Sunday, February 22, 2004

The Nader Message

This morning on Russert, Ralph Nader had a good many things to say, and he said them forcefully and well. To wit:

"...there's a democracy gap. There's just too much power and wealth in too few hands, increasingly giant corporations, hands that have no allegiance to our country or our communities, other than to control them or to abandon them. They have taken over Washington .... Washington is now a corporate-occupied territory. There's a 'For Sale' sign on almost every door of agencies and departments where these corporations dominate, and they put their appointments in high office. The Congress is what Will Rogers once called 'the best money can buy.' Money is flowing in like never before that sells our elections. What does that mean to the American people? It means that corporations are saying no to the necessities of the American people. They're saying no to health insurance for everyone, no to tax reform, no to health and safety standards, no to stopping corporate welfare [from going] into hundreds of billions, no to straightening out the defense budget, which is bloated and redundant, as many retired generals and admirals [have] said, no to access to our courts. It's time for people to say yes, and we need more civic and political energies inside the campaign to challenge this two-party duopoly that's trending toward one-party districts all over the country...." (Read the entire Meet the Press transcript here)

The great unstated in Nader's pitch is that because we now have no Howard Dean, that with John Kerry as the Democratic candidate, the "duopoly" -- the Dominance by The Two (Republican and Democrat) -- will carry on apace and must be challenged. And Kerry's not going to do it. No, Kerry's NOT the one.

And who can disagree with that? Nader is right, of course, that the reason he, little Ralphie, is such a threat to the Democratic Party is that the Democratic Party has become such a congregation of MeToo corporate suck-ups. Witness the much publicized revelation of John Kerry's compromised position on "special-interest" money (Washington Post headline, January 31, 2004: "Kerry Leads in Lobby Money: Anti-Special-Interest Campaign Contrasts With Funding").

Nader feels that it's the "liberal Democratic intelligentsia" that has accepted and rationalized the sorry state of their party, and it's mainly the liberal intelligentsia that's spitting mad at him for running. This is what he said this morning on Meet the Press: "...the liberal intelligentsia has got to ask itself a tough question, Tim. For 25 years they have let their party run away from them. For 25 years they've let their party become a captive of corporate interests. And now they want to block the American people from having more choices and voices, especially young people who are looking for idealism, who are looking for a clean campaign, who are looking for the real issues in this country instead of the sham and the rhetoric that masquerades for political campaigning."

Anyone paying the least attention for the last several months will recognize that Nader is picking up the Dean mantle here, though the Vermont governor's name was never uttered.

And it IS a powerful argument that the Democrats have only themselves to blame (themselves and the Democratic Leadership Council, who made corporate pandering an art form and through the success of one Bill Clinton took over the seats of power in the Party of the People). Instead of only bashing Ralph Nader -- which I've done plenty of myself -- we might better ask why this party is so vulnerable to the message Nader is delivering and why this party got so defensive when Howard Dean stepped forward and starting telling people, "You have the power, you have the power, YOU HAVE THE POWER." Certainly, the Democrat Party under Terry McAuliffe does NOT have the power. McAuliffe was admitting that he had "begged" Nader not to run, had offered him a corner office at the DNC ("Vice Chair in Charge of Sitting By the Door"?), when Terry McAuliffe might better have spent his time asking a simple, soul-searching question: How did we become so vulnerable to a little man with a big "fight the power" message?

Looks like Democrats had all better be going to Plan B ... to take back the majority in at least one house of Congress, to at least slow down the full-bore assault on liberty, the environment, equity in education and health-care, and world peace that is surely coming like a black frost in the second term of George W. Bush & Company.

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