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A friend forwarded me an email containing a letter from Barney Frank to Ralph Nader.

The cover text was simple:

>Please read and forward to anyone mistakingly
>considering to vote for Nader over Gore:

I read the letter, and had to respond, so reproduced for your webby pleasure, in its original widescreen format, just as I banged it out originally, is

Dan's election rant

Hi, Jeremy! Thanks for passing that on; I found it quite interesting, and I think it is the sort of valuable viewpoint that is all too little shared in our current stunted political discourse.

I probably would have let it pass without comment, if not for the use of the word "mistakenly" in the preface to Barney Frank's letter...

I am not at all convinced that voting for Nader is a mistake; in fact, I am currently leaning towards it. I hope this can start an interesting discussion! (I certainly won't accept that CONSIDERING voting for Nader is a mistake, but I won't quibble grammar at this point.)

(Or if this is just me climbing on a soapbox, so be it. Feel free to hit delete at any time, you cc'd folks!)

Here's my take on the letter from Barney Frank (see the link at the end of this email, if you don't have it anymore, or if you never got it). He attempts to refute Nader's assertion that there are no important differences between Gore and Bush.

Frank does so by pointing out areas where there are important differences between Gore and Bush, specifically: abortion, sexual orientation, gun control, racial prejudice, and affirmative action.

He then goes on to take Nader to task for Nader's positions, or lack thereof, in those areas, and describes him as "indifferent to these issues". As far as I know, Frank is entirely correct, and Nader is well deserving of the criticism; it certainly jibes with my knowledge of Nader.


Frank does not at all address the fundamental truth of Nader's critique, or repudiate my reasons for wanting to vote for Nader.

Frank points to some of the few places where it is possible to distinguish Gore from Bush. The tragedy of our current state of democracy is that these few places are essentially the entire realm of mainstream political debate, and the positions staked out on those issues by Gore and Bush are the defining limits of the range of acceptable positions. NOTHING ELSE WILL BE QUESTIONED, DISCUSSED, OR DEBATED.

Frank also utterly fails to even try to make a case that what would happen in our country in these areas would be worse in a Nader adminstration than it would in a Gore administration. [It is still an open issue, as far as I am concerned. I'd be interested in hearing arguments for or against that proposition.]

Don't get me wrong. I think those issues ARE important ones, and how they are addressed DOES matter -- a lot -- to the well-being of our society, and to the prospects for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for each individual in our society.

But those issues, and similar ones -- good for lots of smoke with not a lot of fire -- are pretty much all that is on the table. I believe having our political discourse focusing on these issues and ignoring more basic questions is a situation that is just fine by the powers that be. And the fundamental priorities of our government will remain unchanged whether Republicans or Democrats are in the White House, or in control of Congress.

Why? Because, while mainstream politicians put on the shows --

[digression: I recognize that what I mockingly refer to here as "shows" are in fact real issues, fought passionately by people who do care, which do make a difference in the lives of many people, but -- the major parties will do nothing with these issues compared to the -- and their participation in these battles stand no chance whatsoever of bringing fundamental change to our society.]

-- over the hot button issues, they quietly do whatever they are told to by the corporations who fund their vastly expensive campaigns that rely on image over substance (because there ARE no FUNDAMENTAL -- and check your dictionary before you make the same mistake I'm calling Barney Frank on -- differences between 98% of politicians).

The Republicrats and the Democans will fight bitterly over whether it will be $93.2 billion or $95.6 billion, but they are going to give industry that tax break come hell or high water, at the expense of the proverbially cliched "little guy who has no lobbyist".

I believe that a country, or a world, that is controlled by corporations has NO opportunity for true human freedom for anyone. Yes, the most brutal oppression may be gone, but for what end? I do not want a world-wide Disneyland, and I fear this is what we are headed towards.

[clarification: by "controlled" I mean compelled to act with the interests of corporations as the top priorities, with everything else secondary or worse.]

[digression #2: While I'm at it, I should ask: why do corporations -- a legal fiction, a consensual hallucination, just like money is (admittedly, both fictions are often useful) -- often have more rights than real, living individuals? How can it NOT be criminal and morally bereft for companies to make cost-benefit calculations that weigh their profits against human lives? Though I WOULD have much less complaint if the lives in the balance were actually those of the stockholders, and the risk to each was proportional to the value of stock held; in THAT circumstance I think we could rely on corporations to act MUCH more ethically in their cost-benefit analyses.]

Earlier in this century, what was good for GM was good for America. Now, every government in the world is being bent towards this ideal; the role of government is to make the world safe for business, and to make us all consumers and producers.

I want something transcendant.

Why NOT have utopian ideals? Something we are working for? Why can't we even discuss what utopias might look like? Are we accepting the visions we receive from advertising as our dreams?

Isn't there ANYTHING better which the human race could have as its overriding priority? Don't you want future generations to aim higher? Do we REALLY want "everybody in GAP" clothing in a world-wide monoculture?

I don't.

This, to me, is the fundamental issue of politics and human history for the next century, and possibly the next millenium. Do I sound hyperbolic? Naive? Hysterical? Whacked-out? Maybe. But do I sound like a passive recipient of politics, parroting what I heard on NPR/read in the NYT/saw on CNN? I sure hope not, because I am actually trying very hard to think about this.

I am a futurist, and this is what I've seen as the fundamental question we face. Not genetics, not the internet, not nanotech. Those are tools. This is about what we use those tools for.


THIS is what Nader is running for.

THIS is why I am thinking of voting for him.

I don't think that considering voting for Nader is a mistake.

Sure, I think it'd be a pretty unlikely thing for Nader to win.

But I am tired of voting for Democrats who reward my loyalty each year by making a few votes here and there that leave me feeling just barely good enough to say "well, I ought to vote for them again, because they weren't a COMPLETE disappointment, and they were better than the Republicans".

My vote is too precious a liberty to discard so cheaply.

I will not give it to those who prostitute democracy for corporate dollars used to buy votes through image manipulation and propaganda rather than discussion of fundamental issues. And I mean fundamental.

What should our society be trying to achieve?

I think voting for Gore or Bush gets us no closer to any answer except "making the world safe for capitalism".

If you don't like having that as our country's top priority, I think you should vote for Nader.

Think! Speak! Vote!

-Netizen Dan

the original letter, these comments, and any interesting responses will be posted at:

To be fair to Barney Frank, he did write a very good article in 1996 explaining why -- between the Republicans and the Democrats -- the Democrats are much much better at least as far as gay and lesbian rights goes:

feel free to spread this around, or not.


"A traveler, says I, retired at night to his chamber in an inn, all his effects contained in a single trunk, all his cares circumscribed by the walls of his apartment, unknown to all, unheeded and undisturbed, writes, reads, thinks, sleeps, just in the moments when nature and the movements of his body and mind require. Charmed with the tranquility of his little cell, he finds how few are his real wants, how cheap a thing is happiness, how expensive a one, pride."

--Thomas Jefferson, traveling in Europe, 1784

Dan here again; the email has been quoted in full. If you read that far, thank you. If you've got any thoughtful responses, send it to me. I'd be happy to hear from you.

You might also want to read the Barney Frank letter I am responding to.

If you want to make it easy for other people to find this, feel free to give out this URL:

What do you think? Let me know; send me email at! - online since April 1999
This page posted August 15, 2000

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