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WHAT WE THINK
We deserve better than Bush vs. Kerry
We're voting for Nader-Camejo

October 29, 2004 | Pages 1 and 3

GEORGE W. BUSH and John Kerry agree on one thing. They both think that there's a "clear choice" in the 2004 presidential election.

So do the establishment media. The Miami Herald wrote recently about the candidates' "stark differences in economic plans." The St. Louis Post-Dispatch described Bush's and Kerry's "starkly different views" in the debate. Then there's the Baltimore Sun, which noted--you guessed it--the "starkly different views" of the two candidates.

But the simple truth is that there isn't much of a choice between the Democratic and Republican candidates for president.

Bush and White House puppet master Dick Cheney have been frenzied scaremongers on the campaign trail--but Kerry and John Edwards have done their best to keep up. When Cheney implied that a Kerry victory would make a nuclear attack on the U.S. more likely, was Kerry outraged? Nope. He fell back on his standard line--to be tougher on terrorism than Bush.

The rhetoric is heated, but beneath that, the differences between Bush and Kerry on major issues aren't about the policies themselves, but how to implement them. The occupation of Iraq? Both promise not to "cut and run." Creating jobs? Give Corporate America new tax breaks. Fixing our public schools? The disagreement is over how much to spend on No Child Left Behind, not what's wrong with test-crazy law to begin with.

There hasn't been a campaign more right wing than this one in several generations--and both parties are to blame.

Yet for millions of people, it doesn't matter what John Kerry says or does--because he is "Anybody But Bush." The vast majority of liberals and progressives have come to agree with the basic claim of ABB--that Bush's re-election will be such a catastrophe for people in the U.S. and around the world that he needs to be voted out.

Of course, no one on the left--Socialist Worker included--denies that the Bush administration has been responsible for disasters and atrocities in the U.S. and around the world. For our part, we've spent the last four years pointing this out--and doing everything we can to promote any struggle against the White House.

But the problem with voting for Anybody But Bush on November 2 is that the "anybody" has a name: John Kerry.

Millions and millions of people will go to the polls to vote against Bush's war, against more tax breaks for the rich, for civil liberties, against environmental destruction. But their votes will be for a candidate who supports the occupation of Iraq, who favors more corporate tax breaks, who won't repeal the USA PATRIOT Act, and who opposes even the Band-Aid solutions on global warming proposed in the Kyoto Protocols.

This isn't Socialist Worker's opinion about Kerry, but what Kerry says himself. Yet progressive publications skate past these positions in their endorsements of Kerry. They're urging us to vote "against Bush"--ignoring the real damage to our side when opponents of war and injustice "shut their eyes to Kerry's hard-line, right-wing, unilateral, pre-election policy epiphany," as right-wing New York Times columnist William Safire gleefully put it.

Take the issue of Iraq. Kerry claims that Iraq is the "wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time." For Kerry, there's a right war--the "war on terror." So he cheerleads the U.S. slaughter in Afghanistan and hints about using military force against Iran and North Korea.

This isn't surprising from a Democratic presidential candidate. But what's shocking is that well-known progressives have adopted his rhetoric. Like Michael Moore, maker of the powerful film Fahrenheit 9/11. Four years ago, he supported Ralph Nader. Today, he regularly argues that Bush's obsessions with Iraq stopped the U.S. from "going after" terrorists in Afghanistan. As if the killing of thousands of innocent Afghans--who had no connection to either al-Qaeda or the Taliban government--is a "justified" war.

This is a perfect example of how ABB politics have damaged the left--dragging activists away from a principled opposition to U.S. military adventures and toward acquiescence to the Kerry Democrats' hawkish policies.

As independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader put it in an open letter to former supporters: "In the next four years, our politics will be dominated by the struggle to end this war...I know which side you will be on next year. Which side are you on now?"

By advocating a vote for Kerry, the ABB left validates a pro-war, pro-corporate party of the status quo. What's more, the most important social changes have never come through voting--even for candidates far more attractive than Kerry. It has always been a question of popular mobilization and struggle--which the Democrats either seek to co-opt or oppose outright. Rebuilding the left in the U.S. means building on that tradition.

There is a clear choice in Election 2004--not between Bush and Kerry, but between the two mainstream candidates and the independent presidential ticket of Ralph Nader and Peter Camejo.

