Thursday, August 21, 2008

Why Nader is Necessary [Guest Post by Crane]

[Guest Post by Crane]

When I leave my home and venture out into our societal labyrinth, I often find myself staring at my peers. It may be border-line rude of me to do so, but it's just part of my analytical nature. For the amateur anthropologist, every trip outside is an intimate encounter with our people, our country, and our world. I wonder if the faces I see at the store are feeling the same tension as me, the same subdued desperation. I wonder if they feel that their whole world is supported by nothing more than a foundation of carefully placed toothpicks. Do they feel helpless to stop the biggest challenges facing our human race? Do they lie awake at night worrying about war, pollution, money, jobs, education, and the health of themselves and their families? Are they mortified by the prospect of global disaster imposed upon us by corporate tyrants, who exploit the impoverished so that we westerners can indulge in frivolity?

If they are, they aren't showing it. And neither am I. We are either remarkably optimistic or deeply repressed. No one is talking to anyone about these issues. We smile, chit-chat, and move along with little acknowledgment of our mutual and universal feelings. As a result, our indignant dispositions are squelched... and things keep moving forward as planned. The entire mass-delusion is dependent on our silence and apathy. We are made to feel that we are alone with our troubles. That everyone else seems to be doing just fine, and perhaps "I" need to just suck it up, tighten my tie,
and climb the ladder. Nothing can be accomplished alone, and the ladder they would have you climb is as cyclical as a rats wheel. Also, even those with great intentions and liberal dispositions are often manipulated, and controlled by unseen powers. They are enchanted by flashy, well-funded campaigns that can afford the airtime to spread catchy slogans. So liberals are set against one another. They support candidates who use liberal rhetoric to justify or ignore corruption, candidates who are supported and funded by the very problems we face. A political candidate can not claim to stand for change unless they are willing to challenge the financial superpowers who dominate our world.

This is where Ralph Nader comes in. He is an anomaly, and to some he has become an incorruptible beacon atop a tower. To me he is a source of inspiration and an example of resilience. Myself and others can rest assured that he is out there fighting, day after day, not giving up. Even when the pie being thrown in his face left the realm of metaphor and crossed into reality*, discouragement seemed to be one of the few words in the dictionary Ralph never bothered to understand. He is consistent, consistently malleable, and dynamic. With the latter we encounter a certain degree of misunderstanding in the form of would-be and former supporters alike. I have heard many times, from many people, that they respect and revere the work of his past, yet scorn his present actions. The error of this argument lies in selective vision. To begin, it should be noted that the argument was created and distributed as a political tool designed to marginalize a life-long consumer advocate for continuing to do what he has always done. Mr. Nader has never changed at the fundamental level. He has the same sense of justice and the same drive to overcome injustice. The world, however has much changed since the mid-sixties, so a shift of approach is not only understandable but also inevitable and necessary. The enemy has become more sophisticated. They have made good ol' consumer advocacy nearly impossible. I understand the grievances of Michael Moore, The Nation Magazine, and other democratic leaders who have turned on Ralph, but I feel that their current decisions to snub him are rooted in fear. And to this I pose the question: Is that really a place we wish to come from? Does succumbing to our fears take precedent over facing our greatest hopes and dreams? Mr. Moore and his good intentioned peers have narrowed their vision and ignored the deeper issues at hand. They have scapegoated the one person who has never betrayed them. Nothing short of legitimate and substantial infrastructural change will be enough now to save our planet and its desperate population. Only one presidential candidate provides this vision.

Who else is running for our highest office? The names of these candidates are well known and nearly inconsequential. A political candidate is less a name than a tool employed to serve the public interest. By that definition, the two major candidates barely exist. They are rusty, dull, malfunctioning, and constantly hurting those who seek to use them to build a better society. We'd be better off using our bare hands. What should be known about the two major candidates is that they are not for single payer universal health-care. Instead they support a system in which the only way an insurance company can make a profit is by denying service. They support off-shore oil drilling. They are ardent supporters of the militant sect of Israel. They are open to all avenues in Iran. They have no wish to abolish NAFTA and WTO. They have no intention to repeal the anti-union Taft-Hartley Act. They are for wiretapping without a warrant. They really pose no threat whatsoever to the established power so deeply embedded in our world. Though, to be fair, it is not entirely their fault is it? There is no push from we the people. Democrats ask only that their candidate not be a Republican. Republicans ask the opposite. We Americans must surely be the least demanding, most forgiving democracy in the world. For some reason or another, we are not making these candidates speak about anything that really matters. Instead they have become greeting cards from the supermarket. They talk in vague promises of prosperity, change, tolerance, and strength. But Ralph Nader doesn't. He speaks factually about issues that the majority of Americans support, and given the chance he could demand a lot more of his fellow candidates as well as a lot more of us. His presence in the major debates would bring with it the presence of substance, sobriety, and truth. His absence from the debates would be an injustice to us all.

