The Campaign Trail of Tears--Nice try, mainstream media...Ralph Nader is Lebanese, he's not exactly "white," and the race-baiting game of division doesn't play so well anymore. This is a great example of why third parties are crucial to a genuine democratic dialog. Many of us don't want to get this fact. Obama is trying to "talk white," and yes, we're paying attention out here. Nader has virtually clinched this writer's vote. If you don't apply pressure to the candidates, they're not going to deliver very much, if anything at all. No real social agenda, no real reforms, just more rollback of jobs overseas and a rollback of our cherished rights.
Today, Obama will either vote for the FISA "reform" bill, granting the telecommunications companies and the White House a free-pass to continue spying on American citizens (as well as granting them legal immunity for crimes already committed), or he's going to sit it out so we don't know what he's thinking (again). [Ed.--At this writing--6:11PM--the vote on the bill has been postponed until after the July recess. Interesting...]
He's done it before, even with this particular legislation, and he's going to do it again. Independent voters are the most important voting bloc there is--aside from those eligible to vote who do not. Never mind that the National Lawyers Guild of America (http://nlg.org/news/index.php?entry=entry080624-090840) and the ACLU has called for the Senate to vote against the legislation, and forget that the public doesn't want to be spied-on--Obama's charging ahead and is supporting the FISA overhaul bill. He's not appearing very "progressive" at this time.
Obama's comments against Nader don't address the issues raised by the third party candidate in any real depth or meaning, and it's telling. Nader said this to the Rocky Mountain News yesterday, so it must have missed the news cycle at that time:
There's only one thing different about Barack Obama when it comes to being a Democratic presidential candidate. He's half African-American," Nader said. Whether that will make any difference, I don't know. I haven't heard him have a strong crackdown on economic exploitation in the ghettos. Payday loans, predatory lending, asbestos, lead. What's keeping him from doing that? Is it because he wants to talk white? He doesn't want to appear like Jesse Jackson? We'll see all that play out in the next few months and if he gets elected afterwards. ("Nader: Obama Trying to 'talk white,'" The Rocky Mountain News, 06.25.2008)
I mean, first of all, the number one thing that a black American politician aspiring to the presidency should be is to candidly describe the plight of the poor, especially in the inner cities and the rural areas, and have a very detailed platform about how the poor is going to be defended by the law, is going to be protected by the law, and is going to be liberated by the law. ...Haven't heard a thing. He wants to show that he is not a threatening . . . another politically threatening African-American politician. He wants to appeal to white guilt. You appeal to white guilt not by coming on as black is beautiful, black is powerful. Basically he's coming on as someone who is not going to threaten the white power structure, whether it's corporate or whether it's simply oligarchic. And they love it. Whites just eat it up. (ibid)And he's correct, it's accurate. Instead of really addressing the issues raised, the Obama campaign has decided to make personal comments on Nader and to stonewall. Sound famiar? There is a cure for this, and it's called the power of third parties to pressure the other candidates, for balance. Without Ralph Nader's candidacy--and that of other third parties--there would be none, only more the two party monopoly we're suffering under.
Obama's got a lot of proving to do, and it's up to us, the polity, to apply this pressure. This can only come from entering the races for office directly, and bird-dogging candidates into responding to the issues. There would have been no New Deal and no social programs had the American public not pressured candidate--then president--Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Congress into acting on important issues that affect us all. That's called the national interest for those who don't know.
This was all Barack Obama could muster today. This writer would like to know the exact speeches and legislation that the Deomcratic candidate has pushed addressing a real commitment towards changing these conditions.
"Ralph Nader hadn't been paying attention to my speeches, because all the issues that he talked about -- whether it be predatory lending, the housing foreclosure crisis . . . I've devoted multiple speeches," Obama said. "Ralph Nader is trying to get attention. [Ed.--No, he's doing what's called "running for office," part of our First amendment rights of free expression and the right of assembly, Mr. Harvard Law Professor.] I think it's a shame because if you look at his legacy in terms of consumer protections, its an extraordinary one."
But now, Obama said, "He's someone . . . whose campaign hasn't gotten any traction. So what better way to get some traction than to make an inflammatory statement like the one that he made? It is what it is."("Obama rips Nader's 'talking white' remark," The Chicago Sun-Times, 06.26.2008)
That's what it is, and tis' all that it is--that is the question. Oh sure, I always look at elections like a football game or a round of poker--a kind of "winner-take-all" mentality of social darwinist winners and losers. But this isn't really a game, this is life, and it has repercussions that affect millions, possibly billions.
Talk is fine, but Obama isn't even acting now, as a Senator, in any real substantial way. He's just engaging in more business-as-usual that passes for leadership--only it's not going to float anymore. The cost of failure will be high for him, and it will come at the personal level. We'll all be in the same boat then, and it will be everyone's fault. If you know anything at all about Ralph Nader, it's that he's always paying attention. If only the rest of us did...
Senator Obama said earlier today that I haven't been paying attention to his campaign.
Actually, I have.
And it's clear from Senator Obama's campaign that he is not willing to tackle the white power structure - whether in the form of the corporate power structure or many of the super-rich - who are taking advantage of 100 million low income Americans who are suffering in poverty or near poverty.
Senator Obama is opposed to single payer national health insurance.
Because he favors the health insurance giants over the millions of Americans in poverty or near poverty who are uninsured or under-insured. Eighteen thousand Americans die every year because they cannot afford health insurance, according to the Institute of Medicine.
Senator Obama wants to expand the military budget which is loaded with waste, fraud and abuse - instead of cutting it and investing the long ignored peace dividend in the inner cities with good jobs and public works - including schools, clinics, and libraries.
Because he fears and favors those thousands of lobbyists in charge of enlarging the military industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned us against.
Senator Obama says he favors a living wage. But he doesn't say he would immediately increase the minimum wage to $10 an hour, which is the equivalent of the 1968 minimum wage adjusted for inflation - because by doing so he would offend the big corporations who exploit labor in places like Wal-Mart and fast food chains. (The minimum wage needs to be increased immediately, not phased in over a number of years, as Senator Obama would have it.)
So Senator Obama, let's get specific.
We're looking for deeds, not, as Shakespeare put it, words, words, mere words.
Your public career, which I have also been paying attention to, is long on words, and short on action when it comes to consumer protection, cracking down on corporate crime, curbing the violence of toxic environmental racism, and extending clean, affordable public transit, among other issues.
For the purposes of the here and now, three things:
One, why don't you support single payer national health insurance, which is supported by a majority of doctors and the American people?
Two, why do you favor expanding the military budget which is replete with waste, fraud and abuse?
And three, why don't you come out and support an immediate increase of the minimum wage to $10 an hour?
When can we expect the authenticity of hope and change?
"Nader: Obama Trying to 'talk white,'" The Rocky Mountain News, 06.25.2008: http://www.rockymountainnews.com/news/2008/jun/25/nader-critical-of-obama-for-trying-to-talk-white/