Nader Calls on Obama to Challenge the White Establishment

Ralph Nader criticized Senator Obama for failing to “take on the white establishment.” Obama’s reaction was Nader is “delusional.” Nader’s reaction was Obama is “illusional.”

Obama and his supporters should listen to this criticism and get on course or the seeds of election failure will have been planted in his refusal to challenge the corporate elite that dominate the government.

They should– is Nader right? If they are honest they will see it is difficult to point to any issue on which Senator Obama is challenging the establishment — meaning the corporate interests that fund political campaigns and get what they want from the federal government.

Early on Obama sent a signal to the military industrial complex that he would not challenge them with his promise to expand the military by 92,000 troops. Each soldier costs approximately $100,000 annually in training, equipment, housing, food and other items from which military contractors will profit. They can rest assured they will get billions in defense contracts as a result of an even bigger military.

The right wing Israeli lobby has gotten everything they have asked for from Obama. In his speech to AIPAC Obama added to the written text of the speech a promise to do “everything” — repeated three times — to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, essentially threatening military attack on Iran. And, he went further than any president or country and said Israel should have all of Jerusalem — undermining the Palestinians before any peace negotiations begin.

Obama pledged his support to telecom companies with his recent vote to support FISA with provisions for telecom immunity for illegally spying on American citizens. As the new leader of the Democratic Party he could have galvanized sufficient support to filibuster the bill. He only needed 40 of the 50 Democrats — but he remained silent.

The health insurance industry is looking forward to the tax payer subsidies he is promising rather than being challenged by the most cost-effective and efficient approach to ensuring health care security – single payer health care. Single payer would put the unnecessary health insurance industry, which accounts for 25% of the cost of health care, out of business.

Similarly the big lobby energy companies shouldn’t be too worried since he has been a supporter of the corn lobby’s mistaken ethanol fuel, the coal lobby’s phony “clean” coal, and the continued reliance on nuclear energy. The oil companies should be pleased he voted for their tax breaks in the energy bill, and not worry much about his rhetoric now calling for taxes on excessive oil profits.

These, and other positions, are the seeds of Obama’s undoing. This looks like his election to lose –Republicans are unpopular, Obama will have three to six times more money than McCain (now that he has opted out of federal matching funds), and he is showing leads in national and swing state polls. But Obama should know better than any other candidate, inevitable candidates do not always win. His opponent Hillary Clinton proved that point — as did recent Democratic candidates who had big leads in the summer before the election.

The common thread of Democratic Party failure is running to the right when the primary is over. This is the consistent Democratic strategy even though being a flip-flopper or Republican-lite sabotages their candidates. It tells their voting base: “I’m taking your vote for granted, you have nowhere else to go” when he should be exciting them so they work, donate and bring out voters on Election Day. And, it tells the swing voters that this is a candidate that is business as usual. The corporate interests will continue to rule the government when he is elected. And, both groups get the message — this candidate can not be trusted he will say anything to get elected — and ask themselves “what does he really stand for?”

Obama, his strategists and his supporters should stop their knee jerk reaction and ask themselves: Is Nader right? Is he telling a truth I need to hear?

If they are honest with themselves they will see the truth in Nader’s comments. When they do the next question is, what should Obama do about it?

Quite simply, he should put the interests of the people before the interests of the powerful. Some specific suggestions on key issues:

On health care recognize that we need to start from scratch. The health care system is the most expensive in the world, leaves tens of millions with no coverage and leaves those with insurance paying higher premiums, more of the cost of health care and often fighting for coverage they have paid for. It is ruining medical practice as doctors spend 20% of their overhead on dealing with insurance companies. And it is making it impossible for the U.S. businesses to compete as every other developed country has health care for all with single payer as the foundation. Leave an opening so you can consider what you know is the right solution — health security for all Americans through a single payer system.

