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An 'Exquisite Dilemma' Faces Nader Backers

October 29, 2000|CLANCY SIGAL | Clancy Sigal is a novelist and screenwriter

We Nader boosters can be an arrogant bunch. By any measure, Ralph Nader towers morally and intellectually over Al Gore, George W. Bush and Patrick Buchanan. He has done more for this country than all three candidates put together. He's saved more lives, and he's raised a higher awareness on issues that affect more Americans. But certain questions about Nader's candidacy should not be shirked.

There is a possibility people may be hurt by my Nader vote. If George Dubya wins in November, there's little doubt that, on past form, he will deal coldheartedly with the economically disenfranchised and that he'll give away the farm to the rich. A Bush administration will send out negative signals to African Americans, whom the Democrats embrace, and the elderly and ill.

Gore, if elected, probably won't do much to help the helpless. But that little may make more than a token difference. We Naderites should take some responsibility for our vote.

It is an exquisite dilemma, more so this presidential year because our candidate is so credible and just might swing a few key states.

During World War II, the anti-Nazi resistance in Europe often committed acts of sabotage heedless of reprisals against innocent civilians. Some of those reprisals, such as at the French village of Oradour-sur-Glane or Czechoslovakia's Lidice (after the assassination of Hitler's stooge Reinhardt Heydrich), were horrific. This did not deter the dedicated men and women of the resistance. In the long run, it was felt, a greater good was served by actively fighting the Germans, regardless of the suffering it caused. The history of the resistance was written by resisters, not reprisal corpses.

I'll probably vote for Nader because I hate being taken for a sucker by conservative Democratic politicians who believe I have nowhere else to go. And I am personally offended by Gore's undignified haste to junk his "liberalism" and kiss up to Bush on a whole string of tricky issues he's afraid might lose him votes. He is actually more hawkish than Bush.

Bush I won't waste words on. He hardly bothers to disguise his contempt for the weak and luckless.

But we Naderites should square up to the dilemma instead of palming it off with facile mantra like Nader's own, "We're not taking votes from Gore; Gore is taking votes from Gore." This happens to be true but does not affect the basic predicament that we may hurt people with our votes. Personally, I am into a long-term struggle to help build a "new, progressive coalition" that outflanks the Democratic Party, which has sold us out for half a century. I believe Nader will help my cause. I pray that I am right.

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