Nader Rally Address
The following speech was delivered at a Green Party rally on Sunday, November 5th, 2000 at Union Street Station in Traverse City. The speech as presented was slightly truncated due to time considerations. What follows is the entire original speech as written. I would like to thank Electric Violet for inviting me to speak and for their fabulous musical accompaniment.
I am about to deliver to you a healthy dose of political rhetoric. On an occasion such as this, I believe that we should look to the political rhetoric of the past for insights about the present. These words were spoken by a man who is arguably the greatest English orator of the twentieth century:
"These United States are confronted with an economic affliction of great proportions. We suffer from the longest and one of the worst-sustained inflations in our national history. It distorts our economic decisions, penalizes thrift, and crushes the struggling young and the fixed-income elderly alike. It threatens to shatter the lives of millions of our people. Idle industries have cast workers into unemployment, human misery, and personal indignity. Those who do work are denied a fair return for their labor by a tax system which penalizes successful achievement and keeps us from maintaining full productivity, but great as our tax burden is, it has not kept pace with public spending. For decades, we have piled deficit upon deficit mortgaging our future and our children's future for the temporary convenience of the present. To continue this long trend is to guarantee tremendous social, cultural, political, and economic upheavals. You and I as individuals can, by borrowing, live beyond our means but for only a limited period of time. Why then should we think that collectively as a nation we're not bound by that same limitation? We must act today in order to preserve tomorrow, and let there be no misunderstanding, we're going to begin to act beginning today."
Those words were spoken nearly twenty years ago by president-elect Ronald Reagan in his 1981 inaugural address. Reagan was a liar. For eight years, he deceived the American people as our liberties were sacrificed and control of our economy was secured to those who already enjoyed more than their fair share. Under Reaganís misadministration, the national debt rose from one trillion dollars in 1980 to four trillion dollars in 1988, mortgaging our future. Lying came naturally to Reagan. He was, after all, an actor. He had spent his entire adult life convincing others that he was something that he was not. Since 1980, we have experienced tremendous social, cultural, and economic upheavals. Politically, however, it has been business as usual.
Twenty years ago , I watched in horror as my entire country and culture were sold down the river to corporate interests. I have seen my culture replaced with corporate junk culture and the concept of a strong economy substituted for that of a quality society. For twenty years, I have waited and watched. I have been waiting and watching for a beacon of hope, a shining light in the darkness of what American politics has become. I donít need a thousand lights. I already saw those as they winked out one by one from 1988 to 1992. Over the years, we have become so jaded to politics and politicians that we have stopped looking for people of extraordinary quality to represent us. We expect that our representatives will lie to us. We expect that they will give us the shaft, conduct secret deals, and hide from us the nature and extent of what is really happening in America and to its people.
I expect more than that from my representatives. I expect my representatives to exemplify the best that the human race has to offer. I expect representatives who represent me and my people rather than the dubious needs of the New American Oligarchy. I expect integrity from my representatives. This year, the Repugnacrats have offered to us a false choice between two sons of the New American Oligarchy. We may "choose" from the son of a former senator and the son of a former president. Numerous concerned citizens have registered to vote for the first time, terrified that George W. Bush will be our new president. I have conversed and argued with Gore "supporters" who view my dedication to one man and the ideals he represents as a kind of selfish madness that just might help to secure the election for the scariest monster on the block. They have begged me. They have pleaded with me. They have insulted me and mustered every argument they could invent to cause me to change my mind. Every time, I have posed the same question: "What do you see in Al Gore that you like?" Every time, the answer is the same: "He's not as bad as Bush." For those of you who support Gore, if that is the reasoning that inclines you to support him, I urge you to join me in rebuking both of these hypocrites. From my perspective, neither of these men deserve the support of any American citizen.
Voting for a candidate in whom you have no faith because you are more afraid of another candidate is not democracy. It is a perversion of democracy. This false choice presented by the Repugnacrats is a mockery of reason and everything good our society and form of government represents. We have been faced with a false choice of two great evils, the evil of Al Gore and the evil of George W. Bush. I am here today to tell you what I have decided about these dishonest and mediocre men. Neither of them is qualified to occupy the highest office of the land. In addition to being mouthpieces for the same powerful corporate interests that have subverted our country, our government, and our way of life, neither of the Repugnacratic candidates possesses the slightest shred of integrity. Neither of them represents you, me, or any other person who lacks the huge wad of cash necessary to pay the price of admission into our closed system of governmental mismanagement. Sometimes I feel like Iím in a bad restaurant that serves only milk and Dr. Pepper when what I really want is a glass of water.