*Nader was subject to pie-ing in San Francisco in 2003 while there to support Peter Camejo's candidacy for governor.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

"Chump Change you can Believe in!"

I saw this new video of a short speech by Ashley Sanders on the votenader08 youtube channel (if you haven't subscribed and friended it, you should!), and I loved it so much, I decided to transcribe my favorite quotes--in which process, I ended up transcribing the whole thing. My favorite quotes are in bold. But if you want to watch the video you can see it here:

The best thing about it is how she helps emphasize what's at stake (something I've emphasized in posts before), and gives some perspective to how ridiculous the way we keep betraying our own interests is. And here's the transcript:

I wanted to tell you why I support Ralph Nader but to do that I'll have to tell a story first. A few months ago, I attended the "Take Back America" conference in Washington, D.C. And so, if you haven't been to it, it's a big shot gathering of all the best policy minds in D.C. and they were trying to solve all these problems through progressive democratic stances, so they were addressing globalization, global warming, immigration, health care and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. So I got there and I was really excited to hear about all these solutions, and as I went from panel to panel, I started noticing a disturbing trend.

At the beginning of every panel somebody would stand up and they would say, "We know that fill-in-the-blank is a huge problem, and we'd like to do blank to fix it," and then everybody would nod and would wait for the clincher and they'd say, "But of course, we can't fix it right now, so here's Plan B," and a guy would come up and show Plan B on a projector and we would clap. And after about five sessions of this I started getting a little bit disturbed and then I went to the health care session.

And everybody stood up and said, "We're fighting for single-payer, that's our goal, but since no candidate's offering single-payer right now, we're going to go with Plan B." Once again, there was an elaborate Plan B put up on the board. And the good thing they assured us about this elaborate Plan B was that it would eventually become Plan A, and the complicated chart we were all looking at would somehow evolve into health care for everyone. Finally, a guy at the back raised his hand, this is before Nader joined the race, and he said, "Excuse me, but I think Dennis Kucinich is backing a single-payer health care program, why don't you throw your collective weight behind him?" And everybody said, nothing, for a few minutes. And then a brave panelist said, "At this point we really have to go with the viable candidates sir." And the meeting went on.

And a panelist stood up and said, "You know, health care is all about votes, votes, votes--sixty in the Senate, we've gotta have it." And another panelist stood up and said, "Health care is all about politics, politics, politics--gotta know the right people, etc., etc." And then finally, the last woman stood up and she said, "The health care movement is the civil rights movement of our time." And I thought, well that makes sense, but the combination of statements was a little strange to me. Because basically, what the Democrats had done is they had gotten it backwards. They had decided that Congressional politics would jump start the single-payer movement and that sixty in the Senate would somehow produce people rioting in the streets, marching for justice and health care. In other words, they were silencing the movement, to get the votes, to put the movement forward. And they asked their constituents to "stick with us, have another 4 to 8 years of less than ideal health care, adopt a second-rate plan, and heaven forbid, do not vote for the single-payer guy. And if everybody does this, we'll have slowly, over time, single-payer health care for everyone."

And so, I left the conference wondering what history books these people had been reading, because I would like to know what movement has ever succeeded because people sit quiet and wait for Washington politicians to pull a rabbit out of a hat. Because the fact is that no politician, no matter how good, cannot push for real change unless he has a mandate from people like us, unless he's promised us something or else we are in the streets making him promise us something. And so, like I said, I left the conference that day with some kind of sinister realizations. First, that the Democratic Party has become the party of perpetual Plan B, and secondly that progressive voters are consequently in a strange position of perpetual contradiction--voting against the people who have the platforms that they stand for.

And it isn't just a matter of health care, I wish that it were, but everyday I meet union workers who would like fair organizing rights, and I meet peace activists who want to end the war, and I meet environmentalists who want a carbon tax, people who want to get their homes back in the mortgage crisis--and then I ask them who they're voting for and I think it's gonna be obvious, I think they're going to say, "Well I'm gonna vote for someone who stands for union rights, who has condemned the immorality of war, who has doggedly protected the environment, and who will take on predatory lenders and discipline Wall Street."

And that's what I expect, but what happens is quite different. I look around and I see unions endorsing Wal-Mart board members, peace activists voting for Iraq and escalated war in Afghanistan, environmentalists resigning themselves to capping and trading, and the new homeless cashing $500 checks and hoping for the best. And uh this apparently is our golden strategy, I can't quite understand it, but what it now means to be viable is apparently to vote for a candidate who can't give you what you want.

