No 87 Posted by fw, November 9, 2010
This is the third in a series of posts on the vital role played by alternative news and information sources that allow dissident voices to be heard on topics seldom covered by the mainstream media.
In a wide-ranging November 2, 2010 interview on Democracy Now, Ralph Nader, former presidential candidate and longtime consumer advocate and corporate critic, talked about the sorry and sordid state of U.S. politics.
A video of the entire interview, along with a full transcript, are available here at Democracy Now, What follows are selected highlights from that conversation accompanied by added sub-headings to facilitate browsing.
How the Tea Partiers manipulated news coverage in the run-up to the mid-term elections
When the mainstream media knows that one of their networks is pushing a movement, they tend to cover it more. And, of course, Fox News is like the voice of the Tea Partiers and Karl Rove and others, Dick Armey and others, who are trying to manipulate and channel Tea Partiers into the corporatist arena. . . . The Tea Partiers filled a vacuum. Members of Congress go back in August 2009 for the so-called town meetings. The seats routinely are empty in these meetings. Suddenly they [Tea Partiers] came in, and they started stomping and shouting at the members, and that stunned the members, and they overreacted. And then, some of them didn’t have any more town meetings. So, I think that helped the effort, as well. And I think it’s quite clear that when the media knows there’s big money behind any kind of grassroots movement—and there is big money; the Koch brothers, for example, and others are pouring money into what’s called the Tea Party movement—they tend to cover it even more.
Nader: “I have never seen crueler, more vicious, more unknowing Republicans in the Congress, with very few exceptions”
I think if the trends bear out, once again, the Democrats will demonstrate to the American people they cannot defend the country against the most craven Republican Party in history. I mean, I’ve never seen worse Republicans. With every ounce of potential tolerance I have toward the Republicans, I can say that I have never seen crueler, more vicious, more unknowing Republicans in the Congress, with very few exceptions.
Democrats have been selling out on Obama’s promises because they’re chasing the same corporate dollars as the Republicans
So, what we see here is complicity. When people say, “Gee, why aren’t the wars an issue?”—well, because the Democrats are complicit in both the Iraq and Afghanistan war. “Why isn’t corporate welfare and subsidies and bailouts of Wall Street crooks an issue?” Well, because the Democrats have done the same thing as the Republicans. Just now, they’re giving away the store to the taxpayers’ share in General Motors in the IPO that’s about to be issued. And they say, “Well, why aren’t the Democrats making a big deal of corporate crime against consumers and workers and issues like minimum wage and card check?” Because the Democrats don’t want to be involved in that. They’re dialing for the same corporate dollars. They say, “Well, why aren’t the Democrats raising these great civil liberty issues, like what’s in the PATRIOT Act?” Well, they just rubber-stamped another renewal over a year ago of the PATRIOT Act.
So, that’s why they can’t draw a bright line between the Democrats and Republicans, as Franklin Delano Roosevelt did in making the people think that the Republicans were the party of Big Business and the Democrats were the party of working people. And that worked a lot for both him and Harry Truman. Imagine what those two gentlemen would have done to today’s Republican Party, instead of the namby-pamby, wishy-washy, so-called phony “bipartisanship” of Obama’s administration and his allies in Congress.
(For more on this topic, see Nader’s Doomsday for Democrats? Will They be Demolished by the Most Craven Republican Party in History?)
Democrats are too far gone to be influenced by public pressure on corporate power issues
Democrats can be pressured by mass appeals on civil rights issues. But on the corporate power issues, they’re too far gone. We could never get today the legislation we got in the ’60s and early ’70s, even under the Nixon administration—EPA, OSHA, air and water pollution control, consumer protection laws, etc. You can’t possibly get them. There’s a simple auto safety bill to strengthen the budgets and law enforcement of the Department of Transportation following the Toyota acceleration problem, and it’s wallowing in the House and in the Senate. There’s a food safety bill that’s thirty years overdue to deal with contaminated food and preventing thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of sicknesses in this country, and it passed the House, it’s been buried in the Senate. The Senate is controlled by Democrats, so—and they don’t want to change the filibuster rules, and now that’s going to come back to haunt them. So, I think the Democrats are beyond “Well, let’s put some pressure on them.”
