Posted 6 years ago on Nov. 18, 2014, 10:24 a.m. EST by flip
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RALPH NADER: I mean, my book, Unstoppable, is trying to get the public to focus on the areas where left-right agree, because the divide-and-rule strategy of the power structure is to get left-right focused on where they disagree. And they do disagree. But they agree on huge areas. They agree on civil liberties. They agree against empire. They agree to crack down on Wall Street and have Main Street over Wall Street. They agree on juvenile justice reform and, increasingly, prison reform. And they certainly agree on the giant job-exporting, corporate-managed trade agreements and the tax escapes of companies like General Electric and Apple. I mean, there’s a lot of agreement there. But it’s got to be sparked by a small number of people in the communities who are not just concerned, but they’re serious enough to dedicate the time. That’s what—that dedicates its time and starts showing up at meetings.
RALPH NADER: Juan, you’re right on that, and you’re right about voter restriction. These are injustices. But you cannot allow the Democrats to turn them into alibis. The Democrats raised huge amounts of money this time around and in 2012 in their own right, plenty of money to win. And number two, they don’t get their own voters out, because although they finally came around to the only issue that Politico said is getting traction for the Democrats—raising the minimum wage for 30 million people, who are paid less now than workers in 1968, adjusted for inflation, 30 million people and their families, a lot of voters—they didn’t make it a big enough issue. I had a conversation with Senator Harry Reid about three-and-a-half weeks ago, and I said, "This issue’s catching on, Harry. But it has to be nationalized by the president in a barnstorm around the country." And he agreed. He said he was going to call the president.
But what did we get? We got a president who spent almost two weeks in salons, from New York and Maine and San Francisco and Los Angeles, raising money for the Democrats, not barnstorming the country on an issue that has 80 percent, 80 percent support, that even Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum have come out for restoring the minimum wage. So, it is the—they didn’t have a policy. They didn’t have agenda. They didn’t have the message. They had tons of money to put on insipid television ads that didn’t move the needle.
And a perfect example of that is the incumbent senator who just lost in Arkansas, Senator Mark Pryor. He came to the U.S. Senate, and he made sure that he was going to turn his back on the citizen groups, the liberal groups, the progressive groups. He was in charge of the Subcommittee on Consumer Affairs. We couldn’t even get a meeting with him. We couldn’t even get him to return our calls. I worked with his father, the prior senator from Arkansas, on nursing home reform. And now he paid the penalty.
In other words, people back home are not given enough reason to vote for the Democrats. But they’re given plenty of emotional reason to vote for the Republicans because of all the social issues—the school prayer, the reproductive rights, the gun control. The Democrats have dropped the economic issue that won election after election for Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry Truman. They can no longer defend our country against the most militaristic, corporatist, cruel, anti-worker, anti-consumer, anti-environment, anti-women, even anti-children programs, the Republican Party. A lot of soul searching is needed, and we shouldn’t let Citizens United and voting restriction laws, which are being upended by good judges, fortunately, in several states—we shouldn’t allow those to be used as alibis by the Democrats in Congress.
RALPH NADER: Yeah, I mean, there’s no doubt. But, you see, it really has to come back to the people, does it not? I mean, we really—we can’t let our keen sense of injustice on issue A, B, C, D, take us away from looking at ourselves in the mirror and starting to organize in every district. I’ve said again and again, if 1 percent of the people organize in every congressional district around an agenda that has popular support—and we know what the issues are, whether it’s living wage or cracking down on Wall Street or making corporations pay their fair share of taxes or full Medicare for all, everybody in, nobody out, free choice of doctor and hospital—these all come in, and many others, majority support. And as Abraham Lincoln once said, with public sentiment, you can do anything. And all it takes is 1 percent. I mean, there have been changes in our country, Amy and Juan, in the history, as you know better than anybody, where it’s far less than 1 percent turned it around, not only to start it, but at the victory level, it was less than 1 percent of people who really made change their principal civic concern. And that’s what we have to do. That’s the takeaway from this election.
We cannot be dependent anymore on representatives who sweet-talk us and go back to Washington and betray us for careerism. The curse of the Democratic Party is gerrymandering that keeps them in office without adequate challenge, never mind from the Republicans, but their own gerrymandered district. And they have a careeristic mentality, the best of them. Senator Ed Markey has just been re-elected, probably with a landslide. He doesn’t return calls to citizen groups anymore, except on nuclear power, where he’s terrific. They’re very, very satisfied, very complacent, very sure that they can continue going to work every day, but they don’t have that sense of perceived injustice and empathy that would rouse the public. They’re not rousing the public. They’re pursuing their own careers and grumbling about the Republicans.