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WHAT WE THINK
The Democrats' war on democracy

September 24, 2004 | Page 3

IF OPPOSITION candidates were excluded from the presidential election in Venezuela or Iran, Washington would be issuing denunciations and threats. But back in the U.S., it's business as usual.

"In dozens of states, Democratic state parties have backed a myriad of legal challenges to [independent presidential candidate Ralph] Nader's efforts to win ballot access, frustrating his supporters and draining his resources," the Associated Press reported. In Oregon, for example, the Democrats organized to sabotage Nader's nominating convention, and the Democratic secretary of state invalidated his petitions.

It took a lawsuit and a judge's order to get Nader on the Oregon ballot. In Illinois, another secretary of state--again, a Democrat--dispatched employees to challenge Nader signatures and disqualify him. The same pattern prevailed in Pennsylvania, where a Democratic lawsuit knocked Nader off the ballot--absurdly, because he appears as the candidate for another party in a different state.

As a Philadelphia Inquirer editorial pointed out, by that standard, George W. Bush should be ousted too, since he's the candidate of the Conservative Party in New York. Yet when the Bush campaign failed to meet a deadline to be on the Florida ballot, the Democrats refused to challenge them--a professional courtesy that's typical in the U.S. political duopoly.

Democrats justify their hardball tactics by claiming that Nader is a "useful idiot" for the Bush-Cheney campaign, as Nation columnist Eric Alterman put it. Their evidence: the intervention by Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and his staff to get Nader on the Florida ballot as the candidate of the Reform Party, the vehicle for the immigrant-bashing campaign of Pat Buchanan in 2000.

As Socialist Worker has argued in the past, the Nader-Camejo campaign's reliance on Reform ballot lines anyplace is a mistake--it only resuscitates an organization that should be left to die. But the Democrats' accusations that Nader is a tool of the right are utterly hypocritical.

These people complain about alleged Republican assistance for Nader even after they publicly begged Republican Sen. John McCain to be John Kerry's running mate. Nader, they say, has "sold out" by supposedly taking money from Republicans--even as Kerry and Edwards roll up tens of million of dollars in donations from the same corporate sources that back Bush.

And who can seriously believe the claims of the Democrats' Nader hit squad to be acting in the interest of "progressive politics?" Consider the party operatives who run the Nader-bashing Web site, TheNaderFactor.com--among them, Karl Frisch, a Democratic hack-for-hire, and David Jones, fundraising guru for Democratic senators.

This type of sleazy operation should be a source of outrage on the left. Instead, many of Nader's former prominent supporters in the 2000 election--including Medea Benjamin, Noam Chomsky, Manning Marable, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins--recently issued a statement calling for a vote for Kerry in "swing states."

Imagine the difference it would make if these figures spoke out against the attempts to sideline Nader and criticized Kerry's conservative policies. After all, there is a useful idiot who's playing into Bush's hands in the 2004 elections. His name? John Kerry.

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