US vote-Nader offers alternative to Bush and Gore
Tearing into the corporate beast
SAM ASHMAN reports from Madison Square Garden, New York City
TOO CLOSE to call-that is what everyone is saying about next Tuesday's US presidential election. Republican George W Bush and Democrat Al Gore are neck and neck in the polls. They are also in a dead heat on policy. Both represent pro-capitalist parties and have rushed to agree with each other on virtually everything. Locked out of the TV debates, however, and excluded from most media coverage in the US, is the Green Party backed candidate and veteran consumer rights activist Ralph Nader.
Nader is attacking the power of big corporations and talking of building the "politics of joy and justice" across America. He is drawing huge audiences-12,000 in Minneapolis, 10,000 in Seattle, 12,000 in Boston, 10,000 in Chicago. Some 16,000 attended a Nader rally in New York recently. Madison Square Garden was sold out as crowds came to hear a mixture of political speeches and songs. Queues of people snaked around the side of the building hours before the rally was to begin.
Student Nader committees came in groups with stalls and placards saying "Healthcare for all-vote Nader", "Abolish the death penalty", "Schools not jails" and "People over profit".
Others collected up hundreds of voter registration cards and marched to deliver them to the post office. The audience was overwhelmingly young. For most it was the first political rally of their lives. But their age did not stop them roaring with approval at every comparison between the struggles and campaigns of today, and those of the 1960s.
Actor Bill Murray set the crowd alight when he said, "The last time I did anything like this was when a whole bunch of us got together to fight the Vietnam War-and, by god, we stopped that war!" TV journalist Michael Moore was cheered when he said, "Bush is proud to say he can name all 55 people in his high school class. We want to know if he could name the last 55 people he executed."
Some say Nader is going to split the vote next week and so let Republican Bush get elected. But Michael Moore said, "Why settle for less when we have settled for less for so long? You can vote for the lesser of two evils, but you still end up with evil!"
Nader told the rally, "We have lost control-of the government, of the workplaces, of the environment, even our own human genes-to giant corporations. "Democracy is on a collision course with giant corporations. It is time to take control of the common wealth that we already own." He inspired people to keep up the fight for change by looking to those who have fought in the past:
"We need to think of our forebears who took on overwhelming odds and prevailed, and made America a better place. And standing against all these social justice movements were the dominant interests. They said no to the farmers, to workers, to the women's suffrage movement, to the civil rights movement, to the environmental movement. They said no-you are in the way. But the American people periodically rose up and said yes, it is going to be yes."
When it comes to election day Nader's vote may get squeezed, as people who sympathise with what he says decide to vote for Gore to keep out Bush. But Nader's message is reaching way beyond the thousands who have attended his rallies, and even beyond those who will actually vote for him next Tuesday. The support he has gathered in the last few months both reflects and is deepening the mood in the US after last year's Battle of Seattle.
As Nader told the rally, "This campaign is not just about the election. It is part of building a broad, progressive movement, something this country has not had for a long time." New York student Jennifer Henderson said after the rally was over, "I have never felt so positive in my life. This is history in the making."
Nader's speech-'Don't spend for war'
"TODAY THE frightened liberals say vote for Gore. They say the Democrats are better. But what have Clinton and Gore done for racism and poverty? Clinton and Gore have an abysmal civil rights record on immigrants. What have Clinton/Gore done for health insurance? Ten million MORE are uninsured today than when they took office. What have they done about poverty? The economy is booming when it comes to corporate profits. It is booming for the bosses. But we still have 20 percent child poverty in the richest country in the world. Inequalities in power and wealth lead to poverty. They lead to cruelty. People don't have maternity leave, sick leave, pensions or public transport. There is no daycare or universal healthcare. We are going backward while the rich are becoming super-rich. There should be housing for the millions of working poor. We have a booming economy but the only major building project is building prisons. Some 47 million workers make under $10 an hour. The federal minimum wage is, in real terms, $2.15 less than in 1968 when economic output was half what it is today. We have the most restrictive anti-union labour laws in the western world, and it shows. Workers are falling behind in a period of unprecedented economic growth. Bill Gates is now worth as much as the poorest 120 million Americans. It is time to have an economy designed as if people matter, not just Exxon, DuPont, General Motors, the WTO and NAFTA. When it comes to foreign policy we should stop arming dictators, and instead stand tall with workers and peasants around the world. We should fight to use resources to abolish malaria and TB. We should redefine "national security" so that it means making the six billion people that live in this world matter. We should wage peace, not spend for war. The IMF and the World Bank are arrogant. They think they have got all the models. We want citizens' globalisation not corporate globalisation, and this surge of left progressivism is not going to stop on 7 November. It is just going to get started."
Radical voices from New York
"I GOT political at school. We took part in a project to build houses for homeless immigrant workers. I saw how capitalism treats people. That system can't go on. The conditions immigrants were living in were like the Third World, and yet it was in the heart of the suburbs. Now Nader's campaign is opening up ideas. It's getting people enthused. But it is not just about the election, it is part of a whole chain of events that is changing people's consciousness."
- CASEY SULLIVAN, student at New York University
"NADER IS a representative of the people. He is not for sale. Bush and Gore are puppets for the corporations. We are supposed to be a civilised country, but we don't even have free education or universal healthcare. I will be paying back my student loans till I am 50 years old!"
- CHRISTINE, student at New School in New York
"WE'RE NOT going to vote for Bush or Gore. Bush would set this country back 30 years when it comes to civil rights, and Gore is just full of crap. This whole society puts money before people. No one cares about poor people or about the working class. It's all about big business."
- MAGGIE, BRITTANY, JO ELLEN and RACHELLE, art students from Philadelphia
"THIS IS the first political rally I've ever been to. It is the first time I've ever felt like backing anyone or even believed what they are saying."
- FLORENCE FLEMING, Seattle
A POLL in Business Week magazine in September found 72 percent of Americans think big business has too much power over too many aspects of life.