Re: “No Way With Gray” [Dissonance, November 1–7]. I want a political alternative to the two corporate parties as much as Marc Cooper does. But I do not see the Greens as a viable alternative. Gray Davis is a right-center opportunistic sleaze for sure, with stern law-and-order politics, billions of public dollars handed over in the energy debacle, and beholdenness to corporate backers. Labor, Latinos, advocates for education and social services, and other progressive constituencies cannot rely on Davis but must rely on their own battle capabilities. At the same time, Davis is more accessible on a wide range of progressive issues than, say, your typical far-right Republican. Even where his governor’s signature must be fought for, the point is that such fights are often successful — certainly more so than they would have been under a Republican governor with no progressive base.

—Howard Ryan Los Angeles


So Marc Cooper wouldn’t stoop to a compromise vote for Gray Davis. How principled. He believed it would have been “better to live with Bill Simon for four years than with such limited choices forever.” Such pristine all-or-nothing thinking is what gave us Dubya, a multitrillion-dollar deficit, an exponential rise in the misery index, and a complete radical-right takeover of our federal government on November 5, not to mention World War III right around the corner. For when all is said and done, the right’s vote tampering in Florida notwithstanding, it is those fools in Florida who voted for Nader who put Bush over the top two years ago.

—Heidi Rechteger Santa Monica


I could care less what Marc Cooper’s daughter does with her vote. Thanks to Gray Davis, I have complete health coverage as my boyfriend’s domestic partner, since he works for the state of California. People such as Cooper and his daughter are a direct threat to my situation, so I’m going to be nice to them? They would rather that I go without health coverage so that they can make a point and feel good about themselves, since Bill Simon, their candidate of choice, said that one of the first things he would do upon being elected would have been to dismantle the domestic-partner medical coverage for state employees. A friend recently made a good point of telling me that when a person votes for an issue or a candidate, they better take it seriously and they better also realize how their vote may not only affect themselves and their political purity, but how it will and can affect their closest friends and relatives for years to come.

—Ken Camp Los Angeles


Marc Cooper’s column represents an excellent example of the pernicious effects of the "spoiler problem" on our political system. Even the most qualified, desirable third-party candidates are placed at a huge disadvantage, because people realize that voting for them may throw the election over to their least-favorite major-party candidate. This forces people to consider only candidates from the two major parties, and the lack of competition leads to exactly what you might expect — two equally awful choices for governor and a cynical, disenfranchised voting public.

Some people will tell you that the spoiler problem is an unfortunate fact of life, but in fact it is resolvable with a simple reform. If California were to follow in San Francisco’s footsteps by adopting Instant Runoff Voting for our statewide elections, voters would be able to rank the candidates (from most-favorite to least-favorite) instead of being restricted to selecting the lesser of two evils. In the event that no candidate received a majority of the first-choice votes, the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes would be eliminated, and his supporters’ ballots would be re-cast to support their next-favorite candidate instead. This process would continue until one candidate had received a majority of the votes.

With Instant Runoff Voting, Cooper and his daughter would no longer face an agonizing choice between voting their hearts and voting their fears. Instead, they could select Camejo as their first choice and Davis as their second choice. With their cozy monopoly gone, the Democratic and Republican parties would be forced to field candidates that truly have something to offer the public, or face the prospect of being pushed aside by more vigorous third-party candidates.

If we truly want a higher quality of government in California, then Instant Runoff Voting is an idea whose time has come.

Jeremy Friesner Pasadena

While I appreciate Mr. Cooper’s desire to serve as a role model for his daughter, I don’t quite understand how he demonstrates that she should "demand excellence" and vote "your most passionate desires" by casting his ballot for a candidate he views as "kind of out to lunch" who belongs to a party he considers to be "little more than sentimental amateurs."

Michael Dooley Pasadena


In “Behind the Placards” [November 1–7], David Corn alleges, I believe correctly, that the Workers World Party was the hidden force behind the October 26 anti-war mobilization in Washington. Corn points out that the WWP considers all Stalinist regimes beyond reproach and uncritically supports any Third World despot who incurs Washington’s displeasure. He further alleges, again correctly in my opinion, that the WWP operates not in the open, but through a series of front organizations to place its political stamp upon the big demonstrations it excels in organizing. These politics, Corn argues, are unlikely to persuade the growing number of Americans who are coming to doubt the wisdom of going to war against Iraq.

Then, Corn counsels the anti-war movement to eschew a “simplistic leave-Iraq-alone” position, and laments the fact that most speakers failed to address the question “What to do about Iraq?” He is disappointed that Jesse Jackson was the only speaker to state that Saddam Hussein “should be held accountable for his crimes,” and that little emphasis was placed on the “idea that revived and unfettered weapons inspections should occur in Iraq before George W. Bush launches a war.” In short, Corn is urging the anti-war movement to reject the politics of the Workers World in favor of those of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, most of which accepts Bush’s intentions as honorable, and differs with him only over questions of tactics.

Within the political framework Corn favors, however, certain questions seldom get asked: Why, for instance, is the Saddam regime any more of a “problem” than the numerous other blood-drenched dictatorships and aggressor states that the U.S. government, far from leaving alone, has actively propped up over decades, including two — Pakistan and Israel — that are not merely trying to obtain nuclear weapons, but actually possess them? By what authority, other than that of sheer military might, is the supplier of such regimes able to hold ä “accountable for their crimes” Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic or anyone else? Isn’t the U.S. government, which would reel in horror at the very thought of foreign inspectors coming anywhere within miles of its arsenals, a trifle hypocritical in demanding, on pain of blitzkrieg, “unfettered” access to those of a vastly weaker state?

The WWP’s political framework, however flawed and “simplistic,” permits such questions; that of the Democratic Party and the mass media does not. If forced to choose, I’ll take the WWP’s framework any day. So also, I venture to say, would most people in the world, who see the main threat to peace as coming from Washington, not Baghdad. The growing legion of doubters in this country can only become effective when they figure out “what to do” about their own government — something they will never accomplish while operating, like David Corn and most Democrats, on the basis of that government’s assumptions.

—James Creegan New York City


While it is surprising to hear words like “commies” from Nation writer David Corn (you might want to check out our nation’s labor history for other helpful uses of the term), it is also true that the WWP was behind the Washington march. The issue is not their politics, but their style. That is to say, those of us who have worked with them in the past are aware they will foist a larger agenda on any event they organize. That’s the same reason we find it distasteful, though often necessary, to work within the Democratic Party, who will also promote their own, business-friendly, centrist agenda. In these days of such a weak left in this country, you take your allies as you can, and hope that the movement broadens. I personally am glad that, for example, anti–Vietnam War activists didn’t stay out of marches due to “commie” influence or we’d probably still be fighting that war.

—Ty Brown Nashville, Tennessee



In “Reading, Writing and Rats” [October 18–25], Howard Blume surprisingly failed to give credit to UCLA professor Jeannie Oakes for her unique contribution to the real meaning of school accountability. A new master plan that she helped write, now under consideration by the California Legislature, will include publication of an Opportunity To Learn Index, which will report not only what teachers taught but under what conditions learning took place. This reversal of long-standing thinking will make those outside the educational establishment answerable to schools, rather than the other way around. The index will reflect whether students had qualified teachers, adequate textbooks and materials, a curriculum strictly aligned with state standards, and a safe, clean learning environment.

When the Opportunity To Learn Index is published next to the Academic Performance Index, which measures student achievement on the Stanford 9, the public will for the first time get a balanced view of what schools are doing. It may also help settle Williams v. California because it will reveal the gross disparity between inner-city and suburban schools.

—Walt Gardner Los Angeles


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