March 4, 2004

The A Spot

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Dear Mr. Nader,

My first fall as a full-time Ithaca resident was that of the 2000 presidential election. Ithaca is, to say the least, a progressive town. We’ve been voted the country’s Most Enlightened City by The Utne Reader, and also been identified as a member of Matt Drudge’s American Axis of Evil. We have an extremely active branch of the Green Party here in Ithaca, and in 2000 your supporters came out in droves. Over 20 percent of us voted for you in the election, a much higher percentage than your national average of 2.7 percent. This time around, Kucinich bumper stickers were all the rage — the candidate who you officially endorsed.

Since you’ve announced your candidacy this year, however, I haven’t seen the signs in front yards. Granted, we are a notoriously Green city and you are running under the Independent flag this time, but we are a city interested in issues, not labels. There is something different about this election — even a traditionally liberal minded city like Ithaca can sniff it in the air.

Certainly, I do not speak for every person in Ithaca, but as an individual member of the community I’d like to ask why exactly, Mr. Nader, you are running for president. In your various interviews since the announcement, you have not given one logically cogent argument, and this is more than disappointing.

To deny that your candidacy had an effect on the 2000 presidential election is surely to ignore the facts. Your own website cites an unidentified exit poll as revealing that 25 percent of your votes would have gone to Bush, 38 percent would have gone to Gore, and the rest would not have voted but for you. The statement goes on to claim that, therefore, over 60 percent of your votes would not have gone to Gore. This presentation is misleading at best. The 37 percent who would not have voted but for you cannot be taken into an account of what would have happened had you not run. The remaining figures show that you took more votes from Gore than Bush, which is all most analysts are currently recalling. Those of us who realize the urgency of removing a destructive, extremist administration also realize that we need every vote we cannot just go toward any non-Bush candidate, but to one particular non-Bush.

This is not to say that your candidacy lost Gore the 2000 election. The 2.7 percent you earned was not the Democrats’ real problem — their own ineffectual campaigning (and some severe mishandling of events in Florida) was. Granted, the leading Democrats this time around have less than stellar ideals. In a recent CBS interview, Kucinich and Sharpton were the ones really standing up for things like gay rights and reminding voters that starting an unjustified war is certainly not the way to keep America safe. Kerry could not even answer why he believes gay marriage to be unacceptable. The Democratic Party has problems, just as the Republican Party does, and ideally we should not have to choose between the lesser of two evils. Unfortunately, the state of affairs in this country has reached a level of crisis. Four years ago, we asked how much damage could Bush really do in one term? As an incomplete list: he has destroyed the environment, made the rich richer, placed civil rights in a precarious state, amassed an enormous deficit, started an unjustified war killing thousands of people, implemented educational policies that any educator will tell you are extremely destructive, and wants to create a discriminatory constitutional amendment.

We need this to stop now, and we can only do that with unified strength. We do not want to think about what could happen in another four years. Your idea of a “two-front approach” to beating Bush is a flawed one. The very nature of a double fronted attack hinges on the assumption that the two fronts are working together for the acquisition of the given space or title. If they, too, are competing, all that will ensue is infighting and distraction. No, it is not the job of third party candidates to simply help out one of the other two, but you must realize that as a country we are currently in an extremely dangerous position.

If your point is that both parties ignore certain issues, you could foster discussions of those issues without running for president. By saying that running is the only means to do this, you’re relying on the fact that the Democrats will see you as competition.

It seems fitting to begin and end one’s residence in Ithaca in the midst of such politically charged times. Those of us who realize the potential for further damage in the next four years need to work together to stop it. Please, Mr. Nader, pursue your issues vigorously, but do so outside the presidential arena for the next nine months — they are important ones and should not be ignored. Run in 2008.

Archived article by Thea Brown