Monday, June 21, 2004

Sigh of Relief

Nader Taps Green Activist As Running Mate

On one level, I should be disappointed that Nader's VP pick makes it more likely that he'll get the help of the Green Party. As someone whose actual political sentiments border on Green, I think the party should endorse Kerry, who isn't perfect but does have a number of positions that would make him the best president the Greens could hope for in the current political climate and structure.

But a report out of Washington this morning that Nader was meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus and announcing his running mate this morning made me nervous enough that Nader's choice makes me happy. Nader has said his candidacy will help Kerry, and while this is a dubious claim at best, he may believe it in his heart. But choosing a black running mate, which the article seemed to suggest he might, would have been a divisive move, one that clearly would have aimed to peel away black voters from the coalition of Democratic voters who, I admit, tend to have more in common because they disagree strongly with parts of the Republican platform than because they agree strongly on the contents of the platform of the Democrats.

There is a time and a place for a reexamination of what holds the Democratic Party together; there is a time and a place for the same consideration of what constitutes a Republican. Clearly, the two major parties both hold together a collection of voters whose interests are very different. Nader's belief that the system needs a heavy dose of change is probably right.

This is not the time to try to make a point about that need. It's not the time to consider how both parties--or several parties, all with realistic opportunities to win seats in the places where decisions are made--can develop platforms that focus on positives rather than negatives. It is the time to stop and start over with someone different, whose positions may not perfectly embody the beliefs of the people who vote for him but who will put a stop to the wholesale and unmandated reinvention of what America means that George W. Bush has undertaken since he was thrust into office. Kerry isn't perfect, and the boat he's commanding on this electoral mission has a few more holes in it than the one he piloted in Vietnam and the one he sailed during his Nantucket vacation this weekend. But this is the boat we've got right now, and the mission is too important to waste time trying to build another one--or vainly attempting to drain all the water from the sea and refill it with another substance, which approximates the level of quixoticness in Nader's quest this year. Nader says he's going to help Kerry. Thank goodness he didn't do something that would have proven, disastrously, that he didn't mean it.

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