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GRAY/GREEN

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

“COMMIES” AND OTHER ANACHRONISMS

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

 

MEASURES OF OPPORTUNITY

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.

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—Walt Gardner
Los Angeles

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