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Nader raises roof at DU

Attendees banter over candidate’s role in race

By Leigh E. Rich

“A vote for Nader is a vote for Bush!” an unidentified woman in the back of Sturm Hall yelled as consumer activist Ralph Nader made campaign rounds through Colorado two weeks ago—just one day after a district court judge decided he will remain on Colorado’s ballot as the Reform Party candidate.

Nader deflected the widespread witticism, a sentiment common since the 2000 election, as he spoke to the almost-filled auditorium on the University of Denver campus.

“Don’t give away your vote without making Kerry better,” Nader advised, emphasizing that one of the reasons why he is running for president is to force the two major political parties to pay attention to the real issues and “our kind of justice.”

“The thrust of the two parties is this—they want to beat each other,” Nader said, and they’re using corporate money and “insipid 30-second TV ads” to fight over “issues you don’t care about.”

“They’re still arguing about what happened … in the Mekong Delta,” he told the mostly college-aged crowd during his two-hour appearance in Denver that day.

Nader also visited Boulder and Pueblo to talk about his priorities as a third-party candidate: curing America’s ailing health care system with a national approach; ending the war in Iraq; halting job outsourcing; instituting a “livable family wage”; ending the “failed war on drugs”; preventing the draft; and ensuring Americans can afford higher education. He also spoke to the shortcomings of the Republicans and the Democrats.

“You vote’s taken for granted and they won’t give you the time of day,” he said when the “anybody-but-Bush” attitude emerged during the question-and-answer session. Nader repeatedly stressed throughout his stump that “big government, big business (and) big media” currently run the country.

“It’s pretty hard to break that trilogy,” he lamented.

After deeming the Democratic Party “guiltless, shameless, clueless and helpless” and saying “the Republican Party is worse,” Nader admitted that Kerry is “a vague improvement” over Bush. Still, he advocated that electors “vote your conscience.”

“These parties basically say, ‘We own you,’” Nader claimed.

And if voters can’t quite muster the courage to vote for a third party in this election, Nader conceded, “Go ahead, vote for the least worst. … (But) you better pick your least poison … (and) hold your nose. … It all comes down to us.

“And if we settle for the least worst, that’s what we’re going to get.”

Basically calling America’s two-party system outdated and “so far behind European countries” and others that have multiple political entities, Nader explained his and running-mate Peter Camejo’s platform and asked, “Why don’t we get serious?”

Americans, Nader said, should be talking about how to “really improve education in (our) elementary schools” and institutions of higher learning as well as how to safeguard the environment, ensure access to health care, halt job outsourcing, and invest in the nation’s communities.

“What about all these necessities? What about repairing America?” he asked posed to the crowd.

“Instead of building gleaming stadiums and ballparks for corporations,” engaging in “entertainment up the wazoo” and “endless, endless silly talk” on cell phones, or continuing an “occupation in Iraq,” Nader suggested refocusing efforts within American communities both now and in the future.

“You can’t export a job … renovating the sewer (here) to Beijing,” he used as an example, before asking, “What will people think of us when they look back? Are we good ancestors?”

Currently, Nader insinuated, that answer is a resounding “no.”

“We have let corporations use the air, land and water as their private sewers,” and he believes neither major party will do anything about it.

“They’re just engaging in rhetoric,” with catchphrases such as “compassionate conservatism” and “no child left behind.”

“It’s corporate cash that they defend,” Nader unequivocally stated. “This is a grotesque, insane (inversion) of our national priorities.”

Instead, similar to the Green Party platform with which Nader was associated in the previous two elections, Nader told the DU group that he supports an end to the corporate control of America, whether in terms of health care, education, the economy, so-called “free trade,” foreign policy or politics.

“And we’re sitting around calling ourselves land of the free, home of the brave,” he said.

In addition to rousing the crowd with a speech he says wasn’t “written by some consultant,” the Denver stopover on the way from Boulder to Pueblo also included a quick fund-raising effort.

When Nader’s team asked who would be “a hero” that day and give $1,000, two members from the audience stood up.

One just happened to be Justin Jeffre, a singer from the pop group 98 Degrees, who said in an interview that, though he’s “never seen him speak in person,” he’s grown more interested in Nader since the 2000 election.

“Third parties have always been the ones to bring about … social change,” Jeffre said, while waiting in the throng that swarmed Nader after the event as he signed copies of his books.

“A vote for Nader is a vote for Nader. … (It’s) a vote from your conscience, not a vote out of fear,” Jeffre added.

Earlier, Nader gave the crowd what he deemed “a formula for a vote of conscience,” citing Gandhi’s “Seven Deadly Social Sins” and a Chinese proverb that to say and not to do is not to say.” He also encouraged those in Sturm Hall to become “engaged citizens.”

“They’re leaving us with one party. Do you know what that means? Elections are over,” he warned.

“We have got to make that flag stand for the last words of the Pledge of Allegiance.”

Rich, L. E. (2004, October 1). Nader stresses importance of ‘a vote of conscience.’ The Colorado Statesman, p. 12.

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