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Ralph Nader on Government Reform

2004 Reform nominee; 2000 Green Candidate for President


Civic engagement fights corporate-government fascism

Our lack of civic motivation is the greatest problem facing the country today. Our beloved country is being taken apart by large multinational commercial powers.

In our country there is a gap that needs to be closed: the democracy gap. It is often said that "power abhors a vacuum. " When people do not claim power, the greedy step in to fill the void. Every day that capable citizens abstain from civic engagement allows our society and world to tolerate harm and to decay incrementally. The converse is also true. Our efforts, small and large, daily and cumulatively, spread the more noble sentiments of our humanity toward one another. But it isn't happening nearly enough to stem the downward slide of justice in our society.

That in its essence is fascism: ownership of the government by an individual, by a group or any controlling private power. We would do well to heed this age-old wisdom as we ponder why our corporate and political leaders assume more and more control over our lives and futures.

Source: In the Public Interest, Ralph Nader's weekly column Oct 15, 2004

$13M for "educational" party conventions wastes tax dollars

The Democratic Party-Party Convention is over and its singular memory will be its predictable banality and the commercialism that mostly financed it. For this business bacchanalia the taxpayers were required to pay the Democratic party $13 million (and later the same amount for the Republican Party Convention). A few years ago Congress-namely the two Parties-decided that these political Conventions were "educational" in nature and worthy of your tax dollars.

Thwarting a possible terrorist attack was one reason for over tens of millions of dollars spent-the other objective was to keep the people from protesting anywhere near the Fleet Center Convention. The people-voters, taxpayers, workers-were detained in a "free speech zone" (catch the irony) that looked like an ad hoc concentration camp encirclement. The Democratic Party did what it does so regularly in Washington-it shut out the people who resigned themselves to social justice gatherings elsewhere in Boston.

Source: "In the Public Interest" newspaper column Jul 30, 2004

The two parties are proxies for corporate government

NADER [to Dean]: The issue here is the corporate government. Let's not be distracted by the two parties that are simply proxies. We don't want to settle for the lesser of two evils in our country. We don't want to have another special interest clone in Washington. We don't want to have another Washington insider who shifts back and forth with every poll. And we don't want to have insensitivity for the plight of workers, American workers in this country, who have lost their manufacturing jobs. All those quotes come from Howard Dean I against John Kerry in the primaries. What you're hearing now is Howard Dean II, in a desperate attempt to smear our campaign, which is struggling to get on the ballot against the massive anti-civil-liberties obstruction of the Democratic Party that's really interfering with our campaign.
Source: NPR, "Justice Talking" Dean-Nader Debate Jul 9, 2004

Taking away votes from Democrats gains leverage

DEAN [to Nader]: We need complete electoral reform. We wouldn't be having this debate today if we had a system of instant runoff voting in this country. Then Ralph Nader would pose no threat to the election of John Kerry. If we had instant runoff voting, we could have the kind of debates that Ralph wants, open debates, because minor parties, third parties wouldn't cause those problems.

NADER: I would abolish the Electoral College. For the US government to lecture people overseas about democracy and then turn around and say the man who got the lesser number of votes becomes president in 2000, and the person, Gore, who got more votes, is a rather difficult position to uphold. It's also important to recognize, it's the only way third parties have had leverage over the major party candidates is to deny them votes, is to say to them that for too long, they have ignored the needs of the American people. They've had their chance.

Source: NPR, "Justice Talking" Dean-Nader Debate Jul 9, 2004

Advocate to allow people to vote "no confidence"

NADER: In America, you can only vote "yes" when you go to the polls. You have no opportunity to vote "no confidence" in all the candidates. If you have binding "none of the above" on every ballot line, if you don't like the candidates and you don't want to write anyone in, you can vote binding "none of the above."

DEAN: That is exactly the difference between the two of us. We live in a real world. We have to make real choices. Binding "none of the above" means we don't have to make real choices.

