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Commentary :: Politics
Nader in Cambridge: More Fire in the Belly
10 Jun 2008
In 2004, Nader met with Kerry and “provided over 20 pages of issues ranging from environmental protections, labor, healthcare and tax reform to Kerry. He told Kerry that if he highlighted three of these issues in his campaign [Nader] would refrain from running. Kerry failed to act…” Why? Because unlike the good burghers of Newark 40 years ago, the Democratic leadership understands that they have no reason “to keep a lid on progressive anger.” As always, they’ll damn the Democrats up and down for easy acquiescence on the war, on tax cuts, on SCOTUS nominations, on the Patriot Act, on the Farm Bill, on the military budget–and they’ll turn up in November to lend their tacit support for more of the same. Words without bricks mean nothing...

[RELATED VIDEO: See Ralph Nader campaign at First Parish Church, Cambridge, June 6 2008: http://www.nosuppertonight.com]
nader.jpg
By Michael Horan

But you’ve been told many times before,
Messiahs pointed to the door,
No one had the guts to leave the temple….
–Pete Townshend, Tommy

But what about the next time? Who is going to explain in 1976 that all the people who felt they got burned in ’72 should “try again” for another bogus challenger?
Hunter Thompson, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ‘72

_____


How Many Times Can a Man Turn his Head, Pretending He Just Doesn’t See?

Last week, The Nation asked—in its lead editorial no less (subscription only)—

" Where is the challenge to the bloated military budget, which equals the total amount spent by the rest of industrialized world? Who’s talking about an exit from the “war in terror,” which has made us less secure while curtailing our civil liberties? Where is the massive public investment to repair our collapsed bridges, collapsed levees, and bursting schools? Democrats have called for a repeal of Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthiest, but where are the proposals for a truly progressive tax system? Where is the challenge to corporate power and a serious strategy to empower workers to win their share of profits? Who’s talking about our failed “war on drugs,” and our faltering criminal justice system? And while there is growing demand that we leave Iraq, who’s challenging Obama’s plan to keep troops in bases there beyond 2009?”

My initial reaction: somebody’s not paying attention. Because I can answer that question without qualification, having watched Ralph Nader get up in front of a small crowd at First Parish Church in Cambridge Friday night and discuss each and every one of these issues. Head-on. (Along with tax reform, electoral reform, Palestine, the voting age, single payor healthcare, and etcetera). Issues that neither Obama or Hillary are going to acknowledge, much less address . The question isn’t “who is willing to point out the veritable herd of elephants in the room, and, great, stinking beshitted angry elephants at that?”; the question is why on earth The Nation and its readership, since they apparently share precisely the same ideals, refuse to acknowledge the obvious answer. Of course, what The Nation is really asking is, “what magnificently-funded Democratic candidate bearing the corporate nihil obstat and the Wall Street imprimatur is raising these issues?” To which the answer is, such a beast does not, cannot exist in nature, and the absurdity of of asking this basilisk beast to bite the hand that feeds it–or rather, to devour its keeper whole–is patently obvious..

Nader can’t figure out it either; as he inquired on Friday,

"...why are we under the yoke of a two party dictatorship, where people, who agree with one another, are adversaries, if one part of that agreement happens to go into the electoral arena instead of writing articles for The Nation? And so the political bigotry that is directed at any small party independent candidate that challenges the Democratic Party inside the electoral arena, especially at the national level, comes from liberals and progressives addicted to the “least-worst” voting patterns against these challengers. Who they agree with! That’s a rather strange experience to have. I’m used to corporate lobbyists fighting what we’re doing. I rather enjoy it. I understand them—at least, I know where they’re coming from. The oil companies, drug companies, insurance companies, banks. But how do you understand people who agree with you on most issues and turn around and call you a spoiler? These are people who three years out of four condemn the Democratic Party. In all kinds of ways. You could have stopped the war … the Patriot Act …[etc]…"

The gap between the The Nation’s blind eye and Nader’s vision—his eminently pragmatic vision, as befits a man with forty years on The Hill and a jaw-dropping history of legislative success—is the result of sheer timidity on the part of progressive forces in this country, something unknown to their more robust counterparts on the far right (who demand their planks and get them). For example, listen to the drivel with follows in said editorial and which concludes the piece:

"If the limits of the debates aren’t pushed by the nascent progressive movement, we could miss a critical opening. Of course, progressive can’t lose sight of the practicalities of registering voters and getting them to the polls, But this mobilization can also push the Democratic Party to think more boldly and dissent more creatively from the failed conservative consensus of the last quarter century."

