A Letter to Nader
Source Louis Proyect
Date 04/10/27/12:09

Published on Tuesday, October 26, 2004 by
A Letter to Nader:
Ralph, It's not too late to urge voters in swing states to vote for Kerry

by Rabbi Michael Lerner

Dear Ralph,
A few days ago I received a letter from you sent to me as one of 75
members of your 2000 advisory group who now urge voters in swing states
to vote for Kerry (

You asked us to reconsider, pointing out that Kerry's commitment to
escalate the war in Iraq with more troops, and his demand on Bush to not
back away from destroying urban centers of the Iraqi resistance despite
likely high levels of civilian casualties, has now so irrevocably
committed a Kerry Administration to war policies that most liberals and
progressives will have to spend their energies in coming years in

You are right. We will be fighting against Kerry's war policies, just as
we would be resisting Bush's policies.

And you are wrong to think that this is sufficient reason to back away
from supporting Kerry under the current circumstances.

On the contrary, if the only question facing us were how to most
effectively end the war in Iraq, it would still be reasonable to back
Kerry against Bush, not only because a new Bush Administration would
likely outdo anything Kerry would come up with in insensitivity to
civilian casualties, not only because a 2nd Bush term would more likely
result in new interventions (possibly in Iran, Syria or North Korea),
but also because we are far more likely to be able to rally Americans to
oppose Kerry's war policies later if we show enough wisdom to support
him now.

Why wisdom? Because most of us know, and you seem repeatedly to forget,
that this election is not only about Iraq. Americans also care about the
Supreme Court being packed with right-wing fanatics who will overturn
Roe vs. Wade, eliminate gains won for minorities, weaken worker rights,
effectively dismantle social security, weaken the barrier between state
and fundamentalist approaches to religion, and extend into every aspect
of American society a Guantanamo Bay-style destruction of civil
liberties in a frenetic search for potential terrorists. This is why
even those of us who abhor "lesser-evil" politics have made an exception
in 2004.

Ralph, you are right to complain that none of this would be on the
agenda had liberal Democrats had the backbone to stand up to Bush in the
four years after they had won a presidential majority of voters in 2000,
or if they had nominated a candidate willing to challenge not just the
details but the spirit of militarism and repression that is inherent in
a "war against terrorism" that has no boundaries and no possible end.

That is precisely why we needed you to be an effective political leader
this year, rather than a quixotic and self-righteous outsider. You could
have run in the Democratic presidential primaries, and then with the
large support you certainly would have amassed after Dean's campaign
faltered you could have made powerful demands on the candidate that
could not be ignored: either unequivocally and powerfully oppose the war
and articulate clearly an environmental agenda to heal the planet or our
forces will not be with you in the general election. You could have
represented the peace and justice and environmental forces inside the
Party when the pressure was on to be silent and go along with a strategy
of tilting to the right that we knew would weaken rather than strengthen
the Democratic candidate. Even as an independent candidate you could
have publicly offered a deal to withdraw if Kerry had backed peace and
justice measures that you specified. Instead, you have allowed the
enemies of a peace agenda to dismiss you as a self-involved egotist
whose only concern is himself and not the country.

I know this charge to be false and unfair, Ralph, and I know your anger
is based on the way that Congressional Democrats consistently ignored
your policy initiatives and betrayed their own constituencies on key
issues of social justice and the environment. But Ralph, changing them
requires a powerful strategy of engagement-and your path, precisely
because it is so easily dismissed as self-indulgent, isn't doing that.

You are right that there must be an independent force that can push them
toward a progressive agenda. But Ralph, that force could operate both
within and outside the Democratic Party, using the Democrats as a mass
arena while still building a third party alongside it. You could still
lead that force tomorrow were you to publicly urge your supporters in
the swing states to vote for Kerry today. For the sake of your own
progressive agenda, and for the millions of people who respect all that
you did in the past in the fights for social justice, please do that now
before you permanently weaken your capacity to rally Americans in the

Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of Tikkun Magazine, rabbi
of Beyt Tikkun synagogue in San Francisco, and author of nine books
including "Spirit Matters: Global Healing and the Wisdom of the Soul,"
"Healing Israel/Palestine" and "The Politics of Meaning: Restoring Hope
in an Age of Cynicism."

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