Many of the individuals who gave a blanket endorsement to Nader in the 2000 election have signed a petition urging "support for Kerry/Edwards in all swing states, even while we strongly disagree with Kerry's policies on Iraq and other issues."
Many warned at the time that some sort of "strategic voting" would be needed in 2000. (See my piece "A New Way To Vote -- As A Duet")
Clearly, in states which Bush or Kerry have basically stated they will lose -- so-called "non-swing states" -- voting for whoever you want is a no-brainer.
Most of the signers seem to want Nader to be president but prefer Kerry to Bush. There is a possible solution to this, which I outlined in my piece of four years ago: Team up with someone who wants a third party candidate but prefers Bush to Kerry. I doubt it is beyond the capability and imagination of the signers of the petition to find a someone who is basically a disenchanted Republican, would never vote for Kerry, but would like to vote for the Libertarians or some other third party rather than Bush.
Finding a relative, a co-worker, a neighbor, a debating partner or simply someone you've communicated with in your state and talking about what you really want can allow you to vote your conscience. Tim Robbins can team up with some rightwing Hollywood notable who wants the Constitution Party. Noam Chomsky can hook up with a leading libertarian thinker. They can even co-write articles and form a more meaningful dialogue, something that's desperately needed in this country. [See: www.VotePact.com]
I think such a dialogue could even lead to both the would-be Kerry voter and the would-be Bush voter casting their ballot for Nader. This could in fact become the centerpiece of the Nader campaign. There is something of a "radical center" where a substantial portion of the U.S. public is at odds with both Bush and Kerry: Against the U.S. as empire, in defense of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. If Nader were to stress these issues, the entire "spoiler" argument could dwindle as he appeals to people from both parties.
It's notable that the same day the petition came out, the Capital Times in Madison, probably the most progressive newspaper in the U.S., published an editorial "Taking a Cue from Nader" urging Kerry to adopt some of Nader's positions. Why should Kerry do so if progressives are doing the work of gutting the Nader campaign rather than working towards creative ways of using his candidacy?
Many of the signers were I think surprised at what the Bush administration has done in the last four years. I have not been. The seeds were planted by the Clinton administration and before. And a Kerry administration will I think clearly set upon the task of consolidating empire. [The occupation of] Iraq is not an "issue" [as it's referred to in the petition] -- it is emblematic of the U.S. as empire. Kerry's main goal will likely be to preserve the mechanisms of empire -- as Clinton did after the 50-year pretext for empire disappeared.
The hypocrisies and corruptions of the Republican Party are the main thing pushing people to the Democratic Party. Similarly, the hypocrisies and corruptions of the Democratic Party are the main thing pushing people to the Republican Party. I am proposing a method whereby people -- as people -- can break out of this trap by reaching out to someone they profoundly disagree with. If they trust them, they can make a pact together to vote for the third party candidate of their choice. If not, they can both get absentee ballots and fill them out and walk them down to a mail box together.
Finding creative solutions like this I think are far more productive than searching for ways of undercutting a candidate who has not changed on the issues since four years ago when he was unequivocally backed by the signers of this petition.
Please visit: www.votepact.com.
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Postscript: I understand the impulse to ensure Kerry becomes president. I don't want four more years of Bush as president, but that goal has led many to have a fundamental blindness about what opportunities and crucial issues there are beyond expelling Bush from the White House. Worst of all, it has led to a fundamental breakdown of communication. Some people have been blinded by their anger at Bush, or Kerry, or Nader.
The short piece above was written September 15, 2004 and sent to the editor of the web page Common Dreams who declined to publish it. Last Thursday, Common Dreams posted an essay by David Korten responding to Nader's reply to the petition. Common Dreams also did not post Nader's reply, which has an analysis of Iraq which is sharper than any I've heard Nader state verbally.
Korten, contrasting Kerry with Bush, refers to his "intelligence, honesty, emotional and moral maturity." Korten says that his own judgment during the 2000 election was "more wrong than I ever imagined possible." Similarly, Medea Benjamin recently wrote that: "I had no idea that George Bush would be such a disastrous president." Winona LaDuke recently informed us that "I'm voting my conscience on Nov. 2; I'm voting for John Kerry." She tells us "I've spoken with his staff and received some encouraging answers." Others tell us to hold our noses and vote for Kerry.
We need clarity. People should state who they want as president among the candidates as well as who they plan to vote for and how. Is LaDuke saying that she actually prefers a President Kerry to a President Nader or a President Cobb? How could she defend that? Do the faults of Nader really exceed those of Kerry? Or is this a tactical decision of hers to vote for Kerry -- and not really reflecting "conscience."
Doubtlessly, there are a variety of views among the petition signers. I fear that, just as they seem to have taken some statements by Bush at face value -- are they taking statements by Kerry at face value? Or worse, do they think they've heard Kerry make promises he infact has not made? Should admission of past mistake cause one to be all the more sure of their current position? Why were many people blind to the dangers that Bush posed? Were they not mindful of global dynamics? Have they corrected that or are the making a variation of the same mistake now?
We are to believe that Kerry is honest when he lied about WMDs, lied when he said that he would object to a Bush move to invade Iraq short of an international coalition and lied when he said he would uphold the Constitution. He acted as an enabler for aggressive war and his policies are perfectly consistent with the next stage of the imperial enterprise, making the perpetual "war on terrorism" an officially bi-partisan affair that will likely more than fulfill the goals of the Project for a New American Century for, well, a century. Following Bush's defining deviancy downward, Kerry will work to consolidate empire. This will be done in conjunction with the traditional colonial powers and their proxies in the poorer countries.
This is not to say there is no difference between Bush and Kerry. There is, and that's the point. They are different parts of the same system. The Bush stomach acidifies, the Kerry intestine absorb. It's quite clear that what the handlers around Kerry intend -- another pass through the guillotine pendulum of the two party system. Various reforms Kerry will institute will likely be used to maintain a fundamentally corrupt system. If Kerry is sworn in as president, I will work to bring down the U.S. empire. I hope others will. The virtual self-dissolution and delusion of the "peace movement" over the last two years is strong evidence that if Kerry becomes president many "progressives" in the U.S. will further sink back in a state of contentment, perhaps because they don't care to think too deeply about their own privilege stemming from living in the U.S. If that happens, Bush will be a virtual suicide bomber for the empire -- he will have sacrificed his political career to help perpetuate an unjust system. It was all his fault will echo as the mantra. It will be the people and not the president who have "plausible deniability."
Some are angry at Nader for running, I have been angry at him for not running. He has not run an effective campaign, he has declined opportunities to lay out even a vague strategy by which he becomes president. But maybe that was our job. Nader is certainly not pure and noble and I've never thought he was. Others were seemingly infatuated with him in 2000 and that has apparently turned to a sour rage, both equally blind. I didn't share that infatuation, I don't share that rage. Nader is the minimally sane center of the demented U.S. political system. He offers us an opportunity to "de-triangulate" ourselves out of the partisan boxes the political system keeps trying to force us into.
But if you vote for Kerry -- and bypass Vote Pact as well as "safe state" strategies -- then please don't "hold your nose." Have the simple decency to breath it in. Breath it all in. Kerry's lies, his nauseating hypocrisies. Breath in the reeking Iraqi blood, inhale the rotting corpses; suck in the stench of lies, the posturing; the sickness of the symbiotic relationship he has with Bush. Only then can one possibly discern a sliver of truth or exercise a measure of freedom.