting the Democrats come what may, the US left's Lesser Evilism has allowed the Democrats to tail-end the Republicans' drive to the right, which removes any serious pressure on the Republicans from the left. It has created a vicious circle, in which the sort of radical politics that could appeal to millions of US workers - of taxing the rich to fund public services, or of defending the environment - are excluded. But the need to fight for progressive politics becomes more, not less, important when the space to do so becomes constrained. Nader has been a vociferous critic of the Tweedledee and Tweedledum system of Republicans or Democrats. 'We are trying to destroy the two-party corporate system,' he said in a recent interview. 'Both parties are pro-war, pro Patriot Act; both parties are pro-WTO.' Nader also supports a public works programme to create jobs; the creation of a universal healthcare system; and the adoption of a sustainable energy policy. He has spoken firmly and courageously in support of Palestinian rights, breaching a taboo subject in a way that no Republican or Democratic politician would dare.

The left must use Nader's principled stand as the opportunity to prise open the Republicrat consensus and speak to the millions disenfranchised or disillusioned with US politics. The need for such alternative becomes all the greater when the space to create becomes more restricted.