For almost five years, the Innovator newspaper at Governors State University has been absent from the suburban Chicago campus, banished by the administration's demands for prior approval of its content.
After a June 20 decision by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the Innovator may never be seen again--and many other campus newspapers may join it on the list of publications censored or eliminated for questioning the status quo.
The decision in Hosty v. Carter demonstrates the threat that right-wing judges pose to freedom of expression in America. The majority opinion, written by conservative judge Frank Easterbrook and supported by other conservative justices such as Richard Posner, is a classic example of judicial activism. Easterbrook's convoluted opinion abandons well-established precedents supporting the free expression rights of college students, and gives college administrators near-absolute authority to control the content of student newspapers.
The facts of the Hosty case are particularly appalling. On November 1, 2000, Governors State Dean Patricia Carter called the Innovator's printer, attempting to stop the publication of the newspaper. When she discovered that she was too late, she ordered the printer to give her future newspapers before they were printed so that she could approve content. Two days later, the president of the university wrote a campus-wide memo denouncing the Innovator because of its coverage of the firing of the newspaper's advisor (who later won an award for wrongful dismissal). Editor-in-Chief Jeni Porche and managing editor Margaret Hosty fought back, refusing to accept the administration's demands for censorship.
Easterbrook built his logic upon the Supreme Court's 1988 Hazelwood case, which gave high school principals limited authority to control newspapers created in the classroom. Hazelwood has had a disastrous impact, supporting censorship of the student press. The Hosty decision not only applies Hazelwood to college students, but greatly expands the scope of censorship to cover any newspaper or, potentially, any activity subsidized with student fees.
The Hosty case is only part of the growing conservative attack on freedom of speech on campus. An alternative newspaper at the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire was denied funding in 2005 because the student government thought it was too "political." Arizona's state budget for next year includes a ban on state appropriations for college student newspapers after a campus sex column offended legislators.
And David Horowitz's Academic Bill of Rights has been introduced as legislation in more than a dozen state legislatures; some versions of the bill would compel grievance procedures at all public (and even private) colleges to enable students to start investigations against professors who express political views or who assign reading lists deemed "too liberal." Horowitz has even threatened to sue Lehigh University after it allowed Michael Moore to speak on campus last fall, claiming that this violated the school's nonprofit status.
But the Hosty decision is so extreme in denying student liberties that even conservatives are worried. Charles Mitchell, a program officer at the right-leaning civil liberties group Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, noted, "Hosty will give college administrators yet another excuse to indulge their taste for squelching speech--and that's never a good thing for liberty."
Although the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals only covers Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana, the decision will enable administrators across the country to censor papers without penalty. Under the "qualified immunity" standard, state officials are only liable for violating constitutional rights when the law is clear, and the Hosty decision raises serious doubts about whether college students have any rights. And if administrators can legally treat college students the same as elementary school students, what will happen to academic freedom?
The Society for Professional Journalists (SPJ) president Irwin Gratz said, "It is a sad day for journalism in the United States." The SPJ and dozens of journalism groups joined an amicus brief in the case, urging the 7th Circuit to defend freedom of the press on campus.
"My co-plaintiffs and I are resolved to appeal to the nation's highest court," said Hosty.
The new Illinois candidate for the U.S. Senate, conservative Republican Alan Keyes, may be most famous for a liberal act: jumping into a mosh pit while Rage Against the Machine performed, body-surfing the crowd, and exchanging body slams with a spiky-haired teen as a means of getting filmmaker Michael Moore's endorsement for president in 2000. As Moore put it, "We knew Alan Keyes was insane. We just didn't know how insane until that moment."
"Insane" is an adjective that may be tossed around a lot regarding Keyes because he has been saying a lot of kooky things for a long time. Mostly, his extremist ideas have been overlooked. In the 1996 and 2000 Republican presidential contests, no candidate saw Keyes as a threat or wanted to risk criticizing one of the few prominent African-American Republicans around.
