In 30 years, will others be green with envy?

  • Julie Muhlstein / Herald Columnist
  • Saturday, November 4, 2000 9:00pm
  • Local News

They stood nose-to-nose on a Seattle sidewalk, two men who see eye-to-eye on issues from workers’ rights to the environment. But on one point, they are poles apart.

Even without seeing Ken Moser’s "Vote Nader, Elect Bush" sign or glimpsing Tony Perkins’ "Vote Nader" button, it was clear what divides the Seattle men. You could feel the heat of their discussion 10 feet away.

"I applaud everybody here and agree with a lot of it, but I would rather have Gore in the White House," Moser said Thursday after listening to a spirited speech by Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader.

"People seem to forget the Reagan-Bush era," he added. "Unions were beaten down, they had no concerns about people being out of work. And I’m an environmentalist. I’m not willing to risk it."

There was no swaying Perkins, who in 1992 worked to elect Bill Clinton but switched to Nader in ‘96. "At some point, you have to take a stand for the politics you believe in," he said.

I didn’t bother with George W. Bush or Al Gore when their campaigns rolled into Snohomish County. But I couldn’t resist a chance to see Nader. The studious champion of consumer justice and corporate accountability was introduced as a "national treasure" at Seattle’s Town Hall. The applause was thunderous.

I was really there to ask his true believers a question: How can they do it, throw their votes away?

"It’s my chance to vote my dream," Susan Bradley of Edmonds said. "There’s really not much difference between the other candidates."

Kris Deweese, a nurse who traveled from Port Townsend, has long voted for Democrats. This time, she said, "I wouldn’t have voted at all if not for Mr. Nader."

"It seems the Democrats have left us behind. I’m a liberal, and I’m proud to be a liberal," said Deweese, decrying the Democrats’ "march to the right."

In his speech, Nader listed Clinton administration stances on the World Trade Organization, welfare reform, logging in national forests, the federal death penalty, health care and a host of other hot-button issues, and asked, "Can Republicans be any worse?"

On my way home from work, I drive by a house with a "Vote Green, Vote Nader" sign. The car out front has "Nader for President" stickers from 1996 and this year. I stopped at the Everett home Thursday and met Mike and Elise Sheehan.

Mike Sheehan doesn’t believe his vote will be wasted. He thinks a strong Nader showing may convince Democrats that they can’t win by "caving in to the kinds of things they’ve caved in to."

"To be honest with you, George W. scares the heck out of me, but I would rather vote my hopes than my fears," Sheehan said. His hope is for a third party that doesn’t "owe its loyalty to corporations and corporate dollars."

"I’m thinking not of the next four years, but of the next 40 years," he said.

Come Tuesday, some of us will vote our ideals. Some of us are pragmatic.

We pragmatists will look at the differences between Bush and Gore — and Nader rhetoric aside, there are real differences, on Social Security, the environment, abortion rights and other critical issues — and make our choices based on which candidate better fits our views.

"You know what happens when you vote your conscience?" Nader asked his faithful. "You feel pretty good when you get up the next morning."

Maybe you do feel good, if you think of a vote as a private badge of honor to be carried in your heart. People who supported the lost cause of George McGovern in 1972 feel good to this day. That was different. The only other choice was Richard Nixon.

Voting is a private matter, but it is also a public act. Your vote has the power to affect not just your heart but the lives of all Americans. I wonder, in a race as close as Bush-Gore, is it right to spend a vote on a dream?

I called Maryland Friday to talk with Diane MacEachern, who is spending more than her vote to get that point across.

The mother of two young children ponied up $1,000 to have a banner flown over Husky Stadium in Seattle this weekend. Crowds at Saturday’s Husky football game and today’s Seahawks game were to look up and see her sign, which reads: "Nader Vote=Pres. Bush=Mistake."

"I felt I really needed to do something," said MacEachern, who lives in the Washington, D.C., suburb of Takoma Park, Md. "What happens in this election will affect my children for 20 or 30 years."

She dreads the environmental legacy of a Bush presidency. And she’s been watching the polls. "There’s clearly a lot the people of Washington state can do," she said.

MacEachern had a Seattle friend make arrangements for the banner with a business called Sky Signs. "It’s easy to say, what is somebody on the East Coast doing telling someone in the West how to vote? Well, it’s our country. The president will affect both parts of the country," she said.

Is she making predictions for Wednesday’s headlines?

"It ain’t over till it’s over," MacEachern said.

The Nader ideal is tempting. But I’m with the Maryland mom. It’s purely pie in the sky.

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