According to Nader 2000 Leaders Organize To Defeat Bush, an Open Letter addressed to “progressives” of all sizes, shapes, and colors:
This year, we urge support for Kerry/Edwards in all swing states, even while we strongly disagree with Kerry’s policies on Iraq and other issues. For people seeking progressive social change in the United States, removing George W. Bush from office should be the top priority in the 2004 presidential election. Progressive votes for John Kerry in swing states may prove decisive in attaining this vital goal.
Membership among the official “swing” (or “battleground”) states changes, of course, according to the latest polls. But, generally, the following list of 20 states should suffice: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
(Quick aside. Please note that I myself do not live in a “swing” state. Which is just as well, as far as I’m concerned. In 2004, the State of Illinois happens to be solidly Democratic—at least as solidly as it has to be for my lawful actions to have zero effect on the outcome of the presidential election come November. Whether I refrain from participating or cast my ballot for anyone from President Bush to John Kerry to Ralph Nader—Oops! He won’t be on the Illinois ballot—all the way to the Man in the Moon—whose name won’t appear on the Illinois ballot, either—Kerry looks like a cinch to win the State nevertheless. The State’s 21 electoral votes (presumably) belong to him. No matter whom I vote for. No matter what I do.)
The 20 (or so) “swing” states comprise a total of 201 electoral college votes, of which a minimum of 270 are required (or one electoral college vote more than one-half of all of them) to win a presidential election under the current U.S. system—or 74 percent of the 270 minimum. But just four of the swing states alone account for 85 electoral votes: Florida (27), Pennsylvania (21), Ohio (20), and Michigan (17)—31 percent of the magic 270 minimum. Although I haven’t checked, I’ll bet that the bulk of the budgets for political advertising has been devoted to these four states.
Among the many signatories of the Open Letter whose names I recognize and who, philosophically and otherwise, are friends of this whole South End Press-Z Magazine-ZNet project, two names that come to my mind are the historian Howard Zinn’s and, of course, Noam Chomsky’s.
I mention this for two reasons.
One I’ll simply invite you to see for yourselves: “Replying to Nader,” Noam Chomsky (ZNet Blogs, Oct. 12, 2004).
As for the other: For close to three-and-a-half months now, the Nader for President 2004 website has contained an item that bears the very misleading title “Chomsky and Zinn Plan to Vote for Nader in the ‘Safe-State’ of Massachusetts According to New Book: ‘Ralph’s Revolt’” (June 29, 2004—though by this point in the campaign, it is doubtful that anyone other than myself and a handful of others even remembers this post exists).
“Ralph’s Revolt” happens to refer to Common Courage Press founder Greg Bates’s book by this title, published last summer, the subtitle of which is The Case for Joining Nader’s Rebellion. And as with the Nader campaign’s website, Common Courage’s ad for Ralph’s Revolt uses Howard Zinn’s name (though not Noam Chomsky’s).
The Nader campaign’s use of the names Chomsky and Zinn goes as follows:
In a newly released book, author Greg Bates reveals that noted linguist, author and political analyst Noam Chomsky and historian Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States, have both decided to vote for independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader this November.
The book, Ralph’s Revolt: The Case for Joining Nader’s Rebellion highlights the views of the two celebrated residents from Kerry’s home state, Massachusetts, who urge people in safe states to vote for Nader. They argue that Nader’s campaign is essential to stopping the Democratic Party’s move to the right, especially around the war and occupation in Iraq. In this election year the Nader-Camejo campaign is essential for voters interested in a serious voice for ending the U.S. military and corporate occupation of Iraq in the presidential election.
Similarly with Common Courage’s ad (though it uses Zinn’s name alone):
“I will vote for Nader because Massachusetts [where I live] is a safe state. And voters in ‘safe states’ should not vote for Kerry….”
(The Common Courage ad also includes a footnote that leads to another paragraph intended to qualify the quote taken from Zinn. But this paragraph advances nothing.)
Now. I understand the point that Nader’s supporters are making about “safe” states versus “swing” states. (My Illinois being a “safe” state, recall.) And I also understand the point that Nader’s supporters are making about his presence on the ballot exercising (perhaps) some very short-term (i.e., until November 3) leftward-pulling leverage on the Democratic Party. Last but not least, I appreciate the immensity of Ralph Nader’s contributions to American public life over the course of the past 40 years or longer—and believe wholeheartedly that, inasmuch as the desperate, debauched, and all-around-despicable political culture of the United States is concerned, no other candidate to have tossed his hat into the presidential ring during my lifetime has articulated, net-of-net, a more consistently humane, decent, and progressive view than Nader.