Last week, Keyes accepted the Republican nomination to run against the Democratic nominee Barack Obama and immediately railed against Obamas support of abortion rights. Abortion is Keyes' number-one issue: He wants a total ban, with an exception only as a "collateral and unintended consequence" of saving a woman's life (not the health of a woman, rape, or incest). In 2002, he said, "This issue alone, which I believe dominates our moral decline as a people, should decide this and every election cycle.
In a May 7 speech in Provo, Utah, Keyes said the 9/11 attacks, which killed nearly 3,200 people, were a message from God to oppose abortion: "I think that's a way of Providence telling us, 'I love you all; I'd like to give you a chance. Wake up! Would you please wake up?'" During a campaign appearance in Bedford, N.H., in 2000, Keyes asked a class of fifth-graders, "If I were to lose my mind right now and pick one of you up and dash your head against the floor and kill you, would that be right?" He then went on to tell the children that some courts and politicians think it's OK to murder 6-month-old children.
Keyes has an apocalyptic view of America's future unless it repents: "I do stay up at night thinking about what's going to happen to America. I do stay up at night with a vision of our people in conflict, of our cities in flames, of our economy in ruins."
A history of failures
Born in 1950, with a career-military father, Keyes was elected president of Boys Nation in high school, met President Lyndon Johnson, and spoke to the American Legion in Dallas. He avoided the draft in the late 1960s thanks to student deferments and a high draft number. Keyes attended Cornell University, where his favorite teacher was legendary conservative Allan Bloom. Keyes spent a year studying in Paris with Bloom, then followed him to Harvard, where Keyes earned his doctorate in government. A fan of J.R.R. Tolkien and a Trekkie, he plays classical guitar and even considered a career as an opera singer. Lately, his version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow, sung for a local TV camera, has been making the rounds on the Internet.
In 1978, as part of the State Department Foreign Service policy-planning staff headed by Paul Wolfowitz, who is now a key foreign-policy and defense adviser to Bush, Keyes was the black face used by the Reagan administration to oppose economic sanctions against the apartheid government of South Africa. Keyes also worked as a low-level diplomat at the U.S. Consulate General in Bombay, India, where he met Jeane Kirkpatrick. When she became the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under Reagan, she hired Keyes in 1983. Keyes spent two years as U.S. representative to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (UNESCO).
In 1988, when Kirkpatrick was approached to run for the U.S. Senate in Maryland, she demurred, suggesting Keyes instead, and a conservative star was born, albeit a losing conservative star.
Keyes lost to Democratic U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes with a respectable 38 percent of the vote. By 1992, when Maryland voters got to know him better, his support dropped to a mere 29 percent against a bonafide liberal, Barbara Mikulski. During that campaign, Keyes paid himself an annual salary of $100,000 from campaign funds, then refused to pay off his campaign's $45,000 debt. He later paid off his Senate-campaign debts, but, according to Federal Election Commission records, he owes nearly $525,000 from his failed presidential bids.
Obama's campaign juggernaut scared away many other candidates, but Keyes isn't afraid to lose his previous losses have always paid off in other ways.
Keyes' failed 1988 Senate campaign led to a job running Citizens Against Government Waste (1989-91) until his failed 1992 campaign, which led to a radio talk show, The Alan Keyes Show. His failed 1996 campaign for president helped him double his speaking fee from $7,500 to $15,000 per speech. And Keyes cashed in on his failed 2000 primary performance with a cable-TV show in 2002 on MSNBC called Alan Keyes Is Making Sense. If only that were true. Viewers disagreed, and anemic ratings caused MSNBC to cancel the primetime show. For Keyes, losing elections has been a good career move in promoting himself.
Perhaps the greatest flak Keyes has taken came from his charge of carpetbagging. Republicans – who wanted to denounce Obama as an interloper raised in Hawaii and educated on the East Coast who came to Illinois a mere 15 years ago – suddenly find themselves with a candidate whose main connection with Illinois consists of flying through O'Hare International Airport.