Source: NPR, "Justice Talking" Dean-Nader Debate Jul 9, 2004

Democracy gap: people must claim power, or the greedy will

Democracy brings out the best in people because it gives them more freedom, more voice, more lawful order, and more opportunity to advance their visions of a just society. In our country, however, there is a gap that needs to be closed-the democracy gap. It is often said that power abhors a vacuum. When people do not claim power, the greedy step in to fill the void. Every day that capable citizens abstain from civic engagement allows our society and the world to tolerate harm and to decay incrementally.
Source: The Good Fight, by Ralph Nader, p. 1 Jul 6, 2004

Giving information to people overcomes propaganda

Powerless people often aggravate their situation by giving up on themselves. This makes them all the more susceptible to manipulation and flattery by unscrupulous power-brokers and their political proxies. This vulnerability results from the absence of an absorbed information base to provide a shield against artful propaganda and deception.
Source: The Good Fight, by Ralph Nader, p. 4-5 Jul 6, 2004

Change requires a critical mass of the involved

A lack of a critical mass of involved citizens on any issue, whatever the scale, contributes to the "see, you can't get anything done," "what's the use," syndrome which feeds on its own futility
Source: The Good Fight, by Ralph Nader, p. 6 Jul 6, 2004

Presidential Debates designed to exclude third parties

The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) is a private corporation created in 1987 by the Republican and Democratic Parties to seize complete control over the Presidential Debate process. Its principal objectives are to exclude competitors from 3rd parties or independent candidacies, and to control the number and format of debates.

Since 1980 only Ross Perot has gotten on these debates. After gaining 19 million votes in 1992, he was kept off the debates in 1996 by his two major competitors.

Source: In the Public Interest: "Citizens' Debate Commission" Jan 17, 2004

Increase voting by weekend and holiday Election Days

Nader continued to tout his none-of-the-above ballot option, the centerpiece of his New Hampshire primary run in 1992. To increase turnout at the polls, Nader also believed that the US should institute voting on weekends or maybe designate a national voters holiday.

Going back to the days of the Congress Project, Nader had been an advocate of campaign finance reform. He favored public financing of elections by means of a nominal checkoff ($3 or so) on individual tax returns.

Source: Nader: Crusader, Spoiler, Icon, by Justin Martin, p.251 Sep 1, 2002

Primary architect of Freedom of Information Act

Through Nader's efforts, dozens of safety laws have passed, and at times he has shown himself to be as skilled a legislator as any senator. Whenever a door has been closed on him, he has simply pushed open another-constantly adapting-gathering support at the grass roots when necessary, or getting his message out by running for president-three times now. He is a fierce proponent of openness on the part of government and corporations-in fact, he is the primary architect of Freedom of Information Act
Source: Nader: Crusader, Spoiler, Icon, by Justin Martin, p. xiv Sep 1, 2002

Bush & Gore are same corporate party; would impeach Clinton

Nader says he doesn’t care whether Bush or Gore wins. The two, he rails, are “part of one big corporate party,” with no real differences. Indeed, Nader argues that former President George Bush was better than Bill Clinton is on issues like occupational safety. Nader also says that is he had been in the Senate, he would have voted to impeach Clinton: “He disgraced the office.”

What Nader wants is to build a permanent progressive force. “This is a new political movement,” he says.

Source: Matthew Cooper, Time magazine, p. 79 Nov 6, 2000

Don’t waste your vote: Gore & Bush only marginally differ

Nader is wrapping up a national tour with the theme “Don’t Waste Your Vote.” Gore and Bush, he said, “are both so marginal on the great issue of the distribution of power and wealth, and the corruption of cash register politics, that whatever real differences they are willing to fight for pale in comparison to the major subjects they are exactly on the same page on.”
Source: Thomas Edsall, Washington Post, p. A1 Oct 23, 2000

Supreme Court nominees should have a sense of justice

Q: If you were president, how would you determine your nominees for the Supreme Court?

