As the nation prepares for the upcoming presidential election, it is so sad to read about the formation of the group "Environmentalists Against Gore" (HCN, 8/28/00: The Latest Bounce). If this group succeeds in what must be its goal, we will get George W. Bush as our next president. If this is what these environmentalists want, why not be honest and name the group, "Environmentalists for George W. Bush"?
This has all happened before. In the 1960s, the war in Vietnam polarized the Democrats, whose Chicago convention was split between Hubert Humphrey and Eugene McCarthy as the party's nominee for president. Humphrey was the sitting vice president and was tainted as "pro-war" because of his service with President Lyndon Johnson. Sen. Eugene McCarthy was strongly opposed to the war and hence was "pure." Humphrey got the nomination, and if I recall correctly, this caused many of the McCarthy supporters to oppose Humphrey. They vowed to teach the Democratic Party a lesson. The American people then rejected Humphrey and elected Richard Nixon. The Democratic Party learned its lesson; you don't oppose those who are "correct" and "pure." So, four years later, the Democrats nominated George McGovern, whose anti-war credentials were pure and unblemished. But the American people rejected McGovern and gave Richard Nixon another term as president.
The historian George Santayana wrote: "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
Writing in Newsweek Magazine (Aug. 28, 2000, Pg. 64), Anna Quindlen observes that Ralph Nader, the third-party candidate, "has attacked Gore as not sufficiently pure on environmental issues, but, as the vice president's Sierra Club endorsement attests, chances for conservationist policy are likely to be greater, if not great enough, in a Gore administration (as compared to a George W. Bush administration)." Quindlen notes that the people, such as the environmentalists opposing Gore, are trying to make a statement. But, she notes, "Statements help a small group of people to feel pure and pious and superior for a day or two, (but) there is still too much need in America to waste a vote on a feeling so fleeting and meaningless."
Albert A. Bartlett