Lost in the Election Circus

In this year’s presidential campaign, the major media want you to focus on the candidates’ gaffes, their tactics toward one another’s gaffes, the flows of political gossip and four second sound bytes.

Over and over again this is the humdrum pattern. Is Obama an elitist because of what he said about small towns in Pennsylvania? Why do Hillary and Bill exaggerate? Will Bill’s mouth drag Hillary down? Will Barack’s pastor drag him down? What about the gender factor? The race factor? Will they figure?

Who has more experience on Day One? What is McCain’s wizardry over the reporters on the campaign trail? Can McCain project any human warmth? Which state must Hillary win and by what margin to continue in the race?

On the Sunday talk shows, it is the same couple dozen members of the opinion oligopoly. There is Bill Kristol bringing home the neocon bacon with dreary frequency. There is the James Carville/Mary Matalin spouse show featuring their squabbling over ideology.

Meanwhile the daily struggle of the American people, absorbing the results of the power abuses by the rich, powerful and corporate, continues outside this inbred force field of insipid coverage and commentary.

The people hear nothing regarding what McCain, Obama and Clinton will do about runaway drug, gasoline, and heating oil prices, not to mention what these Senators have already not done in these areas of public outcry.

Disintegration is everywhere. Public works are crumbling — schools, clinics, public transit, libraries, drinking water and sewage-treatment plants. Tax dollars are being used to destroy more of Iraq and to subsidize or bail out companies recklessly run by obscenely overpaid CEOs. Public deficits are soaring.

Corporate criminals laugh all the way to the bank and back. Eighty percent of the workers have been falling behind while the growth of the economy, until last October, made the rich richer and the hyper-rich go off the charts.

One of three workers lives on Wal-Mart wage levels. Nearly fifty million Americans are without health insurance. Eighteen thousand of these Americans die each year because they cannot afford health care, according to the Institute of Medicine. The recession deepens.

The corporate giants are abandoning millions of American workers as they move whole industries to dictatorial regimes abroad where political elites dictate wages, ban independent trade unions, and given sufficient grease, reduce other costs for these companies. Only American CEOs are not outsourced in this mad dash for greed and profits.

All our democratic institutions — courts, agencies, legislatures — are bypassed by “pull-down” autocratic trade treaties like the secretive World Trade Organization and NAFTA.

Wall Street operators seethe with reckless risks and then expect Washington to bail them out. Sure, why not? Washington is run by Wall Street executives on temporary job assignment in high government positions. The big corporations are big government.

Consumers are facing rapidly rising food prices, more home foreclosures, and rising rents. They have lost control over their money, as shown by the daily gouging by credit card companies, cell phone operators and the thousands of imposed fees, penalties, and charges, so well described in the new book Gotcha Capitalism by MSNBC reporter Bob Sullivan. Poverty increases.

Each year, about 58,000 Americans die from air pollution (EPA figures), and 100,000 patients lose their lives from medical negligence in hospitals and many more from hospital-induced infections. Have you heard any of the major campaigns pay any attention to these grim casualty levels?

Anxious workers feel shut out — they are disrespected, denied claims, arbitrarily laid off and just plain helpless on the shifting sands and seas of corporate globalization.

Fully 81 percent believe the country is going in the wrong directions. Almost as many believe corporations have too much control over their lives. And 61 percent polled say the major parties are failing.

Now turn on the television and radio coverage of the presidential campaign. How much of the above is reflected in the incessant distractions about tactics, gaffes and the fervid money-raising race?

Can the press and pundits ever be serious if the people do not grab hold of politics and make them become serious about their pleas, their plight and their revulsions? If voters want a concise mission statement, read the preamble to the Constitution, which starts “We the People…” not “We the Corporations….”

There is a responsibility attached to those words.

Ralph Nader is a leading consumer advocate, the author of The Rebellious CEO: 12 Leaders Who Did It Right, among many other books, and a four-time candidate for US President. Read other articles by Ralph, or visit Ralph's website.

17 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Rich Griffin said on April 15th, 2008 at 5:08am #

    Ralph, complete agreement here. BUT I think it’s more important to direct people to non-mainstream media sources and demand that they simply stop consuming the mainstream media altogether! Make Democracy Now! more available! Make “Body Of War” required viewing for everybody! (my pet cause is getting everbody of their lazy butts and running to see “Body Of War” – or demanding that it be shown at a venue near them!).

