Taking A Long Hard Look At Ralph Nader
Those Blacks who have bought into the line that a vote for Ralph Nader is a vote for George W. Bush better think again. The logic, according to Democrats and Gore supporters is that by voting for Ralph Nader, people are only taking votes away from Al Gore and helping Gov. Bush walk into the White House - directly benefiting from Gore's loss of the traditional Democratic votes that Nader represents. But can any self-respecting Black honestly say that Blacks have benefited under Clinton-Gore - enough to automatically extend their reign for another 4 years - with no questions asked? Clinton-Gore have done in eight years what Reagan and Bush could have only dreamed of (according to the common view that Blacks have of conservatives): they ended welfare as we know it, locked up droves of Black Men, ordered stiffer sentencing for lighter crimes and subtly moved the public discourse away from its previous attention to racial discrimination in favor of a more palatable class-based approach to the country's racial problems.
If Ronald Reagan had done these things, Blacks would have been in an uproar. But because a Democratic administration did them, Blacks could only manage a whimper and before too long - forgiveness. Many Blacks honestly believe that Bill Clinton is the closest thing we have ever had to a Black President. As long as a white man has a "D" after his name instead of an "R" many Blacks can see no evil. Because Bill Clinton and Al Gore have that magical letter after their names, many Blacks, like parrots, repeat the "prosperity" song ad nauseum - that somehow Blacks are better off economically than they ever have been. The height of this insult occurs when Al Gore and Bill Clinton claim that the Black unemployment rate is at its lowest level in history - somewhere around 7.9%. What they neglect to tell their cheering Black audiences is that if the increased Black incarcerations (during their administration) were taken into account they would see the Black unemployment rate back up to near 10%.
Instead of clapping so loudly, Blacks should ask what good are a few more jobs paying $8-$10 an hour if more and more Blacks - men and increasingly women - are filling jail cells and making the unemployment numbers look better?
And furthermore how much longer can blacks allow Democrats to earn their vote just because they successfully point out that the Republican party doesn't care about the Black Electorate? Sure the charge is true but it certainly isn't a pro-Black agenda. Dissing the Republican Party and Congress may produce great applause but isn't doing anything to solve Black poverty and a failing criminal justice system.
Enter Ralph Nader. Nader, in many respects, represents the conscience of the Democratic Party that Clinton and Gore have successfully run from for 8 years. His campaign raises many of the issues that Blacks expected Clinton-Gore to raise 8 years ago. His candidacy addresses the rightward drift of the Democratic Party designed by the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), a group of Democrats, started with Al Gore's help 15 years ago, that turned the Democratic Party in the direction of corporate interests and moderate Democrats and away from the civil-rights movement and liberal Democrats.
Gore proudly proclaims that he helped write the DLC's first press release. How many Blacks are even aware of the DLC and the hindrance that they have been to the causes championed by Black leaders inside of the Democratic Party? Not many. And that is why Gore can get away with parading his affiliation with them so boldly - as he recently did this past Saturday.
Ralph Nader has a stinging critique of the DLC that every Black should listen to before they give Gore a free pass simply because he wears a "D". Instead of looking at American politics in terms of a narrow-minded Democrat-Republican dichotomy, Blacks should increasingly look at politics in terms of their own best interests. Sure, such a strategy will find plenty in the Democratic Party worthy of support but it also will reveal plenty to be disgusted about.
So, I think that Ralph Nader deserves a long, hard look from Black America. Hopefully Blacks will not fall victim to the weak scare-tactic that a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush. While few Blacks may realize it today, a vote for Clinton-Gore in '92 and '96 may have been a vote for Bush, or at least some of the worst policies championed by Reagan-Bush. And if that wasn't the intention of Clinton-Gore, in many respects, the effect on Black America has been the same, as if they (Clinton-Gore) were Republicans themselves. This is very clear on matters of criminal justice issues. A look at some of what Ralph Nader is saying makes this abundantly clear.
A good starting point to get familiar with some of Nader's thinking is his recent address to the NAACP convention.
Monday, July 17, 2000