After declaring his fourth consecutive third-party bid for the presidency only two weeks ago, Ralph Nader '55 explained his reasons for running and called for greater civic activism on Saturday afternoon at a Princeton University lecture hall.
Co-sponsored by the Arab Society of Princeton and Princeton Justice Project, Nader's lecture was titled "The Corporate State and the Destruction of Democracy."
Nader, a well-known consumer advocate and the son of Lebanese immigrants, criticized the practice of voting for the "least-worst" candidate, and said that such a practice devalues citizens' votes.
As a third-party candidate, Nader has been obstructed numerous times from appearing on the ballot, he said, adding that "[Third parties] are constantly getting this political bigotry as if somehow we're second class citizens."
"Unfortunately, we live in a period in our history when political bigotry against third parties and third-party candidates is at an all-time high, and the two-party duopoly has somehow sold us on this notion that we've got to vote for winners, and if both winners aren't that great then we'll go for the least worst," Nader said. "And once you signal that you can't go anywhere else other than Democrat or Republican ... you will then be viewed as the vote that can be taken for granted."
Nader, whose vice-presidential running mate is Matthew Gonzalez, called the government a corporate state, pointing out that while labeling the war in Iraq as a worthy sacrifice, neither Vice President Dick Cheney nor President Bush has any offspring serving in Iraq.
Outlining specific policy proposals for his platform, Nader explained that he plans "to adopt a single-payer national health insurance, cut the huge, bloated, wasteful military budget ... [say] no to nuclear power, [create] a national solar energy purse, [begin an] aggressive crackdown on corporate crime and corporate wealth, open presidential debates, adopt the carbon pollution tax, reverse U.S. policy in the Mid-East, impeach Bush-Cheney ... repeal [the] Taft-Hartley anti-union law of 1947, adopt Wall Street security speculation tax, put an end to violent acts of obstructionism against third parties and end corporate personhood."
Nader also warned Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.)'s campaign to avoid race-based comparisons between Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and previous African-American candidates.
"I hope they don't go towards that cliff. It could become very ugly," Nader said.
When discussing the current political landscape, he described Obama and Clinton, an African American and a woman, vying for the Democratic nomination as a "fantastic chapter in American history, apart from all of their positions," adding that his own campaign presents stances on issues that oppose the similar positions of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Clinton and Obama.
A corporate Supreme Court?
Nader's talk came only a day after Associate Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia received the James Madison Award for Distinguished Public Service and gave a public address on the role of the Court.
Nader referenced Scalia several times during his talk, mentioning that he has written several times to the justice but has yet to receive a response.
"This country is not designed for corporate supremacy. The preamble of the Constitution ... is 'We the people,' not 'We the corporations,' " Nader said.
While courts have interpreted the 14th amendment to protect rights of corporations, Nader does not believe that corporations and private citizens deserve equal consideration.
"[A corporation] doesn't vote. It doesn't die in Iraq. It doesn't raise children. Yet it has been given every single constitutional ight you and I have except the fifth amendment against self-incrimination," Nader said.
After listing a range of other social injustices, such as the 13 million children who he said go to sleep hungry at night and the 45 million individuals earning under $10.50/hour and living without health insurance, Nader repeatedly implored the audience to consider its reactions.
"I just want you to ask yourself: Are you getting angry? What's your level of social indignation? Now listen, focus on the political system here. How do corporations take over governments?" Nader said.
"There are parts of America that now resemble the Third World, and in these pockets of industrial blight and despair the end of the world is no longer an abstraction," said Chris Hedges, a lecturer for the Council of the Humanities and an Anschutz Distinguished Fellow for American studies. Hedges, who is a journalist, added that "Ralph addresses honestly and courageously issues that I've spent most of my life writing about, watching and covering."
Both of Nader's parents migrated from Lebanon, and he has often represented Arab-American concerns in his political career.
"He is the first Arab-American presidential candidate in the history of the United States. As an advocate of Arab-American civil rights and a spokesperson for Palestinian, Iraqi and Arab rights as a whole, Mr. Nader is one of few American political leaders to speak on behalf of the Arab people," said sophomore Sarah Mousa, president of the Princeton Arab Society and a staff writer for The Daily Princetonian.
© 2008 The Daily Princetonian via U-WIRE