  2. Chris Crass said on April 15th, 2008 at 9:39am #

    You’ve got my vote, President Nader.
    I’m pretty sure that “We, the people…” means/meant “We, the rich…,” though.

  3. Eric Patton said on April 15th, 2008 at 10:08am #

    You’d never know Nader could have actually done something this back in 2000, when he shot down Michael Albert’s “shadow government” idea. Yes, Nader wants social change. But he has to be the center of it. Otherwise, he picks up his ball and goes home.

  4. hp said on April 15th, 2008 at 10:09am #

    ‘Human devolution,’ plain and simple.
    Predictable, expected and not much different than a continuous stream of cream pies to the face until you die.
    Then your kids take your place just like the devolved steelworker kids inherited their father’s bar stools.
    One big ship just rusting out right before your eyes.
    The only real choice you have, besides your vote on ‘American Idol,’ is whether to wipe the cream pie from your eyes and look, or not.

  5. Raven said on April 15th, 2008 at 8:14pm #

    What do we do? That’s all I want to know. What the hell is there to do? Where is the person that stands up on all of national television and says, “The hell with this!!!”? We can protest, or not vote, or anything of that sort, and it’s not gonna make a difference. I read over and over, we should do this and that, it’s gonna take this and this to make a change, but who’s going to have the gall to actually stand up and do it?

    I’m poor! I can’t afford to take care of my children! I can’t afford to have a car! I sleep on the floor of a small, drafty shack! I’m too broke to afford a normal life, but I make too much money to qualify for some type of aid. I can’t afford health insurance, and I have a medical condition that needs medication that I haven’t taken in over a year because the company I work for doesn’t pay me- I’m hired through a temp agency so the company doesn’t have to provide medical benefits.

    I’m tired of the talk, Mr. Nader. I’m tired of the debates, the lies, the oppression. I’m tired of not being considered. I’m not the only one that thinks this way- everyone around me knows what is going on, and we all feel powerless to stop it. When does the transfer of power come back to us? We all know what Big Brother is capable of- we’ve all seen thousands and thousands die to support their greedy habits. We’re all dying.

    Who’s going to save us, when we no longer have the ability to save ourselves?

  6. Hue Longer said on April 15th, 2008 at 9:20pm #

    For what it’s worth Raven, your letter hit me very hard. Good luck

  7. Rich Griffin said on April 16th, 2008 at 2:38am #

    Raven, I’m dirt poor, too. I can’t even afford to dream anymore. I won’t have enough money to get food at the end of this month because prices have skyrocketed. And people are wasting my time telling me that Barack Obama is the answer! NOT! He is an elitist, he will help Wall Street, and not me. I’m sure he will tell me I have to take responsibility (!) and toughen my allready callused skin! And nothing will be done about corporate welfare; nothing will be done to reduce the bloated military spending; we will still have nearly 11,000 nuclear warheads; our economic policies will STILL favor the rich; progressive policies will have less of a chance to be enacted – i’m in so much despair! I wish Obama’s supporters would WAKE UP and see him for what he is and drop support for him. Vote for Ralph Nader!!! STOP caving in to the “unelectable” nonsense that keeps us locked into non-progressive policies forever!

  8. Lloyd Rowsey said on April 16th, 2008 at 11:40am #

    Hi, Ralph. Earlier this morning, a message appeared in my email from your campaign, promising that :

    “We have joined with you in a rebuilding project.
    Rebuilding a people-powered democracy:
    That will deliver single payer, Canadian style, private delivery, public health insurance.
    That will cut the bloated, wasteful military budget (and)
    That will reverse U.S. policy in the Middle East.”

    Possibly you don’t spend a lot of time reading Dissident Voice, Ralph, but an awful lot of DV’s readers believe that there is NOT now, NOR will there be be in America next year, ANY kind of democracy (much less a people-powered one) whether or not Ralph Nader is elected. They just don’t believe presidents have the kind of magical powers it would take to restore democracy in LuLu-land.

    More to the point presently: are you aware of what is in the process of happening to health insurance in Canada? And for crying out loud, Ralph. Placing Iraq third behind electoral reform-and-de-bloating the military budget (and doubtless, using the bloat for domestic expenditures)? It’s just bass-ackwards. And if that’s not bad enough, what the hell is simply taking Iraq OUT of the discussion and then broadening your anti-war commitment to apply to the entire “Middle East”? The truest answer: a dream not even the most asleep lefties in this country entertain, including the Hate-Israel-firsters. Or pick from two alternative answers: insanity on your part, Ralph, or the final insult possible to the intelligence of DV readers?

