WHAT WE THINK|
A wrong turn in Nader's campaign
October 22, 2004 | Page 3THE INDEPENDENT campaign of Ralph Nader and Peter Camejo represents the only significant and uncompromising left-wing alternative to the Washington status quo in Election 2004.
On the crucial issue of Iraq, Nader and Camejo are antiwar candidates who call for withdrawal of U.S. troops. In stark contrast to the Republican Lite campaign of John Kerry and John Edwards, the Nader-Camejo Web site presents a range of progressive positions on everything from union rights to the racist war on drugs and to the need for re-establishing a social welfare system. Though he seemed to make an overture to Kerry earlier this year, more recently, Nader has been sharply critical of the Democrats--particularly as attacks on Nader's right even to appear on the November ballot have escalated.
Socialist Worker believes that Nader deserves the support and the vote of anyone who wants to take a stand against a two-party system that offers a fake "choice" between two pro-corporate, pro-war parties.
However, Nader has made several wrong turns in his campaign that need to be discussed. He accepted the endorsement of the right-wing Reform Party of Ross Perot, which gave him access to the ballot in several states, but also breathed new life into a half-dead party. More recently, Nader agreed to appear on the New York ballot as the candidate of the Independence Party, even though supporters had gathered enough signatures to qualify him separately--a move that led Camejo to ask that his name not appear with Nader's in this case.
The Independence Party has been taken over by an organization known as the New Alliance Party (NAP), which uses left-wing rhetoric, including opposition to the two mainstream parties, but has a record of promoting anti-Semitism and right-wing causes.
The NAP grew out of a split from an organization led by Lyndon LaRouche and is built around crackpot ideas about psychiatric therapy developed by self-identified "Marxist psychologist" Fred Newman, and spread by the NAP's most visible figure, Lenora Fulani. Though claiming to be left wing, during the 1990s, the NAP joined Ross Perot's right-wing populist crusade, and in 1999, it formed an alliance with bigot Pat Buchanan, who made Fulani a campaign co-chair when he took over the Reform Party.
After that, billionaire Michael Bloomberg wooed NAP leaders with support for their ballot initiative to eliminate party primaries--and in return appeared on the Independence Party ballot line in his campaign for New York City mayor. But the NAP has endorsed Democrats, too--for example, New York Sen. Charles Schumer, who also appeared on the Independence Party line.
Newman and Fulani have long been rejected by the left as cult leaders--along with the numerous political front groups and well-funded businesses and charitable organizations they preside over. The NAP operation is designed to make its leaders rich and earn them notoriety, not to present a left-wing political alternative.
Many people don't know this history. But that's no excuse for Nader's association with the Independence Party. Thanks to the efforts of Green Party supporters and other left activists, he doesn't need the party's ballot line. And he's dead wrong if he thinks the Newman-Fulani cult are allies. Their rhetoric about building a third-party alternative is a cover for a self-serving and dishonest political agenda.
Nader's connections to the Reform Party and Independence Party have opened him and his supporters up to attacks by liberals seeking to discredit any challenge to the Democrats in 2004. But there's a more important reason why Nader is wrong to involve himself with these groups--it undermines the left-wing politics of our challenge.
The importance of the Nader campaign lies not only in the specific choice it presents in this election, but in the marker it lays down for future efforts to build an alternative independent of the two-party system. We want to see that alternative built on a clear left-wing basis. That's why it's important not to stay silent about our political differences with Nader, and especially any conservative forces that support the campaign.
We have remained dedicated to building the Nader campaign and trying to win the largest number of votes possible for this political challenge, while being upfront about our criticisms. As supporters, we believe Nader is weakening his effort by associating himself with the Reform Party and Independence Party--and we call on him to end this relationship.