On Iraq, get specific on a real exit strategy — not just redeployment of combat troops, but removal of private security like the Blackwater mercenaries from Iraq, and the 30,000 to 85,000 non-combat troops that your advisors say you plan to leave in Iraq after redeploying combat troops to Kuwait and Afghanistan. Make it clear you oppose Bush’s effort to get Iraq to agree to 50 long-term military bases, protection of U.S. troops, mercenaries and corporations from Iraqi prosecution; tell Americans that if Bush negotiates such an agreement you will undo it and negotiate a complete U.S. exit from Iraq.

Rather than spending $10 billion annually on an expanded military — when the U.S. already spends as much as the rest of the world combined — tell Americans that green collar jobs are more vital than more camouflage jobs. We need to invest in rebuilding the U.S. infrastructure, creating a new energy economy — an economy for the 21st Century.

These issues are all supported by a majority of Americans. Nader is right: Obama needs to challenge the sacred cows in Washington — the white power structure, as Nader says. That is the change that American voters are hoping for — a Washington, DC that responds to the necessities of the American people rather than those funding corporate-government candidates. Listen to Nader and a landslide is Obama’s; don’t listen and join Dukakis, Gore and Kerry in losing to weak Republican candidates who should have been easily defeated.

Kevin Zeese serves as Attorney General in the Green Shadow Cabinet, and is a member of the Steering Committee of the Bradley Manning Support Network and an organizer of Popular Resistance. Read other articles by Kevin, or visit Kevin's website.

21 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. evie said on June 28th, 2008 at 10:44am #

    “… take on the white establishment” and “the white power structure.”

    The ol’ speak truth to power mantra.

    This is where Nader, and many sheople, are lost and confused. The corporate “white establishment” is not as lily as it used to be.

    Apparently many on the “left” would be shocked and awed at the number of black, brown, red, and yellow folks with wealth and power dining on the sacred establishment cow.

    It’s not your father’s white establishment anymore. It’s an equal opportunity circle jerk.

    Folks need to stop recycling the race card, flower power slogans, and campus pothead socialist rhetoric from the last century. It did not do much then and does even less now.

    Here’s how I see it: I do not want to support wars for the rich. I do not want to subsidize the rich. I do not want to bail out the rich – regardless what color they may be.

    But I also do not want to support, subsidize, and bail out the poor who eat, drink, drug themselves into poor health, who do not want to work unless it’s a high paid job where they don’t have to get their hands dirty, and those who think they are owed something because they are red, brown, white, black or simply breathing.

    I’m especially tired of those who think if only Obama or Kucinich or Nader or Cindy Sheehan, or other designated hero, would “challenge” the rich white men establishment (again, not so white anymore) the good ol’ boys will cave and usher in a new “ism” where we will all live large and easy while someone named “Single Payer” picks up the tab.

    Stop pipe dreaming and stop voting. Stop bumming and slumming and blaming and repeating failed “leftist” fluff. Pull your hand in. Get off your ass. Get a plan. Get a clue. Get a life. Get real.

  2. john v. walsh said on June 28th, 2008 at 10:59am #

    Zeese’s article is a good piece – but one must ask why we should want a Democrat to win.
    I like Evie’s comments.
    First, “Apparently many on the “left” would be shocked and awed at the number of black, brown, red, and yellow folks with wealth and power dining on the sacred establishment cow.” Absolutely. We have an African American governor here in MA, a buddy of Obama’s, and he has made absolutely no difference for poor people or Black people.
    Second, “Folks need to stop recycling the race card, flower power slogans, and campus pothead socialist rhetoric from the last century. It did not do much then and does even less now.” Right on. The Green Party and the rest drowned in that detritus.
    BUT at least Nader is doing something and trying to build something. It may not be perfect – but it is the only game in town.

  3. Max Shields said on June 28th, 2008 at 1:20pm #

    Frankly, from a pure tactical perspective (Obama is as worthless as the political system itself), I agree that the Dems have failed time and again to get into the White House because they offer no clear distinction between themselves and the other war party (the old why vote for lite when you can have the real thing calculation). It’s pure irony that the Dems do everything possible to accomplish what they fear most – losing.

    There is a place in the cosmos for boldness and “what the f*ck” attitude that’s winning as hell. But the Dems are too smart for that.

