The only hope for American democracy is if Nader takes votes from Gore
By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 16th August 2000
Everyone on earth should be allowed to vote in American elections. All the major decisions about the future of world are now brokered by the United States. Only the US has the power to provoke a world war. Only the US can re-engineer the global economy. As the Transatlantic Economic Partnership – which is quietly “harmonising” our laws with those of North America – demonstrates, Washington now exercises more control over the lives of British people than Westminster.
We will never, of course, be allowed to influence the world’s most important political decisions. But this autumn we can do the next best thing, which is to plead with our friends and colleagues in the United States to cast their votes against Al Gore. The only hope for both America and us is that George Bush wins.
A Bush presidency would, of course, be an unmitigated disaster. This poisonous political pygmy owes everything to the dollar and nothing to democracy. Under his governorship Texas has killed more convicts, left more children without health provision and poisoned more of its own air and water than any other state. Its spending on education, public hospitals and social services has all but collapsed.
As president, Bush would cut the scant taxes rich Americans pay, disabling America’s residual public provision. He would dump the minimum wage, abandon affirmative action, sell off national parks and destroy trades unions. He has suggested that he would like to see more adventures of the kind the US pursued in Nicaragua and Grenada, and fewer humanitarian missions. His incomprehension of world affairs will reinforce American isolationism, while his plans for a national missile defence system will launch a new nuclear arms race.
Anyone with a grain of political sense, in other words, would be mad to support George Bush. But the biggest threat to Al Gore is a defection of Democratic voters not to the Republicans, but to the Greens, and their presidential candidate Ralph Nader. Nader will capture, depending on which opinion poll you believe, anywhere between three and ten per cent of the vote. Crucially, his prospects are best in some of the states Gore must win to secure the presidency: Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Oregon and California. There is, in other words, a seductive if superficial truth in the assertion, aired repeatedly by Democratic Party hustlers, that “a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush”.
But Ralph Nader’s campaign is about far more than the coming election. He has launched what amounts to nothing less than a rescue plan for American democracy, and with it, a rescue plan for the rest of the world. Nader, alone among the remaining candidates, has promised to tackle the world’s principal problem, namely the corporate stranglehold on American politics.
When George Bush raises $100 million for his campaign, Al Gore has to do the same. In his eight years in office, Bill Clinton has distinguished himself by amassing some one billion political dollars, almost all of them, directly or indirectly, from corporations. This money is merely a measure of the politicians’ indebtedness to special interests. The result is that the priority of both presidential candidates is to deliver not what the people want but what the corporations want. For the past 50 years, the world has been held to ransom by America’s corporate oligarchs.
Ralph Nader would kick corporate money out of politics, ensuring that public campaigns are publicly funded. He is, of course, no more likely to become American president in November than you are. The best he is likely to achieve is to hand victory to Bush, plunging the world into four terrifying years of government by morons. But the alternative is far worse. If Gore wins, backed by one hundred million corporate dollars, then the last faint hopes that a mainstream political party might fight for a change in the way American campaigns are financed will evaporate. His victory would hasten the arrival of a new and potentially endless dark age, in which only the demands of the mighty are acknowledged.
If, by contrast, Gore loses because Nader steals his key votes, then this will force the Democratic Party into the most profound self-examination in its recent history. As the Democrats come to see that they cannot recapture public trust until they have done something to earn it, they will ensure that campaign finance reform becomes the key issue in the 2004 presidential elections.
If you don’t stand up for what you believe to be right, regardless of the consequences, you will quickly discover that there is nothing left to believe in. The Americans, like all of us, should vote not in fear, but in hope.