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Taking a stand against ABB slanders
A vote for Nader is a vote for Nader

October 22, 2004 | Pages 8 and 9

LAST SPRING'S rallying cry among progressives for "Anybody but Bush" has become this autumn's desperate plea for "No one but Kerry!"

Even as John Kerry promises to increase the U.S. military, ramp up the "war on terror" and "win" the war in Iraq, limit abortion, prevent gay marriage and hand more tax breaks to corporations, progressives and radicals who have spent decades lamenting the right-ward stampede of the Democratic Party are falling into line behind him.

TODD CHRETIEN is the Northern California field director for Ralph Nader and Peter Camejo's independent presidential ticket. Here, he counters the Anybody But Bush liberals' slanders against the Nader campaign.

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"A VOTE for Nader is a vote for Bush!"

Sound familiar? Variations on this mantra (emotional exclamation points included) are painfully familiar to anyone who has been working on Ralph Nader and Peter Miguel Camejo's presidential campaign this year. Or even anyone who has let it slip to friends that they are considering voting for Nader/Camejo.

Here are some of the latest examples:

-- "Peter Camejo was the first one I heard put it out...[that], 'Kerry will do what Bush wants to do better.' In other words, Kerry and the Democrats are the greater evil, not the Republicans, which followed to its logical conclusions, means that Camejo hopes that Bush/Cheney will win reelection." Ted Glick, ZNet Web site, September 23, 2004.

-- "So while Bush refuses to admit mistakes, maybe it's time for the myself who voted for Ralph Nader in 2000, to admit our mistakes... Had I known then what I know now, and had I lived in a swing state, I would have voted for Gore instead of Ralph Nader." Medea Benjamin, Common Dreams Web site, October 11, 2004.

-- "In a little-noticed GOP maneuver during the last days of the 2000 campaign, Republican forces poured money into commercials boosting Nader in some battleground states. This time, we can expect pro-Bush forces to do the same--but on a much larger scale." Norman Solomon, Common Dreams Web site, October 14, 2004.

-- "Even as Maine Democrats have waged a relentless war against our highest elected official, John Eder, by redistricting him out of his seat, we ask our supporters to vote for John Kerry in the state." John Eder, Green Party representative to the Maine State Legislature from Portland, Maine; and Stephen Spring, Green Party representative on the Portland School Committee, Portland Press Herald, October 14, 2004.

"Bush's Useful Idiot...What in God's name will convince Nader's remaining supporters to abandon his lemming-like march?" Eric Alterman, Nation magazine, October 4, 2004.

"Yesterday afternoon, I recorded an interview with Tariq Ali, who was visiting NYC, which I'll broadcast during the WBAI fundraiser, October 28. He reiterated his emphasis on the importance of defeating Bush (which means electing Kerry)--and dismissed Ralph in the harshest terms, using words like 'juvenile' and 'narcissistic.'" Doug Henwood, editor of Left Business Observer, October 13, 2004.

Boiled down to their essence, these arguments assert that: First, we were wrong to challenge the two parties in 2000, and we should not do it again. Second, we can only run third-party candidates if we don't threaten the Democratic Party. And third, anyone who disagrees is either a fool or a Republican shill.

These conclusions are put forward as "strategic" and "smart," but are really just a very old rerun of the U.S. left's habit of throwing away any momentum and crawling back into the Democratic Party, only to be despised and spit back out after the elections are over.

Let's look at what really happened in 2000. The Nader campaign brought the global justice movement that exploded on the scene in Seattle into the spotlight. Almost 3 million people voted for social justice, peace and civil rights against corporate greed, and the election put the Green Party on the map.

Despite Bush's theft of the election and Gore's refusal to fight the disenfranchisement of Black voters, Bush came into office in a weak position, facing a growing movement. But September 11 gave Bush the opportunity to go on the offensive, and he took it--by invading Afghanistan and Iraq, and passing the USA PATRIOT Act, with Democratic approval.

During the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, a millions-strong antiwar movement emerged to challenge the drive to war. We failed to stop the war, but that was because the Democrats in Congress ignored our movement and rushed into Iraq with Bush.

The Iraq invasion won a rapid victory. But the growing Iraqi resistance, the exposure of U.S. atrocities and the rising body count has created a layer of millions of people who could have been organized into a genuine peace campaign in 2004. Thus, just as in 2000, when Nader's campaign was seen as "Seattle going to the polls," the 2004 campaign could have been "the anti-war movement going to the polls."

To a limited degree, this has happened. One big distortion put out by the Anybody But Bush crowd is that all of Nader's former supporters have deserted him as he lurches into madness.

This is just not true. In California, Peter Camejo, Matt Gonzalez, Donna Warren and Renee Saucedo--the best-known Greens in the state that has over half of the country's registered Green Party members--all support Nader.

Arab Americans for Nader was founded to help mobilize Arab Americans who are considering voting for Nader--anywhere from the 10 to 25 percent. Nativo Lopez, president of the Mexican American Political Association (MAPA) in California, recently quit the Democrats and joined the Greens, and Camejo spoke at the MAPA convention. And Nader and Camejo have spoken at dozens of campaign rallies, with the overwhelmingly young and antiwar audiences ranging from dozens to hundreds to more than 1,000.

Yet the failure of the bulk of leading antiwar figures to challenge Kerry's pro-war candidacy has weakened and divided what could have been a much more powerful Nader campaign. The idea that you can only run an antiwar third party candidates if it doesn't threaten the Democratic Party is, practically speaking, a pledge that you never intend to build a powerful movement or party--and instead are content to hope that the Democrats will change their spots.

