MAXWELL: A vote for Nader will cost our future

11/1/12000 – Printed in the EDITORIAL section of the St Petersburg Times Newspaper


Crunch time _ Election Day _ is upon us. So let me repeat one of my judgments of a few days ago about voting for Green Party candidate Ralph Nader: A vote for the consumer advocate is a wasted vote. (Please understand that my opinion in this matter does not represent that of this newspaper.)

Voting for Nader is a luxury that only a handful of people _ mostly disgruntled, sanctimonious white liberals, especially graying ones, and inexperienced college kids _ can afford. And contrary to what most Naderites have deluded themselves into believing, voting for their man is not a categorical imperative.

Given the probable short- and long-term consequences of a George W. Bush presidency, a vote for Nader is plain wrongheaded.

Now, to the issue at hand. Nader and his most zealous supporters claim they are looking to the future, for 5 percent of the national vote that would entitle the Green Party for federal matching funds in 2004.

My question: 5 percent of the national vote at what price?

The Reform Party won more than 5 percent of the national vote and has millions in matching funds. But led by Pat Buchanan, the progeny of Ross Perot struggles to stay off life support.

Many powerbrokers in the liberal wing of the Democratic Party have seen the future, and that future will be one of vengeance against Nader and his causes if his candidacy is interpreted as having cost Vice President Al Gore the election. Nader will not be forgiven _ ever. Naderites can cry foul if they wish. We are talking politics, good old American pragmatism, where, for better or for worse, quid pro quo rules.

The New York Times reports that many Democrats in and outside Washington who have worked closely with Nader and have supported his causes for many years are warning that he is creating deep, lasting resentment.

“I’ve tried very carefully to convey to Nader supporters our highest regard for his career,” Ralph Neas, president of People for the American Way and Nader’s friend, told the Times. “But I want him and his supporters to know how history will view him in the final analysis if he gives the Supreme Court to the right wing.”

Another Nader friend, Joan Claybrook, who is president of Public Citizen, the consumer advocacy organization that Nader founded, also worries that the Green Party’s campaign may put Bush in the White House. Claybrook told the Times that Nader is not listening to the Democrats and would not listen to her, either: “It would be a waste of my time. He’s one of the most stubborn people in the United States.”

From all indications, Nader is stepping up, not scaling back, his campaign in the key states where Gore and Bush are running statistically neck and neck, and Democrats are taking off the gloves. They can sense losing the White House for many years to come, and desperation is setting in, even in California where the vice president had a two-digit lead at the beginning of summer.

The Times reports that Democrats on Capitol Hill, led by Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, have written Nader a personal plea. An excerpt: “The prospect of waking up on November 8 to a Bush presidency is too dangerous for too many. Ralph, do not let your candidacy be the reason for that to happen. Ask your supporters in swing states to vote for Al Gore.”

Much of Nader’s consumer advocacy success is directly attributable to the goodwill of Democrats in Congress. He and Claybrook could telephone friendly lawmakers and get things done. All of that will change. Jack Blum, counsel to Americans for Democractic Action, commented to the Times: “If (Nader) succeeds and destroys the Gore candidacy, how many progressive congressmen will be prepared to take Joan Claybrook’s telephone calls?”

And female Democratic members of Congress are outraged by Nader’s cavalier attitude toward the prospect that a President Bush may attempt to overturn Roe vs. Wade, the case that legalized abortion. Here is what Nader said on ABC’s This Week: “Even if Roe vs. Wade reversed, that doesn’t end it. It just reverts back to the states.”

New York Rep. Nita Lowey said: “Nader may be dismissive of the right to choose, but we are not. Many states would be poised to criminalize abortion immediately, if given a chance.”

Nader is not running for class president, where he would be taking a few votes from his pal and crosstown rival, the young Albert Gore. This is serious stuff. Again, if the future is what Nader is trying to secure, he is throwing up some mighty high obstacles for himself and his party to clear.