Given the GOP sweep in the midterm elections, progressives and populists must position themselves to play a pivotal role in the next presidential contest. As we demonstrated in 2000, we are a fragmented political force, divided between those who supported, however reluctantly, the Democratic choice, Al Gore, and those who backed the Green Party’s Ralph Nader. But the Bush disaster, compounded now by the meltdown of the Democratic Party on November 5, is an emergency. We cannot afford another division in our ranks that will bring about the election of George W. Bush in 2004.
His selection as President by the Supreme Court in 2000 was a presidential and judicial coup. Progressives may believe this coup stains his Administration as illegitimate, but apparently he and his inner group take it as leave to cast aside the Bill of Rights and international law. Now the President is out of control and threatens American democracy and the peace of the world. At home, there is mounting evidence that we are living in a land ruled by a crypto-fascist government: The FBI spies on law-abiding political organizations and churches, citizens are deputized to spy and inform on one another, an underground parallel executive government has been activated, lawyer-client consultations are bugged, the government keeps citizens locked up without lawyers or hearings and talks of using the military to police the United States, and the Pentagon is making a vast database of the American people. We are being cudgeled into agreeing to wars of aggression, to make first use of nuclear weapons and to put weapons in outer space. Setting a lethal example for other nations, the Bush government prepares to initiate an attack on a small nation 6,000 miles away and asserts the right to wage a war with no discernible end by attacking any nation that one man–an unelected President who has rarely traveled overseas–determines to be harboring terrorists or seeking weapons of mass destruction. This same unelected President schemes to exempt Americans from the jurisdiction of the new International Criminal Court, which punishes crimes against humanity. The will to dominate the world is explicit when he tells Congress he will not allow “any foreign power to catch up with” or surpass “the power of the United States.” If Bush and the Pentagon control the government through 2008 we will become a militarized nation bent on world domination, a third-millennium Rome. Intensified terrorist attacks on us and a series of widening wars can be expected. All of this is dramatically worse in kind and degree than what Al Gore would have done as President.
These are the realities that tell us Bush must be beaten in 2004. Not only the nation, but the world, depends on it. If we divide our votes for President again between the Democratic nominee and Ralph Nader, we will very probably help elect Bush. Therefore, Nader should not run for President as a Green in 2004.
I have played a role in supporting Nader. I presented him to the Green Party conventions that nominated him in Los Angeles in 1996 and in Denver in 2000. Although I knew that supporting him risked helping elect Republican Presidents in both of those elections, we who supported him and began to forge a third-party politics were acting within our democratic and idealistic rights, believing that the short-run damage to good causes that we were risking was outweighed ethically by the long-run damage to democracy and social justice that the capture of the Democratic Party by major corporations has caused and, if not stopped, will continue to cause. We were taking a calculated risk, but we underestimated what we were risking. The Bush presidency is worse than we could plausibly have imagined, and the run-up to 2004 is not just another election, it is a crisis that leaves us no more time or room to maneuver.