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Ralph Nader Is Tired of Running for President
Posted on Jul 4, 2011
By Chris Hedges
“The first sign that there is a real breakdown is that the bridge between the people you mentioned and the people who should be speaking out as a result of their professional status is not there,” Nader said. “I am talking about the deans of law schools and law professors, as well as leading members of the bar. The obverse of that is that in 2005 and 2006 there was a bridge built. It was the president of the [American Bar Association] Michael Greco. He thought the destruction of the rule of law by George Bush was historically very dangerous. He commissioned three reports, using members of the ABA who were formally in national security agencies such as the FBI, the NSA, the CIA and the Justice Department. They came up with three white papers on three subjects, one of them being signing statements. They concluded that the recurrent violations by President Bush had risen to the state of serious violations of our Constitution. These papers were made public. They sent them to President Bush. He never replied. Apart from The Associated Press, the press, including the [New York] Times and the [Washington] Post, ignored it. That to me was a much bigger litmus test. It showed how deep the institutionalized official illegality has become, more important than the ignoring of people like Chomsky and us.
“Usually people who are candid in calling things as they are, are viewed as people on the outside who want to change the system,” Nader said. “In the historic past they were socialists. They were radical labor leaders such as the [Industrial Workers of the World]. This time those people who are speaking out want a restoration of the rule of law. This is a pretty conservative goal. The extreme radicals are now in charge of our country, the military-industrial complex and the White House. It is not so much the military as the civilian leadership, the neocons in the White House. The military does not like to get into wars, but once they are in it is very hard to control them because they want to win.
“It’s not like Japan in 1939, which really was a militaristic society,” Nader went on. “It is exactly the opposite of what the constitutional founders thought would be the case. They put the civilians in charge to restrain the military. In effect, these people are activating and pushing the military into places the military does not want to go. They use a volunteer Army, flatter it, give it a lot of weaponry and send it abroad. Only about 5 million people, soldiers and their families, feel what is going on. Once it is entrenched, once you accept this neocon ideology, which is a vitriolic, aggressive, empire-spreading ideology, run largely by draft dodgers who in their youth gung-hoed the Vietnam War but wanted their friends to go and die for it, then democracy is too weak to overcome that. Two dozen people plunged this country into war. The first arena designed to stop this is the Congress, but it does not observe its constitutional duties or require a declaration of war.”
While protests are useful, Nader does not see any possibility for reform until there is a widespread effort to organize a sustained and radical opposition movement. This will come by building a movement that offers an alternative ideology and vision to that of unfettered capitalism, consumerism, empire and globalization. It is something Nader tried and failed to do during his own presidential campaigns.
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When I asked Nader, who mounted campaigns for the presidency in 2000, 2004 and 2008, if he would consider running again, he answered that it was “very unlikely.”
“You have millions of people who say run, run, run,” he said. “Then you put yourself out there and find they are voting for Obama. Until they become mature, until they realize that if they generate 5 to 8 million votes behind a progressive third-party candidate for leverage, what is the point? Why should people try four or five times? Let someone else do it.
“The people who go out there with some credibility and record, go into 50 states, sweat it out month after month, beating back ballot access obstacles, fighting the Democrats who are trying to suppress free speech and candidate choices for the voters, and then you still can’t get on the air to discuss civil liberties,” he said. “Never mind that they do not want to upset dear Obama or dear [John] Kerry. They don’t give you airtime to discuss the simple issue of the denial of civil liberties and the crushing of third parties.”
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