Sunday, March 02, 2008

Ralph Nader

As one who has never been a member--or even a hanger-on--of the Democratic Party, I cringe recalling the very first presidential vote I cast--six weeks after my 21st birthday, in a voting booth in Austin, Texas--for Elbie Jay. I didn't vote for another Democrat until 2004. And that makes me cringe anew. The very first as well as the most recent ballot I marked for U.S. President were for candidates who never should have had the job.

And I part company with people I most often find agreeable, sensible and mostly rational over votes for Ralph Nader in 1996 and 2000. I am not, I repeat: not responsible for G.W. Bush being in the Presidency.

Albert A. Gore was for 32 years elected to the US Congress, the last 18 of those years as the senior Senator from Tennessee. His son, Al Gore served four terms in the U. S. House of Representatives, then was an 8-year incumbent as the Senator from Tennessee, followed by 8 years as Vice President of the United States.

Yet, Al Gore couldn't win the electoral votes from his own state. What he did win was the popular vote in Florida. Then, he folded his tent and refused to fight for what was his. He handed the office to Bush. Does anyone remember who he chose to be a heartbeat from the presidency, his VP running mate? That would be Joe Lieberman. Joe and I have only one thing in common. Neither one of us has a shred of connectedness to the Democratic Party.

I long ago resolved I wouldn't vote for people who pass muster only as the least-worst of a bad lot.

I don't apologize for voting for Ralph. In all his life in politics and leadership of citizen action/activism he has done astonishing service to his county and for ordinary people. I like him best for what he has never done. He wouldn't think of doing what every Democratic Party standard-bearer for the past thirty years has done--make the pilgrimage to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) to swear that he/she will never deviate from the political program demanded by that organization in exchange for votes and campaign contributions.

As long as powerful quasi-external actors like AIPAC and CANF (Cuban American National Foundation) and their lobbying and their threats to use vilification routines continue to hold sway over all candidates in our presidential elections, I'm sticking with Ralph and Dennis, the most recent in a line of candidates I've liked: Dick Gregory, Benjamin Spock, Frank Zeidler, David McReynolds, Jack (not Jackie) Gleason, Ron Daniels, Ralph (twice).

Read Barack Obama's AIPAC speech one year ago today. Listen to what he has promised to do.

Change? Obama's mantra is "Change"? Not on Middle East policy. As long as AIPAC has him on a leash there will be no change, just more of the same. And Obama's position follows Hillary Clinton's policy promises, practically word-for-word.

Here's a trenchant analysis from AlterNet of the stranglehold of AIPAC on the entire Democratic Party:

"...during the 2004 campaign Howard Dean called on the United States to be an "evenhanded" broker in the Middle East. That position enraged party leaders such as House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, who signed a letter attacking his remarks. 'It was designed to send a message: No one ever does this again,' says M.J. Rosenberg of the center-left Israel Policy Forum. 'And no one has. The only safe thing to say is: I support Israel.' In April a representative from AIPAC called Congresswoman Betty McCollum's vote against a draconian bill severely curtailing aid to the Palestinian Authority 'support for terrorists.' "

I believe--and there is good evidence--that AIPAC represents only a small-- but emboldened and too-often-catered-to--minority of Jewish-Americans, as well as a bunch of fundamentalist christian-zionists from outer space. The mystery is why American politicians continually tailor their foreign policy in the Middle East to such a fringe group. AIPAC exercises its members' constitutionally-blessed and incredibly skilled rights to lobby the Congress and the Executive. It gets ugly when anyone else who advocates for a peaceful two-state solution, advocated by enormous numbers of Israelis, Palestinians and Jewish-Americans gets smeared by the hard-liners as "Israel-haters".

One need only read the comments in Haaretz after any columnist writes on American presidential politics to get a feel for the polarization.

Words to live by:
The only vote wasted is the vote cast for someone who should not have the job.

Ralph Nader is a great American. I'm going to vote for him. Again.

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Of the biblical allotment of three score and ten I have lived only three of them more than a bicycle ride from one of the Great Lakes. I grew up ten blocks from Lake Erie in the (once Irish/Italian ghetto, now newly-hip) "Near West Side" of Cleveland. I can still cycle to the Milwaukee lakefront in an hour and a half; but, a round-trip has always been more than I would (noror ever did) attempt. -0- I'm a "...somewhat combative pacifist and fairly cooperative anarchist," after the example of Grace Paley (1922-2007). -0- I'm always cheerful when I pay my taxes (having refused--when necessary--to pay that portion of them dedicated to war). -0- And I always, always vote.