Ralph Nader's Election Night Speech
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Ralph Nader gave the following address to campaign staff and supporters gathered at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on election night.
First, let me thank all these people who worked on the campaign. What we know for sure is that we're coming out of this election day with the third-largest party in America, replacing the Reform Party. Building a long-term progressive reform movement. That's really quite an achievement, it took lot of people from all over the country to do that, so, great staff, working day and night here in Washington, and above all it took a commitment by people to no longer settle for the least of the worst or the lesser of two evils, where at the end of the day you're still stuck with worst and evil.
To try to challenge the entrenched two-party system, this is really a lot what the campaign was about. The two parties raised these statutory barriers to get on the ballot, and they campaign with most of the money by raising corrupt soft money, and corporate money and PAC money -- all of which we rejected, because we wanted to set an example of what is necessary for real reform of our corrupt campaign system.
And of course you're up against (the fact that) most of the coverage on the horse race was between these two horses. They're tired and hollow, and have forgotten even to eat their oats in order to reinvigorate themselves. And then, the two parties control the debate commission which is really a private company. And they exclude Third Party candidates, so really it's a quite amazing and varied system of rigging the election for the two major parties. ... It's why the two major parties can't regenerate themselves because their excluding all kinds of competition, and instead, imitating themselves.
The Republican and Democratic parties take more money from the same sources, they morph into one corporate party with two heads, and (then Americans) presume that it really matters for the State Department, or Defense Department or Treasury Department, or Department of Commerce, Labor, Agriculture, or the health and safety regulatory agencies ... whether Gore or Bush is in the White House (but it isn't) because they don't make the decisions. The decisions are made by the people we trip over in Washington D.C. every day: 22,000 corporate lobbyists, and 9,000 political action committees pumping money into both Republican and Democratic coffers.
This is what we expected was gonna happen, and we took 'em on. And the important thing here is we've reached a take-off stage in the Green Party, and that this is the last time that the two parties in a national election will have a monopoly power to exclude significant Third-Party members from the debate. ...
Going around the country you get the feeling that there are millions of people who are really ready for a new progressive political movement, and it takes a lot of work to get them together, and to believe that they can do it, because of the dominance of the two-party duopoly.
But we have now seen enormous talent come out from all over the country, not just in local state Green parties, like Medea Benjamin in California, but we've seen seasoned citizen activists, who recognize that the civil society has been crowded out in Washington increasingly the last 20 years by the two corporate powers, and we have to heed Thomas Jefferson's wisdom, that when our country is taken away from us, we have to go into the political arena and mobilize new political civic energy throughout the United States in order to come back and take our government back from the corporate supremacists who think that there's nothing they can't control, there's nothing that they can't commercialize, there's nothing that they cannot daunt. And we're going to prove them wrong.
Most members of the press misread the distinction of this Green Party's mobilization. They said "Well, it's just another Green Party, and makes a valiant effort, election's over and then it recedes, and their leaders go back to their business in Texas or elsewhere."
Right after the election the Green Party moves and locks arms with all those neighborhood and citizen groups all over the United States who are fighting for a more just America. Who are fighting for the environment, fighting to establish missions against poverty, and enforcing the civil rights laws and civil liberties laws. Missions that say to the American people, that the choice is the sovereignty of the people, or the sovereignty of global corporations over the United States of America, and that's an easy choice to decide on whose side we're going to be.
Also it's important to note that in our country you cannot fire a citizen. ... The Green Party is going to give an authenticity .... Standing with labor, living wage issues. You know? There's no Republican parties, no Democratic parties in those struggles. The two parties after election, they take a few days off, they relax, and then they turn themselves into money-raising machines for the duration. While the Green Party turns itself into a civic force.
We had some funny mention moments -- and I don't mean going on Saturday Night Live, or David Letterman -- we had some funny moments when ... MasterCard was foolish enough to sue us. Saying that we violated their trademark registration on the word "priceless." They put a price on "priceless!"
So all these moments will be recalled with pleasure, because we really performed I think all of us in a very exemplary manner. There's a lot of content behind David Broder -- the Washington Post political editor -- who this Sunday wrote a column that said "Who ran the best campaign in the presidential campaign year?" And he said hands-down, it was the Green Party and the Nader/LaDuke campaign.
Bush came in second and Gore third. And I tell you -- anyone who knows Dave Broder knows that he does not deal out praise very liberally. ... But I think it reflects that we really practiced what we preached in order to preach what we practiced. Not just in the way we raised our funds, but in the way we comported ourselves, focusing on one important issue after another, which the media systemically ignored, as it continues to pepper us with this horse race question.
It's really quite unique in the sense that having received one percent of the national media coverage, and having raised less than one percent of the money, and having been excluded from the debates, that the majority of the coverage was on the horse race. "Are you gonna be a spoiler?" And I would say "Well, you can't spoil a system spoiled to the core."
It'd be so predictable that the reporters would say "I know you've been asked about this one thousand times" -- I felt like having a recorded announcement, but then that would have been too much like the corporations. ... It really didn't give us a chance to raise the subject matter that the press over the years have been reporting on. Corporate crime, corporate welfare, the problem of labor and the living wage, WTO and NAFTA -- all these things that are reported on in the major press -- the Gore, Bush campaigns ignored all these issues uniformly in their lookalike status, and still the press was obsessed with the horse-race question.
So one of our goals after the election, is to, in a very kindly way, give some of the media an invitation to learn about what the criteria are for newsworthiness for a Third-Party candidacy. We attracted the largest mass paid political rallies by far of any presidential candidate; Madison Square Garden, to Boston Garden, to Target Center, all the huge arenas we filled with Green Party enthusiasts. That's one criteria.
Another is our 37-year record on weekends and during weekdays of fighting for the American people for safer cars, and food and air and water, and trying to make the government more accountable and the corporations more responsive.
And the third criteria is that we have all kinds of people organized all over the country working their hearts out and their minds out for our effort. And the fourth criteria is that we were above the screen in the polls, they thought that was an important criteria. So we had the agenda, we had the rallies, we had the record, we had the polls rising. And still it wasn't newsworthy. So you see, a lot of these journalists are caught in a trap, a kind of time warp, and we've got to liberate them as well.
I want to thank people for voting for us. The people who have yet to vote out in the West Coast and Alaska and Hawaii, they can certainly build our reservoir of voters so we can build more after this election day with a great second leap forward in 2002, with all kinds of great people running for local, state and federal office. Building not only an exemplary election record, not just building a unifying force in civil society, but above all, building a deeper democracy. That's what it's really all about, building a deep democracy, so we can really put some reality into this hollow phrase, "a government of, by and for the people."