Vote Nader and you won’t get taken; you’ll get Bush

  • Ellen Goodman / Boston Globe columnist
  • Sunday, October 29, 2000 9:00pm
  • Opinion

BOSTON — Consider it the curse of the Internet. Once upon a time, words disintegrated along with the paper they were written on. Now they live on in cyber-perpetuity. They lurk in databases and jump out to sink their teeth in the writer’s ankle. Reality bytes.

So it is that I keep hearing from Ralph Nader supporters who regard me as a soulmate or at least a poll-mate. Back in July, in a fit of progressive pique, I considered bolting for Nader. I wrote that the consumer activist with a "congenital aversion to pandering" was enough to turn a gal’s head.

Well, hey, I was just flirting. It was a one-month stand. Since then, my head has snapped back fast enough to get a serious case of whiplash.

As the candidates go down to the wire in pursuit of voters still trying to decide between the know-it-all and the know-nothing — how did these get to be equal flaws? — Nader is raiding the purist vote. He is appealing to enough dismayed progressives in a handful of states that he could put Bush in the White House.

It’s ironic that Nader has made inroads in the up-for-grabs Northwest among voters so committed to the environment they might be proxies for the salmon. Never mind that Papa Bush dubed Al "The Ozone Man." Nader says, "Al Gore is suffering from election-year delusion if he thinks his record on the environment is anything to be proud of."

So, those who are disappointed that Gore isn’t a bright enough shade of green could give us the man with a black thumb.

A lot of eco-voters — present company included — think we ought to ban logging altogether in the national forests. But are they so outraged at Gore’s gradual approach that we end up with a president who sees the parks as timber farms?

Environmentalists — present company still included — think we ought to take out the dams on the Snake River for the sake of the salmon. They disagree with Gore, who wants to check out other options first. Does that mean the country is better off with a pro-dam Bush who thinks the solution is a "salmon-friendly turbine"? As Carl Pope of the Sierra Club puts it, a salmon friendly turbine is like a "finger-friendly Cuisinart."

There are a lot of folks frustrated because under Clinton we didn’t make progress on fuel-efficiency or on the Kyoto treaty for global warming. We didn’t go forward fast enough, so let’s go backward?

And what about those shares of Occidental Petroleum in Gore’s late father’s estate? Compare them to Bush’s plan to open up the Arctic wilderness to the oil companies.

Papa Bush once blamed Mike Dukakis for 200 years of pollution in Boston Harbor. But George W.’s Houston has the worst smog in the country. Under this governor and his appointees, it’s gotten worse.

In some bizarre way, Bush and Nader are in harmony. Bush wants to convince voters that both he and Gore love the earth, they just differ in styles. Nader also wants us to think that there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between the two party men.

At a recent conference, a Bush spokesman called Gore a "romantic environmentalist" and Bush a "practical environmentalist." Romantic? Practical? How about accountable?

"Governor Bush says, ‘I’m the accountability candidate,’ " adds Pope, "He says, ‘we ought to hold students accountable, teachers accountable, school accountable, but we shouldn’t hold polluters accountable.’ " The law-and-order governor believes polluters should have voluntary compliance.

Nader has said, "If it made any difference to me whether Gore is elected or not, I wouldn’t be running." Maybe it doesn’t make a difference … to Ralph.

There’s a sophisticated position taken by Citizens for Strategic Voting. This pro-Nader band suggests that those of us who live in states where Bush or Gore are shoe-ins can damn-the-torpedos and vote for Nader.

Well, don’t blame me, I’m from Massachusetts, but this strategy is just a touch too slick for my taste. It’s not that easy voting green, but I always figure you vote the better of two real candidates or the lesser of two disappointments.

I respect the pitch Nader makes to progressives. "When you get taken for granted you get taken," he warns the Democratic left. But what happens when you want so much to be right, you end up helping the hard right?

Vote Nader and you won’t "get taken." You’ll get Bush.

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