Disclaimer: Bill Schultz is Secretary of The Internet Infidels and a long-time activist in the third party movement. Since 1982, he has been looking for a viable third party to emerge which is compatible with his views. This year, he is supporting Ralph Nader for President, but not necessarily the whole agenda of the Green Party, upon whose ticket Ralph Nader is running. The views expressed in this article are his own and not those of any non profit organization for which he may volunteer.
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Counterpoint: Ralph Nader for President
By Bill Schultz
Edward Tabash tells us, in his essay , that our only hope for continued freedom for unbelievers after this fall’s election is for all of us to support Al Gore for President. Well, I could not disagree more.
Simple logic tells you that when you become a “single issue voter,” you have discarded your right to pick the best candidate for the job. Instead, you become a robot, bound to vote for the candidate who looks the best on your single issue, no matter how horrible that candidate might be overall for the office that is being contested. What Mr. Tabash advocates is nothing less than turning all atheists into “single issue voters,” concentrating on the issue of just who each of the candidates for President might select to sit on the Supreme Court in the event that a vacancy occurs. Well, freethinkers are about as far away from robots as I can imagine. We almost certainly won’t vote as a block, the way the members of the so-called “Christian Coalition” will. Instead, I expect freethinkers to look at the issues in this campaign, weigh them all in the balance scales, and vote for the best man to be President of these United States.
There are literally hundreds of issues in the election for President this year. Each of us may well evaluate each of those issues differently. But in the view of Mr. Tabash, we aren’t allowed to consider the variations between the candidates on any of those issues. We should only consider the potentiality for a series of absurd appointments to the Supreme Court, when in fact there may not even be any vacancy in the next four years. Imagine that thought! You cast your precious vote for Al Gore based upon the arguments of Mr. Tabash, and then President Gore doesn’t even get to make one single appointment to the Supreme Court. Under those circumstances, what have you received in return for your precious vote? Nothing!
Mr. Tabash predicts the departure, within the next four years, of both Associate Justices Stevens and O’Conner, and not the Chief Justice, William Rhenquist. In spite of the fact that Justice O’Conner (March 26, 1930, age 70) is six years younger than Chief Justice Rhenquist (October 1, 1924, age 75), who is a member of the “hated minority” who has expressed doubts on some issues of interest to nonbelievers, Mr. Tabash wishes us to believe that only the far younger one of those two will depart. Perhaps it is true that Justice Stevens (April 20, 1920, age 80) is ready to retire. But Justice O’Conner, ten years his junior, is hardly at retirement age according to recent history.
In the past 30 years, there have only been a total of ten vacancies on the Supreme Court, an average of one every three years. Justices Black (age 85) and Harlan (age 72) died in office in 1971. Since then, seven Justices and one Chief Justice have retired. Justices Douglas (age 78), Stewart (age 66), Powell (age 80), Brennan (age 84), Marshall (age 83), White (age 76), and Blackmun (age 86), and Chief Justice Burger (age 79), all retired from the Court since 1971. If Justice O’Conner retires or dies before the end of the next President’s term, she would still be the second or third youngest of the recent departures. And even the departure of Justice Stevens isn’t guaranteed. If he stayed through the end of the next President’s term, and then retired or died, he would only be the third or fourth oldest departure in recent history. So, even though its been a long time since we’ve had an appointment to the Supreme Court, its by no means certain that there will be even one vacancy, let alone two vacancies, in the next four years. And if there is a vacancy in that time, the Chief Justice, who would be 80 at the end of the next President’s term, should certainly be up for consideration as a potential departure as well.
Certainly, disasters can happen, and the scenario of replacing O’Conner and Stevens with legal clones of Thomas and Scalia certainly isn’t impossible. But I frankly feel that the confirmation of Justice Thomas was an aberration in American political history, and it is highly unlikely that an equivalently unqualified person will be appointed to the Supreme Court in the next several decades.
But the real question is whether or not freethinkers ought to sell their votes to Gore in return for a potential chance that Gore might get to make two appointments to the Supreme Court, and the potential chance that Gore might appoint two people who see these issues our way, as opposed to some chance that Gore might appoint somebody who sides with the dissenters in this year’s decision, and as opposed to some chance that Bush could appoint somebody who sees things our way, even if the requisite vacancies occur.
You see, the stories are legion of Presidents who make appointments to the Supreme Court only to be surprised at the rulings their new justices make. It isn’t a sure thing by any means that, even if Gore is elected, and even if a vacancy occurs, Gore would necessarily appoint a justice that sees things our way. And, even if Bush is elected, and even if two vacancies occur, it isn’t exactly likely that both of his appointments would necessarily side with the opposition.
