If I were Ralph Nader (and given the number of people screaming at me about stabbing Kerry in the back, I sometimes think I am), I’d get on the plane to Palestine and Baghdad and spend less time on ballot-access fights with lawyers working for the Democrats.
There are about six weeks left to run in this campaign, and Nader needs to finish off with a bang. The Democrats have got him stuck in the trenches, running from one courtroom to another. It’s the only campaign they know how to fight. They can’t sell Kerry. Their hearts aren’t really in it, but when it comes to stopping people from being able to vote for Nader, they’re firing on all cylinders. Here’s the SEIU putting $65 million of its members’ dues into the Kerry campaign and deploying hundreds of organizers across the country, working twenty-four hours a day to keep Nader off the ballot. It’s tying Nader down. He’s fighting twenty-one legal cases in seventeen states, and as Nader himself concedes, “The ballot access has drained our time and our resources.”
Next will be battles over Nader’s exclusion from the debates (along with other candidates, like the Libertarian Michael Badnarik). At the end of the day Nader will be looking at a vote for him on November 2 in the low single digits, and that’ll be that. The way things look in mid-September, the Democrats won’t be able to blame him if their man goes down, because the person sabotaging John Kerry is manifestly and unarguably John Kerry. But a more important fact about the way things look in mid-September is that History’s tempo is picking up. If ever there was an opportunity for Nader to seize the hour, it’s now.
Even as America’s reach in Iraq contracts to a few acres in downtown Baghdad, George Bush goes to the UN and says of the US occupying force, “The proper response to difficulty is not to retreat. It is to prevail.” Kerry visits NYU, says he’d have done it all differently and then, by way of constructive ideas, mumbles absurdly about the need to involve America’s allies in the occupation, which sounds like General Custer wiring the Canadians to come help him turn the tide at the battle of the Little Bighorn.
At home there’s been a sharp escalation in anger and resistance to the war from the people press-ganged to fight it. Soldiers from a Fort Carson, Colorado, combat unit tell reporters angrily they’ve been issued an ultimatum: Re-enlist for three more years or get transferred to units scheduled for deployment in Iraq. In Fort Dix, New Jersey, 635 soldiers from the South Carolina National Guard scheduled to depart for a year or more in Iraq were under a disciplinary lockdown in their barracks for two weeks.
During Laura Bush’s speech in New Jersey in mid-September, Sue Niederer was arrested for demanding to know why her son was killed in Iraq, interrupting Laura to ask, “If this war is so righteous, why don’t you send your children?” She was escorted out and started talking to reporters–which was when she was handcuffed and led away. Niederer was wearing a shirt with her dead son’s picture and the words “President Bush, you killed my son.”