[Hpn] The Nader Conundrum

Anitra Freeman anitra@speakeasy.org
Tue, 07 Nov 2000 21:27:28 -0800 (PST)


Everyone's votes are cast and we're just waiting for the results.  But I
do want to do Tom the courtesy of a response to his post, and I also
believe that it is still important to think about these questions for
the future.

On Mon, 6 Nov 2000, Tom Boland wrote:
> What did you think about the boycott of Aparteid South Africa?  Children
> starved, but Aparteid ended.  Are the long range results worth those deaths?

I boycott non-union products and companies with anti-social
practices.  I would boycott purchases from a government that violated
human rights, *IF* that boycott caused a disadvantage to the people in
government, or if the suffering it caused were limited to people who
volunteered to suffer for their long-range benefit.  No, I would
not support such a boycott if it killed children or anyone else that I
could not know had voluntarily chosen to suffer the boycott.

How much did the boycott actually affect the fall of Apartheid?  I will
ask Rev. Robert Taylor, the Dean of St. Marks Episcopal Cathedral, who
is from South Africa, and let you know what he thinks.  Personally, I
think the people of South Africa had more to do with ending Apartheid
than anyone in the rest of the world did.

What do you think about the Iraq embargo?  Children are dying, while
Saddam and his buds aren't suffering a bit.  Every progressive I know
opposes the embargo against Iraq.  Nader opposes it.  Do you support it,
Tom?

I believe that we run great moral and physical danger whenever we choose
to sacrifice the welfare of any individual for the sake of a "greater
good."  If we are for freedom, justice, and well-being for all people,
then that means in daily life right now with the people around us,
including ourselves.  If we believe that what we are doing is going to
help somebody down the road, but it is harming people now, then we
should question what we are doing.

> >Maybe that isn't serious for you.  But I'm looking at the prospect of
> >losing the right to abortion, losing all remaining vestiges of
> >Affirmative Action, losing all that remains of the social safety net,
> >watching the poverty of myself and my friends grow markedly worse, and
> >facing the serious prospect of forced psychiatric treatment becoming
> >public policy.  That's for starters.
> 
> Compare Gore and Bush, or the Democrat and Republican platforms or past
> votes in Congress on each of these issues?  How great is the difference?

Abortion rights: Gore for, Bush against.
Affirmative Action: Gore supports it, Republicans have been pushing to
demolish it.
Forced psychiatric treatment: I am more confident of Tipper Gore
opposing this than of Gore himself, but I'm hoping she can influence
him.  I am certain that Bush will support it.
Gore has been part of the Welfare Reform fiasco.  But hewill protect
Social Security and Medicare against raids by the Republican party
looking for tax breaks for the wealthy.

There are other marked differences between the two.  Even Newsweek
and Tim can spot them.  But Ralph Nader has deliberately obfuscated
them.  Another danger sign is when you think that lying is going to
serve a "greater good."

Gore is better on
the environment; Bush will erode the legal defenses of the environment
at the federal level just as he has at the state level in Texas.
 
> Is the difference in the two major partides great enough to dissuade you
> from beleiving in the need to build third party or direct action
> alternatives?  If so, why?

I am not dissuaded from building a third party.  Far from it.  I am
arguing for BUILDING a third party -- by concrete, local action
respecting the needs of local people.  What I am opposed to is Ralph
Nader.

Tim Harris asked why the Green Party is so white.  Most activists groups
are predominantly white, an trying to do "outreach" to people of color.

WHEEL and SHARE have always attracted a large number of participants
from people of color, sexual minorities, and other groups marginalized
even within the marginalized group of the homeless and very poor.

I believe that when people see you doing something that benefits them,
they will come get involved.  So the question that the Green Party and
other predominantly white activist groups need to ask is, "Who am I
really helping?"

> How do votes for Democrats help "to build a progressive movement"
> nationally and globally?

Under a Gore presidency, more people will keep working on progressive
causes.  Under a Bush presidency, more people are going to be scrambling
to just survive, and more people will be overwhelmed and give up on
change.  

At the time of this writing, it looks like Gore has won in Washington
State -- but Bush may still win the presidency.  If he does, be prepared
to work much, much harder to keep this movement alive -- and I believe
you are working your butt off right now.

Causing more people more pain does not lead to change.  Do you really
believe that?  Do you agree with the Welfare Reformers then, and the
"civility" laws?  Do you agree that if the system just makes poor and
homeless people hurt enough, the poor and homeless are going to "wake
up" and go get jobs and housing?

For most people, suffering and hunger lead to more hopelessness and less
activity.  

Revolution and social change does not actually happen when things are
worst.  They happen when bad conditions are getting better and people's
hopes are rising.  Hope makes people act.

Helping people and giving them hope, NOW, is a more effective way of
improving the future than causing pain and suffering now is.


Write On! / Anitra L. Freeman / http://www.speakeasy.org/~anitra/
"We can't help everyone.  We can't fix everything.  It hurts. 
 But it is better to live with pain than to live without caring."