By Seattle City Councilmembers Richard Conlin and Judy Nicastro
On Nov. 7, either Al Gore or George W. Bush will be elected President of the United States. Which one takes office next Jan. 20 will make a huge difference to women, whose right to choose hangs on the balance of the Supreme Court. It will make a huge difference to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which will either be preserved as wilderness or sacrificed for oil drilling. It will make a huge difference to poor and middle class Americans, who would lose out when massive tax cuts for the richest 1 percent force cutbacks in health, education, and social programs. It will make a huge difference to the world, which will either have an American president who is committed to working on global climate change or one who believes that environmental concern is a luxury.
When you make a choice on November 7, you will have the power to decide which of these visions of the future will come true.
No, Al Gore won't usher in utopia. No political leader will -- or can. And yes, Al Gore will make some bad decisions, and do some things that will frustrate many of us. But Al Gore is also a man who has demonstrated that he thinks about issues, that he is deeply concerned about social justice and the environment, and that he is willing to fight for the things he believes in.
Not so many years ago, a group of environmentalists were frustrated with Ralph Nader's advocacy of heavier and less fuel efficient cars because of his concerns about safety. It didn't mean Ralph Nader was not an environmentalist. It meant that all decisions involve tradeoffs, and that no one is ever in100 percent in agreement on all issues.
Recently we received a message from a local former "Nader Raider" who has devoted his career to building public-interest groups, public-interest advocacy and environmental law. In reflecting on his choice for President, he confessed that he wouldn't agree with Ralph 100 percent of the time either.
He also reflected on spending time with Al Gore at the first national conference on religion and the environment. Gore did not have to be there. There was no press, no big Democratic donors, no big environmental PACs. It struck him that Gore wanted to be there because of who he is, and to assist others in moving environmental conscience into mainstream religion in America.
The environment is just one issue on which the two candidates have stark differences. Al Gore supports protecting 40 million acres of roadless forests; Bush supports doubling timber sales in our national forests. Gore supports stricter clean air standards; Bush lobbied to weaken enforcement of the Clean Air Act. Gore negotiated the Kyoto agreement to reduce global warming and supports a reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions; Bush opposes the Kyoto Protocol and has stated that global warming is unproven.
Texas has the worst air pollution in the country, the highest rate of toxic waste production, the most odious factory farms and feedlots, and some of the worst public health and education systems. The real question in this election is: which one of these futures do you want for America?
Never before have we had the opportunity to put into the White House someone who truly believes in being an environmentalist, who puts the environment at the top of his personal priorities, and who has consistently spent his own time working with environmental groups and advocates.
Some people think of voting as a way to "express their views" or "vote their conscience." With due respect to those who are thinking of voting for Ralph Nader because of this, when you vote, your conscience should remind you that actions have consequences. When you vote, you are acting as a trustee for all those who have a stake in who will become president of the United States.
This includes the poor people in this country who struggle for survival and for whom voting is just not a priority. It includes the gay and lesbian population whose rights are in jeopardy. It includes those in other countries who look to the United States to support human rights and oppose genocide. It includes the voiceless future generations and our natural world.
Your vote is about choices, choices that will affect real lives and real futures. Go into it with your eyes open. There is no ideal choice; there is a real choice that matters. Your vote for Ralph Nader will not make him President; you know that. Your vote for Al Gore in a race as close as this could elect him, and that will make a huge difference for you and for our common future.
Please vote and make your vote count for all of us.