CONFESSIONS OF A NADER VOTER By William Burleson
Oh, how I was seduced. That rumpled professor persona. His tousled hair. The poor posture. His beguiling lack of social skills. The earnestness. Oh, the seductive earnestness. Here was a man who actually believed what he said. And he said a lot. He talked about single payer health care. He talked about social justice. He talked about the end to corporate rule in America. How could a dyed-in-the-wool liberal resist? I confess: I voted for Ralph Nader. Twice. And I would do it again. I personally threw the 2000 election to the Republicans. Well, not really, since I’m from Minnesota, which was firmly in the Gore camp all along. In this winner take all system, I had the luxury of voting my conscience in a way someone from Florida may not have enjoyed. Would I have voted differently if I were in Oregon or New Mexico? I can’t say, or at least I won’t say. My reasoning is as valid today as it was three years ago. I believe a person should vote for whom they believe in, and not for the lesser of two evils. I believe a strong third —or forth, fifth or sixth—party is good for America. I believe the Democratic Party has taken the left for granted for too long. I believe in socialized medicine, mass transit, and public education. I believe people need a hand up, not a slap down. I was happy to support a candidate who fought for those issues. I do, however, regret one thing. I was wrong to say there wasn’t any difference between the Democrats and the Republicans. Boy, was I ever wrong.
I laughed at and repeated over and over a line from a Nader campaign speech, which went something like “the only difference between the Democrats and the Republicans is how fast they drop to their knees when big business walks in the room.” Regrettably, this is still all too true. But along came Bush. How could I have imagined how badly he could screw things up? take foreign policy. I guess I thought that regardless of who’s President, no one could screw-up long-standing international relationships that badly. I figured foreign policy is in the hands of experts in the State Department, the military and the CIA, and they’ll see to it the status quo is maintained, even with, shall we say, a less than intellectually-gifted president. How wrong can a person be? We started a war that didn’t need to be fought and justified it with what appears to me were trumped-up charges. We did it with most of the world, including most of our closest allies, firmly against us. In the aftermath of 9/11, the United States and President Bush enjoyed goodwill from most of world like we haven’t seen since the forties. In the two short years since, he has managed to alienate most of Europe and pretty much the rest of the world with his unilateralism and raw military aggression. These are strange times. I could never have imagined terms like “Homeland Security” and “Preemptive War.” I could never have imagined this country, MY country, detaining hundreds of people without trial, without lawyers, without rights. Remember how proud we once were about how well we treated our prisoners of war? Now we get to read in the press about how we move them to other countries that do our torturing dirty work for us. We used to expect better of ourselves than this.
Now with the coming election I might be facing a dilemma: while Nader announced he is not running as a Green in this next election, he might run as an independent. What if he does? What will I do? My convictions may be firm, but these are desperate times. Bush, I believe, is the worst president since, oh, I don’t know, Reagan. The Democrats need to win. Desperate times demand desperate actions. So would I vote for Nader? I’m not telling, but I will say I’ll be following the polls carefully come next November. Either way, my sweet, rumpled professor; we’ll always have 2000.
Burleson is a freelance writer from Minneapolis