The point here is that, even if we freethinkers all sell our votes to Gore in return for his support on this issue (a matter for which we must take the word of Mr. Tabash, since Gore’s Vice President nominee believes that there is no “freedom from religion” in America), there isn’t any guarantee that Gore will be elected, nor is there any guarantee that any vacancy on the Supreme Court will occur, let alone two of them, and there isn’t any guarantee at all that any nominee of a President Gore will necessarily see things our way on our single issue.
Is this substantially unlikely scenario worth selling your vote for this single issue, without consideration of any other issues at all? I don’t think so.
Then, there is the question of all of those other issues we should be thinking about. Is the question of who may or may not sit on the Supreme Court really the most important issue of all the issues which confront us? Does it override issues such as world peace, feeding the hungry, preserving the environment, and enhancing the dignity of workers and others in all nations?
Many of us are humanists and profess concern for humanity as opposed to inhumanity. Which of the candidates in this year’s election has the greatest support for humanist issues? As unlikely as it might seem, I believe it is the Green Party candidate, Ralph Nader.
In some ways, this is a question of morality. Should we vote for the “lesser of two evils” (Gore) because of the possibility that the greater of two evils might be elected? Or, should we instead vote our true conscience, casting our ballot for the person whose values are most like our own? What is the purpose of a vote, anyway, if it isn’t to best advocate all of the things in which we strongly believe? If we see ourselves as humanists, should we not cast our ballots for the most humanistic candidate? I surely do believe we should, and I just as surely believe that candidate is Ralph Nader.
Frankly, there is really little separating Bush and Gore on any substantive issues. The Los Angeles Times reported that Bush was closer to the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) positions on most major issues than Gore was, in spite of Gore’s announced intention to pursue a DLC-led agenda. If both of the major party candidates look about the same on most of the major issues, which certainly appears to be the case this year, then how do we decide who really deserves to receive a humanist vote?
To answer this, we need to understand that, for many years now, campaigns for political office have been getting increasingly expensive, and that in the vast majority of cases, candidates for those political offices cannot afford to run for office without major funding from business interests. The business interests who actively fund political campaigns don’t do so out of a civic or charitable spirit. No, they are making investments in the politicians they choose to back, and frankly, they expect a decent return on each such investment.
For instance, there are many large insurance companies headquartered in Connecticut. It should therefore come as no surprise that Gore’s choice for Vice President, a current Senator from Connecticut, has received large contributions from the insurance industry, and has backed the insurance industry positions on legislation on many occasions, in spite of the harm those positions inflict upon his constituents. An insurance company has every incentive in the world to deny benefits to any of its policyholders because each time it can legitimately do so, it keeps more of the dollars it collects in premiums for itself. That process harms the people who rely upon insurance to pay them when they need payment for their insured losses. When such activity is permitted, or even encouraged, by our system of laws, including laws specifically passed at the behest of the insurance industry, that is truly a crime against humanity.
The Democrats came to power in the 1930s as the party of the people, replacing the Republicans, who were viewed as the party of business. But by the end of the 20 th century, it is almost impossible to tell which of the two major parties cares the least for what the people actually want their legislators to accomplish. Each party’s office holders pay far more attention to the needs and wants of their “big business” contributors than they pay to the needs and wants of those who elect them. The people themselves aren’t stupid. They can see that there is little difference between the candidates who are presented for their consideration, and a majority of eligible voters don’t even bother to cast ballots any longer. In 1992, Ross Perot energized a huge contingent of those of us who don’t generally vote and his voters are still out there, but still won’t vote for either a Republican or a Democrat since there is basically no difference.
The example of Perot is also the best answer to those who scream “wasted vote” when you propose to vote for Ralph Nader. In 1992, the common wisdom was that it was not only impossible to balance the U. S. Government’s budget, but that it would be complete insanity to even try to do so since it would so disrupt the economy that our nation would be thrown into complete chaos. In 1992, Ross Perot managed to maneuver himself into the presidential debates, and during his campaign, he clearly demonstrated that the positions of both the Republicans and Democrats were dangerous for this nation. In 1992, 19% of the voters agreed and voted for Ross Perot for President.
Were those 1992 votes for Perot wasted? No way! That huge support for Perot’s issue of balancing the federal budget caused both major parties to re-think their positions and agree on a common plan to actually do it, and just eight short years later, we actually have (or are close to having, depending on whose numbers you choose to believe) a balanced budget. Those “wasted” votes from 1992 effected a change from a $400 billion per year “permanent deficit” all the way over to a balanced (or almost balanced) budged in just eight years of change. Today, nobody believes that it is impossible to balance the federal budget. Today, nobody believes it is “insane” to do so. That is the legacy of those “wasted” votes for Ross Perot in 1992.