On the Fox News Channel in March 2000, Keyes criticized Hllary Clinton for entering the New York Senate race. "I deeply resent the destruction of federalism represented by Hillary Clinton's willingness to go into a state she doesn't even live in and pretend to represent people there, so I certainly wouldn't imitate it." That wasnt all he said. I do not take for granted that it's a good idea to parachute into a state and go into a Senate race. As a matter of principle, I don't think it's a good idea." That was then, this is now.
Keyes on race
Keyes is legendary for playing the race card. He quit his State Department job in 1987, blaming it on a racial snub by Deputy Secretary of State John C. Whitehead. (Keyes accused Whitehead of looking past Keyes and speaking to subordinates; Whitehead called the charge "outrageous" and "inaccurate.")
In 1992, when he wasn't given a prime speaking spot at the Republican National Convention, Keyes blamed the decision on racism. He ended up speaking twice at the convention, including once in primetime. Because the Republican National Committee withheld financial support for his losing cause, Keyes accused them of racism and complained that in the GOP, "colorblind means that when a colored person walks in, you suddenly go blind."
Running for president, Keyes accused the media of "a blackout to keep the black out." When the media attention to African-American Republican J.C. Watts was pointed out to him, Keyes responded, "The very question is a racist question!" Keyes told the media, "You do to me what you did to my ancestors! You ignore my successes, just as you ignored my ancestors' successes!"
Keyes told USA Today in 2000 that his exclusion from media coverage was racially motivated. And it's racially motivated not in the sense of just being against blacks but being against black conservatives, who would threaten the base of left-wing liberalism in America." When an interviewer praised his oratorical skills, Keyes called it racist because it denigrated his ideas.
When it comes to race, Keyes rejects the idea that any black person – except for Alan Keyes – suffers discrimination. He told Larry King in 2000 that if he were the victim of a "driving while black" police stop, he would fault the "black folks out there disproportionately committing certain kinds of crime."
Although Keyes is opposed to affirmative action, his selection was itself a case of affirmative action. Before choosing Keyes, the Republican State Central Committee interviewed 13 candidates for the U.S. Senate job. They picked two African-Americans as finalists: Keyes and Andrea Barthwell. Faced with an African-American Democrat, they acted affirmatively on race.
Sex, marriage, and Nazis
Keyes' extreme views touch on most hot-button social issues, from gay marriage to the separation of church and state.
Gay marriage, Keyes warns, will cause "the destruction of civilizations," and he has equated the "homosexual agenda" as "totalitarianism." In fact, Keyes claims, "Hitler and his supporters were Satanists and homosexuals." To Keyes, "The notion that is involved in homosexuality, the unbridled sort of satisfaction of human passions," leads to totalitarianism, Nazism, and communism.
Says Keyes, "Since marriage is about procreation, and they can't procreate, it is a logical requirement that they can't get married." Never mind that heterosexual couples incapable of or unwilling to have children can get married, or that many gay couples have children. Keyes seems oblivious to this reality: "Homosexuals are not haunted by the prospect or possibility of procreation – because they're simply not capable of it. I think this is pretty obvious, isn't it?"
One other thing worries Keyes about homosexuality: lesbian couples having children by means of artificial insemination. Why? Well, because the children of lesbians who don't know their fathers might meet and be unknowingly related: "That means that an incestuous situation could easily arise in our society; it's more than likely to arise – not to mention every other kind of incestuous complication."
At a May 14 rally in Boston against gay marriage, Keyes even declared that gay and lesbian couples don't have sex: "It's not entirely clear to me you can call them sexual, because in point of fact, sex is no part of what they do. Real sexuality is about the distinction between male and female, as expressed in the body and its differences."
For Keyes, gay marriage is out. But a marriage of religion and government is in.
He has denounced what he calls "this silly argument" that there must be a separation between church and state. "Entirely a lie" is what he calls this long-standing principle of American government, even claiming that the U.S. Constitution grants states the right to establish churches or impose religious tests on political leaders.
