Open Letter to John Pearce & Kathy Cramer of Ralphdontrun.net
Dear Mr. Pearce and Ms. Cramer:
(1) Your Flash map of the USA and the 2000 presidential
election's electoral vote allocation is spiffy, but
inaccurate. How about showing smiling photos of Harry
Browne (the Libertarian Party candidate), and Patrick
Buchanan, and then flipping the states of Iowa, New
Mexico, Oregon, and Wisconsin over to George W. Bush?
That would be a more accurate presentation, since without
the help of Browne & Buchanan, Al Gore wouldn't
have won those states (most Libertarians and Libertarian
Party supporters are from conservative backgrounds,
and their votes traditionally come from people who would
otherwise vote Republican, particularly in rural and
western states). In that scenario, Florida wouldn't
have made any difference, so you can leave that where
it is. In fact, the likely 2004 Libertarian candidate,
Gary Nolan, is far better known than the obscure Harry
Browne, since he used to have a nationally syndicated
radio talk show, so it's likely that this year the Libertarian
Party will play an even stronger role in the election
But not one Democratic pollster, pundit, or analyst
that I'm aware of has bothered to thank Gary Nolan for
running this year, or poor old Harry Browne for spoiling
the 2000 election for George W. Bush, or Pat Buchanan,
for that matter. That's not very nice.
Oh, and none of you have ever thanked Ross Perot for
(according to exit polls) putting Bill Clinton in the
White House in 1992, either. I think Democratic activists
have some thank-you notes to write. I mean, it's okay
for all of those guys to run, but not Ralph Nader.
(2) Have you read Nader's book, "Crashing The Party?"
And I mean really read it, not just leafed through it.
Can you refute any of the detailed criticisms he made
of the Clinton/Gore administration and the national
Democratic Party? If not, then what are you doing about
them, besides ignoring them so you can focus on telling
people not to vote for Nader?
(3) What plan, if any, have you implemented to help
elect Democrats to the House and Senate this year? Or
will having a Democratic president in and of itself
solve the country's problems and push a progressive
agenda forward, since it's most likely the House and
Senate will remain in Republican control whether or
not Nader were in the presidential race?
Oh wait, I'm forgetting that the voters Nader brought
to the polls in Washington and Michigan in 2000 helped
put Maria Cantwell and Debbie Stabenow in the Senate.
And Bill Luther into the House from Minnesota's 6th
district, with help from a Constitution Party candidate
who took thousands of votes away from his Republican
opponent. You guys must have forgotten about them, too.
Two years later, the Democrats were helped once again
when Tim Johnson narrowly won re-election to his Senate
seat from South Dakota by less than a thousand votes,
thanks to a Libertarian candidate who earned over 3,000.
That's a lot of thank-you notes, folks. If you want
to hammer away at the so-called "spoiler"
issue, you should realize that it works both ways. Is
it okay for Libertarian and Constitution candidates
take votes away from Republicans? I thought so. You
know, it's pretty sad when the Constitution, Libertarian,
and (yes) Green parties are more productive at electing
Democrats to Congress then some Democrats are.
(4) Nader spent his time from November 2000 to January
2004 creating new consumer and citizen empowerment organizations
(Citizen Works, Democracy Rising, the D.C. Library Renaissance
Project, among others), organizing demonstrations and
letter-writing campaigns on a wide range of social justice
issues, meeting with elected officials, and leading
the progressive fight against, among other things, corporate
crime, the FCC debacle, statehood for the District of
Columbia (which is, by the way, mentioned in the Democratic
Party national platform), fighting the shrinking budgets
in major municipalities around the country for public
libraries and other essential services, and other social
justice issues about which the Democratic National Committee
was essentially silent.
Nader -- not Al Gore or anyone else in the Democratic
Party power structure -- became the "go-to guy"
once again in lecture halls and on all the major cable
news talk shows on the subject of corporate corruption
and fraud. In many cases he was labelled simply "consumer
advocate," not "ex-presidential candidate,"
as if the 2000 campaign had never happened. I thought
his "legacy" had been destroyed. After all,
that's what you folks had been telling us over and over.
Over the last couple of years, I've attended several
events at which Nader spoke, and presidential politics
was secondary at all of them. These were events attended
by a diverse mix of people who support Nader politically
and people who oppose him. But everyone at these events
had their consciousness raised about grassroots issues
that no national figure in either major party will even
bother discussing -- forget about taking the lead in
terms of solutions. Hint, hint.