A: Well, a certain level of intellectual power, a sense of justice, as demonstrated by the record of the potential nominee. How has the person used his or her time as an attorney in advancing justice in society? And a sense of judicial impartiality.

My litmus paper test is: Does the judge allow a fair hearing for all sides to the litigation? That’s the key because impartiality means you keep an open mind.

Source: CNN: “Burden of Proof” Aug 9, 2000

Nader in debates will draw out the “priceless truth”

Narrator:
“Grilled tenderloin for fund-raiser: $1,000 a plate.”
“Campaign ads filled with half-truths: $10 million.”
“Promises to special interest groups: Over $10 billion.”
“Finding out the truth: Priceless.”
“There are some things money can’t buy. Without Ralph Nader in the presidential debates, the truth will come in last. Find out how you can help. Go to votenader.com. Vote Ralph Nader for president.”
Source: TV ad, “Priceless Truth” Aug 9, 2000

Justices need sense of justice & sense of history

Q: What are your criteria for Supreme Court Justice appointments?
Source: National Press Club interview (aired on NPR) Jul 23, 2000

Allow voting for “None of the Above”

[I think people] are overwhelmingly supportive of a binding none-of-the-above law. So if you don’t like who’s on the ballot, you can go down and vote for None of the Above in your voting precinct. If None of the Above wins more votes than any of the other candidates, it cancels that particular election, sends the candidates packing and orders, within thirty or forty-five days, a new election and new candidates.
Source: Alternative Radio interview with David Barsamian Feb 23, 2000

Empower citizens via accurate information from govt

Democracy must empower and enable citizens to obtain timely and accurate information from their government, enable citizens to band together in civic associations in pursuit of a just society, and communicate their judgments through modern technology.
Source: The Concord Principles, An Agenda for a New Democracy, # 1 Feb 21, 2000

Reinvent democracy via new tools for citizen empowerment

Reinventing democracy requires that we create new tools of empowerment: new mechanisms of civic communication, political organization, government assistance, and legal rights that can advance the distinct interests of citizens, taxpayers, consumers, workers and shareholders. These structural and procedural reforms will help to foster a new “fifth estate” of individual Americans, capable of acting independently from entrenched institutional-that is, chiefly corporate and governmental-power.
Source: VoteNader.com, “Citizen Action” Feb 21, 2000

Concentrated party power weakens democracy

In a January 17 column, Nader accused the major parties of purposely keeping small political parties off the ballot. In a subsequent column, he took on the media for failing to ask tough questions of candidates. “Every 4 years, a half-dozen campaigns issues are drably questioned and drearily answered,” he wrote. “Too much power in the hands of the few has weakened our democracy. People need stronger civic tools to band together, learn together and act together to make the Big Boys behave,” he wrote.
Source: CNN.com Feb 17, 2000

Focus on anti-trust enforcement to help small business

Q: How would you run the Department of Justice differently?

A: I’d emphasize the word justice. Special influences distort the mission of the department. Its priorities are not in the area of corporate crime, fraud and abuse. I would emphasize anti-trust enforcement. Pro-competitive policies are essential for small business innovators and entrepreneurs to have a fair shake at becoming significant factors of production in our country.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday Interview, p. 3/Z1 Oct 13, 1996

100% publicly funded campaigns, by $100 tax checkoff

Q: President Nader does what?

A: A major strengthening of our democracy. Getting private money out of public campaigns, by well-promoted, voluntary checkoff on the 1040 tax return, up to 100 dollars per person.

Q: No contributions?

A: If you go and use that as a candidate, you can’t take private money.

Q: You have to go to the Supreme Court to do that.

A: Yes, you have to change the Constitution.

Source: Interview on “Larry King Live” Oct 6, 1996

Government delivers more service than people realize

Q: Was it you that told me that if the federal government shut down for a year it would be the most popular institution in the country?

