Some rally attendees distribute something other than “Nader for President” pamphlets outside Monterey Peninsula College’s lecture forum on Sept. 29. Fliers accusing Ralph Nader of “single-minded egotistical narcissism” circulate through the crowd. They blame Nader for eight years of George Bush, trillions of dollars of debt and a needless war.
Matt Gonzalez, Nader’s VP pick, stands before a packed crowd of young people and quickly makes it clear that he and Nader have not come to apologize. Gonzalez, a former San Francisco supervisor who helped raise that city’s minimum wage to the highest in the country (and narrowly lost the San Francisco mayor’s seat to Gavin Newsom in 2003), asks, “Why are people asking us for an apology for running for office in what’s supposed to be a democracy?”
Gonzalez and Nader save most of their rage for mainstream media, pointing out that they have been systematically denied coverage on major networks– and barred from participating in national debates. Nader has a word for this exclusion: censorship.
“Who are the two parties to tell the American people who gets to debate in front of millions of Americans?” he asks. “If I was up on that stage– which I might add was a very spacious stage– Americans would have a broader frame of reference. They would have seen that we have more choices, more voices, that there are politicians out there without marbles in their mouths.”
Nader could say more about the debates, but “How do you satire satire?” he quips. He tells an enthusiastic crowd the question they should be asking is not “Who won and who lost the debates? but What won and what lost?” Nader says winners include big business, the military-industrial complex and Wall Street. The losers hit closer to home: consumers, taxpayers, we the people.
At 74, Nader isn’t traveling the country and giving lectures in the misguided belief that he might actually get elected. And despite charges that he’ll throw votes to Republican presidential candidate John McCain, it seems Nader might be running for office for some good reasons, like raising public awareness of crucial issues. Calling politicians “cogs in giant corporate wheels,” and using a phrase strangely reminiscent of Timothy Leary, Nader implores: “Wake up, Americans! Cut the crap! Take over!”