Not Nader. Not Now.

First off: Yes, I voted for Nader in 2000.

Before you start blaming me for everything that's gone wrong in this country since then, let me point out that I live in Texas, where a vote for Gore would have been just as pointless as a vote for Nader, since Bush had the state in his pocket from the get-go.

The same, of course, is true this year. Bush will win Texas, and a vote for Kerry in Texas won't get Kerry any closer to the White House. For all the difference my vote makes, I could just as well vote Nader as Kerry.

And yet this year is different. This year, there's not a chance in hell I'm voting for Nader.

That is in spite of the fact that a lot of the reasons I voted Green last time around haven't changed, and for the record, I don't think the Democrats are doing themselves any favors by bashing Nader voters. (Bashing Nader, sure. Bashing Nader voters, not so much.) The Democrats - or at least, some very vocal Democrats - resent that leftists aren't automatically voting Democrat, and instead of being constructive and, say, addressing the reasons behind this voter loss, they're just blaming the Greens for being there. I'd have a lot more respect for the Democrats if they'd treat those of us who voted for the Greens with a bit of respect, and I'd like to see them as committed to winning left wing votes as right.

So the Democratic Party either needs to address how their radically middle-of-the-road, don't-rock-the-boat ultra-centrist policies have alienated progressives (and make some changes), or they need to accept that in the future, they may have to deal with more challenges from the left. I don't think that Repub-lite politics are doing the party any favors, and clearly, they haven't worked particularly well as a means of building a reliable constituency. I do appreciate that John Kerry - and even more so John Edwards - at least talk the progressive talk a lot better than the Dems have for much of the last four years, and I'm hopeful that they understand their party's allegiances better than the Democratic Leadership Committee, with its knee-jerk centrism, does.

Still, even though I liked some of what Kerry had to say in the debates and I do like John Edwards, the reasons I didn't vote Democrat last time around haven't changed much. But two things have changed: the context, and what Nader now stands for. And if you're considering voting for Nader, please just hear me out.

Back in 2000, one of my primary reasons for voting Nader was that I wanted the Green Party to get 5% of the vote - a long shot, but not impossible - so they'd be eligible for federal campaign funds. A third party - and a fourth, and a fifth - would energize politics and raise the stakes. And I think the Green Party has a lot of the right ideas. Given that Texas was firmly in Bush's hand anyway, I figured I'd throw my vote to the Greens and see what happened. And back in 2000, Nader was running on the Green Party ticket.

No longer. There's no party behind Nader's candidacy this time, no organization that's ready to take the momentum and keep it going. Instead of running for a party, for the oft-invoked grass roots, Nader seems at best to be running for himself. At worst, he's running for the Republicans who in many states are underwriting his campaign, which stinks of political opportunism. And that's not something I'm particularly interested in voting for.

And then, of course, there is the war in Iraq, and the Bush administration's none too subtle plans for further imperialist quests. Bush needed to be stopped in 2000, but while he seemed evil and ominous then, we didn't know how bad he would be. Now we know, and the fact of the matter is that whether or not it's a matter of life and death for you or me personally, it is a matter of survival not only for U.S. soldiers in Iraq and elsewhere, but for civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan, and those countries the Bush administration will be targeting next. Yes, voting for a candidate you agree with is a great thing. In 2000, I wanted to vote for a candidate I believed in. But in 2004, it isn't just that I no longer believe in Nader, although that's a substantial part of it. It's that it is less important to me who I am voting for, and more important that I am voting against Bush. Knowing the death tolls and the destruction, I find it difficult to justify anything but a clear vote against the current administration. And given the sizeable Republican support Nader has garnered, it's abundantly clear now, as it was in 2000, that a vote for Nader, whatever else it may be, is not a vote against Bush.

Granted, barring a miracle, my Texan vote for Kerry this time around still won't get him any closer to the White House. But even here in Texas, in 2004, I cannot justify giving my vote to anyone but John Kerry and John Edwards.

 

27. October 2004

 

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