Now this is a perfectly legitimate point of view. There can be differences of opinion within the broad left over electoral strategy. The problem is the Anybody But Bush crowd has become so sectarian that they see their main goal as not simply advocating a vote for Kerry, but rather helping to prevent people who would prefer to vote for Nader-Camejo from having that chance.

I don't believe that committed activists like Medea Benjamin, Cornel West, Ted Glick, Noam Chomsky and others are "fools or shills." I just believe that they are wrong about the need to challenge the Democrats at every level, every year, in every state, if at all possible.

Of course, despite the correct decision that Nader made to run a 50-state campaign this year, he has made some errors--accepting the Reform Party endorsement, not actively fighting for the Green Party nomination, underestimating the lengths that the Democrats (and many progressive activists) would go to in order to try to keep him off the ballot. Such mistakes sow confusion and undermine the left-wing politics that the Nader campaign has stood for.

Yet these are errors that could have been challenged in a much bigger campaign had so many progressive leaders not jumped onto the Kerry bandwagon. Instead, in their zeal to bash Nader, they have too often repeated the Democratic Party lie fed to the mainstream media that Nader is simply a stalking horse for George Bush.

Thus, all the nonsense about "Nader helping the Republicans," as Benjamin put it. The Nader campaign has received about 5 percent of its contributions from registered Republicans--roughly totaling several tens of thousands of dollars. In 2000, Ralph Nader received about 25 percent of his vote from registered Republicans, as well as a smaller percentage of money.

This year, his support among registered Republicans will probably be higher. Why? Because tens of thousands of Arab Americans who voted for Bush in 2000 in protest of the Clinton-Gore sanctions against Iraq that killed 1 million Iraqis and Clinton's support for Israel are this year going to vote for Nader. Kerry and Bush are competing to be tougher in the "war on terror," the USA PATRIOT Act, winning in Iraq and the war on the Palestinian people. Naturally, many of these new Nader supporters didn't bother to switch their official voter registration cards before they sent in a campaign contribution. This accounts for most of the "Republican" money.

There have been some limited instances of organized Republican efforts to support Nader's campaign. For instance, in Michigan, Republicans did, without the knowledge of the Nader campaign, collect signatures to get him on the ballot. And there are Republicans who sent in a few thousand dollars in the hopes that Nader will get some votes that would otherwise go to Kerry.

But using these minor instances to denounce Nader as "Bush's useful idiot," as Eric Alterman does in The Nation, makes about as much sense as charging that Norman Solomon profited from the Republican effort to impeach Bill Clinton because some right wingers bought his book False Hope, which attacked Clinton from the left.

After all the smoke clears away, we are left to decide whether Eugene V. Debs was right or wrong when he said, "I'd rather vote for something I want and not get it, than vote for something I don't want and get it."

The U.S. left, social movements, women, minorities, labor and the poor have been voting for the Democrats in overwhelming numbers for 100 years. We've been getting plenty of what we don't want: war, racism, sexism, homophobia, poverty, prisons. Isn't it time we try something new and vote for something we want?

A vote for Nader is a vote for Nader--and a pledge to build a mass movement powerful enough to change the balance of forces between the rich and the rest of us.

Look who's behind the war against Nader?
By Shaun Joseph

THE WAR on Nader has the support of prominent progressives and radicals with a history of speaking out for left-wing causes. But poke behind the scenes a little, and you'll find some pretty shady characters.

Consider United Progressives for Victory, one in a long list of organizations formed to attack the Nader campaign. The group recently organized an open letter denouncing Nader and demanding a vote for John Kerry that was signed by more than 50 liberal luminaries, such as syndicated columnist Norman Solomon and Robert Borosage of Campaign for America's Future. But follow the money trail, and you find a different picture.

United Progressives for Victory's treasurer and administrative chief is William Oldaker, who modestly lists his profession as "attorney" on the organization's Web site. Actually, Oldaker is an exceptional attorney--he's one of Washington's powerful and highly paid lobbyists. Among his recent clients is tobacco giant Philip Morris, which paid Oldaker's firm to help scuttle legislation forcing tobacco companies to pay for anti-smoking programs. Oldaker's newly formed National Group lobbying agency represents the Bituminous Coal Association, Delta Air and Corning Glass.

Interestingly, being a paid flunky for cancer-spreaders and corporate polluters didn't prevent Bill Clinton from appointing Oldaker to his National Bioethics Advisory Commission.

According to records on file with the Federal Election Commission, among the small number of individual contributors to United Progressives for Victory is Karen Mulhauser, who identifies herself on the group's Web site as a "women's and peace activist." But Mulhauser makes a living as a consultant for Management Systems International, a top contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development. In other words, she has a direct interest in the continuation of the U.S. government's imperial schemes abroad--schemes that Nader opposes, and John Kerry supports.

Another major individual contributor is Robert Shapiro, the retired CEO of Monsanto--the company leading the way in the development of genetically modified agriculture that global justice advocates such as Norman Solomon are opposed to. But it so happens that Monsanto recruited a former "Nader's Raider," Toby Moffett, to flack for their Frankenfoods in the late 1990s--and Moffett has since become one of the Democrats' leading attack dogs against Nader.

United Progressives is just one face of the anti-Nader campaign--and hacks like Oldaker and Moffett have their hands in most of them, including an organization dedicated to coordinating efforts to keep Nader off state ballots.

What about the veteran progressives who have gone along with these scams, funded by corporate cash? "Perhaps, for them, the end justifies the means," wrote Stephen Conn in an article for the Dissident Voice Web site. "Perhaps they were fooled or just went along with people they trusted. Whether they were duped by the fear put out by the ABB campaign, or they chose the direction on their own, they are clearly being used by corporate interests who they certainly disagree with."

Precisely what Nader is regularly--and wrongly--denounced for.

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