I have no idea whatsoever what that means. Especially that word “push.” Push means pressure, and pressure means witholding money and votes, and if there’s one area where Democrats really have demonstrated what “appeasement” is all about it’s in their quadrennial capitulation to whatever representative of the monied interests is busy posing as the next populist savior. Obama is heavily funded by Goldman Sachs, his chief economic advisor is an admirer of Milton Friedman, the head of his VP search team is a major hedge fund manager; the progressives on his team, meanwhile, include , ummmm … no one. And we won’t even get into Hillary, for goddsake, and the high priests of privilege and avarice who make up her posse. And The Nation expects to “push” Senator Obama, along with the rest of the Democratic field this November, into debating the defense budget and “empowering workers to earn their fair share of profits?” With what, another editorial? The question is, when he refuses, as he most certainly will: so whaddya gonna do about it?

Based on past history, Nation readers will show up at the polls, duly cast their votes for the Democratic leadership, and rejoice at the sight of George Bush being rushed out of the Inauguration ceremonies to a chorus of boos, rotten fruit, and with any luck a mob of enraged citizens hightailing it down the street after him, tar, feathers, and pitchforks in hand. But theier issues will remain unsolved—more likely shelved. And so will the problems of the wretched of the earth. (For a while; a little while longer, yet. But not forever).

And Your Wise Men Don’t Know How It Feels To Be Thick as a Brick

I have in front of me a page ripped from the July 8, 2007 Sunday New York Times, headlined “Through a Prism of 40 Years, Newark Examines Deadly Unrest” (“5 Days of Riots Driven by Race-Tinged Rage”). There’s a startling photo of a young black kid walking down the street followed by a squad of National Guardsmen with bayonets leveled, and there’s a discussion with one Junius Williams, today a thoughtful, successful non-profit director who was a very angry young radical in 1967. Mr. Williams “stayed after the fires died down, believing that what he called `the rebellion’ could be harnessed for political change”:

”When we sat down at the bargaining table, an unnamed person sitting with a brick was with us. The most important weapon was that there had been a riot and the powers that be were afraid of us. They would do anything to keep a lid on black anger.”

Well. In 2004, Nader met with Kerry and “provided over 20 pages of issues ranging from environmental protections, labor, healthcare and tax reform to Kerry. He told Kerry that if he highlighted three of these issues in his campaign [Nader] would refrain from running. Kerry failed to act…” Why? Because unlike the good burghers of Newark 40 years ago, the Democratic leadership understands that they have no reason “to keep a lid on progressive anger.” As always, they’ll damn the Democrats up and down for easy acquiescence on the war, on tax cuts, on SCOTUS nominations, on the Patriot Act, on the Farm Bill, on the military budget–and they’ll turn up in November to lend their tacit support for more of the same. Words without bricks mean nothing.

In any case, rather than being a good Party Member and saying to hell with the working class and to hell with drug addicts and to hell with Palestinians and to hell with the defense budget and to hell with the war and to hell with overprescribed drugs and to hell with safe food, Nader walked. That’s “making a demand” and following through; that’s bringing the brick to the table.

In other words, progressives must name the price to be paid to for non-compliance. I remember Nader in ‘04: “If you grant them your vote, they’ll take your vote for granted.“ Your vote is your brick. Frederick Douglas said that “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will,” and he would know. The demand is your brick. Knowing full well that every progressive populist in the country, outside of a few despondent feminists, will join Hillary’s turkey-shootin’, boilermaker-guzzlin’ Democratic brethren in turning out for Obama in November, what compelling reason does the Senator have not to tack to the middle, or worse? We can give them one: Nader is our brick.

Nader reminded us the other night—it’s towards the end of the clip above and it’s a segment worth watching—that “we need more fire in the belly.” We also need the unnamed man with the brick.
See also:
http://www.nosuppertonight.com
http://www.flickr.com/photos/nosuppertonight/

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