When I was a child, I grew used to hearing the names of celebrities. There was an endless string of names to remember, actors and actresses, game-show hosts and politicians, singers and performers of music. Over and over in the 1970's, I found reference to Ralph Nader. This confused me. He wasn't an actor or singer, and he didn't seem to be a politician either. Who was he? I asked my mother. She reared up with pride as she told me that Ralph Nader was a consumer advocate. That he had become famous by exposing the dangers of the GM Corvair, a vehicle that is "Unsafe at Any Speed." He did this not for profit and not for personal gain; he did because it was the right thing to do; he did it because it needed to get done; he did it because it would take the sustained and unrelenting effort or a genuinely civic-minded American to protect American citizens from the predators of our system. Ralph won that one. He has been winning ever since. Ralphís concerns have ranged from ending the war on drugs to protecting our environment from destruction by unchecked profiteers. In the 1970's, Ralph's work led directly to the creation of a governmental agency geared toward protecting the environment. Perhaps you have heard of the Environmental Protection Agency. Ralph Nader is a living paradigm of citizenship.
Some of you might be thinking that Ralph has no chance of winning so voting for him is a wasted vote. This is not a horse race, and it is not a football game. We do not vote in order to back a winner. We vote in order to support what is right. We vote in order to express our beliefs to those who represent us. A vote for Bush or Gore legitimizes their candidacies. A vote for Bush or Gore is a vote to endorse the evils that have corrupted our society and threaten our self-determination and way of life. For those reasons, I will tell you that a vote for Bush or Gore is a wasted vote. A vote for Bush or Gore is a message to the Repugnacrats that business as usual in Washington is fine, just fine.
I am not imploring you to choose between the evils of two lessers. I am imploring you to choose no evil whatsoever. I am imploring you to support decency and integrity. I am imploring you to choose to stand with me and tell our corrupt and decadent "leaders" that we are good Americans and that our needs will not be neglected; that America will not be sold to the highest bidder; that among all the traits we value in our representatives, integrity and civic responsibility are what we value the most.
Please keep in mind one genuine, tangible benefit that is to be gained from a vote for Nader or the Green party. For many decades, a bluff has been pulled on American voters. This bluff has been so effective that most people seem to believe not only that any issue has only two sides but the Repugnacrats represent both of those sides. The Repugnacrats are entitled to public funds in order to run their affairs and conduct their campaigns. A political party must earn five percent of the popular vote in order to receive these monies. If we can do that this time, the Green Party will be legitimized, and our democracy will be that much stronger.
This isnít about this election, and itís not about the next one either. Itís about fulfillment of the promise of the American Dream. Itís about making the decision to move toward self-determination. Most of us were born here. We live here. And most of us will die here. It is incumbent upon each and every one of us to decide whether our futures will be conducted as slaves of a corporate oligarchy or as free citizens of the greatest democracy the world has ever known.
I am not here to sell you the Green party or its platform. I am here to sell you on voting for Nader. I am here to tell you that the American political system as it stands is unacceptable, but you already knew that. I am here to tell you that the monopoly held by the Repugnacratic party is unacceptable. I think you knew that too. I am here to tell you that every time a political party is able to make itself heard, democracy and its principles are strengthened. I am here to tell you that if more people can be heard, the odds that your views will be voiced, heard, and acted upon increase. American society is a rainbow society comprised of people from all walks of life from all ethnicities of the world. Within that shining mosaic, we cannot afford to believe that one party masquerading as two parties represents the whole of our society or even most of it.
"We must act today in order to preserve tomorrow, and let there be no misunderstanding, we're going to begin to act beginning today."
Any war conducted by American citizens against American citizens cannot be won. In a free society, citizens will exercize those liberties to which they have grown accustomed regardless as to whether the government acknowledges, defends, or supresses those liberties.