Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader spoke at the University on Sunday. Nader attacked corporate influence on American life, the “two-party duopoly” of American politics and liberals whom Mr. Nader accused of rolling over in support of a “least-worst” political agenda. While Nader condemned the military budget, calling the industrial-military complex a big business, he only briefly referred to the “quagmire” in Iraq. Nader entered and exited to standing ovations from the crowd, conservatively estimated by event organizers at 550, which packed the University Ballroom and spilled out into the hall.
“Two reporters asked me why I was campaigning in Montana,” Mr. Nader said dryly as he took the podium. “It hasn’t got that bad, has it?” After criticizing President Bush and Sen. Kerry’s inattention to states with few electoral votes, Nader emphasized his ties to Montana by referencing his links to the populist tradition. He received loud applause when he condemned commercial logging in national forests and Initiative 147, which would re-allow open-pit, cyanide heap leach gold mining in Montana.
Expanding on his corporate-bashing message, Nader blamed companies like McDonalds and Wal-Mart for the lack of a living wage, and mocked Sen. Kerry’s proposal to raise the minimum wage to $7 by 2007. He received another ovation when he referred to President Bush as “that giant corporation in the White House masquerading as a human being.”
Nader challenged voters to raise their levels of civic awareness and responsibility. “Voters are flattered, and allowed to wallow in their powerlessness gracefully,” said Nader. “Show me a politician who doesn’t flatter voters and I’ll show you a martian.” When people vote for the “least-worst” candidate, said Nader, both parties become worse. “[The Democrats] take your vote for granted, and no demands are made on them by the people. In a least-worst system the only demands made on politicians come from the relentless corporate interests.”
Last week Bill Maher and Michael Moore pleaded with Nader on national television to drop out of the race; on Sunday, Nader said that Moore had “lost his nerve.”
“What I should have said to them,” Nader told the crowd with a grin, “was, ‘Get up off your knees, gentlemen, you look like the Democratic and Republican parties bowing before big corporate interests!’”