Ralph Nader, Independent candidate for U.S. president, spoke in Toronto on August 11 in an effort to attract the support of some of the 700,000 Americans who live in Canada.
Over 200 people came to hear his message in the former trading floor of the Toronto Stock Exchange, now the Design Exchange on Bay St.
The U.S. electoral system is an âeoeossified two-partyocracyâe today, asserted Nader, noting that third party candidates are penalized by the Electoral College system that needs to be reformed.
âeoeIt's as if the two parties own the voters,âe said Nader. âeoeAmericans need to get over the political bigotry that there are only two parties.âe
In his casual style, Nader commented that his message âeoemust be astonishing to Canadians who have a multiparty systemâe where a number of candidates can run in elections without the barriers in the U.S.
The restrictive rules and expense to run in the election means that the system disenfranchises a large portion of the U.S. population, explained Nader. Each state has its own rules and they make it difficult to qualify on the ballot.
For their part, Nader and vice-presidential running mate Matt Gonzalez are on the ballot in 30 states. The goal is to be on the ballot in 45 states by September 15.
Nader's talk was preceded by a partial screening of the biographical documentary An Unreasonable Man. The film tells the story of Nader's rise to the role of public defender against corporations.
Several of his college friends died in terrible crashes because of the lack of simple safety design like seat belts. It hard to believe that driver safety was not a concern for car manufacturers 50 years ago.
Nader couldn't understand why his friends and hundreds of others were allowed to die as an acceptable business practice. Nader tenaciously researched the situation and spoke to experts to discover that the âeoeBig Threeâe car manufacturers knew how dangerous their designs were.
Nader's book Unsafe At Any Speed shook the automobile industry and he became a target of a smear campaign by the corporations. One absurd episode came in a supermarket when a woman approached Nader and invited him to discuss 'foreign affairs.âe The astonished Nader later discovered that the woman had been hired by General Motors to entrap him in an affair that could be used to discredit him.
Nader's career as a crusader against corporate crimes made him many enemies and many more admirers. In the late 60s, several students approached Nader and offered to help him in his campaigns. Nader's Raiders was formed and took on issues like polluted air and water, food safety and many other social ills that corporations ignored in pursuit of profit.
âeoeMainstream political parties can essentially cooperate in failing to even attempt to solve problems faced by a majority of citizens, usually because they have been funded and supported in other ways by large corporations,âe commented Democracy Watch's Duff Conacher, who was in the audience in Toronto.
Nader's campaigns for U.S. president in 2000 and 2004 were controversial and caused anger in the losing Democratic Party. Many blamed Nader for splitting the vote.
In response, Nader points out that Al Gore came in first in 2000 with the most votes and the Electoral College denied him the victory. âeoeYou can come in first and lose,âe emphasized Nader.
A fairer system of proportion representation could have meant that George W. Bush would have never gained the White House. Gore should have be president in 2000 according to the numbers but the system worked against him.
âeoeNader's presidential campaign, as with other similar past campaigns by independents and third parties, serve the purpose of educating people about the huge gaps in the mainstream parties' platforms,âe adds Conacher.
In Canada, our health care system was conceived in Saskatchewan by CCF leader Tommy Douglas and later adopted across Canada. Despite furious initial opposition by other political parties, universal health care is now recognized as one of Canada's advantages over the U.S.
Nader calls the U.S. health care system a disgrace where 18,000 die each year because they can't afford for-profit health care. Nader advocates single payer national health insurance while Obama and McCain refuse to discuss the issue.
There are several other issues where Nader differs from Obama and McCain: impeachment of Bush and Cheney; withdrawal from Iraq; restoring civil liberties; repealing anti-union laws; supporting industrial hemp; and cutting the wasteful military budget. According to Nader, Obama and McCain âeoenever met a weapons system they didn't like.âe
Nader asserted that McCain and Obama are âeoenot stupid, they've developed a highly proficient way of censoring themselvesâe in order to win.
Nader's campaign advocates an âeoeaggressive crackdown on corporate crime and corporate welfare.âe His campaign website details twelve steps to begin this crackdown.
Conacherâe(TM)s Democracy Watch seeks to close the 100 systemic loopholes in the government accountability system, and 30 systemic loopholes in the corporate responsibility system.
âeoeUntil these loopholes are closed you will continue to see regular dishonest, unethical, secretive, unrepresentative and wasteful actions by governments and corporations,âe said Conacher.
In Toronto, Nader took time to take questions from the audience. One wanted to know what would be the updated title of his first book. With a wry grin, Nader responded, âeoeHello Americans. Cut the crap! Stop making excuses and take over.âe
Darren Alexander asked Nader about Media Democracy Day in October. âeoeMedia corporate control has never been more centralized,âe responded Nader. However, Nader added, people have learned to look for their information on the Internet and recommended Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! website.
Democracy Now! can be heard locally on CIUT, 89.5 FM. The evening was running an hour long as Nader took numerous questions and answered slowly and deliberately. He avoided the sound bites of the polished politicians and often deviated from the original subject.
Nader's campaign includes holding âeoesuper ralliesâe during the Democratic and Republican National Conventions in Denver and Minneapolis. The goal is to âeoeprotest the corporate control over our political system and to call for opening the presidential debates.âe
Thank you for reading this story…
More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.
rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.
So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.
And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.