Keyes also advocates the idea of a governor or the president having the authority to disobey a court order he believes violates the Constitution. According to Keyes: "The right response of a chief executive in this state and in this nation, when faced with an order by a court that he conscientiously believes violates the Constitution he is sworn to respect, is to refuse their order!"
Keyesian economics: The slave tax
If his views on abortion and homosexuality seem outside the mainstream, Keyes' economic ideas may be even stranger. He opposes what he calls "the slave income tax," and he means that term literally: "What do we call it when you work and someone else controls 100 percent of the fruit of your labor? We call it slavery. Therefore, I am not talking in metaphors here."
During a 2000 presidential-primary debate he referred to "Massa Bush" and his tax-cut plan because "this is all a discussion between the masters of how well or ill they're going to treat the slaves."
Keyes urges repeal of the 16th Amendment, which allows for a federal income tax, and instead advocates a 20- to 23-percent national sales tax to replace all federal income and payroll taxes.
But Keyes is no typical free-trade Republican. He denounces international trade pacts such as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and the North American Free Trade Agreement as socialistic and subversive.
On other issues, he supports removing all limits on campaign contributions and spending; opposes a minimum-wage increase; supports partial privatization of Social Security payroll taxes; and proposes eliminating the Department of Education and using federal money for schools exclusively as vouchers for parents. Evolution should not be taught in schools because it "utterly destroys the foundation for any sense of a transcendent basis for human justice."
He advocates teaching high-school students how to use guns. Keyes links gun control to higher taxes: "If you can't be trusted with your guns, guess what else you can't be trusted with? Your money!" Keyes has even hinted that gun control justifies armed revolution against the U.S. government. Citizens, he says, have a duty to "resist and overthrow the power responsible" if their right to have guns is "systematically violated." In 1999, Keyes even seemed to threaten the president by saying, "the Second Amendment is really in the Constitution to give men like Bill Clinton something to think about when their ambition gets particularly overinflated."
Diehard Republicans and Keyes fans (sometimes known as "Keysters") are thrilled to have a prominent right-winger running in a traditionally moderate state like Illinois. Moderate Republicans are much more worried, although most have publicly jumped on the Keyes bandwagon.
Why would the Republican Party pick a candidate with such a long history of extreme views in a relatively moderate state like Illinois (where George W. Bush won 42.6 percent of the vote in 2000)? Mike Lawrence, an aide to former Gov. Jim Edgar, a Republican moderate, calls Keyes' selection a "cynical ploy."
Even the Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine edited by Keyes' Harvard roommate William Kristol, calls the choice of Keyes a "fiasco" in an online article by Republican consultant Mike Murphy. "I'm certain Ambassador Keyes is now busily printing up some 'Crazy Times Demand a Crazy Senator' yard signs," Murphy wrote.
Keyes has consistently attacked moderates in his party, especially those who are pro-choice. He's denounced what he calls the "Schwarzenegger corruption of the Republican Party," referring to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a featured speaker at the RNC. On all the matters that touch upon the critical moral issues, Arnold Schwarzenegger is on the evil side," Keyes said.
Greg Blankenship, a Republican who runs the "Obama Truth Squad" Web site, calls Keyes' candidacy "truly nuts" and "borderline delusional." Blankenship says, "I've dealt with Keyes personally. . . His ego is too big for the Senate, Presidency, and probably God."
The Associated Press is reporting that John Kerry has reached the majority of delegates he needs for the nomination. What do you hope to accomplish by continuing your campaign?
Dennis Kucinich: We know the direction of the nomination, but what remains to be seen is the direction of the Democratic Party. My candidacy is about influencing the direction of the Democratic Party, not just in this election, but long term. To have a party that stands for peace, for workers rights, human rights, and environmental quality in trade, and for universal health care.
Do you think you'll have an influence at the Democratic National Convention?
To me, that's a secondary question right now. I'm in this election all the way through to the convention. We'll take one phase at a time. I'm the only other candidate, I think, who is actively campaigning still. I'm going to continue to campaign.
Do you think the media's going to pay attention to you now that there's not officially a race?
