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The Great Divide 

Why Cornel West, Barbara Ehrenreich, Alexander Cockburn, Katha Pollitt and others are voting for Ralph Nader . . .And why Todd Gitlin, Ishmael Reed, Arlie Hochschild, Robert Scheer and others are not

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Clancy Sigal, novelist and author of The Secret Defector

I want to vote for a Democrat, not two Republicans running against each other. It seems to me Nader is the only candidate that embodies the ideals of the New Deal and Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He’s got the guts, the wiliness, the strategic competence and the élan, above all the élan. I’m not voting for him because I agree with him; he agrees with me. I’m a citizen; I don’t play Russian roulette with my vote, I use it wisely and for the future, and that’s why I’m voting for Nader. I don’t care who’s electable; that’s playing the Republicrats’ game. I’m not a member of the cult of winning and losing. I want to cast a vote for building future coalitions. Gore is gutless. It’s a lot of fun to vote for a guy with courage. I vote third-party a lot, and I have the sense this is the first time it’s not a protest vote. I’m voting to build something from the ground up. I spent time with the kids down at the Convergence Center during the DNC, and I have the sense there is a vast parallel America growing out there and growing very fast. Something is going on out there in the country that hardly ever gets reported, but it’s alive, it’s electric, and it’s the future. Gore is yesterday’s man, and Bush is years past. My union friends are staunchly pro-Gore. I hate to part from them, but I want to build that coalition of students, street radicals and union people based upon an enhanced consciousness that neither Gore nor Bush has added to. Nader has. Probably the Gore people have terrific arguments, but people of good will can disagree. There’s no point in any of us name-calling or pointing the finger. I do think the whole winner-loser syndrome is a cult. I should very much doubt I’ve ever voted for a presidential candidate who won. That’s not my deal.

Cornel West, professor of Afro-American Studies and Philosophy of Religion at Harvard University and author of Restoring Hope: Conversations on the Future of Black America

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I supported my dear friend and brother Bill Bradley, as did Paul Wellstone, and we had a good time. I love him dearly. But I am an independent. And I’m a free black man; I speak my mind and heart and soul. And that’s why I’m for brother Ralph Nader. Not because he’s a perfect candidate — no candidate is perfect. But for me on personal grounds, I reached a point where working people and poor people are so disregarded and disrespected by a corporate-dominated Democratic Party that you have to begin a new cycle somewhere with somebody. And this broadens the discourse and broadens the engagement. And maybe we can see a little leftward leaning in the Dem ocratic Party. We shall see. We shall see.

(Cornel West’s remarks are reprinted with his permission from a speech at the Shadow Convention in Los Angeles last August.)

Jon Wiener, professor of history at University of California at Irvine and author of Gimme Some Truth: The John Lennon FBI Files

The central conflict in America today is between the people and the powerful — that’s what Al Gore said at the Democratic National Convention. He’s right — but in his entire career, he’s never taken a stand against the powerful. Fortunately, there is one candidate who’s been fighting undemocratic corporate power for the last 30 years: Ralph Nader. Al Gore seems to want to forget the last eight years, but we shouldn’t. Clinton, Gore and Lieberman led the move away from the party’s traditional (if limited) social concerns to embrace policies that previously had been the Republicans’. The lowest point in the Clinton-Gore years came with what they called “welfare reform.” With that, Clinton and Gore did more to hurt poor women and their children than any Republican administration ever did. This is the lasting legacy of Gore’s years as vice president. But isn’t Gore better than Bush? Yes. And isn’t a vote for Nader really a vote for Bush? The race is close in only six or seven key states, and fortunate ly for us, California isn’t one of them. In those states, progressives should vote for the lesser evil — recognizing that, while Gore may be less bad, he still represents an evil.

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