On what grounds can a liberal claim that he is neither jaded nor angry at the duplicity of the Democratic Party? Instead of seizing on the unprecedented unity of the left nominating a progressive candidate, they’ve settled for the Vietnam edition of Al Gore. What’s worse is that Viet Gore garners support from the ranks of liberals not by sharing their ideology, but by manipulating their embarrassingly callow and na?ve logic: anybody but Bush. As a result, liberal Democrats find themselves backing a man who has nothing more in common with them than their party’s name. By compromising their ideology, liberals are doing themselves a great disservice by voting for John Kerry.
Such a statement inevitably begs the question: is Kerry worse than Bush? The answer is no. I do not intend to explore the ways in which he’s better, because this column is catering only to those who already assume that he is. Instead, I am attempting to persuade such people into voting for a man who better suits their beliefs: Ralph Nader.
Juxtaposed, the differences between Nader and Kerry are more obvious than those between Kerry and Bush. For the past 40 years, Nader has been an avid consumer advocate. To name but two of his achievements: he is largely responsible for both the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Freedom of Information Act. What accomplishments can Kerry claim? Well, for starters, he’s accepted more corporate donations than any other senator has. Moreover, his voting record has been in favor of the privileged, whereas Nader has long been an egalitarian activist. Indeed, Kerry not only voted for NAFTA but Newt Gingrich’s welfare reform as well. All things considered, it seems both ironic and contrived that Kerry should attempt to speak for the poor and downtrodden.
Unfortunately, despite his virtues, Nader has absolutely no chance of winning. Thus, the logic of voting for him lies in the left’s ability to galvanize the Democratic Party. In other words, by voting for Nader, liberals are drawing a line in the sand and saying, “if you cross this line, you lose our vote.” This method makes sure the Democrats never forsake their progressive roots. If, however, we persist in appeasing the centrist politics of Democrats by continually voting for “the lesser of two evils,” the party will shift further and further to the right.
Say, for example, that Sen. Joe Lieberman was running in place of Kerry. Would we still vote for him because he was “the lesser of two evils?” When does the word “lesser” no longer constitute any real significance? Ever since President Carter, the Democrats have been doing their best to close the gap between the two parties. This does not bode well for a liberal future.
I would have thought – largely to my own chagrin – that Gore’s defeat in 2000 would have taught Democrats the danger of political homogenization. But alas, here we are in 2004, rallying behind a man who opposes gay marriage and advocates a jingoist foreign policy. The Democrats, for all their whining about Nader costing Gore the election, failed to realize why Nader cost Gore the election. Many liberals, feeling disenfranchised by the Democratic Party, were naturally inclined to protest the ballot by voting for a man who honestly represented their ideals despite the odds. This would not have been an issue if Gore had not taken such conservative stances on issues like the death penalty or the drug war. As a result, he lost the election. For this, no one is to blame but Gore himself. After all, if Gore hadn’t turned his back on the left, he wouldn’t have lost those votes to Nader in the first place.
If the Democrats failed to listen to us then, they cannot afford to fail again. Indeed, if the left staunchly supports Nader in this election, we are more likely to see a liberal candidate from the Democrats in 2008. Although this tactic did not work for us in 2004, given some tenacity, it is likely to work in the future. They cannot ignore us forever. Liberal support is integral to the life of the Democratic Party. Without it, they would collapse. This makes them subject to our whims, not the other way around. If ever there is a hope in inspiring the Democrats to produce another FDR, it lies in the influence of outsiders like Nader. This is our best chance at storming the electoral Bastille. The time of ballot revolution is at hand. Grab your pitchforks.
-The writer is a freshman majoring in political science.
This article appeared in the September 23, 2004 issue of the Hatchet.