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
Madison, Wisconsin

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.

Richard Shore
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.

Ethan Michaeli

Absolutism, Anyone?

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." I don't.

Richard B. Du Boff
Haverford, Pennsylvania

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: and


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," January 8).

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 did.

Paul Krassner
Desert Hot Springs, California




Bottom Navigation Home Archives Contact Us About In These Times Subscribe to In These Times