A: Yes, because people would realize how much flows in terms of economic activity, technological research, health care research, health care delivery, management of the parks and the forests, construction. They would realize just how much they were getting from the government. Not to mention a lot of these new technologies, like telecommunications, satellites, all came out of the Defense Department and the space program in terms of the basic research, development and engineering stages. When the government isn’t perceived as delivering, the demand is to cut back and strip government of its capability to deliver, instead of rising up and making government deliver.

Source: Alternative Radio, interview by David Barsamian Dec 9, 1995


Ralph Nader on Campaign Finance Reform

Green Party does not take PAC, soft, or corporate cash

We’re trying to do it right by not taking PAC money, not taking corporate cash money, not taking dirty soft money, just individual money, and that kind of response to our Web site, votenader.com, is convincing us that people want-no matter who they are-Perot voters, McCain voters, Bradley voters-they want dirty money out of campaigns, and we’re moving toward full public funding of public elections.
Source: Nader-Buchanan debate on ‘Meet the Press’ Oct 1, 2000

No private money in public campaigns

Q: Who should be allowed in the debates?

A: If you get over 5% of the vote, and you get funds for the next four years, you should be qualified to get on the debate. So we believe in a 5% threshold.

Q: Even if it was a hate-mongering organization?

A: Yes of course. I don’t think that kind of organization would ever get 5% or higher.

Q: Why does it help you?

A: It doesn’t. It pushes the whole movement toward public financing for public campaigns. We want no private money in public campaigns.

Source: CNN: “Burden of Proof” Aug 9, 2000

Spending campaign money is not free speech

Q: What about money as free speech? Would you be keen to challenge the Supreme Court decision Buckley v. Veleo, which defined money as free speech?
A: Yes. It allows public financing if you don’t take private financing. It permits soft money which can be constitutionally prohibited by legislation, which is what John McCain wants to do. It allows independent expenditures and billionaires funding their own campaigns, and that has to either be subject to a reversal by the Supreme Court of Buckley v. Veleo or a constitutional amendment. However, legislation can say that if someone raises $20 million of his or her money and spends it on TV, that the TV can be required to give equal time to less affluent candidates. There are ways to dull the effects of Buckley v. Veleo, and I think we’re going to see more Supreme Court decisions chipping away at it.
Source: Alternative Radio interview with David Barsamian Feb 23, 2000

Public campaign finance; 12-year term limits

Citizens should have measures to ensure that their voting powers are not diluted, over-run, or nullified. Such measures include easier voter registration, state-level binding initiatives and referendums , public financing of campaigns, and term limits not to exceed 12 years.
Source: The Concord Principles, An Agenda for a New Democracy, # 4 Feb 21, 2000

Public election financing, with free TV & radio time

Up against the corporate government, voters find themselves asked to choose between look-a-like candidates from two parties vying to see who takes the marching orders from their campaign paymasters. The money of vested interests nullifies genuine voter choice and trust. Our elections have been put out for auction to the highest bidder. Public elections must be publicly financed and it can be done with well-promoted voluntary checkoffs and free TV and Radio time for ballot-qualified candidates.
Source: Green Party Announcement Speech Feb 21, 2000

Other candidates on Government Reform: Ralph Nader on other issues:
George W. Bush
Dick Cheney
John Edwards
John Kerry

Third Party Candidates:
Michael Baradnik
Peter Camejo
David Cobb
Ralph Nader
Michael Peroutka

Democratic Primaries:
Carol Moseley Braun
Wesley Clark
Howard Dean
Dick Gephardt
Bob Graham
Dennis Kucinich
Joe Lieberman
Al Sharpton
Abortion
Budget/Economy
Civil Rights
Corporations
Crime
Drugs
Education
Energy/Oil
Environment
Families/Children
Foreign Policy
Free Trade
Govt. Reform
Gun Control
Health Care
Homeland Security
Immigration
Infrastructure/Technology
Jobs
Principles/Values
Social Security
Tax Reform
War/Iraq/Mideast
Welfare/Poverty
Adv: Avi Green for State Rep Middlesex 26, Somerville & Cambridge Massachusetts