On Ralph Nader and the Green Party

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Like many Chronicles readers, I too am concerned about the way our electoral process is rigged in favor of the two establishment parties. I supported Pat Buchanan for the GOP nomination this year, but I am disappointed that he did not take the approach of Jerry Brown in 1992: Brown refused to run on a third-party ticket but also refused to endorse Clinton-Gore.

Chronicles has often discussed alternatives to the Republicans and Democrats. You have mentioned the U.S. Taxpayers, Reform, and Libertarian parties, but what about the Green Party? I am planning to vote for Ralph Nader for President in November. He was on the ballot in a dozen states as of Labor Day and will eventually be on the ballot in 30-some states, with write-in campaigns taking place in the others (including Florida).

Nader is often portrayed as the champion of big government and regulation. But actually, I think he has always been more about exposing corporate and governmental corruption and wrongdoing than about rules and regulations. When wrongdoing is exposed, government usually passes some law to pacify critics and then the wrongdoers promptly co-opt the agency which is supposed to enforce the law. I think Nader understands this. Perhaps in the 1960's and 1970's he was more optimistic about the ability of the federal government to bring about positive change, but by the late 1980's he was emphasizing the need for fundamental political reform, for greater democratization. That's what appeals to me.

As a Jeffersonian, Nader supports decentralization of both economic and political power. In his introduction to The Case Against Free Trade: GATT, NAFTA, and the Globalization of Corporate Power (Earth Island Press, 1993), Nader writes: "It is rare that regulatory breakthroughs occur at the national, let alone international, level. Usually, a smaller jurisdiction —a town, city, or state—experiments with a standard, other cities and states copy it and, eventually, national governments and international governments, lagging behind, follow their lead. This percolating-up process will be squelched by GATT and NAFTA, with top-down mercantile dictates replacing bottom-up democratic impulses." In a Washington Times op-ed earlier this year ("U.S. Companies Should Pledge Allegiance," June 4), Nader argued that U.S.-based transnational corporations should be required to pledge allegiance to the American flag and the republic for which it stands. He believes the annual stockholder meetings would be the appropriate time and place for such a pledge. Nader is a true patriot. Nader was an advisor to the Jerry Brown campaign in '92, and he is the logical heir to Brown's political legacy.

Of the third-party candidates running this year, only Nader has the kind of transcendent populist appeal discussed by Kevin Phillips (Arrogant Capital) and Bill Kauffman (America First!). Nader can appeal to Brown Democrats, Buchanan Republicans, Browne Libertarians, Phillips Taxpayers, Perot Reformers, and, of course, Nader Greens. I am not saying he is the first choice of most of these blocs, but his emphasis on political reform, fair trade, genuine democracy, frugal government, noninterventionism, and decentralization cuts across the old ideological and party boundaries. If they are willing to move beyond a knee-jerk reaction to his name and listen to what Nader is saying and has been saying for the past decade, I think many populist conservatives would be attracted by his anti-NAFTA, anti-GATT, anti-Mexican/Wall Street bailout, anti-corporate greed, anti-congressional pay raise, anti-China MFN, anti-Gulf War, pro-term limits, pro-referendum, pro-campaign finance reform message. Nader and Buchanan clearly agree on many issues.

Of course, if people are looking for a candidate who espouses or implicitly accepts racial discrimination and other forms of inegalitarian thinking, Nader is the wrong man. Or if abortion is the only defining issue, then Nader is not the right person. I also understand why conservatives may be wary of a party perceived as a bunch of left-wing tree-huggers. While I do not speak for the entire state party, I am a founder (and current chair) of the Missouri Green Party. One reason I was attracted to the Greens is that they claim to be "neither left nor right." That's one of our slogans. When the Greens started in West Germany, they attracted not only disillusioned Social Democrats, but also disillusioned Christian Democrats. When I read Green Politics by Charlene Spretnak, I was excited by the idea of a populist party which could transcend the old and often empty ideological divisions (divisions which are used by the power elite to divide and conquer the common people).

With the advent of the Nader campaign, other Greens are realizing the potential of a grand populist coalition. When he appeared on Donahue before the New Hampshire primary, Nader himself praised Buchanan as the only presidential candidate willing to challenge the political power of big corporations. The July/August issue of Mother Jones has an article entitled "Nobody's Nader: The Tough Activist Has Some Kind Words for Buchanan, But None for Clinton." In turn, populist conservatives have begun to recognize that Nader is a friend rather than an enemy.

        —Jeff Taylor
Columbia, MO

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