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More headlines: Ralph Nader on Government Reform

(Following are older quotations. Click here for main quotations.)


System marinated in big business turns off democracy

Q: Is your mission to energize the progressive liberal base of the Democratic Party?

A: No, that may be a byproduct. Third parties historically have pushed the major parties, going back 180 years. But I think now that these two parties are so marinated in big business money, they can’t be internally reformed. There’s a whole new independent streak among people, young people, especially, are turned off.

People are dropping out of democracy. That’s a very dangerous trend. The voting level is going down. But even more than that, you have people say, “I’m not turned on to politics.” Well, history shows that if you’re not turned on to politics, politics is going to turn on you. And the political system, under the corporate domination, is closing out the civil society. Citizen groups can’t get anything done anymore. It’s very hard to get a chance to have a chance in Congress before the regulatory agencies or the courts. It’s like a permanent government in Washington.

Source: Interview on ‘Meet the Press’ May 7, 2000

Greens aren’t spoilers; the “duopoly” spoils third parties

Q: I’d like you to address the issue of Greens as spoilers.
A: I’m very weary of the two parties spoiling the chances of new parties that can regenerate the political process. So the spoilers are the two-party duopoly, really one corporate party with two heads wearing different makeup, who are violating the natural law of regeneration, which is, if you want to have politics regenerated, just like nature, you have to give small seeds a chance to sprout. The political system now, dominated by the two parties who carve up districts where each one of them is dominant and not competitive with each other, congressional districts for example, these two parties have generated such a spoiled system, it’s impossible to spoil them in any third party manner. You can only purge them, displace them or at the least discipline them to remind them that they’re supposed to represent people, not big corporations.
Source: Alternative Radio interview with David Barsamian Feb 23, 2000

Structural reform needed to allow new ideas from 3rd parties

Q: Talk about your campaign in terms of an insurgency. You mentioned [Greens planting political] seeds: like an acorn growing into a mighty oak?

A: That’s what we’ve got to do. We have a winner-take-all political system that discourages small parties and independent candidates from trying to start a new direction or a new movement. We need a debate on proportional representation, which can be quite practically applied at some municipal jurisdictions and work up from that.

The first woman ever elected to Congress was Jeanette Rankin, elected in 1918. She told me that she would never have been elected if the two seats in Montana had not been run at large. She came in second in an at-large election and therefore became a member of Congress. Her point was that if she did this in all the states, say, there are 37 seats in New York, the top 37 vote-getters would go to Congress. I think that we have to think of the structural obstacles, not just ballot signature hurdles.

Source: Alternative Radio interview with David Barsamian Feb 23, 2000

Concentrated power in business & govt weakens rights

We need modern mechanisms so that civic power for self-government and self-reliance can correct the often converging power imbalance of Big Business and Big Government that weakens the rights of citizens.
Source: The Concord Principles, An Agenda for a New Democracy, # 3 Feb 21, 2000

Focus on the tools of democracy, not front-page issues

Campaign finance reform doesn’t go as far as I would like it to go. I would like a well-promoted dues check-off on 2040 tax returns to fund public elections and basically have a certain amount of free access on radio and TV for ballot-qualified candidates.

I want to be focussed on this because every time the conventional media interviews me about what I’m going to advance in this effort, they all want to talk about the substantive issues, the red-button issues that are on the front pages of the newspaper, and the minute I try to get them on the facilities of democracy, the basic tools of power, their eyes glaze and they don’t want to talk about it. So you have to really have a single-minded focus on the building of a democracy platform, and anything else is just going to make it impossible to get the press to focus on it at all.

Source: Interview on Pacifica Radio’s “Democracy Now” Mar 27, 1996

Fight “Tweedledum & Tweedledee” with “None of the Above”

Q: The November 1994 Congressional elections saw 62% of the eligible voters staying at home. That seems to be like refugees leaving the Soviet Union by “voting with their feet.”

A: I think Americans are voting with their derrieres. They’re just sitting there and staying home. That’s why I favor a None of the Above item on all ballots. Instead of having a passive protest vote by saying, “What difference does it make? It’s all Tweedledum and Tweedledee. My vote doesn’t mean anything,“ they can go down to the polls and vote for None of the Above. In a binding None of the Above law, if None of the Above gets more votes than the candidates, it cancels the election, sends the candidates back and orders new elections in thirty days. I think there’s nothing more humiliating to a politician than to have to call up their son and daughter at college and the student says, ”Daddy, Mommy, who’d you lose to?“ They say, after a pause, ”I lost to None of the Above.“

Source: Alternative Radio, interview by David Barsamian Dec 9, 1995

Money wins elections, when joined with party & business

Q: Rush Limbaugh says that if money were so decisive, then both Ross Perot and Steve Forbes would have been elected.
A: Both Perot and Forbes were multimillionaire rebels fighting the combination of business money and their two subsidiary parties. So it’s not surprising that they didn’t win. The key thing is whether Rush Limbaugh can give us an example of someone who spends a huge amount of money and doesn’t buck the political apparatus and try to overwhelm it in getting nominated.
Source: Alternative Radio interview with David Barsamian Feb 23, 2000

Other candidates on Government Reform: Ralph Nader on other issues:
George W. Bush
Dick Cheney
John Edwards
John Kerry

Third Party Candidates:
Michael Baradnik
Peter Camejo
David Cobb
Ralph Nader
Michael Peroutka

Democratic Primaries:
Carol Moseley Braun
Wesley Clark
Howard Dean
Dick Gephardt
Bob Graham
Dennis Kucinich
Joe Lieberman
Al Sharpton
Abortion
Budget/Economy
Civil Rights
Corporations
Crime
Drugs
Education
Energy/Oil
Environment
Families/Children
Foreign Policy
Free Trade
Govt. Reform
Gun Control
Health Care
Homeland Security
Immigration
Infrastructure/Technology
Jobs
Principles/Values
Social Security
Tax Reform
War/Iraq/Mideast
Welfare/Poverty
Adv: Avi Green for State Rep Middlesex 26, Somerville & Cambridge Massachusetts