  4. bozhidar balkas said on June 28th, 2008 at 1:25pm #

    evie e,
    thrughout history people loved to work. i deduce, people love to work now.
    the question is, who now metes out work? and when u work, how much for self and how much for another?
    cent’s ago, all people, even children, worked. and one worked the same field; in same workshop all one’s life. there was few layoffs because work was not owned by one living in vienna and plied by one living/working on the steppes.
    true, cent’s ago there was landowners and serfs. that was bad. but now it’s worse as far as people being serfs.
    chldren didn’t go to school and ruling class opposed it until they saw in ‘education’ an oportunity to render them blind/obedient.
    we know drugs get into canada and US. now, how is it that we can go to moon, mars, afgha’n, iraq, palestine and yet cannot find how drugs get here; who refines poppies, transports, sells them;
    sells it on street and delivers to one’s house?
    now, suppose one says, No, we just can’t do much ab it; drugwars will continue.
    but what is wrong in bringing soldiers back home and give them the job to inspect all planes, ships, cargo vessels, tourists?
    so we try that and drug use remains the same or even increases? so, what have we lost? nothing! we wd have saved iraqi and amerian lives abroad and at home.
    in US, canada lives r screwed by drugs. but only after the ruilng class makes serfs out of them. kids lose joy, pride, sense of belonging; in short lose the best things in life.
    please, let’s not blame but look at all causative factors that makes one a ruler, a rich person, a poor one, a faiure.
    i aver that we know numerous causative factors in a child’s or adult’s ‘failure’.
    but the causative factors r not studied. there is also causative factors for all warfare just like for all fires.
    both phenomana r nat. events; thus have causes. find/ remove the causes and u wd, i say, have no wars nor failures.
    now, i’m not talking ab people who r brain-injured, suicidal, psychotic. these cannot look after selves. most of these cannot work
    thank u.

  5. evie said on June 28th, 2008 at 2:37pm #

    boz
    I’m not certain if it’s a language barrier or what but I’m not sure I understand what you want to get across.

    You say “please, let’s not blame” yet state lives are ruined by drugs b/c the ruling class makes serfs out of people.

    Drugs have always been around – we don’t have to use them.
    Wars have always been waged – we don’t have to fund/fight them.

    People are obedient b/c they don’t want the responsibility for their own lives or the lives of their children.

    People are serfs b/c they choose to take the path of least resistance.

    Karma.

  6. rosemarie jackowski said on June 28th, 2008 at 3:06pm #

    Obama is a Democrat.
    Nader is an Independent.
    End of discussion.

  7. bozhidar balkas said on June 28th, 2008 at 4:17pm #

    evie,
    i cannot further clarify the notion (some wd evaluate it as fact) that people who r mentally/physically capable love to work and especially if they own shop/work or field/work.
    in capitalistic system people work only as hard as the boss demands.
    and why, for humanities, do we have bosses and private ownership?
    we do because most of us don’t possess work. if we possesed work we’d command selves how hard and long to work.
    this right, right to work w.o. supervision, had been taken away from us.
    even now a person has no right to his body/life. if plutocrats want war they can conscript.
    which means ur body/pursuit for happiness/peace has been arbitriraly abrogated.
    these notions or, rather, facts r fundmentals of life.
    u say “drugs have always been w. us”. yes, but not as much as now.
    u also said, ” U can take or leave drugs”
    that is true.
    however, i was talking ab manufacture, transportation, delivery of heroin and coke and why US having ab 10mn bodies in cia, fbi, city police, and troops cannot stop drugs from coming in.
    my answer is (and chomsky’s) ruling class likes it that way.
    may i tell u why elementary schooling is mandatory but not college or university? do i need to tell. ok, ask me if u will and i’l tell u.
    a slave neither owned own body or work. it is not that much diff now.
    and it’s getting worse.
    hopefully u got it, that’s best i could come up with. thank u

  8. evie said on June 28th, 2008 at 8:13pm #

    boz
    I understand I think. Most everyone I know are their own boss – with own small business or in professional fields where they were able to eventually open their own office, practice, etc. And some of my neighbors sell crafts, foods, childcare services etc. to make their living and be their own boss.

