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Ralph Nader calls it the Super Bowl of Civic Engagement.
And Saturday, Nader took out a full page ad in the national edition of the New York Times to promote his Breaking Through Power convocation at DAR Constitution Hall May 23 to May 26.
The convocation will include scores of prominent civic activists — including Phil Donahue, Patti Smith, Chris Hedges, Jim Hightower and Winona LaDuke.
Hedges appeared on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour this week and the focus quickly shifted to the upcoming election.
“What would you tell the American people to do?” Nader asked. “They still have the sovereign power. Congress is only 535 men and women. What would you have them do in this election year? It doesn’t look like we are going to get much change from Trump or from Hillary the Hawk. A major article in the New York Times Magazine — a newspaper that endorsed her — had a leading article a few days ago on how incredibly hawkish she is, in addition to being a Wall Street sympathizer. What would you urge people to do?”
“Kshama Sawant and I spoke with Bernie Sanders at an event we did together the night before the climate march,” Hedges said. “We had urged Sanders not to run as a Democrat for precisely the reasons that are now evident. The Democratic Party establishment had fixed the system against him. He did surprisingly well given that they lock out independents, they have superdelegates, Clinton has super PACs.”
“In a fair election, where corporate money did not dominate, he would have beat her,” Hedges said. “This was not a fair election. And Sanders unfortunately has announced that he will endorse the nominee, which is very clearly going to be Clinton. And in that moment, he becomes an impediment to progress.”
“Kshama Sawant and Socialist Alternative has put up a petition calling on Sanders to run as an independent in the Green Party. But if Sanders isn’t going to step out and help us build a system free of corporate dominance — and the Republican and Democratic parties are of course completely beholden to corporate money and corporate power — then we have to do it without him. And we have to stop getting caught up in these election cycles.”
“Obviously, an independent isn’t going to win. We have to think about what is going to happen five and ten years from now. We have to begin a movement. If five or ten million people will vote for an independent, that’s five or ten million votes for single payer health care. That’s ten million votes for stopping endless war. That’s ten million votes for the regulation of Wall Street.”
“And the system will only respond when we stand up to defend ourselves. And unfortunately, the system has been quite astute, using that mantra of the least worst. Most people see through Clinton. They will attempt to demonize Trump in a way that makes people grit their teeth and go into the ballot booth and vote for the Democratic anointed candidate. We have to stop playing that game.”
Nader argued that “nothing can stop Bernie Sanders from leading a civic movement.”
“He could fill the mall in the fall with hundreds of thousands of people then regionalize the demonstrations and create a civic movement. He doesn’t have to be a toadie to Hillary. Now with all the people supporting him, and all the contributions and donations, he could be a major civic force as a U.S. Senator.”
Hedges wasn’t buying it.
“He could be, but I’ll tell you why he won’t — because he told me,” Hedges said. “When we pushed him to run as an independent, his response was — I don’t want to end up like Ralph Nader. And what does that mean? It means the Democrats worked out a quid pro quo with him — whereby he blocks third party movements in Vermont and they do not run a serious candidate against him for his Senate seat. They allow him to sit with the Democratic caucus. They give him a committee chairmanship. He knows that all of that will be taken from him if he defies the party.”
Nader said that in the coming days, “there are going to be demands by the corporate Democrats for Bernie to drop out — drop out Bernie, drop out.”
“He’s about to get the same treatment,” Nader said. “They are basically saying to Bernie Sanders — drop out, otherwise, you will be like Ralph Nader. He’s going to get the same treatment.”
Hedges said that the problem is Sanders “has already said that he will support the nominee.”
“At that point, he attempts to funnel the energy and enthusiasm — I don’t think it’s going to work, especially with the younger voters,” Hedges said. “He will function the way Van Jones functioned in the last election. Van Jones was running around saying — Occupy the Vote. We are at a different moment in American history. People have seen through the system, both on the left and the right. That’s how you have seen the Republican Party implode. But unless Sanders is willing to defy the Democratic establishment — and up until this point he has shown no interest in doing that — we are going to have to do it without Bernie Sanders.”