Local media has been covering this campaign, and continues to do so. Whatever the national media does, as far as I'm concerned, is irrelevant. This campaign is continuing. I don't need the permission of the national media to run, I'm not seeking it, I didn't ask them to get in, whether they cover me or not is their problem, not mine.
The mainstream media seems to vacillate between mocking you and ignoring you. How much damage did the media do to your campaign?
I think I'm right on track to be an overnight success.
What do you think of Ralph Nader's independent candidacy?
Ralph Nader and I have known each other for 30 years. We've worked together on a lot of things. Our politics are obviously different. I'm inside the Democratic Party, he's not. I think that my candidacy has the potential to attract people who would otherwise vote for Ralph Nader. People who are concerned about the undue influence of corporate power in our political agenda, people who are concerned about illegal wars, people who are concerned about protecting the environment, people who are concerned about fair trade, all those people who are attracted to Ralph Nader are also attracted to my candidacy. So what I'm doing is keeping the potential alive to bring people inside the Democratic Party.
On the positions you mentioned, you seem to agree with Nader more than Kerry.
But just keep something in mind. The Democratic Party cannot win the White House without that constituency.
What would you say to voters in Illinois, and other safe states where a vote for Nader won't affect the presidential election?
Just about any Democratic nominee can count on 47%-48% of the vote. This election's going to be decided by fractions. The question is, in each state, who has the ability to attract progressive voters and mobilize them, and give them a reason to vote. I don't think people are ready to trade a Republican version of the war in Iraq for a Democratic version of the same. We have a long period of time for this argument to be played out. We're seven and a half months away from the general election. That's an eternity in politics. Anything can happen. So I'm staying on this trail right through to the election. So that takes us to July.
Do you plan to endorse John Kerry?
I'm in an active phase of a candidacy, so it's inappropriate for anyone to ask me that when I'm campaigning.
But all of the Democratic nominees agreed to endorse the winner.
We've already committed for the nominee.
Your home state of Ohio may be decisive in the fall election.
What do you think are the chances that Kerry can defeat Bush in Ohio?
I'm not going to go there. It's too soon.
What issues will Ohio voters care about for defeating Bush?
I think Bush is vulnerable on the war, because his administration lied to get us into a war. He's vulnerable on trade because we lost three million jobs, and he's actually accelerating these trade agreements. He's vulnerable on health care, with 43 million Americans without health care. He's vulnerable on Social Security. The Democrats are not going to be able to mobilize the support necessary to win the White House unless they have a progressive economic agenda. It's just not going to happen. It's not going to be enough to say, "Get rid of Bush." There's a point at which you have to offer people something. And there it becomes a question of what the Democrats stand for.
What is your argument against the argument of the DLC and pundits that you have to move to the center to win the election?
The center's a mythical place. The center of nowhere is what they're talking about. It's very interesting that the kind of academic political analysis based on ideology is insufficient for being able to guide the outcome of this election, because the essential analysis is an economic one, it's not an ideological one.
The economic analysis has to realize that wealth is being redistributed upward at a very quick rate. That the tax cuts have redistributed wealth upwards, that the war in Iraq is a redistribution of wealth upwards, that the $421 billion Pentagon budget is a redistribution of wealth upwards, that global corporate trades facilitates a redistribution of wealth upwards, that concentration of corporate power redistributes wealth upwards, that pollution represents a redistribution of wealth in the society.
The way that you mobilize people is to appeal to their practical aspirations for jobs, for housing, for health care, for education, for retirement security, and for peace. That's the ticket to this election. If the Democrats can do that, we win the White House. If we can't, we won't. There are no guarantees here. None at all. There will be a lot of shadow play and image thrusting, but it's not clear what anyone stands for yet. People really have to know that there's a crystal clear alternative, it's too soon to say if that's going to take shape.
That's why my candidacy gives the Democrats an opportunity, through the debate, an opportunity to assume some clarity about what we stand for. Maybe the Party will decide not to stand for what I'm talking about. But there will be clarity about where they stand because there will be somebody holding up some principles throughout the process of the next three months.