    Of course the ruling class makes it harder – it’s more profitable to them.

    But no leaders or rulers are going to make it easy. We must stopping thinking any “ism” (or leader) will make life free and easy b/c it won’t.

    Chomsky and those like him are part of the ruling class “left”. He’s a vent on the pressure cooker, a relief valve. There’s always plenty of voices to speak for and explain things to the peasantry – but nothing really changes does it.

    Personally, I think the government itself brings in most of the drugs. Good for profits and good for dumbing down the serfs.

  9. evie said on June 28th, 2008 at 10:07pm #

    John Anderson was an Independent.
    Ross Perot was an Independent.
    Angus King was an Independent.
    Sam Houston was an Independent.
    James B. Longley was an Independent.
    Henry Howell was an Independent.
    Harry F. Byrd, Jr. is an Independent.
    Jim Jeffords is an Independent.
    Bernie Sanders is an Independent.
    Joe Lieberman is an Independent.
    Michael Bloomberg is an Independent.

    End of discussion.

  10. Lloyd Rowsey said on June 29th, 2008 at 5:23am #

    No, no. Kevin Zeese. The problem is that Nader as well as Obama doesn’t see that THE IRAQ OCCUPATION is one, enormous issue — and it’s the only issue that cuts to the heart of everything else. Until that occupation is ended, it’s kaput for Americans in America and everywhere else in the world.

    Wake the fuck up!!

  11. Max Shields said on June 29th, 2008 at 9:48am #

    Lloyd,
    So what happens when next stop is Somalia or Pakistan?

    The problem with taking this government on one war at a time is that it never ends. Iraq occupation is a symptom. What makes Iraq a little unique, is not that we’re in Iraq. It’s that Bush botched the invasion/occupation so that it stayed on the front pages too long. The other 700 bases and centuries of American conquest and occupation managed to bounce around unnoticed, except by a few who paid some attention. The empire is unraveling and Iraq will be part of it but the demise began long before.

    A single occupation is far from what ails this country. Nader’s attacking the corporate fascistic state takes aim at the root. I don’t think you can undo this with an election or changing the faces in Washington.

    As far as Chomsky being part of a leftiest “ruling class”, what the hell does that mean? What relief valve is he stewarding? He talks, he writes books. If he were to die tomorrow would the flood gates open? The whole country is under a relief valve that Chomsky has absolutely nothing to do with. Some make far too much of this guy. He makes some good points and some tepid ones.

  12. evie said on June 29th, 2008 at 10:29am #

    Chomsky, among thousands of others, is the “relief valve” that allows millions to think someone “speaks for them.” Doesn’t matter if he is speaking or not – only matters that “dissidents” believe someone is speaking out who “gets it.” And many folks believe Noam “gets it.” Thousands can and will take his place in the ivory tower, courtesy of the ruling class.

    It’s not about the US empire anymore.

    The “empire” is not “unraveling.” It simply is going global. Eventually, reps from regional “unions” (EU, NAU, SAU, AU) will hold court somewhere, likely Brussels – and determine how the world is run most profitably.

    I think some folks misunderstood the mantra “think local, act globally.” The corporate and global ruling class has been acting globally for a long long time. The only think local are the yokels.

    All while the peons are parsing the meanings of their ruling class packaged heroes and villains and one “ism’ or another.

  13. evie said on June 29th, 2008 at 10:32am #

    Excuse me, should be “the only thing local is the yokels.”

  14. Jeremy Wells said on June 29th, 2008 at 12:35pm #

    Nothing will change until the corporate controlled two party system is smashed. A new second party, NOT a new third party.

    A new anti-war, an anti-corporate People’s Peace Party that brings together the millions of activists now isolated and atomized into single-issue groups.

    Individualistic campaigns attempting to make a basic reform of the Democratic Party Dennis Kucinich, or Marcy Winograd PDA against Jane Harmon) are mainly doomed to failure. The corporate control of the Democratic Party is absolute on core issues designed to maintain the profit of the privatized health care system, the profit of the military industrial complex.

