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News

Democracy for the Highest Bidder

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Ralph Nader says politics in America is all messed up. Go on, argue with that.The only people who won’t admit that Nader has a point are Republican and Democratic party loyalists and their big-money backers.

Soon, the airwaves will be jammed with political advertisements. Presidential candidates will spend tens of millions on TV advertising during the fall campaign. In every state across the nation, congressmen will be elected only if each has a minimum $1 million in campaign or personal financing. And in most races, the price tag will be much higher.

Where does the money come from? Most of it comes from special interests and large corporations. Nader, who is running for president on the Green Party ticket and is now on the ballot in 45 states, argues that corporations, through campaign contributions and gifts, are now so intertwined in government that it’s hard to tell where government leaves off and where the private sector begins. Go ahead, argue with that.

Thinking people know Nader is right when he says large corporations have too much say in which legislation gets passed—not only in Washington, D.C., but in state houses across the country. John McCain, after all, gave George W. Bush a good run for his money in the Republican presidential primary, touting the very same argument.

The scenes outside the convention centers in Philadelphia and Los Angeles where Republicans and Democrats held their national conventions this summer were breathtaking for two reasons: There was a larger presence of demonstrators, and a larger presence of corporate wealth. The two may be opposite, but they’re not disconnected. A groundswell is beginning in this country—one that believes corporate boards of directors have too much say about how this country is run.

That’s why you can’t ignore Ralph Nader. His message resonates.

Democratic Party loyalists aren’t too keen on Nader. They believe—and rightly so—that Nader will pull votes from Al Gore in November, possibly handing the election to George W. Bush. A vote for Nader, they say, is a vote for Bush. And Bush is the standard-bearer of corporate wealth and power.

Maybe they’re right. Nader’s chances of winning the White House simply don’t exist. But those who vote for him will be doing so in hopes that their voice will be heard: Get corporate largesse out of government.

Democrats say they would like to get big money out of government, too, they just don’t know how to do it without losing more ground to Republicans. And we’re back to square one, where our democracy has been sold off to the highest bidder.