Still. To assert or to imply any form of endorsement of the Nader candidacy during the 2004 election cycle is simply false of Noam Chomsky and simply false of Howard Zinn. In no public record with which I am familiar has Chomsky or Zinn stated or suggested that the narrow point about having Nader on the ballot in “safe” states extrapolates to all states. Furthermore, one will search their expressed opinions in vain for a definitive assertion to the effect that the “Nader-Camejo campaign is essential for voters [i.e., overall, in all 50 states] interested in a serious voice for ending the U.S. military and corporate occupation of Iraq in the presidential election,” to cite the Nader website again (June 29, 2004).
Much more needs to be said about all of these topics—no doubt about it. But neither the Nader/Camejo Campaign nor its supporters have the right to exploit these two gentlemen’s classical American leftist pedigrees in so grossly misleading a fashion.
The Nader/Camejo Campaign ought to put a stop to it. Once and for all.
And correct the record.
Postscript. Get a load of this. Was just looking for a few links. (That I still haven’t found yet, by the way.) When, upon turning to The Nation‘s homepage, I discovered the following advertisement:
Postscript II. Fellow ZNet blogger Paul Street calls to our attention (“Comments on Nader/Camejo 2004,” Oct. 13) the fact that in the first paragraph of my quote from the Nader/Camejo 2004 website (above), I’ve left off “9 critical words” (i.e., “since they live in the safe-state of Massachusetts”), and that this paragraph in full actually reads:
In a newly released book, author Greg Bates reveals that noted linguist, author and political analyst Noam Chomsky and historian Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States, have both decided to vote for independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader this November since they live in the safe-state of Massachusetts.
Street is right—and is to be commended for checking (perhaps the most arduous task of all) and then calling this to our attention. So, there’s the correction—including an emphasis added to the otherwise missing 9 words.
(Quick aside for those of you follow these things pretty closely. Actually, I now have two versions of Nader/Camejo 2004’s media release dated June 29: (A) The version I quoted Tuesday (originally accessed and saved by me some time around July 1, 2004), and (b) the version that Paul Street just checked (accessed some time in the past 24 hours). Those “9 critical words” did not appear in the original media release titled “Chomsky and Zinn Plan to Vote for Nader in the ‘Safe-State’ of Massachusetts According to New Book: ‘Ralph’s Revolt’,” though they most certainly do appear in the revised version of it.)
Actually, I don’t believe the Nader/Camejo camp to be “dastardly” for its past and present use of two of this country’s bona fide leftist names to urge voters to support its ticket. But I do regard it (here to quote someone else) as unpardonably misleading, and a distortion of the expressed beliefs of Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn. (Insofar as such matters are based on actual statements.)
I myself don’t worry too much (if at all) about the “quadrennial intra-leftist bloodletting that emerges with every new episode in the story of the authoritarian ‘winner-take-all’ US elections system” (quoting Street again). The reason is that there is nothing I can do about it. Beyond not contributing to it, that is.
As I noted above: Much more needs to be said about all of these topics. But, apropos the matter at hand, how does the Nader/Camejo Campaign’s addition of the “critical 9 words” (i.e., “since they live in the safe-state of Massachusetts”) at the end of the opening paragraph of its June 29 media release really affect the meaning, not only of this paragraph, but the entire media release? Very marginally, in my opinion. At the very most.
Let me leave you with a sentiment expressed recently by one of the serious and dedicated members of the Anathoth Community Farm in western Wisconsin, also involved in the Nukewatch project—“dedicated to the abolition of nuclear power and weapons,” in their own words: “To be honest, I don’t know anyone who is supporting [Nader] this year. In our community, he’ll get something like zero out of nine.” (“Wisconsin Peace Activists Shy from Nader,” Washington Post, Oct. 10.)
Notice that she (her name is Bonnie Urfer) didn’t say a single word about “swing” versus “safe” state voting strategies. (Her State of Wisconsin being among the officially-designated “swing” states this election cycle.)
Nader 2000 Leaders Organize To Defeat Bush, Open Letter (accessed Oct. 12, 2004)
“Replying to Nader,” Noam Chomsky, ZNet Blogs, October 12, 2004
Nader/Camejo 2004 (accessed Oct. 12, 2004)
“Chomsky and Zinn Plan to Vote for Nader in the ‘Safe-State’ of Massachusetts According to New Book: ‘Ralph’s Revolt’,” Nader/Camejo 2004, June 29, 2004
Ralph’s Revolt: The Case for Joining Nader’s Rebellion, Greg Bates (Common Courage Press, 2004)
“Nader Attack a New Low Point,” Greg Bates, CounterPunch, February 17, 2004
“Wisconsin Peace Activists Shy from Nader: In Bedrock Antiwar Communities, the Positions Click but the Campaign Doesn’t,” Washington Post, October 10, 2004