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ISSUE 121 VOL 13 PUBLISHED 3/7/2008

Nader advances enterprising alternative

By Natalie Neal
Contributing Writer

Friday, March 7, 2008

Ralph Nader recently announced that he is throwing his hat into the presidential ring. Democrats are no doubt experiencing deja-vu, as many haven't internalized the infamous 2000 presidential "selection," claiming his candidacy stole valuable votes away from the democratic candidate Al Gore.

Since Gore didn't even win his own state, Tennessee or Bill Clinton's state, Arkansas, placing the blame on Nader is scapegoating at best. Even without Nader stealing votes in the 2004 election, the Democrats still managed to lose. Nader believes that most Americans are disenchanted with the Republican and Democratic parties, and that he speaks to those who feel abused by the country's power structure.

And what do the current Democratic candidates have to say about Nader's decision to run? "I think people realize that Ralph did not know what he was talking about," Sen. Barack Obama said. Disappointing words, coming from someone who was in diapers when Nader was crusading for consumer rights and writing his book, "Unsafe at Any Speed." Obama should remember that the next time he buckles the seat belt Nader was responsible for.

Obama calls himself an advocate for change but in reality he is a "feel good" candidate with empty rhetoric who offers no concrete solutions. He's more of an idealized celebrity than a public servant. If you really want true change, then vote outside of the two major parties. If you consider yourself a progressive, you wouldn't vote for a candidate who compromises their beliefs and values to appease the Democratic Party and corporate interests.

Sen. Hillary Clinton called Nader's decision to run "very unfortunate," and told reporters, "I remember when he ran before. It didn't turn out very well for anybody -- especially our country."

Wait, this is still a free country, right? If Democrats want to win, they need to stop whining about past elections and attacking the little guy who is more progressive than they will ever be. Playing the victim and pointing fingers has proven to be an unsuccessful election strategy.

The Democratic candidates are clearly worried about how this is going to affect their campaign and are still stewing over past failures. Indeed, in 2004, the Democrats fought to remove Nader from the ballot in several states, but it was just one more example of their party failing to get the job done.

Some of America's greatest political achievements such as the emancipation of African Americans from slavery, women's suffrage and the 40-hour-week were all first suggested by figures on the political fringe, just like Nader.

Most American citizens think that the United States should get out of Iraq, yet Clinton, Obama and McCain have repeatedly voted for increased war funding as well as expanding the war in Afghanistan. Nader, on the other hand, wants to significantly cut defense spending, which is the number one cause for our astronomical federal deficit.

All the other candidates are opposed to single-payer health insurance whereas Nader and millions of Americans and 59 percent of physicians want full Medicare for everyone. Nader suggests a quality program with cost controls and an emphasis on prevention. It is supposed to be "health care" not "sick care."

He says, "Under the current system, hundreds of billions of dollars a year go into insurance company overhead, unnecessary and fraudulent billing and administrative costs for health-care providers, and huge profits and high salaries at large HMOs and other health-care companies." Nader also calls for a national crackdown on corporate crime, fraud and abuse that have robbed trillions of dollars from workers, investors, taxpayers and consumers.

Among his reforms, he suggests providing resources necessary to prosecute executive crooks and laws to democratize corporate governances so that the shareholders have the real power.

His ideas on revamping the income tax system, calling for workers to keep more of their wages while taxing pollution, stock speculation, addictive industries and energy guzzling technologies more heavily are also impressive.

Despite what the media is leading us to believe, the two major political powers are becoming more homogenized than polarized. Nader's platform promotes causes that are popular with many Americans, but he has been ridiculed and sidelined by the two parties and their allies in the media.

Nader has exposed problems and organized millions of citizens into over 100 interest groups to advocate for solutions. His efforts have helped shape laws and standards and improved the quality of life for two generations.

His groups are responsible for enacting the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Safe Drinking Water Act. Because of him, we drive safer cars, eat healthier food, drink cleaner water and work in safer environments.

The question is, do you vote for someone who has the right ideas but has no chance of winning, or do you vote for someone who has comparable ideas and could get elected? Do you compromise? It is a question of whether or not you consider yourself to be a democratic idealist or not.

Vote your conscience, not for a party. Look closely at each candidate's platform and don't disregard a candidate simply because they aren't mainstream.

Natalie Neal '10 is from Edina, Minn. She majors in English and media studies.

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