Progressives Deeply Divided Over Nader

| November 1, 2000

Progressives Deeply Divided Over Nader

The chance that Ralph Nader's candidacy for president may lead to a victory for George W. Bush has driven a wedge into the progressive community, including many here in the Utne Reader office. Admittedly, much of our coverage of the presidential race has had a decidedly pro-Nader slant. Yet some very thoughtful and passionate radicals, people whose opinions I respect, feel that the damage that a Bush presidency could wreak on the environment, human rights, reproductive rights, the Supreme Court, and a host of other issues, is too big a price to pay for the uncertain promise of building a Green party movement. While I don't necessarily agree, they raise some very important points which you may want to consider as you decide how to cast your own vote next Tuesday.

For example, in an October 30 article on titled 'Unsafe in any state,' long-time progressive activist and author Todd Gitlin argues that '[t]he outcome [of a Bush presidency] might well be ... catastrophic -- and not only for the next four years. Just as much of the ground lost to Reagan in the 1980s has never been regained -- repeat, never: not in 20 years, not on labor policy, not on the environment, not on income and wealth inequality, not on support for military goons in the poor countries -- the ground to be lost by a Republican victory is likely to stay lost.'

The Nation, a publication whose staff is as divided on the Nader question as Utne Reader's, promotes a pragmatic approach. In an editorial in their November 6 issue, the magazine's editors argue that 'the practical priority of keeping the Bush squad from winning power takes precedence, while we also urge that, if possible, progressives help Nader score a blow to the status quo.' They suggest 'following the logic of Texas columnist Molly Ivins. Her rule: Vote with your heart where you can, and vote with your head where you must.' If you live in a state where a vote for Nader could swing the electoral balance to Bush, says Ivins, find a Gore supporter in a state where Bush or Gore holds a commanding lead, and swap your votes. As we mentioned in yesterday's edition of the Web Watch, several websites have appeared in the last week which are helping to facilitate this ingenious strategy, including and

Nader, meanwhile, has steadfastly defended his candidacy in the face of an onslaught from liberal critics, including 12 former 'Nader Raiders' who have urged him and running mate Winona LaDuke to step aside and endorse Gore, writes Jennifer Bleyer on For more information on the Nader/LaDuke campaign, and on Nader's answers to critics' calls, visit the official campaign website at
-- Leif Utne

Unsafe in any state, Todd Gitlin, (Oct. 30)
The election and beyond, The Editors, The Nation (Nov. 6)
Nader responds to onslaught from liberal critics, Jennifer Bleyer, (Oct. 30) (official campaign site)

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