Monday, February 25, 2008

Howard Zinn and Ralph Nader team up to create an action plan to hold the Democratic presidential candidates’ feet to the fire


Full disclosure: Zinn and Nader are only teamed up in this post because I think joining together their ideas on how to get the frontrunning Democratic presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, to address crucial issues makes sense.

On February 23rd, Howard Zinn’s article, "Election Madness" was posted at Information Clearing House. Zinn describes “election madness” that seizes the country every four years: “I'm talking about a sense of proportion that gets lost in the election madness. Would I support one candidate against another? Yes, for two minutes-the amount of time it takes to pull the lever down in the voting booth. ”But before and after those two minutes, our time, our energy, should be spent in educating, agitating, organizing our fellow citizens in the workplace, in the neighborhood, in the schools. Our objective should be to build, painstakingly, patiently but energetically, a movement that, when it reaches a certain critical mass, would shake whoever is in the White House, in Congress, into changing national policy on matters of war and social justice….

“Today, we can be sure that the Democratic Party, unless it faces a popular upsurge, will not move off center. The two leading Presidential candidates have made it clear that if elected, they will not bring an immediate end to the Iraq War, or institute a system of free health care for all….

”They do not propose what the present desperation of people cries out for: a government guarantee of jobs to everyone who needs one, a minimum income for every household, housing relief to everyone who faces eviction or foreclosure.

”They do not suggest the deep cuts in the military budget or the radical changes in the tax system that would free billions, even trillions, for social programs to transform the way we live….

“We should not expect that a victory at the ballot box in November will even begin to budge the nation from its twin fundamental illnesses: capitalist greed and militarism.” [emphasis mine]

Enter Ralph Nader: His advice: Email or write Obama and Clinton and challenge them to address what Nader describes as "Candidate Taboos," which he lists in an article published in Counterpunch on January 15th. He describes 12 taboos including the following:

* You won't hear a call for a national crackdown on the corporate crime, fraud, and abuse that have robbed trillions of dollars from workers, investors, pension holders, taxpayers and consumers. Among the reforms that won't be suggested are providing resources to prosecute executive crooks and laws to democratize corporate governance so shareholders have real power. Candidates will not shout for a payback of ill-gotten gains, to rein in executive pay, or to demand corporate sunshine laws.

* You won't hear a call for our income tax system to be substantially revamped so that workers can keep more of their wages while we tax the things we like least, such as pollution, stock speculation, addictive industries, and energy guzzling technologies. Nor will you hear that corporations should be required to pay their fair share; corporate tax contributions as a percent of the overall federal revenue stream have been declining for 50 years.

* You won't hear a call for a single payer health system. Almost sixty years after President Truman first proposed it, we still need health insurance for everyone, a program with quality and cost controls and an emphasis on prevention. Full Medicare for everyone will save thousands of lives a year while maintaining patient choice of doctors and hospitals within a competitive private health care delivery system.

* You won't hear a consistent clarion call for electoral reform. Both parties have shamelessly engaged in gerrymandering, a process that guarantees reelection of their candidates at the expense of frustrated voters. Nor will there be serious proposals that millions of law-abiding ex-felons be allowed to vote.

Other electoral reforms should include reducing barriers to candidates, same day registration, a voter verified paper record for electronic voting, run-off voting to insure winners receive a majority vote, binding none-of-the-above choices and most important, full public financing to guarantee clean elections.

Nader concludes, “ Voters should visit the webpages of the major party candidates. See what they say, and see what they do not say. Then email or send a letter to any or all the candidates and ask them why they are avoiding these issues. Breaking the taboos won't start with the candidates. Maybe it can start with the voters.”

Regardless of who wins in November, let’s take Howard Zinn’s advice and devote our time and energy in “…[E]ducating, agitating, organizing our fellow citizens in the workplace, in the neighborhood, in the schools. Our objective should be to build, painstakingly, patiently but energetically, a movement that, when it reaches a certain critical mass, would shake whoever is in the White House, in Congress, into changing national policy on matters of war and social justice.”

(Photos of Howard Zinn and Ralph Nader: World Prout Assembly)

5 comments:

John in Cincinnati said...

I couldn't agree more. Hopefully, we'll take next November several huge steps away from fascism. We need to do so much more.

Ann said...

As always, Gail, thank you so much--you are a beacon of justice and rational thinking.

tod said...

Amen to this, Gail. I'm wearing my Nader 2008 shirt at present (picked it up last year) and look forward to the looks I'll be getting downtown when I head to addict-central (aka coffee shop). Poor suckers are mainlining drugs (caffeing) AND political bullshit (Times, Chron, PD) at the same time. I'm sure the doubyl toxic drones will assail me the moment I walk in the door! Heh.

tod said...

Amen to this, Gail. I'm wearing my Nader 2008 shirt at present (picked it up last year) and look forward to the looks I'll be getting downtown when I head to addict-central (aka coffee shop). Poor suckers are mainlining drugs (caffeing) AND political bullshit (Times, Chron, PD) at the same time. I'm sure the doubyl toxic drones will assail me the moment I walk in the door! Heh.

Anonymous said...

As we say in Hawaiian pidgin: Geev 'um!