    Of course, you could reply to my criticism with, “See my other statements.” I won’t even stoop to reply to that, unless you force me to.

    No, regrettably Ralph, I predict with about 95% confidence that you will join Cindy Sheehan and simply ignore this post, playing the percentages (and politics) with Dissident Voice readers. After having “got your message” across to all the ones who doubtless will ignore all the posts to this article.

    Well. LOL to you and Cindy both. I can’t vote for her because I don’t live in San Francisco and won’t be living there in November. And I won’t vote for you because you are either dishonest or sadly misinformed. But things ARE looking up fo the Ralph Nader Campaign right here at DV, Ralph. I figure that in addition to many of the readers who ignore posts here, the odds are good that all three DV editors will vote for you.

    Won’t than be nice?

  9. evie said on April 16th, 2008 at 12:05pm #

    Ralph, I remember when you began your “consumer advocate” career, the Naders Raiders, etc. etc. I thought what a good civic minded man. Go Ralph.

    I know your group was “instrumental in enacting the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA),” Wholesome Meat Act, among others, etc., more federal bureaucracy, thanks Ralph.

    After 40 years of Nader “advocation” though I have to wonder why my new car is less safe than the old Caddy from the 60s, my food contaminated, water not fit to drink, the grandkids toys unsafe, prescription drugs not safe, my ground beef tainted … but I know you’ve been busy because Time Magazine named you “one of the 100 Most Influential Americans in the Twentieth Century.”

    All items on your laudry list in this “Election Circus” I’ve witnessed in every election since at least 1968. Politics as usual. Rhetoric for we the people.

    It’s been a long time now since I thought “consumer advocate” when I see your mug or byline. Now I just think geeeeze he’s getting old, and for some reason I am reminded of the last strange fetishy years of Howard Hughes.

  10. Erroll said on April 16th, 2008 at 12:40pm #

    Evie seems to believe that because how food is contaminated, her water not fit to drink, her grandchildrens’ toys unsafe, along with her prescription drugs and ground beef, that this is somehow the fault of Ralph Nader. This makes about as much sense as her last sentence, when she describes “… the last strange fetishy [sic] years of Howard Hughes.”

    Name another candidate who is in favor of impeaching Bush and Cheney, who wishes to change the U.S. policy in the Middle East, who is for universal single-payer health care system in this country, who is not bought and paid for by the major corporations? With the exception of Cynthia McKinney, she will be unable to do so.

    This country should be hearing from a variety of voices running for president instead of only being able to select from column A or column B, i.e. either a Democrat or a Republican. The networks, with the blessings of the Democrats and the Republicans, made sure that Americans were not going to see and hear Nader on their television screens in 2000. Undoubtedly, the last thing that the Democrats and the Republicans [and the network and cable stations[ would wish to see happen in 2008 is for a candidate like Nader to go after the candidates who are beholden to the corporate fat cats. The motto of the two parties: don’t rock the boat by causing Americans, by seeing someone like Nader, to actually think about what is going on in this country.

  11. Lloyd Rowsey said on April 16th, 2008 at 12:57pm #

    Why not try again to make it coherent, erroll? It’s still evie and me, 2-1, against. And personally and as a writer, I like evie’s word “fetishy.” It says a lot.

  12. evie said on April 16th, 2008 at 1:44pm #

    Sigh … I’m lamenting all that advocating consumer protection hasn’t protected consumers from much of anything. We the sheople are no safer or greener, however, we have more agencies we pay who say we are, and pay to constantly “fight” for us little folk.

    As for that free “universal healthcare” lol lol lol lol. You won’t think so when there’s a new deduction box on your paycheck. Single payer – you. Lol lol. Just like car insurance is mandatory – by law you’ll have to insure your own bag of bones the rest of your life. But don’t worry, those folks who are below poverty level or out of work or other income-less circumstances, Big Daddy guv will take your healthcare premiums out of your tax refund, rebates, or other tangible property you might have.

    Impeachment? Yay, that would go as well as a Nixon’s did. Did getting rid of tricky Dickie Nixon put the US on the road to sanity?

    Ralphie is a fatcat too – he just gives it more of it away than most fatcats- to his own foundations, groups, extended circles, etc. Now that’s recycling!

