Yesterday Ralph Nader came to Boulder.
Not in the least. It's Boulder!
A lot of people have kind of a "been there, done that" attitude about Nader -- but then again, a lot of people are still hardcore "we must fight back against the two-party system" disciples.
I didn't fit into either of those categories last night. I fit into the "none-of-the-above/attempted objectivism" category: the (proto) press. I was there covering the speech for my Newsgathering class.
(I'll post my story at the bottom of this post -- which no one is likely to make it to!)
***If you'd like to listen to Nader's CU-ified stump speech...you'll just have to hold your horses! (I tried for about an hour to convert the audio file from a WMA to an mp3 so I could edit it into bite size pieces, but that didn't work out...seriously, if anyone knows how on Mac OS...the EasyWMA Demo was a complete bust.)
Here are some of the observations that I couldn't exactly include in my news story:
- Eight years ago when I saw Nader at a "super rally" in Portland (Jello Biafra, Danny Glover, and Eddie Vedder in tow) the atmosphere was electric. There was chanting, protesting, marching, hugging...a completely different mood than last night, which just seemed...stale? Maybe it's because I was looking at it all with the bright eyes of a high schooler, but somehow I think it goes beyond that
- Nader was supposed to deliver a press conference before the scheduled rally. He was over an hour late, so I decided to ditch the tiny room upstairs (filled with local media and other students from my class--but gee the chairs were really posh) and head down to see how the crowd was responding to the delay. What would a full-fledged journalist have done?
- Nader choked up a few times during his speech. I'm not sure if he was legitimately getting emotional, has some health problems (he's 74), or what...
- There was this really awkward moment after Nader finished speaking where a local campaigner went up on stage and begged -- literally -- for donations in a "reverse auction" starting at $2300. This went on for a few minutes with the crowd awkwardly (and not silenty, I might add) balking at the request before he lowered the starting value to $1000. I left before sticking around to see what happened. I wonder how that turned out.
- Bob Kinsey, running as a Green Party candidate for Colorado's US Senate seat, is quite the character. I'm going to leave it at that.
- Nader and friends got some digs in at the media as one of the root causes of the two-party problem. I actually really enjoyed those parts of the speech, and sort of agreed with them, oddly enough. Do many journalists would readily acknowledge that there are plenty of problems with the mainstream media?
In his speech, Nader made the point that Obama started out with much more liberal policies and views than he has now. Well, I'm not sure how true that is, but Nader's argument was that while the conservative Christian right (Limbaugh and cronies) demanded for McCain to come closer to their camp if he wanted their votes and support. According to Nader, liberals missed an opportunity to do the same because they are so frightened of losing another election. Instead, Obama got pulled more towards the center because of corporate contributions and interests. Hmmmm...
I kind of thought of it more as Obama figured out that in order to change the system, he has to be a part of the system. And that's why Nader, at this point, seems stale. I've even go as far to say that many of the people who feel so inspired by Obama now used to feel that way about Nader. Thoughts?
No matter whether you think Nader should be thrown out of an airplane or think he's the most influential American EVER, he's still a great speaker to see. He has a smart, organized rhetorical style, and if anything, he's good at raising the political temperature in a room. (And he has a great profile: see pic above.)
And now, for comparison, here's my newsy-style story:
At the University of Colorado’s Glenn Miller Ballroom Wednesday night, Ralph Nader urged voters to demand more from the two-party system by playing hard to get.
He demonstrated this tactic by showing up an hour late for his own rally.
The delay didn’t faze the hundreds who turned out with signs, fliers and t-shirts to see the independent presidential candidate. Hitting the stage at 8:30 p.m., Nader spent over an hour speaking about the dangers of corporate politics, the flaws of the two-party system, and the importance of activism. He spoke harshly about the four Colorado state amendments dealing with labor—which he called the best he’s seen on any state’s ballot—that were pulled from the ballot at the last minute.
“We’re the new serfs. They control our money,” Nader said of the banks and corporations he thinks have a stranglehold on American politics.
Bob Kinsey, Green Party candidate for Colorado’s Senate seat, hammered this home as he warmed up the crowd: “Unregulated growth is the ideology of a cancer cell.”
According to Nader, Americans have allowed this to happen by setting low expectations. But now we’ve reached our breaking point.
Nader reminded the crowed that although politicians are courted by corporate funding, “You have the one thing they want: the votes.”
As students, alumni, community members, and even children trickled in, a jazz duo serenaded the crown. Signs and banners lined the walls of the ballroom.
“Wall Street: Use Your Bootstraps,” said one. “Beware the Kool-Aid,” said another.
A poster of Kinsey’s face – with the same sage-colored cap he wore at the rally – was taped to a wall overlooking tables advocating some of Nader’s key issues: energy policy, universal health care and corporate crime.
“A lot of the things Nader says most people believe in, but mainstream candidates can’t support because other interests get in the way,” said David Iseli, standing behind a table covered with Nader/Gonzalez signs and stickers.
Nader called the exclusion of third-party candidates “political bigotry.”
“Small starts don’t have a chance to have a chance,” he said.
In Colorado, where more voters are registered as independents than as Democrats or Republicans, Nader says most people don’t even know they have another choice.
“It seems so foolish that we only have two parties,” said Peggy Sholette, who is visting from Plattsburgh, New York with her husband. “Like children in a sandbox.”
“In our literature, in our movies, in everything, we seem to prize individualism,” said Patricia McGuire of Denver. “But when it comes down to reality, we don’t want anything to do with it.”
McGuire brought her sister Kathleen Ballard, who hasn’t decided yet who she’ll vote for, to the rally.
“He’s a very bright, intelligent man,” said Ballard. “But I think he’s really tired. He has a hard job. He’s the only alternative.”
Nader spoke in Missoula, Mont. earlier today and will be heading to Massachusetts later in the week.
Image from Flickr user Mely-o shared with a Creative Commons attribution license.