07/07/08: What To Do Now?
What to do now?
Drop a five spot on the real deal.
Donate five dollars for Nader/Gonzalez.
On July 4, the New York Times documented Obama's flip flops on each of these issues and then proclaimed Obama New and Not Improved.
July 4, 2008
Senator Barack Obama stirred his legions of supporters, and raised our hopes, promising to change the old order of things. He spoke with passion about breaking out of the partisan mold of bickering and catering to special pleaders, promised to end President Bush’s abuses of power and subverting of the Constitution and disowned the big-money power brokers who have corrupted Washington politics.
Now there seems to be a new Barack Obama on the hustings. First, he broke his promise to try to keep both major parties within public-financing limits for the general election. His team explained that, saying he had a grass-roots-based model and that while he was forgoing public money, he also was eschewing gold-plated fund-raisers. These days he’s on a high-roller hunt.
Even his own chief money collector, Penny Pritzker, suggests that the magic of $20 donations from the Web was less a matter of principle than of scheduling. “We have not been able to have much of the senator’s time during the primaries, so we have had to rely more on the Internet,” she explained as she and her team busily scheduled more than a dozen big-ticket events over the next few weeks at which the target price for quality time with the candidate is more than $30,000 per person.
The new Barack Obama has abandoned his vow to filibuster an electronic wiretapping bill if it includes an immunity clause for telecommunications companies that amounts to a sanctioned cover-up of Mr. Bush’s unlawful eavesdropping after 9/11.
In January, when he was battling for Super Tuesday votes, Mr. Obama said that the 1978 law requiring warrants for wiretapping, and the special court it created, worked. “We can trace, track down and take out terrorists while ensuring that our actions are subject to vigorous oversight and do not undermine the very laws and freedom that we are fighting to defend,” he declared.
Now, he supports the immunity clause as part of what he calls a compromise but actually is a classic, cynical Washington deal that erodes the power of the special court, virtually eliminates “vigorous oversight” and allows more warrantless eavesdropping than ever.
The Barack Obama of the primary season used to brag that he would stand before interest groups and tell them tough truths. The new Mr. Obama tells evangelical Christians that he wants to expand President Bush’s policy of funneling public money for social spending to religious-based organizations — a policy that violates the separation of church and state and turns a government function into a charitable donation.
He says he would not allow those groups to discriminate in employment, as Mr. Bush did, which is nice. But the Constitution exists to protect democracy, no matter who is president and how good his intentions may be.
On top of these perplexing shifts in position, we find ourselves disagreeing powerfully with Mr. Obama on two other issues: the death penalty and gun control.
Mr. Obama endorsed the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the District of Columbia’s gun-control law. We knew he ascribed to the anti-gun-control groups’ misreading of the Constitution as implying an individual right to bear arms. But it was distressing to see him declare that the court provided a guide to “reasonable regulations enacted by local communities to keep their streets safe.”
What could be more reasonable than a city restricting handguns, or requiring that firearms be stored in ways that do not present a mortal threat to children?
We were equally distressed by Mr. Obama’s criticism of the Supreme Court’s barring the death penalty for crimes that do not involve murder.
We are not shocked when a candidate moves to the center for the general election. But Mr. Obama’s shifts are striking because he was the candidate who proposed to change the face of politics, the man of passionate convictions who did not play old political games.
There are still vital differences between Mr. Obama and Senator John McCain on issues like the war in Iraq, taxes, health care and Supreme Court nominations. We don’t want any “redefining” on these big questions. This country needs change it can believe in.
When we ask our friends who support Obama about his recent flip-flopping on these and other issues, they say something like this:
You have to pander to become President.
It doesn't matter where Obama stands on the issues -- it's the symbolism of change that matters.
Okay, so if it's the symbolism of change that matters to you, and not the substance, then please go and support Obama.
But if you actually want a candidacy that stands steadfast for shifting the power from the corporations back to the people, then please drop a five spot now on Nader/Gonzalez.
You'll be supporting a positive, rock solid, steadfast campaign.
Already, we're penciled in ten states.
Richard Winger, the King of Ballot Access (and editor of Ballot Access News) predicts that come November, Nader/Gonzalez will be on in 44 to 45 states - up from 34 in 2004).
We're at six percent in the most recent CNN poll.
If we hit 10 percent, Ralph Nader will be debating the candidate of perpetual war McCain and the panderer in chief Obama in the Google/Youtube debates in New Orleans.
(Check out John Nichols this morning calling on Google to let Ralph debate.)
Sun Jul 6, 3:09 PM ET
The Nation -- The latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey of registered voters nationwide puts Democrat Barack Obama at 46 percent.
Republican John McCain pulls 44 percent.
Is everyone else undecided? No.
A striking six percent of Americans who are likely to vote this fall back an alternative candidate: Independent Ralph Nader.
Another three percent back Libertarian Bob Barr.
Those are some of the highest percentages in years for independent or-third-party candidates. And they matter, especially Nader's six percent.
Google and YouTube are organizing a unique presidential forum in New Orleans for September 18. It is likely to be the first debate (or debate-like "event") after the major-party nominating conventions are finished.
A candidate polling at 10 percent in national polls -- just four points ahead of where Nader is now at -- earns a place in the forum.
As Nader's campaign says: "If we get on the Google sponsored debates, we're convinced Nader/Gonzalez will move toward 20 percent.
"At twenty percent, people see a three way race."
"When people see a three way race, everything is possible."
"And we believe that in this momentous election year, everything is possible."
Frankly, the 10 percent threshold is too high.
Presidential debates should include all candidates who have qualified for a sufficient number of ballots lines to accumulate the electoral votes to be elected president.