Do you expect John Kerry to continue holding debates with you?
No, I think that part's over. I don't anticipate that. Why would he want to do that?
It seems like this period of time is an opportunity to bring a lot more delegates in.
We're working on it. In the last 30 days, we've actually had one of the largest gains in delegates over the past 30 days.
What issues do you think will bring you more delegates?
The war, health care, trade, Patriot Act. Kerry was for the Patriot Act, and for the war, and for NAFTA, and for this corporate-type trade, and corporate-type health care. This, for me, is a demonstration of my commitment. How committed am I to these principles? There have been seven other candidates who have dropped out of the race. Each person has to demonstrate how committed they are. I'm showing how committed I am.
For the fall election, Noam Chomsky has said that he wouldn't be surprised if Bush pulls Bin Laden out of thin air.
He might pull Bin Laden out of mid-air, but he's never going to pull the truth out of mid-air. Because that's one thing he's not met. And so that's one thing that's quite elusive.
And your intention is to keep your eyes on the prize?
In America today, there is one article of faith more certain than the goodness of the war on terrorism and the virtue of forcing kids to say "under God": the evil of baseball players going on strike.
Some fans believe that players are clueless about the harm a strike would cause. In fact, it's the fans who are clueless and who don't understand the harm to player salaries and to the future of the game that would be caused by giving in to the corporate communism demanded by owners.
By rewarding failure, chaining down success, and attacking players, the owners are endangering the long-term health of baseball. Yet with the help of the media (which are, coincidentally, largely controlled by baseball owners, in the case of Fox, ESPN [ABC/Disney], AOL/Time-Warner, and the Tribune Co.), the players have been bashed for their uppity attitudes. Reds general manager Jim Bowden even declared, "If they do walk out, make sure it's Sept. 11. Be symbolic. Let Donald Fehr drive the plane right into the building, if that's what they want to do." (Apparently the victims of terrorism died for the luxury tax, and anyone who says otherwise is asking for a fight).
The April 15, 2002 issue of Forbes found that the owners are lying about their profits in ways that would embarrass even an Enron executive. The MLB official numbers (presumably checked carefully by someone like Arthur Andersen) declare that baseball had $232 million in operating losses in 2001. The Forbes survey, by contrast, showed a $76.7 million profit. According to Forbes, the average MLB franchise is now worth $286 million, 10% more than last year. Team value has grown by the astonishing rate of 12 percent per year. Yet Major League Baseball claims it has lost money every single year since 1995, well over a billion dollars collectively.
Why are owners lying about their profits? Actually, lying about profits seems to be standard procedure among CEOs. But baseball runs backwards: Instead of inflating earnings like Enron, baseball owners are denying their huge profits. The reason is clear: Baseball relies upon corporate socialism, and crying poverty is the best way to get a taxpayer-subsidized stadium, or to turn public sentiment against players.
Imagine if your employer decided to get together with all the other businesses in your field and set a cap on salaries, so that any company which paid its employees excessively would pay a 50% tax. Would that cartel be fair?
Owners claim that they have only noble ambitions. Conservative columnist George Will attacked players for rejecting the owners goal of a more egalitarian distribution of wealth -- an idea he would denounce in any other case besides baseball. But corporate profits, not egalitarianism, motivate the owners.
Competitiveness and balance are far greater today than in the past, when free agency was just a dream. The Oakland A's (28th in payroll) are one of the best teams in baseball. And it took a lawsuit to stop the owners from contracting the Minnesota Twins; now the Twins might be the first team this season to clinch a division title. A decade ago, Seattle was considered a lost cause; they made just $3 million in local media revenue, lowest in baseball and half the level of the Montreal Expos (who were on the way to the playoffs before the 1994 strike). Today, the Mariners are considered one of the strongest franchises in baseball.
