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© St. Petersburg Times, published October 29, 2000
Re: Serious blacks know a vote for Nader is a waste, by Bill Maxwell, Oct. 22.
I read this column with shock and dismay. If Bill Maxwell would have had his way, we would have never fought the American Revolution, odds at the time were with the British; the Underground Railroad would have never been started, chances are they'd never escape; and Martin Luther King would have never had a dream, why bother?
Nader will never become president, so why vote for him? It's a vision thing, Bill. The fact is, serious blacks should consider a Nader presidency, exclusively. Do you really believe all the promises Gore is spewing? It's the same old story. We've had eight years of Clinton-Gore . . . where are the gains for "serious blacks"?
Ralph Nader's "frivolous" campaign should cause serious blacks to consider why they would waste their votes on Al Gore.
Ralph Nader is the only candidate who advocates universal health care for all Americans. Ralph Nader is the only candidate advocating a living wage to replace the minimum wage. Where is Al Gore on this, and how do these numbers affect serious blacks? Ralph Nader is the only candidate who does not support the death penalty, which of course unfairly falls on serious blacks far more often than their white counterparts. Ralph Nader is the only candidate who wants to end the war on drugs, which is really a war on serious black Americans, incarcerating them in record numbers and then disenfranchising them from their right to vote.
Instead of admonishing serious blacks who may be thinking of voting for Nader, Bill Maxwell would do better to offer his readers a vision of the future with real gains and real political reform.
Because of the many serious problems black America faces it would be "unprincipled -- even stupid" to consider voting for another four years of the status quo. Ralph Nader's candidacy is a necessity, not a "luxury."
-- John O. Collins, St. Petersburg
I am deeply disappointed in Bill Maxwell's column, Serious blacks know a vote for Nader is a waste, Oct. 22.
I take exception to your lack of confidence in black voters, to your biased portrayal of the typical Nader voter, but mostly your attempt to get people to vote their fears and not their values.
This plays right into the hands of the Democratic and Republican candidates for president. In reality, we have several choices for the presidency from a variety of parties with widely different views.
By bullying voters into voting their fears and not their hearts, you are pandering to the rhetoric of the two-party duopoly that is squelching the democratic ideal in this country.
By suggesting a vote for Nader or any other third party candidate is a waste, you are attempting to strip our voters from their most basic freedom to vote their hopes, their conscience and their dreams. It is precisely your line of thinking that reflects the success that the two-party propaganda machines have had over our citizens, our media, and even our reporters and columnists who we need to look to as harbingers of our country's ideals.
If we get to the point in this country where we cannot vote our conscience, we cannot vote our beliefs, and we cannot vote our values, then we are no longer a democracy, but simply populous puppets for an autocracy.
What really matters here, or for any election, is that we look beyond the campaign blitzes, beyond the candidates themselves, and look into the platforms on which they run. This is where our very welfare and ability to pursue happiness rests, with our ability to understand the issues at stake.
I suggest every voter should understand each party's platform, whether Republican, Democrat, Green, Reform, Natural Law or Libertarian, and make a decision on the substance of what you find there. Vote for the ideals that speak to you as an individual.
As for the assertion that, "Serious blacks know a vote for Nader is a waste," I would say that I would hope that serious blacks, regular blacks and all people won't be swayed by your fear, but they will vote for what they believe in, no matter what kind of political minority that puts them in.
So let's all step out on a limb, and not be afraid, think for ourselves, and vote our hearts and minds.
-- Paul Palmer, St. Petersburg
Black Americans probably do need to vote for Al Gore. They definitely need to vote. Politicians don't know who we voted for, but they know whether we voted, and they treat voters and neighborhoods full of voters with much greater respect. They have to, to get re-elected.
I will invest my vote in Nader to enable him to force into the 2004 Presidential debates, issues like protecting our environment and protecting taxpayers from trillion-dollar scams by Fortune 500 corporations.
-- Early Sorenson, Dunedin
Re: Serious blacks know a vote for Nader is a waste, by Bill Maxwell, Oct. 22.
I have read Bill Maxwell's columns regularly since moving to St. Petersburg and considered him to be intelligent, but his column calling a vote for Nader "a waste" is so far off track it is ludicrous.
Maxwell says Nader's campaign is "frivolous" and blacks would be "unprincipled -- even stupid" -- to vote for him. He asks why they would waste a vote on someone who will do nothing for them.
Bill, your pro-Gore prejudice is showing. Nader's plans for America include taking back the power of the people (blacks included) from the corporations who have it now. He wants to double the minimum wage and provide universal health care. He has many other ideas to fix problems that the two major candidates are ignoring.
If Nader "is a non-factor," as Maxwell pronounces, then why is he writing a column on him?
-- Norman Davis, Pinellas Park
Re: Serious blacks know a vote for Nader is a waste, Oct. 22.
Could columnist Bill Maxwell be stuck in the '60s when he claims that "serious" blacks would be wasting their votes on Nader?
Back in the '60s, the Democratic Party was clearly distinguishable from the Republican Party, in (among other things) the Democrats' support of the civil rights movements. Back then, voting for Democratic candidates made sense for blacks, as did not voting for third party candidacies who might have undermined Democratic candidates.
But times have changed. The differences between the two major parties have evaporated in the flush of funding received by both parties from corporate PACs. A vote for either Bush or Gore will further widen the already depressing chasm between the wealth of the haves and the have-nots (among whom blacks are disproportionately represented). Corporate influence on American politics and on the American economy has enriched a tiny handful of already wealthy organizations and has been especially harmful to blacks and other minorities.
Ralph Nader is the only choice for blacks -- and for all voters -- who would like to see an end to corporate ownership of our country. A vote for either Gore or Bush is a vote that will lead us down a slippery slope toward becoming a third-world country, with a huge, impoverished lower class and a tiny but very wealthy and powerful ruling class.
The only wasted vote is a vote for Gore or Bush.
-- William Douglas, St. Pete Beach
Re: 16 days to make a final impression, Oct. 22.
Sara Fritz and Tim Nickens, Times staff writers, gave detailed explanations of what the two candidates for president are saying. If you listen to the candidates' ads, it's one contradiction after the other.
One confusing point the article clarified was that George W. Bush is not using the same $1-trillion for both investments and for seniors. The projected surplus is $2.4-trillion, which allows Bush to use $1-trillion for investments and leave the remaining $1.4-trillion to safeguard Social Security for seniors.
Vice President Al Gore isn't leaving any of the surplus for Social Security. He plans to spend it to pay down the national debt, which will free up more money for the entitlement program.
Both candidates' proposals are based on a projected surplus, making them tentative at best.
Often the Times staff writers are accused of bias, but I found this article just the opposite -- clarifying without condemning.
-- L.M. Pennington, St. Petersburg