In recent weeks, Ralph Nader has asked the three contender campaigns of McCain, Obama, and Clinton to promise to adopt at least three-points of his progressive campaign's platform--not one of them accepted even one out of roughly fifty that address social issues important to the American public. What are they afraid of? Being pushed to do what's right, one would imagine. As hopeful a candidate as Obama appears, he's no Ralph Nader, and by accepting even one progressive point of his--or that of any other progressive third party candidate--he would have tipped-his-hand to the fact that politicians can be pressured by the public to start delivering. If Obama had agreed, it's likely that several "super delegates" would have abandoned him. Those are known as "handlers," incidentally.
What's wrong with us? I don't put everything on Mr. Nader, he's just trying to get us all energized; but we have a complacent attitude that somehow some "strong-man" (or woman) is supposed to save us. That's irresponsible and not the behavior of self-respecting adults. We are the missing-ingredient in American democracy, and we and our values are superior to those of individuals seeking office, and those of their corporate masters. We project our deepest aspirations and desires onto these "strong" individuals, and when they fail without our prodding them to do what is productive for our nation, we blame them. Granted that we should, but we should also blame ourselves for not participating in this democratic system. We share the blame.
I was recently paid for research work in the defense of a defendant currently at trial in a reasonably prominent case. The money came from the Office of Defender Services--as you might have guessed, a donation went directly to the Nader campaign. Don't worry, it was all done legally, I leave it to corporate donors to violate campaign finance laws (ostensibly enforced by the FEC). Why would I do this after writing so glowingly about the potential prospects of presidential candidate Obama? Because, you need people like Ralph Nader--and myself--to keep pressuring them to do what the public wants them to, not solely what the corporations want.
This worked wonders during the Great Depression when activists like Dr. Francis Townsend, an elderly man who saw the old suffering horribly during the aftermath of the crash. Dr. Townsend and millions exerted incredible pressure on President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Congress to create an old-age pension. It worked. They were very successful in their efforts because of their willpower and the fact that they actually kept pushing for change. Third Party pressure has delivered, and there was hardly any New Deal program that hadn't first been suggested by a very active American public. President Roosevelt also had to contend with the rising popularity of the traditional Left.
The Socialist Party of America's ranks were filling, and even the Communist Party was enjoying a popularity they had never known. After a century of bitter struggle, the labor movement was coming into its own, and would crest in the early-1970s. Since then, Americans have become lazy and apathetic, if not almost entirely ignorant of the sacrifices of previous generations. It wasn't about "winning," but about the power of a groundswell of public demands. The public should never stop making demands of the government and their representatives, but we've forgotten the lessons of the 1930s. Discontent is greater now than it was then. Crucially, the traditional conservatives could be another essential-ingredient in all of this: figures such as Louisiana Governor Huey Long, and the "radio priest" Father Coughlin had the ironic effect of pushing FDR's policies to-the-left. Ultimately, sincere Populism has no political boundaries.
81% of the American public believes we are on the wrong course, and real change isn't going to happen without all of us getting angry and taking that energy to push the politicians to do our bidding. Note how snugly the current president's recent approval-rating fits into that statistic. From this, there should be some sort of a response to the public's will, but we aren't pushing hard enough. That's how a democracy is supposed to work, and we share an enormous share of the blame in what can be described as a dying polity that's rapidly sliding into a perverse form of Monarchism. Without impeachment proceedings, or at least reasonable declassifications of this administration's internal record, a terrible precedent will have been set.
Ironically, the majority of the American public is on the same page, we just use different words to describe what's wrong. Politicians are very skilled at exploiting this fact, which they use to divide us. Even Obama is guilty of this, but it's possible he'll be more malleable to public pressure. That's the key. Get mad, and get active. Communicate with your representatives and let them know full-well that they serve you and that you're going to remove them if they don't.
Further abuses by the executive branch will be guaranteed, and we can expect more encroachments on our cherished liberties. Not one contender candidate appears to want to do anything about this, which is why it's up to us to hit them with questions on the "whys" on the campaign trail. This is precisely what Ralph Nader's candidacy is about, and a new beginning to broaden the political spectrum in this troubled nation. Accountability is key, and it can only be achieved with demands, not requests. You cannot be neutral in this life, it doesn't work, and never has.
We need Third Parties to balance-things-out, and we should support every viewpoint's right to participate and to run. For Democrats who still believe that Nader lost their man Al Gore's chances at election in 2000, consider that over a quarter who voted for Nader were going to vote for George W. Bush, and that's not even counting the many thousands of Black Americans who were disenfranchised. Ask the candidates if they think those kinds of electoral practices should be allowed to stand--then ask them why they never acted on them, and show no signs of ever doing so.
We don't have to be nice about it either, and sentimentality towards the current candidates is foolhardy. After all, if Ralph Nader somehow won--which this writer grants is a long-shot--and didn't attempt to deliver on progressive issues, he should be removed by the American voter. The same should apply to candidates McCain, Clinton, and Obama. For many Americans, the sports comparison applies to the elections: "winning isn't everything, it's the only thing." That's untrue. We successfully--and illegally--invaded Iraq. Are we "winning" right now? That depends on who you define as "we."
The selfish interests that forced the current Congress and administration on us are "winning," while the public isn't. We're being robbed. On that note, President Bush "won" (stole) the 2004 elections, and is now embattled by people like myself from nearly every quarter...except in Congress and the Supreme Court (and where are the lawyers in all of this?). That's because of that missing-ingredient again--namely, us. The time for apathy and laziness has got to end, and the groundswell must come before November when we can expect the pardons to come from the president of his own people. This would be unacceptable, but pardons aren't going to protect them from war crimes charges--only the Supreme Court and Congress can-and-will--do that. However, that doesn't rule-out pressure from other nations, particularly in the EU...
No, "winning" has been redefined in the American-lexicon...by George W. Bush and his many allies who also need to be thrown into the dustbin of history and out of office. The American public is the embodiment of those most-cherished principles of liberty that make us uniquely "American." The majority of the current incumbents don't represent this. We foolishly invest them with our power and our aspirations, then we walk away from the table. That's irresponsible. They aren't the hope for America, we are, and it's time we started believing in ourselves and our very real ability to push things in a direction we want. How sentimental are you? Sentimentality is for fools.
Nader on Impeachment: http://www.votenader.org/blog/2008/04/04/put-impeachment-on-the-table/
Vote Nader: http://www.votenader.org/index.html
Postscript, 04.13.2008: I sometimes cross-post these articles over at governmentdirt.com. This interesting exchange (my part, not his) came about from the editor/owner of that site, an L.A. attorney named Sam Deskin. How did I first come upon Sam? There's a story in that one, what. What is the question? To be, or not to be, of course. I read my Bard. Funny thing is, I'll likely vote Obama. I know, "Shut-up and get back to work, we do the thinking around here." And hasn't that worked-out grandly? (snigger!)