  13. Erroll said on April 16th, 2008 at 1:56pm #

    Nader states, quite correctly, that “The people hear nothing regarding what Clinton, Obama, and McCain will do about runaway drug, gasoline and heating oil prices” or about how public works in this country are practically non existent or how giant corporations like Wal Mart choose not to pay their workers a living wage of how nearly fifty millions Americans do not have health insurance in this country. But if Nader dares to point these things out, people like Lloyd Rowsey will claim that he is somehow being “incoherent.”

    As I stated in my middle paragraph, there is no other candidate [besides Cynthia McKinney] who wishes to bring these issues to the forefront of the American public. But to do so is to run the risk of being labeled “incoherent.” When I mention that Nader again runs the risk of being shut in the debates this summer just as he was barred in 2000, the best that Lloyd Rowsey can come up with is that I, and apparently Nader, are “incoherent.”

    As I mentioned, the last thing that the Democrats and the Republicans wish is for Nader to be seen and heard this summer when the debates take place. It would appear that Lloyd Rowsey shares the same sentiments as those of the Democrats and the Republicans, which is to keep those bothersome third parties from being heard during the election season.

  14. Lloyd Rowsey said on April 16th, 2008 at 6:07pm #

    Hey, erroll? “Name another candidate who is in favor of impeaching Bush and Cheney, who wishes to change the U.S. policy in the Middle East, who is for universal single-payer health care system in this country, who is not bought and paid for by the major corporations? With the exception of Cynthia McKinney, she will be unable to do so.”


    “Gloria La Riva is the 2008 presidential candidate of the Party for Socialism and Liberation.”

    Now I’m thru here, erroll. Unless Ralph decides to comment. I remember Ghostbusters and I’ve finally learned my lesson about touching slime in internet posts.

    Lloyd Rowsey

  15. Erroll said on April 16th, 2008 at 6:42pm #

    Bravo, Lloyd Rowsey! Apparently when you are unable, to use one of your words, argue coherently or persuasively, you resort to calling someone “slime.” One expects to see such juvenile behavior on the web sites of the far right. Apparently, even so-called progressives can be just as shallow and superficial as those from the lunatic fringe of the political spectrum.

    You are certainly correct about Gloria LaRiva running for president, who would make another fine choice for Americans to choose from. But as I previously mentioned, it is extremely doubtful if the corporate media and the Democrats and the Republicans would allow Americans to listen to the views of a third party. Or is that view, according to you, also considered to be incoherent?

  16. Jeremy Wells said on April 16th, 2008 at 9:03pm #

    The one big step for Ralph Nader to take is to issue a call for a new political party,
    a People’s Peace Party, to enroll the millions of people into the struggle.

    Millions of people perhaps agree with Ralph Nader (or Dennis Kucinich, or Cindy Sheehan, etc.) but there is no means provided for these millions to fight back at every level of local, state, and federal government.

    Millions of people are against the wars, concerned about Global Warming, desperately need true universal public health care, etc. and are already organized into single issue groups.

    Ralph Nader has established several effective organizations that carry on today providing help to the people (Public Citizen). Stop allowing your critics to make your political concerns merely an “ego trip”.

    An anti-corporate People’s Peace Party that does not accept corporate money or agendas, that wants to end the corporatization of the federal government, that wants to end the privatization of essential social services and institutions.

    No matter the November election is almost here. Call for the party convention now and put especially the conservative and corporate controlled Democratic Party on notice it’s days are numbered. Plan to maintain and grow the party after the election to hold politicians to promises or threaten recall or impeachment.
    Organize and educate the people with a new party to a platform created from the activists of many organizations wanting to end corporate power.

  17. Garrett said on April 24th, 2008 at 4:34pm #

    It’d sure be nice to see all of the progressive “third” party candidates pool their resources (volunteers, money, connections) to form a viable 3rd party. It could be called the People’s Peace Party, as Jeremy suggested. It could be called the Progressive Party. Regardless of what you call it, the important thing is that it has a large, influential membership. If you get enough progressive people (tens of millions) to switch from ‘D’ to ‘P’ (or whatever) on their voter registration cards, the Democratic Party will have to take action one way or another. The regressive “third” party candidates could do the same for their side.

    I realize that there are differences between the various progressive “third” parties (Socialist, Green, Reform, etc.), just as there are differences between the various regressive “third” parties. But we aren’t going to get anywhere when not a single one of them has power or influence. So, they must unite for a cause that’s bigger than themselves, and form *a* (singular) 3rd party.

    It’s not my place to tell Nader he shouldn’t be running for President for the umpteenth time, but I think he could make better use of his resources.