    Moving outside the Democratic Party as independents or as a third party candidates has been an unending failure. Ralph Nader, or perhaps a Cindy Sheehan, are individualistic campaigns which exclude active participation of the masses of people and organizations who are now bitterly opposed to the status quo.

    Individualistic campaigns, not matter how immediatelyare inevitably doomed as they can never match the economic, media, infrastructure, people or power resources of a multi-million dollar party.

    Individuals are forever limited by the health, intelligence, education, or sheer physical capacities of the individual. The individual’s political perspective
    is forever limited, unable to comprehend the vast scope of issues with an expertise expected of a political leader. The individual political leader is subject to corruption, assassination, senility, and disease, physical and mental.

    I am opposed to all individualistic campaigns as they are doomed to failure.
    I am opposed individualistic campaigns because it does not build a movement to continue and greatly expand the goals of the movement beyond the views of any particular individual.

    A massive political movement against the status quo exists. The elements of this movement are embodied in single-issue groups, activist groups and individuals who are forever without power because they are forever atomized. There is no organization such as a political party that unites these individuals and groups
    into a force to take political power away from the corporate political parties.

    What is to be done before and after the day after the November election? Await for the next war, the next assault upon our ability to live and survive? More of the same ?

  15. Deadbeat said on June 29th, 2008 at 1:08pm #

    The problem is the lack of cohesion amongst the disparate groups. The last times we did see some cohesion was in 2000 (Nader’s run) and the anti-war movement in 2003.

    However the problem was the in-fighting and perhaps deliberate sabotage of these movement by the so-called “left”. Until people deal honestly with the today’s issues I really don’t see how much will change because such mass movement can easily be diffused due to these “single” issues.

    For example this year why didn’t Nader and McKinney run together. That could have coalesced the left in some meaningful way. The “left” has also been quite dishonest regarding Zionism and in fact diffused teh anti-war movement because of such challenges were being raised in 2003.

    Nader himself has been tepid confronting Zionism as well so he really lacks credibility here criticizing Obama. If he ran with McKinney he would have more credibility criticizing Obama wrt African Americans.

    There has been a lot of criticism with electoral politics. I agree with those critiques however since the left has show their own dishonesty and unwillingness to coalesce for many people on the margins, electoral politics is the only choice. They cannot trust the “left” and see the “left” as yet another “special interest” group.

  16. bozhidar balkas said on June 29th, 2008 at 2:01pm #

    what wd the commemnters say to following statements:
    at least 50% of amers (or canadians) r just left of hitler.
    and 45% r right to varying degree of centrist position.
    thus it seems nader get’s ab 5% of the votes.
    5% of the people (plutos) r s’mwhat right of hitler.
    and it is these 5% , the invisible hand, which rules ‘rica.
    i’v been thinkig ab this for a while. so i said to me, god didn’t make me rich or good; aybe he make me bad; so i’v been praying to him to make me a thief.
    and u know the rest. thank u

  17. synicab12 said on June 29th, 2008 at 3:26pm #

    evie said:
    “Ap’parently many on the “left” would be shocked and awed at the number of black, brown, red, and yellow folks with wealth and power dining on the sacred establishment cow.”
    Yes, but what is the ratio . It is no more than 3%. Does the word “token” ring a bell.
    Yes, irresponsible behaviour is more common in certain segements of the society but they do not have a monoply on it. As unemployment
    and under-employment start to plague white people we start noticing
    drug use , alcoholism , family violence absent fathers etc ..etc start
    to plague the white people too.
    You seem to cling to the myth of “welfare queen” but turn blind eyes
    on the hundred of billions of dollars stolen by corporate America
    from the public treasury throuhg subsidies and tax breaks and privatizing of governmnents functions even fighting wars. More than half of the US personnel in Iraq are private contractors. Few months ago , the oil companies with their exorbitant profits got seven billions dollars of tax rebates from Uncle Sam. And how about farm subsidies to Agri-busiess.
    And I can go on and on …..

  18. evie said on June 29th, 2008 at 4:11pm #

    Token rings a bell. Those are around. Is Obama a token?

