Welcome to our blog. More on who we are and what we’re up to soon, if we feel like it. I can’t imagine how you found or why you’re reading it at this point, but welcome. Since this is a nominally public forum, I’ll say something that I’ve said in various contexts but that can’t be repeated often enough. Three and a half years ago, I voted for Ralph Nader. And I’m really, really, sorry. Don’t hold this against my co-bloggers. They were among the first to berate me for this, and they haven’t really stopped. Nor should they. I hold out some hope that a Kerry election, should we be so fortunate, will lead to a modest decrease in the amount of mockery I recieve on this front.
This is very well covered territory, and I while I plan to comment on the upcoming elections from time to time, I won’t say much about Nader from here on out. A bit about where I was at in 2000–I was angry. I was angry that in many policy areas, the Clinton administration had been complacent in a rightward shift of the political center. I was angry that he had, in several policy areas, caved to the right for no discernable reason. I was angry at the part center-left parties were playing around the world in the dismantling of the welfare state.
I thought the Democrats deserved a scare. The best possible outcome, I would have told you at the time, was basically what happened, but with a few thousand more votes for Gore in Florida. They needed to be reminded of that they had a base that they were ignoring, and that betrayal shouldn’t be easy or convenient.
Nevertheless, the display the right had put on in the last few years of Clinton and the alarming nature of the GOP ticket had me, for the weeks leading to election day, leaning very heavily toward Gore. Indeed, I walked into a voting both planning to vote Gore. The Nader vote….just happened. I thought again about welfare reform and my hand moved down the ballot a few slots.
I’ve offered up various justifications (sometimes operating as both excuses and explanations, and occasionally defenses), and I won’t bore you with any of them. They’re all rather pointless. Should Nader-voting, like homicide, be considered a lesser offense when it’s not premeditated? I don’t know, probably not. You’ve got to keep your emotions in check, whether you’re dealing with an annoying neighbor or voting for president. That Bush was likely to be extreme and incompetent was knowable at the time, and I knew it.
Anyway, I got to thinking about this reading John Emerson (“Zizka”)’s post on the matter. He points out, rightly, that Bush has a base of around 30%, and these people ought to scare us all, including themselves. If he, or any Republican, is going to win, we would do well to want that constituency diluted as much as possible with centrists. A Nader “success” (ie, a substantial portion of the vote) may well push both major parties to the right.
Those who are concerned about social justice issues not well represented by the Democrats (and I remain squarely in that camp) ought to be operating on several fronts. We should be making our case in the public sphere(s) as strongly and articulately as possible, to increase our numbers. We should look for Democratic legislators who represent our views and support them (and not hold them to pointless ideological purity tests). We should work through NGOs and social movements. It’s not like there aren’t other, more effective outlets for the progressive energy being poured into this bottomless well.
I’m making political campaign donations for the first time this election cycle. I’m pretty damn poor, but I’m going to donate at least 100 dollars to the Kerry campaign. I call on all past Nader voters to do the same, as an act of atonement. We really can’t make up for what we did, but we can and should try.