The only competitive balance owners care about is balancing their checkbooks with smaller payouts to players. In 1990, baseball owners made $1.3 billion in revenues and had $805 million after paying the players. In 2001, baseball had $3.6 billion in revenues and $1.6 billion leftover after the players were paid. Nor is baseball facing declining revenues that necessitate lower salaries. The ESPN contract, worth $40 million in 2002, will jump to $175 million in 2003 and $200 million in 2004 and 2005. Baseball will get an extra $465 million from the ESPN contract alone over the next three years, while the owners are effectively demanding reductions in player salaries. Any guesses on who will pocket that extra profit? Of course, the owners might use the money to generously lower ticket prices. And monkeys might fly out of commissioner Bug Selig's ass.
The biggest problem in baseball is cheap owners who use revenue sharing to make big profits while putting out a lousy team. In 2000 the Minnesota Twins received $21 million in revenue sharing, $5 million more than the entire payroll for their team. In 2001, the Expos got $28.5 million in revenue sharing. Rather than improving baseball, revenue sharing has been pocketed by the worst owners and enabled them to make money with terrible teams.
The only solution to improve baseball is not a luxury tax, but a cheapness tax. Teams that don't pay a decent payroll, who lower the quality of the game by pocketing the revenue sharing without even trying to win, those teams should be penalized by reducing the revenue sharing given to them.
It may seem ridiculous that an average player gets paid $2.3 million for barely being able to hit a ball with a stick. But what about the CEOs who were paid hundreds of times what Sammy Sosa makes to send their companies into the toilet? The real question is, who should make the profits? Are the owners, protected in their publicly-subsidized monopolies, entitled to greater profits even when they're incompetent? Or do the players deserve a fair share?
The solution to baseball's problems is simple. End corporate socialism. If the owners aren't willing to allow real competition, then it's up to the players to resist the owners' attempts to get rich at the expense of baseball.
John K. Wilson is creator of www.collegefreedom.org and the author of three books, not one of which mentions baseball. He lives in Normal, Illinois."
Ralph Nader has a race problem. The presidential candidate for Green Party enjoys strong support among white progressives, and supporters of Al Gore fear that he may draw away enough votes to influence a close election. But among people of color, support for Nader seems remarkably weak.
On the surface, Nader appears to be nearly an ideal candidate to communities of color. Nader, who is of Lebanese descent, offers a platform that would help impoverished African-Americans more than the promises of any candidate in recent memory. Winona LaDuke, his vice-presidential candidate, will almost certainly receive more votes than any person of color on a presidential ticket in American history. Nader's views on race are the most progressive of any presidential candidate who has ever been a significant force in the polls before an election. Yet he seems unlikely to gain more than a few black votes in November.
Here is a candidate who supports reparations for slavery, supports affirmative action strongly, supported the boycott against Coca-Cola for racial discrimination, opposes standardized tests and their discriminatory effects, attacks racial profiling, police brutality and environmental racism, opposes the death penalty and its application against people of color, calls for an end to the drug war which has put so many minorities in jail, attacks the "prison industrial complex," attacks redlining and was personally involved in exposing discrimination by home mortgage lenders, and calls for a "Marshall Plan" for the poor to "correct what has been taken away and is still being taken away from African-Americans and their children in terms of economic and educational opportunity, self-confidence, and overall quality of life." Why, apart from a few prominent endorsements such as Manning Marable and Randall Robinson, is he lacking support from African-Americans?
"Ralph Nader's following is blindingly white," notes Kevin Pranis, an organizer for the No More Prisons project. "People who are the most marginalized are least likely to jump into the Nader campaign." That may be because Third Party politics are regarded as a lark in America rather than part of serious political organizing. Black activists would rather focus on issues that directly concern them than
The lack of black endorsements for Nader may also be because African-Americans are more politically isolated and vulnerable than other groups. African-Americans have established a significant if often disregarded presence in the Democratic Party. Abandoning that power, no matter how limited it might be, for a quixotic Green Party, has limited appeal. Progressive blacks who work within the Democratic Party, such as Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., cannot afford to alienate party officials by endorsing Nader, even if they share his views -- although Jackson did make the unusual step of supporting Nader's inclusion in the presidential debates. Whites can more easily afford to alienate the political establishment by endorsing Nader. If African-Americans are going to stick their necks for someone, it has to be a candidate who they believe sticks out his neck for blacks.
