More Nader and Gore
The debate over how best to advance left electoral politics, and
specifically the pros and cons of a third party versus working within
the Democratic Party, is important. In 2000 the issue moved to the
fore with the intense debate surrounding the Nader run for president
on the Green ticket. This looks to be a central concern on the left
for the foreseeable future. I thought In These Times did
a credible job of presenting contrasting positions on these questions
during the 2000 election cycle.
At the same time, I think the tone of editor Joel Bleifuss' and
founding editor James Weinstein's contributions to the debate in
your pages has been patronizing and insulting, and therefore counterproductive
to the goal of fostering constructive dialogue. Bleifuss' latest
polemic accuses unnamed Nader supporters of being politically puritanical
zealots who "have trouble respecting differences of opinion" ("Letters,"
January 22). Whom, exactly, is Bleifuss referring to? Me? Barbara
Ehrenreich? Cornel West? Michael Moore? Howard Zinn? Jim Hightower?
Manning Marable? Patti Smith? Who are these imbeciles? If Bleifuss
is going to engage in charges of this magnitude, at least he should
be honest and brave enough to name names. And maybe, just maybe,
give some evidence. If Bleifuss is unwilling to do that, he should
keep the insults to himself. They serve no productive purpose.
Bleifuss does raise one important issue: He states the Jesse Jackson
experience in 1988 showed that working within the Democratic primaries
is a viable option for the left, clearly superior to the third-party
route. (I think the implications are far more complex than he does,
but that is exactly what should be debated.) Had Bleifuss focused
on this issue, it would have been a genuine contribution to this
very important debate, and it would have pointed us toward the future.
Robert W. McChesney
I commend the intelligence, foresight and courage of your recent
editorials supporting Al Gore over Ralph Nader. Had Nader run as
a Democrat, I would have wholeheartedly supported him. He would
have been the best Democratic nominee in many years. However, running
as a third-party candidate only worked to spoil the Democrats' chances
of maintaining the presidency. I was sickened by the destructive
rush to support Nader by so many. Thank you for maintaining a voice
of sanity at In These Times.
Bronx, New York
Enough with the cannibalistic attacks on Joel Bleifuss' correct
critique of Ralph Nader's candidacy. I would like to thank Bleifuss;
he helped me cast my vote, a decision about which I feel stronger
since reading the diatribes attacking his editorials.
I run a bimonthly magazine, Residents' Journal, which is
written, produced and distributed entirely by residents of the Chicago
Housing Authority: Cabrini-Green, Robert Taylor Homes and two dozen
other public housing developments. The population of Chicago's public
housing is mostly single mothers with young children and senior
citizens. With an average income of just over $9,000 per year, these
overwhelmingly African-American residents live in 11 of the 15 poorest
census tracts in the United States.
Chicago public housing residents have been victims of every wave
of government social experimentation over the past 50 years. Democrats
and Republicans, liberals, moderates and conservatives each experimented
in turn on the residents, a practice reflected in the common name
for the developments--"the projects."
Chicago Public Housing is where the rubber meets the road in terms
of the failures of the two-party system. And yet, Ralph Nader was
nowhere to be found in any development. He made no effort to contact
residents, to visit the developments or otherwise to appear in any
low-income community. Instead, he spent his time mugging for the
cameras with movie stars and college students, two populations that
presumably will be affected little by welfare reform, Social Security
privatization and other tenets of New Democrats and social conservatives.
When I brought this up with the residents, they smiled at me with
the knowing look of those who have seen generations of idealistic
white liberals come and go. "What do you expect?" they asked.
The Green Party and Ralph Nader should take Bleifuss' advice and
become a caucus within the Democratic Party. Certainly, Greens should
recognize the realities of American politics. But more importantly,
Greens need to learn how to actually include those for whom they
claim to be working in their leadership, policy-making and presentation.
Flawed as they are, the Democrats nevertheless have been reaching
out to and organizing low-income African-Americans for generations.
The Greens should get off their high horses, take off their white
gloves and learn from that history.
Memo to Joel Bleifuss: Cut out the pop sociology. Bleifuss touts
political compromise ("Letters,"
January 22), but he cannot coexist with leftists who abandon
a party that abandoned them on basic economic policy, universal
health care, workers' rights in an era of globalization, regulation
of business and consumer welfare, military spending, capital punishment
and the drug war. Absolutism, anyone?
Lesser-evilists like Bleifuss refuse to address another matter--foreign
policy. Gore and Lieberman boasted during the Democratic Convention,
and repeated thereafter, that they "broke with" their own party
to support the Gulf War. This New Democrat propensity to use military
force was demonstrated eight years later by the attack on Yugoslavia,
designed to reassert our "only superpower still standing status"
and to marginalize the United Nations as an effective arbiter in
international and regional conflicts. I doubt this bothers Bleifuss;
he seems to coexist happily with Paul Hockenos.
Bleifuss may view the trade-off between some liberal domestic policies
and death and devastation delivered abroad by U.S. bombs as "acceptable."
Richard B. Du Boff
Editor's note: Readers interested in the ongoing debate
over In These Times' Balkan coverage and the reporting of
Paul Hockenos may want to visit the following two pages on Z
magazine's Web site: www.zmag.org/hockenos.htm
Don't Steal This Movie
Robert Greenwald writes, "How dare Krassner reply to Stew Albert's
letter by citing facts and making up quotes from me. There is no
possible way I would say to him that I showed Anita Hoffman 'significant
parts of the film ... in Toronto when she visited.' ... I never
sent her 'sections for her pleasure.' ... I resent the distortion
of the truth" ("Letters,"
I was quoting accurately from an e-mail Greenwald obviously forgot
he sent to me. Nor am I "sulking" because I wasn't mentioned in
his film. Out of loyalty to Abbie Hoffman, I refused to cooperate
with the making of Steal This Movie before there was even
a script. My review didn't kill it at the box office. Word of mouth
Desert Hot Springs, California