They’ve been so corporatized, so monetized, so driven on corporate power closer to the Republican Party, regardless of their rhetoric, that we have to have third party and independent candidates, even ones that are up against all this rigged ballot access obstruction. No other Western country obstructs voters and candidates the way this country does, especially with its state laws.
(For more on this topic, see Nader’s When Corporations are the Government)
Given the sordid state of U.S. politics, what’s a voter to do?
I favor people voting their conscience. As Eugene Debs once said, better to vote for who you believe and lose than vote for who you don’t believe and win. And if we don’t vote our conscience, if we have this tactical, pragmatic approach, I ask those people one question: what’s your breaking point? How bad does the Democratic Party have to be, even though the Republican Party is worse, before you break away and stop being captured and taken for granted the way African Americans have been taken for granted by the Obama administration? That’s the key question everyone has to ask themselves as a voter: what is your breaking point? If you don’t have a breaking point, you don’t have a moral compass.
Corporate control of the federal government is “destructive of any semblance of democratic process”
According to Nader, corporations influence control over government in three ways:
Nobody comes close to that kind of triple control of our government. And when Franklin Delano Roosevelt sent a message to Congress in 1938 to set up the national—temporary national commission on corporate concentration—and they did pass that—he said in his message, when government is controlled by private economic power, that’s fascism. That was in 1938. And now, more than ever, we have a corporate government in Washington, DC, corporate-occupied territory, that is destructive of any semblance of democratic process. Voice for the people, voice for labor, a voice for small taxpayers, consumers, they’re shut out. They’re excluded.
To change politics in America, people have to form “little neighborhood republics”
We have to start right at the neighborhood and form little republics, so to speak, of a hundred people each—friends, relatives, neighbors—and begin studying the ways that people are controlled in this country, how giant corporations have no allegiance to the United States other than to control it or ship its jobs and industries to repressive fascist and communist regimes overseas who know how to keep workers in their place. And if that occurs around the country, my guess is about one to two million people, organized equivalently in the 435 congressional districts, can begin turning Congress around. And when Congress turns around, the federal government turns around. And when the federal government breaks its chains from the engines of corporate power, things can change, because there’s a large consensus in this country and a lot of overdue changes, including full Medicare for all, including living wage, including cracking down on corporate crime, protecting the sovereignty of the people from being pulled down in these nefarious trade agreements, WTO, NAFTA. And above all, there’s a big consensus on electoral reform, multi-party systems, cleaning up the monetization of holding elections as if they were auctions. That’s what we’ve got to do.
Labor can help the cause by building a political base of support
These are not good times for labor. The card check has been ignored by Obama, who promised to further it in 2008. The minimum wage is $2.75 lower than it was in 1968, adjusted for inflation. It would be now $10 an hour; it’s $7.25. You’ve got one-third of the entire American workforce full-time working for Wal-Mart wages. You can’t support a family on that. And so, I think there needs to be an adjunct labor movement that doesn’t immediately say we want to form a labor union, but an informal grouping of association labor . . . so it becomes a political base, even though they can’t achieve a union in the workplace.
And if things don’t change on the political front people will get frustrated and withdraw
Otherwise, we’ll just keep diagnosing and diagnosing and exposing, and when nothing happens, people get frustrated and withdraw.
Two personal comments on Nader’s observations about politics in America
First, given the Republican sweep in the House and gains in the Senate, is this a reflection of progressive voters’ “frustration and withdrawal” with Obama’s sellout? Second, does anyone else see parallels between the political scene in the U.S. and Canada? For example, the Conservative-led polarization and mean-spirited tone of federal politics in Canada, and the risk-aversive behaviour of the Liberals, and even the New Democrats, who, along with the Conservatives, are all chasing the same corporate dollars?