Nader and Camejo represent the antiwar candidates on the crucial issue of Iraq. They stand for a rapid U.S. withdrawal, ending Corporate America's invasion and reparations from Washington to rebuild the country it crushed. While Kerry claims to be a better choice than Bush by supporting an increase in the minimum wage to $7 an hour--the same in real terms as 40 years ago--Nader and Camejo want a $10-an-hour minimum wage. They also want increased taxes on the rich to revive desperately needed social programs.

On a range of issues--from gay marriage, to global warming and environmental devastation, to the racist war on drugs, to a woman's right to choose--Nader and Camejo represent the left-wing alternative.

At least as important is the fact that the campaign has taken an uncompromising stand against both wings of the two-party duopoly that runs Washington. By contrast, the Green Party's presidential candidate David Cobb nominally stands for many of the same progressive positions--but his campaign has conceded, explicitly and implicitly to the ABB tide. In fact, even his running mate has said she would consider voting for Kerry in swing states.

These are the reasons why Ralph Nader and Peter Camejo deserve your support and your vote.

We are not uncritical of Nader. There are areas of his platform--such as immigrant rights or the role of United Nations "peacekeepers"--where we disagree. More importantly, we believe Nader made several wrong decisions that undercut the left-wing character of his campaign.

Nader accepted the endorsement of the right-wing Reform Party of Pat Buchanan and Ross Perot. This gave Nader access to the ballot in a few states where the Democrats waged an all-out war to stop him, but at the cost of giving prominence to a conservative organization that differs sharply on many of Nader's most important progressive stands. Likewise, in New York, Nader agreed to appear on the ballot line of the Independence Party, which is run by a crackpot cult that made alliances with Buchanan in the last election--even though Greens and left-wing activists gathered enough signatures to qualify Nader for the ballot independently.

We have been upfront about these criticisms because we want the Nader campaign to be the strongest possible left-wing challenge to the Washington status quo. Despite his flaws, that's what Nader represents in Election 2004--a left alternative to the candidates of the two-party system.

No one expects Nader to win as many votes as he did in 2000--especially after the Democrats' operation to keep his name from even appearing on the ballot. But every vote that Nader and Camejo get will be a rejection of the two pro-war, pro-corporate candidates--and a voice raised for an alternative.

This is important in making a statement about the appalling campaign we have just lived through. But it is also about the future. A real challenge to the bipartisan agenda of war and corporate greed will mean building a political alternative independent of the Democratic Party.

The struggles against Washington's military machine and the power of Corporate America are sure to re-emerge after November 2, no matter who is elected president. They will be stronger for the fact that one current on the left refused to concede to the ABB call to give in to fear--and instead voted for our hope in the future.

Cast a vote for change

ONE OF the greatest outrages of this election is how difficult it will be to cast a ballot for Ralph Nader and Peter Camejo on Election Day.

In any sane system, there wouldn't be a question that a candidate with millions of supporters--who earned up to 5 percent and more in national opinion polls for most of the year--would appear on the ballot. But the U.S. doesn't have a sane system.

The Democrats' war to keep Nader off the ballot has succeeded in almost one-third of states across the country--including some of the largest, like California, where Nader has his strongest support.

Nader-Camejo supporters will have to write in their choice in these states. But again, the absurdity of U.S. election law poses obstacles. The method of casting a write-in vote varies enormously from state to state, county to county--even precinct to precinct, depending on voting machines. If write-in votes aren't done strictly according to local rules, the ballots can be thrown out.

Nader voters have to be prepared. Go to www.WriteInNader.org on the Web for information on how to cast a write-in ballot in different states.

There are other considerations concerning Nader's support from the Reform and Independence Parties. In New York, Socialist Worker urges its readers to vote for Nader on the Peace and Justice ballot line--so as not to endorse the Independence Party and its cultish leaders, whose line Nader accepted. In states where Nader appears as a candidate of the Reform Party, we urge our supporters to cast a write-in vote for Nader-Camejo--to make it clear that you are casting a left-wing vote.

There are other candidates that activists should support--such as Howie Hawkins, who is running for Congress in New York on the Green Party and Peace and Justice lines, and Renee Saucedo, a Green Party candidate for San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

We also urge our readers to consider the numerous referendums on the ballot in states across the country. In particular, the anti-gay bigots are pushing initiatives that would ban gay marriage in several states. We have to say no to these measures with as loud a voice as we can muster. Likewise, readers in Arizona should vote against the anti-immigrant Proposition 200.

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