Page 9


capture of the Democratic Party by major corporations has caused and, if not stopped, will continue to cause. We were taking a calculated risk, but we underestimated what we were risking. The Bush presidency is worse than we could plausibly have imagined, and the run-up to 2004 is not just another election, it is a crisis that leaves us no more time or room to maneuver. We, the Nader people, certainly put Bush close enough electorally for the Supreme Court to seize the presidency for him. Gore “lost” because of many factorsincluding his own empty campaignbut the fact that an event has a multiplicity of causes does not dissolve any of those causes or absolve any group of players of their responsibility. National exit-poll data published the day after the election suggested that Nader’s candidacy cost Gore about three-quarters of a million votes, but even exit polls that Nader himself cites indicate that arguably we Nader voters made it possible for Bush to win New Hampshire’s four electoral votes \(remember, Bush Florida, with its decisive twenty-five electoral votes, into the mesmerizing seesaw that the Supreme Court stopped when Bush was allegedly up on Gore by 537 votes. It is very clear who can persuasively deny it?that the more votes Nader gets in 2004, the likelier it is that Nader and his supporters will elect Bush. As obvious as all of this is to meand to at least some others who voted for Naderevidently it may not be obvious to him. This June I called on my friend Ralph in his offices at the Carnegie Foundation building in Washington to discuss with him why 1 believe he must not run again. A shocked conviction is growing among some people who backed him, I said, that as we love our country and care about the world, we must do everything we can to beat Bush. Seated facing each other in a small, cluttered cubicle, we had at it for an hour or so. Neither of us gave an inch. Under the circumstances I will not quote what he saidhe of all people can speak for himself. In substance, the burden of what I said to him is what I have just written here, with additional references in passing to Bush’s trillion-dollar tax cut and his Administration’s plans to dissolve Social Security insurance into stock market accounts and deny welfare mothers collegelevel education. I reviewed with Ralph the elements of a strategy for resistance that members of the Alliance for Democracy and some of our allies in the progressive-populist movement had worked on together during the Alliance convention in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, which had ended the day before. But how can we make sense of any strategy of resistance, I asked him, if at the very same time we are splitting the progressive vote for President again? “If you run in 2004 and get, say, 5 million votes,” I said, “and Bush wins by, say, 2 million Ralph, we cannot do that.” To beat Bush, the question we must decide now is not what candidate to run but what vehicle we can use to win the presidency in 2004. It cannot be the Green Party.”You know you can’t win as a Green in 2004,” I said to Ralph. The lamentable truth, but the truth, is that the only vehicle with which the voters can beat Bush for President is the Democratic Party. There is no other. Therefore, I argued, what is needed is an undertaking by the liberals, progressives and populists of the country to challenge the corporation-corrupted leaders of the Democratic Party and their Democratic Leadership Council, to make the party’s sellout course since 1978 itself the issue of the Democratic primaries, and to converge behind the nomination of a progressive Democratic candidate for Presidentbe it Congressional Progressive Caucus chair Dennis Kucinich, Russell Feingold, Jan Schakowsky or Jesse Jackson Jr. The point, I said, is to get a strong progressive candidate and to get our forces behind that candidate and a progressive platform. Among many other things, it should include a commitment at one stroke would end the third-party “spoiler” threat to the major parties and would free citizens to vote for their favorite candidates without helping to elect candidates whose views are diametrically opposed to theirs. Otherwise, I said to Ralph, we will look around in 2003 and see the usual marquee sellouts running for the Democratic nomination and Ralph running for the Greens, a political configuration that seems deliberately designed to elect Bush. I continue to believe that Nader is incomparably the most continued on page 19 12/6102 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 9