    But I would say globally, the non-anglo percentage dining on the sacred cow is much much higher than 3%.

    I’m not turning a blind eye to corporate wealthyfare – I would stop all subsidies. But remember – each and everyone of those corporations directly or indirectly is supplying jobs and/or products that you probably use every day. I’m set to survive without them, are the rest of my fellow Americans?

    Perhaps your, or your parents or grandparents retirement funds are invested in those same companies, or the local teachers union, or federal employee pensions are invested in those wealthyfare corps. I know a few family farms, incorporated, board members are wife, hubby, adult children, who receive millions and have for 2 decades and yet their grandchildren are meth heads wrecking new cars and blowing the fortune their grandpappy built. They not exactly “agri-business” but they’ve gotten more welfare than they ever deserved.

    How many would feel the loss if wealthyfare ended?

    We had much worse conditions, as recently as the Great Depression and yet drugs/alcohol, domestic violence, absent fathers did not become a lifestyle for so many.

    I know the costs for the typical welfare family is a small fraction of the domestic budget – but the cost in wasted lives and minds is much higher.

    There are welfare queens and wealthyfare kings – I’ve no reason to support either of their lifestyles.

  19. Jeremy Wells said on June 29th, 2008 at 4:18pm #

    To Deadbeat et al.
    1. “The problem is the lack of cohesion amongst the disparate groups.”

    The existing “lack of cohesion” means that a common basis for the cohesion of seemingly disparate groups has yet to be commonly recognized by these groups.

    The organizational expression, to bring together millions of individuals and groups, into a united effort expressing the overwhelming will and needs of the American people. We need a new “umbrella” political party. A political party that is not controlled by corporate interests that unites these otherwise atomized groups into a common political agenda and platform.

    These disparate groups do not lose their identity in joining this “umbrella” party. Instead they provide the “planks” to a common platform, activists and candidates to run for election at all levels of government to carry out the agenda of the new party.

    What is the common basis for united and collective political organization and action? Both Ralph Nader, in his opposition to the “corporatization” of the federal government is one individual voice. Dennis Kucinich, in his opposition to the war in Iraq and his long-time opposition to privatization, is another voice . Cindy Sheehan, in leaving the Democratic Party and in her opposition to the Iraq war, is yet another individual expression. Cynthia McCinney runs as an inviducal on the Green Party, with all it’s long-term problems.

    The common fact is that the Democratic Party, the federal government, the foreign and domestic policy of the United States, is fundamentally controlled by the same corporate interests and agendas that own the Republican Party.

    The corporate agenda is to maximize the corporate profit and individual wealth of the top 1%-5% within the U.S. and globally. This agenda has been in effect since the 1970s, advanced in 1991 with collapse of the Soviet Union, became explicit in the Project for the New American Century, with Bush the agenda was triggered by 9/11 with now never ending war for oil, profit and hegememonic global power.

    Instead of a government “of, by and for the people” we now have government “of, by and for the corporations”.

  20. Max Shields said on June 29th, 2008 at 5:41pm #

    “For example this year why didn’t Nader and McKinney run together.”

    Good question, but not for the left but for Nader and McKinney.

  21. Eddie said on July 1st, 2008 at 8:48am #

    Kevin Zeese’s article is yet another piece to cheer lead Barack. I was trying to figure out what to say when I saw Kat had already said it all and then some:

    Zeese’s article doesn’t treat Ralph like a candidate, he treats Ralph like Obama’s lifecoach.
    If Nader’s doing everything right (and I would say he is on issues), why is Zeese, after calling Barack out, then spending the remainder of the article rescuing Barack. With McCain, Barack, Ralph, Cynthia McKinney and Bob Barr in the general election, this is the best shot a third party candidate has ever had at a White House. So why is Kevin writing these “Dear Bambi” letters to Barack instead of following the calling up by pointing out the candidates who are standing for something?

    He relegates Ralph to a lifecoach, to part of the Obama campaign. That’s not right and it’s not fair.
    http://katskornerofthecommonills.blogspot.com/2008/06/kevin-zeese-ralph-nader.html