Contextual Content

Ralph Nader speaks on an Obama presidency

Story Transcript

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome back to live coverage on The Real News Network from McClatchy offices in Washington, DC. And we are here again with Ralph Nader, who is moving from candidate for president into November5.org. Have I got it right?

RALPH NADER, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes.

JAY: Which will be a campaign to try to transform Congress, yes? Or at least pressure them. Bill Fletcher and Tom Morris. Bill, you just told me you would like to take issue with something Mr. Nader said. So go ahead.

BILL FLETCHER, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, BLACK COMMENTATOR: We were talking during the break. See, part of the problem—. Ralph and I have a strategic disagreement about the relative importance or unimportance of running third-party candidacies for president. I do not think that they make a lot of sense. And I don’t think they make a lot of sense, because of precisely what Ralph was just laying out, in terms of the obstacles in the fact that you have these two party blocs, not political parties but party blocs, and that have a vested interest as blocs in keeping out minor parties. So it seems to me that there are certain strategic implications. One is that we fight within one of those party blocs with an independent agenda and organization and push the politics that need to be pushed. But the second thing is that part of Ralph is talking about doing tomorrow is precisely what needs to happen, and it’s got to be more than him. There are a lot of progressive forces out there that are thinking, "What happens after November 4?" And part of what needs to happen is actually the building of organization that regular people can join that do express these political views and have a relationship to electoral politics, not simply protest organizations. We’ve got to go beyond that. We’ve got to go beyond that. We’ve got to be very affirmative, very—advancing ideas, different proposals, and challenging the right, but not just challenging the loony right, like the Palins, but challenging the right within the Democratic Party, ’cause we were talking before about what could happen if Obama is successful—a number of things, but one is that the Republican Party, as Paul Krugman reported the other day, they could contract into a sort of extreme right-wing loony bin, right? The corporate right could start to shift out of there into the Democratic Party, making the Democratic Party even more so-called centrist or [inaudible]

JAY: In other words, people like Colin Powell stay in the Democratic Party.

FLETCHER: Right. They could basically just say—

JAY: Or Richard Parsons, or [inaudible]

FLETCHER: —"I’m out of here." Right? "I’ll go into the Democratic Party." Because, I mean, if you listen to what Colin Powell said the other day, when he endorsed Obama, he came very close to denouncing the Republican Party. I mean, he—.

JAY: In fact, in some ways he more did it because of his denunciation of the Republican Party.

FLETCHER: Precisely. So I think it’s very possible that we could see a shift. And that raises real questions for old-time liberals, progressives, and people on the left within the Democratic Party.

NADER: Here’s my [inaudible] even if we take those arguments, there’s no motivation out there. The liberal intelligentsia is so freaked out—and that includes the labor union leaders—they’re so freaked out by not having another four years of Republicans (and this happens every four years, you know, 2004, 2000, 1996) that they make no demands on the Democratic nominee. We scanned in 2004 twenty groups who supported Kerry—labor, anti-poverty, civil rights, the ACLU—you know, all these groups that, you know, came out from the consumer, environmental, agrarian reform, antiwar, none of them made a demand on John Kerry. Same this year. They’re basically, "We’re so freaked out with McCain. Don’t make any demands." Therefore, by not pulling Obama this way, they don’t make Obama better. And, of course, he’s being pulled by the corporate interests. Here’s the point. There is a civil liberties issue here. It may be not good strategy to do what Nader-Gonzales did, in Bill’s eyes, but it is an important civil liberties battle to break open these two exclusive, reactionary, dominating, and marginalizing two parties. They’re snuffing out dissent, they’re snuffing out the competition, which in the 19th century brought us the Liberty anti-slavery party and the women suffrage party [National Woman’s Party] and, you know, tried to push these things first on the social justice platform before the two major parties finally accepted them. And it just strikes me that the same person who wants voting rights—you know, you should be able to vote for whoever you want and it should be counted—is almost tone-deaf to candidate rights. And without candidate rights, as gerrymandering has shown us, with one-party-dominated House districts 90 percent of the time, how much are voter rights worth? The great ideas in American history have never come from the major parties; they have come from small parties, independent candidates that never won a national election. In your country, for example, the NDP’s the one who launched Medicare.

JAY: I’m a dual citizen, so I claim both.

NADER: Okay. In Canada, wasn’t it the NDP in the ’60s that launched the move for full Medicare?

JAY: It was, but at the current time there’s an argument that what’s happening is they’re having such a split vote in Canada, even though the majority of people are for, you could say, a social-democratic, left-of-center position, we’re electing conservatives because there’s too many parties.

NADER: Well, give me a multi-party system any time.

JAY: But multi-party with proportional representation makes some sense.

NADER: Fine.

JAY: But when you have first-past-the-posts multi-party, you wind up what’s actually happening in Canada: a split vote and electing conservatives.

NADER: What I’m saying is what the left always misses is they have these prescriptions—the labor union should get tough with Obama, etcetera. There is no motivation here. We have to find the motivation to put fire in people’s belly, like the—.

JAY: Well, this economic situation’s going to create a lot of fire in people’s bellies.

NADER: Don’t bet on it. Don’t bet on it. It could be just the worse. People are so ground under. It’s like the poor, just desperate to get through the day.

JAY: But there is maybe, perhaps, one. And when I look back at the TV set here for a second, if this really is a landslide and we see, at least over the next few years, a demolished Republican Party, that eliminates some of that fear factor, and now maybe there can be a real fight over policy without worrying about the neocon-evangelical takeover.

NADER: Three words will come: give him a chance, give him a chance, three months, six months, ten months.

