JOHN KERRY is fighting to rescue his bid for the US presidency. Incredibly, he has fallen behind George Bush in the opinion polls. This fall in support for Kerry hasn’t stopped a group of leading figures from the US left issuing an endorsement of Kerry, and a demand that independent candidate Ralph Nader stands down from the presidential race.
The list includes campaigner and academic Noam Chomsky, actors Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins, black activist and writer Manning Marable, and historian Howard Zinn.
The signatories argue that while they “strongly disagree with Kerry’s policies on Iraq and other issues”, the top priority for “people seeking progressive change” is getting Bush out.
This, they argue, requires voting Kerry and blocking any left challenge, at least in the key states which will decide the presidential contest.They are asking peace supporters to vote for a candidate who refuses to condemn the war or to pledge an end to the occupation.
A new TV ad for Kerry’s campaign is revealing. In it Kerry says, “As president, I’ll stop at nothing to get the terrorists before they get us. But I’ll also fight to build a stronger middle class. That’s the difference in this election. I believe the next president must do both—defend America and fight for the middle class.”
Confident that he has the majority of working class and black votes in the bag, Kerry is trying to beat Bush in courting Wall Street and big business.
Nearly half the US electorate will not vote this November. That half is overwhelmingly poor, working class, black and Hispanic.They feel excluded from a rich man’s election race.
The anti-war movement in the US developed on a surprising scale, reaching into towns that never experienced protests against the Vietnam War.
But in the absence of any clear political alternative to the mainstream parties, a swathe of mainly young anti-war activists were won to supporting Howard Dean’s campaign for the Democratic presidential candidature. Dean has now delivered many of those activists to the Kerry camp.
Many of those that signed the letter calling on Nader to stand down know in their heart, but cannot admit, that Kerry is a dud—a patrician politician who cannot speak for ordinary Americans, and who is losing to Bush in the charisma stakes.
They are supporting a candidate who offers them nothing in return for that support, and increasingly seems unable to even deliver victory. In contrast, Ralph Nader has stood against the war, championed trade union interests and come out strongly in support of Palestinian rights.
This is not the time for the left to demand that Nader stands down. The US is crying out for something more than a choice equivalent to that between Pepsi and Coca-Cola.
It is time that the left, trade unionists and peace activists broke from the politics of supporting the supposed lesser evil and began organising in support of equality, justice and peace.
When you are on the wrong road there is no point carrying on down it. The Nader campaign points in the right direction.