More generally, third parties throughout the history of this nation have formed into voting blocks around important issues that the two major parties were then forced to adopt out of their own sense of self-preservation. The Woman’s Sufferage movement of a century ago was originally a third party movement. The two major parties decided it was a “do or die” situation, so they gave women the vote, and they not only survived, but prospered, as women joined their ranks in droves.
When “the people” want change, they will support a candidate who is out of the mainstream of American politics. In fact, history demonstrates that this is just about the only way “the people” can actually get change. So, if neither of the two major parties is behind the issues you personally deem to be most important, then perhaps its time for you, too, to get behind a third party candidate who advocates the issues you do. Even if that candidate loses badly, like Ross Perot, that can still have a good end result for your issues because it will be a wake-up call to the two major parties that they had best change themselves or else “the people” will force change through the ballot box.
The real Populist (or “people’s candidate”) in this year’s election is Ralph Nader. He is running third in the polls (albeit in single digits) right now, but he is the only candidate who is concerned with issues that matter to the real people who inhabit our nation. While our economy appears healthy, Ralph Nader recognizes that a population who is increasingly at work rather than at home has maintained this economic health at the expense of a decent family life. When both parents work, and nobody is home with the kids when they arrive home from school, our kids suffer from this sort of parental neglect that is forced by economic necessity. Many manufacturing jobs have been exported overseas. Many of those jobs have been replaced by service industry jobs paying a fraction of the wages those manufacturing jobs would have paid if they had stayed in this country. This nation’s lack of universal health care is a scandal, since virtually every other leading nation already has universal health care. But the insurance industry blocks every attempt at imposing a very simple solution, the “single payer” option backed by Ralph Nader. Businesses are poisoning our environment, and leaving huge messes for our children to clean up. But the two major parties use every excuse to weaken previous environmental laws in order to favor the interests of big business.
The deck is stacked against a “people’s candidate” like Ralph Nader. The duopoly of Republicrats controls every aspect of the election process, and locks third party candidates out at every step. As I write this, Nader volunteers in Illinois are being asked to justify each one of many thousands of signatures to qualify Ralph Nader to appear on the Illinois ballot. The Chicago Democratic Party political machine is behind this huge waste of time and taxpayer money. But they don’t care, because Illinois is a “battleground state” that Gore believes he must win. So, the Democrats are doing everything in their power to prevent the people from even having the opportunity to vote for Ralph Nader .
Is this fair? No, its not. Is this legal? Yes, it is, because the Republicrat duopoly makes and administers the election laws so as to keep third party candidates out of the process.
Everybody who considers themselves an advocate of the welfare of people over faceless business organizations ought to read Ralph Nader’s stands on the issues that confront America today. Compare those stands with those of the Republicrats, Bush and Gore, and then decide: which of these three candidates stands for things that promote compassion for people? Which of these three candidates will actually light a fire under Congress to promote campaign finance reform and end the corrupting corporate finance of our political system? Which of these three candidates will return political power to the people who elect him, as opposed to leaving it in the hands of the big business interests that contribute hundreds of millions of dollars of “soft money” to elect politicians that are friendly to big business interests? Which of these three candidates will address the suicidal foreign trade policies that benefit big business at the expense of trillions of dollars of future foreign debt that our children must pay? Which of these three candidates will actually implement environmental policies that protect humanity against the ravaging of our environment for the profits of big business?
On every issue that is really important to human concerns, there is only one of these three candidates who stands on the side of humanity and against the interests of big business and its profits. That candidate is Ralph Nader.
If you cast your vote for Bush or Gore, you are voting for big business to continue giving us inadequate health care at too high of a cost. If you vote for Bush or Gore, you are voting for continuing our foreign trade deficits, which build up huge debts that must be paid, sooner or later, by our children or ourselves. If you vote for Bush or Gore, you are voting for continuing the weak environmental policies that put everyone’s health at risk. If you vote for Bush or Gore, you are voting for continued “tinkering at the margins” of campaign finance reform, while leaving the major problem of corporate finance of our political system unaddressed. If you vote for Bush or Gore, you are voting for a continuation of the two-party duopoly that leaves most voters with no real choice on election days.
Make a statement in favor of humanity. Vote for Ralph Nader against the interests of the big businesses that own Bush and Gore, lock, stock, and barrel.
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