By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
That's America now, a representative "democracy" where most people never act as citizens of a democracy, where more than half of the registered voters don't even trouble once every four years to vote (and Christ knows how many don't register); those who do vote base decisions on "likability" and smarmy commercials, and even when our increasingly jaded media reports on them, government and businesses do the most heinous things with little fear of a public outcry. Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom, Jack, and this nation would rather watch "reality TV."
We're so lulled that we don't even notice how people in several other nations have taken control of their destinies; how they have proportional representation where their lawmaking bodies reflect all points of view; how they have working health-care systems, environmental protection, workers' rights, mass transit and other common attributes we can't seem to manage.
At Chapman, Nader quoted Jefferson saying that we needed representative government to curb the excesses of the moneyed interests. Lacking a truly representative government today, Nader noted that while sustained economic growth "used to lift all boats, now it lifts all yachts." As the rich get richer, workers' real wages fall.
During Gore Vidal's 1960 congressional race, the author even then was remarking on what we now call corporate welfare, how in the U.S. "we have achieved socialism for the rich and free enterprise for the poor." That has become such an ingrained part of our culture that Nader can now cite some $67 billion spent annually just to fund the export of lethal weapons to other nations.
Nader is the only candidate talking about that issue; or the insane $330 billion we're pushing into the military maw each year, which the other two candidates only want to increase; or the war we're escalating in Colombia; or GMOs (genetically modified produce) and factory farming; or the hideous collateral damage to individuals and our freedoms caused by the failed war on drugs; or the resulting prison nation we're becoming; or the unjustly applied death penalty; or sweatshop-promoting trade agreements; or universal health care; or a host of other issues crucial to the survival and soul of our nation.
Nader isn't above employing a good soundbite, his best being, "The only difference between Al Gore and George W. Bush is the velocity with which their knees hit the floor when corporations knock." Sadly, he can back this up with numerous examples of Gore and Clinton favoring moneyed interests over the environment.
He talks substance, and if style matters, his is that of an intelligent person addressing equals. That speaks volumes compared with the alternatives—as Molly Ivins recently commented, "George W. Bush sounds like English is his second language, and Al Gore sounds like he thinks it's yours."
Nader doesn't talk down to his audience. He doesn't have to say, "trust me." He doesn't just want voters; he wants citizens.
Some of you may be thinking you spotted a contradiction above—where I say change is dependent upon individuals and then support a candidate who favors a large activist government. Nope. Government and business are only so amok and ethically rudderless because most of us aren't doing our jobs as citizens —of being informed, of being involved. Given the choice between government and monolithic corporations, I suspect the former might more readily become the instrument of our will. When overseen by the "eternal vigilance" of an involved populace, that's not "Big Daddy" government.
And that will only happen by breaking the stranglehold the two parties have on the system. Sure, Ralph is going to lose, but we all lose if change doesn't start sometime—and now is the only moment we ever have.
It is only now, in the frightened 11th hour, that Gore is even acknowledging Nader's existence. He's telling Greens they should vote Gore not because their Nader is a spoiler but because he, Gore, is a better choice than Nader. Then you should have debated him, you son of a bitch.
It's a scary choice in that booth, and I might be less sanguine about my decision were I not in a state that's so solidly for Gore. He at least recognizes global warming, where Republicans choose to ignore worldwide scientific consensus because it's bad for business. But again, if change didn't start somewhere, we'd still be under the British flag.
Be sure to join me here in a couple of weeks for my next exciting column: "How to Survive the Bush Years."Super Rally for Ralph Nader at the Long Beach Arena, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach, (323) 257-2532;www.votenader.org. Fri., 8 p.m.; doors open, 6 p.m. $15.