Volume 78 / Number 21 - October 22 - 28, 2008
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Villager photo by Tequila Minsky

Ralph Nader speaking on Wall St. last week.

Nader blasts the bailout and ‘2-party dictatorship’

By Mary Reinholz

A few of his young supporters wore T-shirts displaying merged images of Senators Barack Obama and John McCain emblazoned with one defiant word: “Nope.”

Yes, Ralph Nader came to the Village last week, a stop in his fourth independent bid for the White House. The tall, lean and graying consumer advocate/lawyer who many Democrats still loathe for, in their view, ruining Al Gore’s chances to beat George W. Bush in 2000 is now on the ballot in 45 states and Washington, D.C. Endorsed by the leftist Peace and Freedom Party, he’s garnered about 3 percent of likely voters when pitted against Obama and McCain, according to a recent New York Times-CBS poll.

Amid cheers from a raucous crowd of about 1,000 people, Nader strode on stage in The Cooper Union’s historic Great Hall on Oct. 15, less than an hour before the top contenders squared off in their last televised debate at Hofstra University. Nader said both Obama and McCain represented a corrupt, “two-party dictatorship” that had once again excluded him from nationally watched slugfests for the Oval Office, adding sardonically that their exchanges were basically interviews and “antidotes for insomnia.”

By contrast, Nader — who is still full of steam at 74 — appeared to be channeling Clarence Darrow with mesmerizing intensity, blasting Congress’s $700-plus billion Wall St. bailout, supported by both Obama and McCain, and calling it socialism for the rich.

“But it’s not real socialism,” he thundered. “It’s the socialism of a personal valet for Wall Street crooks and speculators!”

The faithful at The Cooper Union lapped it up, often whooping and hollering like a hallelujah chorus, especially when Nader said his program included “amnesty for nonviolent drug offenders” and prosecutorial research to “convict corporate crooks.” Prolonged applause followed Nader’s comment that Congress, “maybe after the election, will impeach the most impeachable president, George W. Bush!”

Before Nader began his stemwinder, the audience had warmly received several other left-leaning speakers, including Nader’s vice presidential running mate, Matt Gonzalez, a former Green Party candidate who narrowly lost a runoff election in 2003 in a bid to become San Francisco’s mayor; and Katie Robbins of Healthcare-NOW!, who called for a government-run, national healthcare system “like Europe’s.”

Reverend Jarret Maupin, Arizona chapter president of Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, attacked both McCain and Obama for “constantly talking about the American middle class. There is no middle class in America!” he shouted. “There are the haves and the have-nots. … Mr. Obama, I call him a hypocrite over his proposal to cut taxes for everyone who is making less than $250,000 a year. What’s left for us? We have to look out for the working poor!”

But most people in the crowd, who ranged from teenagers to octogenarians, had come to hear Nader sound off against his list of enemies of the people. And Nader delivered, excoriating the financial and political forces that he said are eroding “our dwindling democracy” with “gerrymandered districts.” Sometimes, he said, “The only choice is the incumbent. What’s happened to our country?” he asked.

Not surprisingly, Nader reserved his harshest criticism for the big corporations, the entities he has railed against for decades, claiming they had “taken over” every area of government, and even the minds of children with their “violent programming” on television. “They should be stripped of all their constitutional rights because they’re not human beings!” he roared. “The preamble to the Constitution says, ‘We the people, not ‘We the corporations!’” The crowd went wild.

Next day, the Nader road show staged a protest rally across from the New York Stock Exchange.

“I just demonstrated with Nader & gang on Wall St. this noon,” wrote a well-known psychotherapist and former Obama supporter who traveled from her Upper East Side co-op to the event and sent this reporter an e-mail. “He is SO on the mark and I’m still planning on voting for him — but only if people think New York is 100 percent safe for a Democrat” to win the presidential race.

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