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Letter to the Editor of The New Yorker

Probably sent too late to warrant publishing.

For those of us who hoped that Hendrik Hertzberg would refrain from further paeans to Al Gore in his defeat in 2000, we were sorely disappointed by Hertzberg’s attack on Nader in the March 8th issue.

Gore’s defeat is Gore’s responsibility alone, as witnessed by the miserable manner in which he handled his campaign, including, among other things: placing a conservative on his ticket (thus further alienating the left); distancing himself from an extremely popular incumbent; and mealy-mouthed “nice guy” debates that allowed George W. Bush to appear articulate.

Also, it would be oh-so-nice if Hertzberg (and other pundits) got over Gore’s victory in the “popular vote.” Going in, all candidates knew that the electoral college is what mattered, and played the game accordingly. If the popular vote determined the victor, the campaigns would have been run very differently — and no telling who would have won.

Here’s to not living in the past,

Peter Merholz
Berkeley, CA

  1. Yep, it was a long time ago.

    But Gore would still have won it. You leave out that 2000+ Democrats in Palm Beach County mistakenly voted for Buchanan. Had the butterfly vote card not been used, Gore would have won.

    And also, don’t forget that Bush won after winning a Supreme Court injunction to stop Florida counting the ballots properly.

  2. Hertzberg’s refutation of Nader’s candicacy was especially galling to me as I have valued his considerations so highly in the past. He spends several column inches reminding us of what a solid contribution Nader has already made to mankind, only to use it as a jumping off place to trash him.

    How about this irony: the most controversial film in current release is about certain kinsmen and their henchmen vilifying, torturing and killing the Christ – for political reasons, of course. And now Nader’s democratic kinsmen are embarked on the 21st Century equivalent of the same punishment, and all in the name of destroying a devil named “W”.

    As of right now, I will happily vote for any candidate who was in public opposition to the attack on Iraq, or who has a stated plan to develop universal medical care in this country and to raise taxes in order to otherwise improve our general quality of life. Anything less than the preceeding is simply the voice of another mouthpiece corporate of power and special interests.

    If we are going to vote against a devil, let’s vote against all of them, not just the other team’s devil.

  3. “Also, it would be oh-so-nice if Hertzberg (and other pundits) got over Gore’s victory in the “popular vote.””

    I can’t stand this!!! It’s like saying gaining the most yards in a football game should some how matter more than scoring the most points. Sheesh.

  4. But on the Nader thing, I think it’s a fairly easy argument that without him in the race, we would have avoided the war.

  5. Nice football analogy. But on the Nader thing: that’s not an argument. It is simply an observation. After the fact. Voters did not have a choice in 2000 between Nader and war. I do not recall that plank on W’s platform.

    And besides, there never was an Irag war. It was a mugging by criminal corporate bullies. And all the leading democratic candidates this year supported the mugging at that time. Only Kuchinic was guilty of premature morality on this one.

  6. I’m kinda of two minds about this whole “get over it” argument.

    Sure, it may be counterproductive to obsess over what happened – what’s done is done – move on, etc. Yes, Gore coulda won the election had he done this or that different: if he’d chosen another VP. If he hadn’t shunned Clinton. Sure.

    But let’s not pretend its all that simple. On the other hand, arguably Gore coulda won if Texas and Florida weren’t unfairly manipulated in Bush’s favor (I think there’s enough evidence to argue this way without one being a total wacko). Inarguably, Nader played a role, too, though, of course, it’s irrational to blame him entirely. This then: it’s more complicated than simply “Gore lost it all by his lonesome.”

    Furthermore, consider all that’s happened since: A war with Iraq bearing no relevance to 9/11. Restrictions of freedoms of United States citizens and residents. A president who wants to pass the first Constitutional Amendment which would restrict the rights of human beings. And so on. Viscerally, at least, it’s easy to be angry in lieu of “what might’ve been.”

    Finally, somewhat jokingly, as Janeane Garafalo once pointed out, it’s been almost 140 years since the South lost the Civil War and they still haven’t gotten over it – so why *should* we get over an election held less than four years ago?!


  7. Makes no sense in democracy to blame Nader for 2000 or 2004. Reduces politics and history to pure pragmatism. Excludes patriotic idealism supported by the founders and Nader. History does not support theories that freedom is won or reformed by electoral politics alone. There will be extreme risks and costs to keep it.

    The liberal view that people owe them a vote is the most undemocratic view possible. It’s as if Nader were to run as a communist and got enough New York and California votes for Bush to win those states Democrats would argue communists had some duty to vote for Kerry. Absurd.

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