And these days I guess a viable candidate is someone who has impressed enough rich people that they can't help the poor, enough mercenaries that they've forgotten the civilians, and enough people with bad ideas that they've forgotten how to think. Obviously I don't think this is a very good plan.

So, it would be different if this had been the first time we'd been here, but the fact is we've been in this exact position before. In 1992, progressives voted for the change candidate and got 8 years of soft imperialism and a corporate dream economy--and the poor got poorer, surprise, surprise. In 2004, progressive Democrats again voted in droves for a candidate who did not even morally oppose the war, and who only promised to kill the bad guys faster and better than the next guy. And what did we get? Four more years of war.

To sum it up, what I'm saying is that, if after 5 years of bloody, needless and costly war we are once again ready to throw ourselves into another preemptive illegal war based on trumped up weapons charges, we really haven't learned that much about war and we certainly haven't learned enough about change. So we've been here before and we know where it got us and now we're being asked to sign up for 8 more years of it. And we're asked to do that believing that it can happen without challenging corporate campaign donations, without challenging Wall Street, without changing the old economic and military guard, and without basically doing much of anything structural. But the fact of the matter is that the only change we'll get from this kind of thing is chump change, from changing in the movement to buy the machine, which is hardly worth it.

And so, in my opinion this is the time to stay strong and to refuse contradictions, and to remember that politics--as we should remember every day--is not what politicians do, it's what people do. And if we'd been convinced otherwise, if we'd been convinced that bureaucracy is stronger than we are or that we need to put down our picket signs and fold our hands and wait for change--then we've been more bought than our politicians, and it's unacceptable.

And so, I know that maybe what you're thinking is that "this is the year that I can't vote for Nader because too much is at stake this year" and the Democrats and Conservatives like to say that a lot, "because this year the Democrats have to win." And I think this attitude in that statement reveals a very frightening notion of what the Democrats think is at stake. According to them what's at stake is the Democratic Party, and they believe this because they've been resigned to believe that their party is a strategic machine rather than the voice of the People. But I think that that is a very anemic notion of what is at stake in politics.

Because everybody here, without thinking hard, knows exactly what is at stake in politics. What's at stake is human beings. And what's at stake is whether or not another Iraqi soldier will return with a case of PTSD, and what's at stake is if another Iraqi family will have to bury another sister, brother, father or mother. And what's at stake is if somebody will sleep in a shelter tonight or sleep in their home. What's at stake is if we're going to protect our environment or continue to destroy it. What's at stake is real human things and real human beings that we care about, and that's what we should stand for in an election year.

So, I want to challenge all of you decide what your breaking point is, and what you will refuse to give up, and to stick with that no matter what happens, and to demand your democracy back. To decide what year you will stop voting for the least-worst, and what year you will decide that your government is your representative rather than your master. And I of course suggest you pick the year 2008 and start right now, and I certainly suggest you vote for a candidate who knows whose government this is and who has spent his life trying to give people like you the power that they need to live the political lives that they should, and I think it is time to vote for Ralph Nader. Thank you.

*I got the title for this post from a comment left on this video at youtube by a user called "Uber99"


Monday, August 18, 2008

Newspaper Takes BTN for a Fool

Sorry I haven't posted in a while; I'm trying to get back into it now. I just read this awful editorial online and I thought I would post the comment I wrote in response here:

I can't believe this pathetic attempt at an argument was published; even I could have made a better case against Nader and I think the guy is AWESOME (so I would've proceeded to tear that case apart of course).

Let me get this straight--the candidate who has worked tirelessly without a single vacation for close to 50 years and saved each and every one of our lives many times over is the narcissist? the guy who continues to risk his entire reputation and turns down millions in bribes (to keep him from running) in order to push issues and educate people about real solutions to problems like the many HUNDREDS of thousands of Americans who DIE needlessly each year and will continue to do so regardless of which corporate candidate is elected--that guy is the narcissist? What kind of fool do you people take me for?

Second, hundreds of millions of people voting (out of fear) does not mean that they are not disenchanted. Look at the approval ratings of the President and of Congress--or I should say their 'disapproval' ratings. At least about 15% of voters in polls aren't voting for either corporate candidate, and that doesn't include the unlikely voters.

You talk about his 'dwindling' support? He's polling at 6%. His poll numbers are better now than they were in 2000! People are sicker than ever of being exploited and having their lives destroyed by corporate control of this country.

Ego? How about the ego, hubris and nerve people like McCain and Obama have to ask for Americans' support let alone suggest they are the cure for our ills after they have been complicit in (if not the cause of) the deaths of millions around the world, the destruction of our Constitution and Bill of Rights, the corporate corruption that has destroyed our economy and ruined the lives and futures of millions of Americans.

And you, you have the nerve to suggest that my vote will only count if I vote in support of their corruption and war mongering? You should be ashamed of yourselves!