What were you folks, and Democratic activists in general,
doing during that time besides organizing efforts to
stop Nader from running for president again? I mean,
at the very least, could you at least help Ralph get
Anheuser-Busch and Phillip Morris out of the presidential
Dr. David Gaines
P.S. - One more thing (sorry!): please explain to me
how (since there is no way on earth I will vote for
John Kerry or anyone else with the letter "D"
after his name in the general election), if I choose
to vote for Ralph Nader in this safe Republican state
of Virginia, this vote for Nader would really be, according
to the prevailing logic in this country, a vote for
An Open Response
to Dr. Gaines
Dear Dr. Gaines,
Thank you for your thoughtful, provocative “open
letter” posted on Ralph Nader’s VoteNader.org
website regarding our www.RalphDontRun.net campaign.
In the spirit of openness, perhaps the site will do
us the courtesy of also posting this, our “open
response,” in a position as prominent as the home
page location your letter has enjoyed for the past several
After complimenting the “spiffy” nature
of our website – thank you very much – you
spend much of your letter carefully noting the many
conservative third-party candidates whose campaigns
helped elect one Democrat after another, and you assert
that we owe them great thanks. As you correctly point
out, a solid case can be made that the third-party candidacies
of Buchanan and Browne directly helped Gore carry some
very close states in 2000, and similarly that Perot
helped elect Bill Clinton, and that conservative third-party
candidacies helped elect Bill Luther in Minnesota and
Tim Johnson in South Dakota.
We are surprised that you raise this point, however,
since it so emphatically and clearly supports what has,
from the beginning, been the central argument of our
RalphDontRun campaign: that in close and important elections,
third-party candidacies – like that of Mr. Nader
– directly support the election of those most
hostile to their own agendas. In fact, this point is
proven in every one of the examples you have noted so
accurately. In 2004, it is precisely in this way that
anyone who supports Mr. Nader’s issues undermines
those issues by voting for him, and betrays them entirely
by voting for him in critical swing states.
Your inadvertent support of our central argument results
from your misunderstanding of our campaign. You rhetorically
paraphrase our attitude as “it's okay for all
of those guys to run, but not Ralph Nader.” We
reply, emphatically, “Yes!” We love right-wing
third-party candidacies. Despite Mr. Nader and others
who have claimed we are infringing on his right to run,
or accuse us of attempting to censor his ability to
communicate, let us be clear: we in no way oppose third-party
candidacies on principle, and celebrate Nader’s
voice on the issues. We oppose progressive third-party
candidacies in close elections on purely pragmatic grounds
– that is, the obvious damage they can do to the
progressive issues they supposedly support. There could
be no more eloquent testimony on this point than the
global catastrophe of the Bush presidency.
Even Mr. Nader’s varying rationales for his candidacies
implicitly acknowledge this truth. In 2000 Mr. Nader
used the “Tweedledum & Tweedledee” assertion
– that there was no significant difference between
the major parties – as the fundamental rationale
for his campaign. That argument is today so obviously
and profoundly false that even Mr. Nader has largely
abandoned it, and for 2004 has adopted the intellectually
inconceivable argument that his campaign will help beat
Bush. Mr. Nader can’t have it both ways: There
is either a reasoned preference between the viable candidates
or there is not. If he honestly feels Bush should be
defeated, Mr. Nader should urge his liberal, progressive
and populist supporters to vote for Kerry, and ask for
the votes only of the conservatives and Bush supporters
whom Mr. Nader reports, without visible evidence, are
now rallying to his cause.
The balance of your letter revolves around two major
themes: the deficiencies of the Democrats and Mr. Nader’s
recent good works for progressive causes. Given the
imperatives of brevity, on the first point we’ll
simply quote the comedian Dan Kaufman: “The only
thing worse than the lesser of two evils… is the
greater of two evils.” Despite Kerry’s limitations,
Bush today is profoundly the greater evil. And on the
issue of Nader’s accomplishments, again you inadvertently
support our view: Nader’s greatest accomplishments,
like those you list, have never resulted from third-party
campaigns, but rather upon exposing truth and fighting
for justice outside electoral politics. As your examples
indicate, Mr. Nader is now the epitome of opposites
-- how one can truly and deeply change America, and
how through idealistic zealotry one can do it such great
Dr. Gaines, throughout your letter, you repeatedly
ask us to thank reactionary third-party candidates for
helping elect Democrats in 2000 and previous elections.
We apologize for our oversight, and hereby emphatically
do so. But it is intellectually bankrupt, or an act
of self-delusion, to think that George W. Bush owes
Ralph Nader any less gratitude.
-John Pearce & Kathy Cramer