It is not all that easy getting on ballots. And those candidates who meet the standard -- usually no more than two or three beyond the major-party contenders -- deserve a forum.
Would that put too many candidates on the stage? Don't be silly. Both Obama and McCain came from crowded fields of Democratic and Republican contenders who debated frequently -- and functionally -- prior to and during the primary season.
In other countries, such as France, presidential debates are open not merely to the two most prominent candidates but to the nominees of all parties that display a reasonable measure of national appeal. The discussions are livelier and more issue-focused, and they tend to draw the major-party candidates out -- providing insights that would otherwise be lost in the carefully-calculated joint appearances that pass for fall debates in the U.S.
The corrupt Commission on Presidential Debates -- which was set up by former chairs of the major parties and their big-media allies to limit access to the most important forums for presidential nominees -- has made mockery of the democratic process. And some, admittedly very foolish people, have actually convinced themselves that one-on-one "debates" organized by party insiders to fit the schedules of friendly television networks are meaningful.
The truth is that America needs more and better debates. And Google and YouTube have taken an important step in opening up the process by establishing the ten-percent threshold -- a standard that is significantly easier for an independent or third-party candidate to meet than the CPD's overly-strict and anti-democratic regulations. (Among rules, the commission requires a candidate who is not running with the approval of the Democratic and Republican parties to attain a 15-percent support level across five national polls.)
Will any independent or third-party candidate reach the ten percent threshold this year? Nader appears to be best positioned to do so. Despite scant media attention, he has polled in the four- to six-percent range in several different polls. Getting up to ten percent will be hard. But as Obama softens his positions on civil liberties, political reform, trade policy, presidential accountability and ending the war -- issues on which Nader has long focused -- his prospects improve.
And one does not have to be a Nader supporter to hope, for the sake of democracy, that they improve sufficiently to earn him a place in the Google/YouTube debate and other fall match-ups. And if Nader gets in, why not Barr and likely Green Party nominee Cynthia McKinney?
An Obama-McCain-Nader-Barr-McKinney debate would be less crowded than most of the Democratic or Republican primary debates, and much less crowded than the debates in the last French presidential election. But it would still be sufficiently energetic and ideologically diverse to boost the quality of the presidential dialogue and give America something closer to a genuinely democratic discourse.
If Ralph gets into the debates, we're convinced he'll move above 10 percent.
If he moves above, America will sense a three way race.
If America senses a three-way race, why would it be any different from when Jesse Ventura ran for Governor of Minnesota?
(Okay, Ralph doesn't wear a boa.)
(By the way, in case you missed it, here's Ralph's July 4 riff on patriotism.)
One day when I was about eight years old, my mother tossed one of her frequent "out of the blue" questions at me:
"Ralph, do you love your country?"
"Yes, mother," I said, wondering where she was going with this.
"Well, I hope when you grow up, you'll work hard to make it more lovable."
Thus, began my education in the patriotism of deeds, the patriotism of advancing justice. The country was in the middle of World War II and the spirit of patriotism was engulfed by the war effort, by the heroics of our armed forces against the fascists, and, for my parents, by my brother Shaf's impending enlistment into the Navy.
Still, having come as teenage immigrants from Lebanon, during the Ottoman Empire and French mandate periods, my mother and father were very sensitive to any monopolization of patriotic symbols-flags, anthems, the July 4th holiday-to induce public obedience. They were wary of how many politicians would use and misuse these symbols to stifle dissent, hide abuses and manipulate public opinion. They rejected both political and commercial manipulation of patriotic feelings for narrow, often harmful self-serving ends.
Of course, the factory town of Winsted, CT where we grew up had its July 4th parade with marching bands, flags, proud veterans and assorted ceremonies. Its mile long Main Street was perfectly suited for these festivities. Plenty of fireworks in plenty of youthful hands too. We all had a general good time.
During one such Parade, it suddenly occurred to me that no one had ever marched holding up a large replica of the Declaration of Independence, which was the reason for the celebration that day. Other than being printed in its entirety by some newspapers, this bold Declaration whose eloquent assertion of human rights was heard around the world for many years, still is not front and center for historical recollection and contemporary contemplations.
My parents prized the freedoms they found in America, and they were alert to anyone who might try to diminish them. At his sprawling restaurant on Main Street opposite the textile factories, my father would always speak his mind. He was a constant critic of power - big business, government, local and national - and readily offered solutions.
His longtime customers and friends would sometimes say to him: "How do you expect to make a profit if you keep speaking out this way?" He would smile and say: "When I passed the Statue of Liberty, I took it seriously," cautioning them with this advice: "If you don't use your rights, you will lose your rights."
At the same time, he would challenge attempts to monopolize and debase our country's symbols of flag, pledge and anthem into an unthinking patriotism by politicians to cover their sins. As Dad often reminded anyone who would listen, our flag stands for the principles embodied in the last words of the Pledge of Allegiance - "with liberty and justice for all."
There has always been military patriotism. There is more and more commercialization of the Fourth of July. In our hometown, we were raised to respect and nurture a civic patriotism.
As my brother Shaf said many years later: "A true love for the community of human beings that is our country is expressed when each one of us helps define that patriotism by our deeds and thoughts working together." And, he set a wonderful example when in 1965 he founded the Northwestern Connecticut Community College in town.
Maybe we should start reserving time on the Fourth for assessing the ways forward toward expending those "inalienable rights - life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
Ralph Nader is the author of The Seventeen Traditions (Harper Collins, 2007), a remembrance of the ways his parents raised their four children.
All things are looking up.
All systems are go.
But we need your help to propel this campaign to the next level.
Drop a five on the real deal now.
Together, we are making a difference.
The Nader Team