After showering "Public Citizen Number One" with all sorts of passive-aggressive love ("you've been part of the Nation family for a long time"), The Nation implores Ralph Nader, the candidate who most closely resembles the mag's own politics not to run for president of the United States.
Why? Because when it comes to supporting "inside-the-Beltway Democrats" or living by supposedly core principles, well, you had them at "inside-the-Beltway Democrats."
When devotion to principle collides with electoral politics, hard truths must be faced. Ralph, this is the wrong year for you to run: 2004 is not 2000. George W. Bush has led us into an illegal pre-emptive war, and his defeat is critical. Moreover, the odds of this becoming a race between Bush and Bush Lite are almost nil. For a variety of reasons–opposition to the war, Bush's assault on the Constitution, his crony capitalism, frustration with the overcautious and indentured approach of inside-the-Beltway Democrats–there is a level of passionate volunteerism at the grassroots of the Democratic Party not seen since 1968.
Jeezus, loweezus, if John Kerry, the presumptive Dem candidate, is not Bush Lite (or at most, Bush Long), then denial really is a river in Africa and the Rosenbergs really were just "non-traditional patriots" (to use the term favored by Ellen Schrecker of Yeshiva University). From the outside looking in (i.e., from a political perspective that also purports to find the major party candidates repugnant), I'm left wondering what the point of being a "progressive" is if you're still supposed to dutifully pull the lever for a Democrat come November. The Working Assets long-distance savings? The opportunity to do the chicken dance with Victor Navasky on The Nation cruise (which swings by Cuba without actually making a port of call in everyone's favorite socialized tropical playground)?
If The Nation's latest open letter sounds familiar, that's because it is. Despite the gesture to 2004 being a very different, much more important election that 2000, the magazine counseled its readers then to abandon Nader for Gore anywhere it might actually matter. In its November 6, 2000 issue, The Nation implored its readers thus:
When our insurgent values have accumulated more momentum and self-confidence, we might see things differently. This time around, we believe the practical priority of keeping the Bush squad from winning power takes precedence, while we also urge that, if possible, progressives help Nader score a blow to the status quo. For the larger progressive community, the tension can be resolved by following the logic of Texas columnist Molly Ivins. Her rule: Vote with your heart where you can, and vote with your head where you must. In states where either Gore or Bush has a commanding lead, vote Nader. In the states too close to call, vote Gore. In either case, the imperative is to end Republican control in Congress by electing Democrats, also vital to the prospects for progressive change.
Head, heart, whatever. What's lacking on the left most of all seems to be balls.