Ralph Crammed In

Photo by Anthony JohnAll of the 950 seats inside Chapman University's Memorial Hall were filled for the Oct. 20 Green Party rally. About 100 more people listened from the lawn in front of the old white-columned building. But when a drab-suited, slightly hunchbacked egghead arrived, the scene evolved into a rock concert: Ralph Nader was in the building. During an impromptu press conference, the Green presidential nominee remained incredulous that he's been banned from debates between Democrat Al Gore and Republican George Dubya Bush. “It is so demented—so cowardly,” Nader said of his exclusion. “They didn't talk about the power of the few over the many. You never hear the words corporate power, corporate crime, corporate welfare and corporate regulation of our lives.” When he ambled onto the stage moments later, it might've seemed like Eminem had arrived given the roar of the young audience. Nader proceeded to pound away at Gush and Bore, noting the only difference between the two “is the velocity with which their knees hit the floor when corporations knock on the door.” Imploring young people to vote, he said, “You see what happens when large numbers of people in this country don't turn on to politics; politics turns on them.”

HE'S GOT THE RUNS A dozen old “Nader's Raiders”—that's what Ralphie's consumer-advocacy group was called back in the '70s—issued an open letter on Oct. 20, urging Nader to reassess his presidential bid in light of Bush's surge in the polls. Suggesting that handing 5,000 political appointments over to Dubya “would set back significantly the social progress to which you have devoted your entire astonishing career,” Nader's mates urged him to drop out in the 10 or so states where a Gore or Bush victory is too close to call. Backstage at Chapman, Nader said that on the contrary, a vote for either is a vote wasted on “corporate government,” hence the name for this campaign swing: the Don't Waste Your Vote Tour. Should the Greens emerge as spoilers on Nov. 7, Nader said, their pro-environment/anti-globalization/anti-corporate government platform will be taken much more seriously four years from now. “The Green Party is going to break the two-party grip,” Nader vowed. Run, Ralphie, run!

DO AS I SAY Chapman political-science department chairman Fred Smoller was instrumental in bringing Nader to the Orange campus. But before the rally, he talked to us about Tom Fuentes, grand wizard of the Orange County Republican Party. Fuentes was recently appointed to fill an unexpired term on the South Orange County Community College District board of trustees, which oversees Saddleback and Irvine Valley colleges. Fuentes' campaign for a full term on the board alarms Smoller, who recalled a bizarre phone call he got seven years ago in which the GOP henchman and Chapman alum apparently said that political-science professors should teach the views of their college's board of trustees—Chapman's board is composed mostly of conservatives. While Fuentes was “soundly rebuffed by the [university's] provost,” Smoller is frightened that Fuentes may wind up foisting his “anti-academic” perspective on academics. Fuentes could not be reached for comment, but Mark Petracca, UC Irvine's political-science department chairman, said it's common for professors to teach from the perspective of their college's governing board—at “small, liberal-arts, Christian schools where the value we generally place on academic freedom is not so well-respected. But at any major-league university, that kind of censorship would not be tolerated. It'd just be ridiculous.” How about at public colleges? Petracca burst into laughter before saying, “It's easy to imagine groups of government bodies—boards of trustees, regents or the state legislature—getting upset at someone for something she says, something she writes, or something she teaches. But no one tries to do anything about it. And I'm fairly certain if somebody tried, the reaction would be pretty severe.” Ready for your spanking, To Tomas?

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