JAY: What do you think, Tom? Give us—.

TOM MORRIS, HOST, CAPITOL HILL BLUES: Well, I think that it’s not all bad. We’ve seen young people brought into politics. Granted, there’s only two parties to vote for right now, except for, you know, the independent candidates like yourself. But we have seen something we’ve never seen before, since the ’60s: young people awakened politically to stand up, step out, and get out there and actually exercise their right to vote and be a part of the process. And don’t you think that’s in the very least a step towards what you would like to see the country move towards?

NADER: If they (A) stay with it and (B) they raise their expectation levels and take over the party, which didn’t happen in the ’60s.

MORRIS: And don’t call it a day after the Day.

NADER: [inaudible] in the ’60s.

JAY: But that’s what Bill was [inaudible] talking about fighting for.

NADER: Otherwise it’s like going out to a rock concert and seeing the rock star. The key is the liberal, progressive groups in this country, the constituent group, do not put demands on the corporate democrats and their nominee. That’s the question Bill has to address, why every four years they’re so freaked out by the Republicans they don’t make any demands and pull the nominee in the progressive arena. And the labor unions are the worst. They will never demand the repeal of Taft-Hartley. And I’ll bet you they’re not going to get the card check. I’ll bet you any money that he will not push the card checks.

FLETCHER: I think you’re probably right. But, you see, here’s the problem.

JAY: Hold on. Explain the card check [inaudible]

FLETCHER: The Employee Free Choice Act.

JAY: But he said he’s going to vote for it. Obama says he’s voting for the Free Choice Act.

FLETCHER: But it’s as long as that’s brought to him by Congress.

JAY: Yeah. Let me explain. We did talk about it earlier in the show, but give us, like, a 25-second [inaudible]

FLETCHER: Basically, it’s a—

JAY: It’s a very important piece of legislation.

FLETCHER: —statute to make it easier for workers to join or form unions, because we have a long history now of employees regularly intimidating workers, violating the existing law on the right to organize, and therefore discouraging workers from joining and forming unions across the country.

JAY: And to explain this issue of secret ballot versus non- and why that’s important, ’cause the American Chamber of Commerce is spending $30 million to tell everybody that you’re going to lose your right to a secret ballot, and equating it to tonight’s votes.

FLETCHER: There’s two ways that you can generally win a union. One is through a secret ballot election that’s overseen by the National Labor Relations Board, and another is what’s called card-check recognition. And what that is is that the union brings to the employer membership cards that workers have signed, and the employer voluntarily recognizes the union, right? Now, the problem, when the Chamber of Commerce says you’re going to lose your right to a secret-ballot election, here’s the problem: (A) you’re not; but second, a secret ballot election is only as useful as the general context of the election—.

JAY: Okay. Because Ralph has to go, I guess, after this segment—. Do you?

NADER: [inaudible]

JAY: Okay. Well, let me just pick up on Ralph’s point. The short of this is, if this legislation is passed, it will likely open the doors to a lot of organizing and unionization, and Ralph’s raising the issue he doesn’t even think the Democratic Party will pass that, even though they’re campaigning in support of it.

FLETCHER: There are segments of the Democratic Party that will resist it because of corporate influence. There’s no question about it. And part of the problem—and, see, this is actually [inaudible] Ralph and I are on the same page, except for one thing. See, in order to move any of this, you need organization. You don’t need just the Ralph Nader candidacy, Cynthia McKinney candidacy, or any number of others; you need organization on the ground. We need to try and form the union movement, right? We need to transform politics in these communities. And regular people can’t join something and feel like, "Okay, this is a means for me to bring about some sort of change in reality," then you substitute one savior for another.

JAY: [inaudible] give you an example [inaudible] the trade union movement is stronger in Europe, out of the rubble of World War II, okay, through their trade unions’ cooperatives, multiparty system, people in Western Europe demanded and got for all their people, by law, universal health care, decent wages, decent pensions, paid-for week vacation, paid maternity leave, paid family sick leave, decent public transit, university—free tuition. Sixty-three years later, the Republican and Democratic Parties have not delivered the most basic fundamental benefits of a productive economy. That’s the difference. And all you can say, say, "We have to organize stronger unions, we have to do this and that." The motivation is not there. The heads of the union are not the right heads of the union, with few examples [sic]. The key is: how do you motivate regular people who are getting stuffed every day, who are getting disrespected, underpaid, overcharged, ripped off? They die because they don’t have health insurance, 20,000 of them a year. Forty-seven million workers, Wal-Mart wages, $7, $8, $9, $10, under $11 an hour. How do you get them motivated? That’s the key—fire in the belly. Rosa Parks had fire in the belly. The workers in the sit-down strikes in the ’30s against the auto companies—fire in the belly. That’s what’s missing, and that’s what we have to locate and generate. Otherwise, you can have the best plans and the best strategies; nothing’s going to happen. Barack Obama does not have fire in the belly. His advisors in private used to ask him, "Show passion." And, you know, this is in private. And he’d say, "Is that enough passion?" And they’d say, "No, it’s not enough passion." He doesn’t have the passion, and he won too easily.

MORRIS: Well, you’ve got the fire in the belly. You’ve still got it. No question about it.

JAY: Well, that’s the question for November 5, tomorrow. And if people are interested, they can go to November5.org.

NADER: And as Bill said, all I can do is help facilitate. It’s going to take hundreds of thousands of people.

JAY: Okay. Let me just sign off here. Thank you very much. We’ll be back in a few minutes with our continuing live coverage from Washington, DC, of the presidential elections.

DISCLAIMER:

Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.