Nader hasn't done that. His rhetoric on race is very traditional: he rarely raises the topic on his own, and instead focuses on universal programs emphasizing class issues.
Activists for women and gays and lesbians have expressed similar concerns about Nader's rhetoric. Nader's apparent dismissal of gay and lesbian issues as "gonadal politics" several years ago has cost him votes, even though his positions favoring gay marriage, non-discrimination, and adoption are more progressive than Gore's stands. Likewise, the National Organization for Women recently attacked Nader for failing to support women's issues, although Nader (unlike Gore) has endorsed the NOW platform and has actively crusaded for economic equality, such as writing the introduction to the book Women Pay More and How to Put a Stop To It.
Most Nader rallies feature audiences that are well over 90 percent white -- not much different than the Republican or Democratic Conventions, but certainly not any better. Charging from $7 to $20 for admission to a political rally probably helps to keep away poorer African-Americans. And the lineup of prominent white men that tour with Nader, ranging from Phil Donahue to Eddie Vedder to Michael Moore to Studs Terkel, didn't help much in luring a diverse audience.
If Nader were a candidate in the Democratic Party, his views on race would undoubtably be cheered by African-Americans and his omissions on the topic would largely go unnoticed. But as a progressive and an outsider, Nader faces higher standards.
Vanessa Daniel, a research associate at the Applied Research Center, recently wrote an article for Colorlines magazine about "Ralph Nader's Racial Blindspot." Daniel observed that "when asked specifically about racial issues Nader is usually quite candid and supportive. But unless asked directly, he seems content to render the topic invisible."
Daniel noted, "In tackling thorny topics such as corporate globalization, environmental abuse and child poverty, Nader often speaks to problems that have their most devastating effects in communities of color. However, he almost never points to the racial dimensions of these issues."
The rhetoric of Nader is so radically different from mainstream candidates that he often seems to be neglecting questions of race. The American political tradition is to segregate discussions of race into a narrow part of the campaign -- to go to a black church and tell the audience what they want to hear, then to abandon those ideas upon entering office. Nader delivers the same attack on corporations no matter where he speaks. And because anti-corporate rhetoric is so rare in American politics, few people see the anti-racist component that Nader believes is an inherent part of his policies.
Smita Khatri, the Race and Gender Justice organizer for the Nader/LaDuke campaign, admits that "race is not his main topic. His main focus is on corporations. But racism is tied in intricately with that."
Khatri emphasizes that the Nader campaign is beginning to address issues of race, something that wasn't possible for a small campaign that in February only had two campaign workers. Khatri was hired in August, and now the www.votenader.org website has an extensive section on racism, noting that "America remains burdened by a racial chasm" and including ten sub-sections on topics such as affirmative action, racial profiling, fair lending, police brutality, fair testing, sentencing disparities and restitution.
The increasing significance of race in Nader's campaign goes beyond his website. "He has made a concerted effort in the past month to address those issues," noted one black University of Chicago student who attended the Oct. 10 rally, pointing to actions such as Nader's recent appearance on Queen Latifah's talk show. In his Chicago speech, Nader directly attacked environmentalism racism: "Do you ever see incinerators in Skokie? No, the incinerators are where the poor, the downtrodden, and people of color are."
Whether Nader will be able to lure a more diverse following isn't just a question of public relations. Reaching out to people of color, who probably constitute a majority of the potential progressive voters, is crucial for Nader's goal of reaching the 5 percent threshold nationwide. But with election day looming ahead, it's not clear if Nader has the time and the resources to convince the skeptics.
John K. Wilson is the author of "How the Left Can Win Arguments and Influence People: A Tactical Manual for Pragmatic Progressives," which will be published in 2001 by New York University Press.