Campus & Community

Nader visits DU, rails against politics as usual

Ralph Nader was the latest presidential candidate to speak at DU, bringing an estimated 4,000 to Magness Arena on Aug. 27. The long-time consumer rights advocate and four-time presidential contender — fifth if the 1992 write-in campaign is included — maintains a passionate anger against both the Democratic and Republican parties for refusing to allow him and his vice-presidential candidate Matt Gonzalez entrée into the debates.

He was in Denver to bring attention to hurdles to third-party and Independent candidates. Running as an Independent this time, Nader has had little press coverage, which he says would level the playing field between his candidacy and those of John McCain and Barack Obama.

Banners on stage read “Open the Debates.” The audience was largely supportive of Nader, who maintains that the Democratic Party isn’t much better than the Republican Party.

The event was a marathon of speeches from the likes of activist Cindy Sheehan, actor Sean Penn, musician Jello Biafra; musical performances by Tom Morello, Nellie McKay and Ike Reilly; and a lengthy auctioneer-style fundraising session before Nader finally took the stage at 9:30 p.m. — some three-and-a-half hours after the doors opened.

Nader decried the Democratic National Convention and the money corporations spent on excesses such as skyboxes, saying the democratic candidates are beholden to their “corporate paymasters.”

“This party is sick, it’s decaying; it’s lost its soul,” Nader said. “The Democrats are dialing for the same corporate dollars the Republicans are dialing for. They’re being wined and dined by the corrupters, the corporate predators, corporations who have ripped off American consumers and workers.”

Addressing young people in the audience, Nader said indicators show that future college graduates won’t have the same economic opportunities as their forebears. He admonished the 18- to 24-year-olds who say they’re not turned on to politics, warning, “Politics will turn on them.”

Some of the largest applause came when Nader spoke about rehabilitating nonviolent drug offenders rather than jailing them. In their place, Nader said, the empty cells should be filled with convicted corporate criminals.

Actor Sean Penn spoke not in support of Nader but in support of Nader’s bid to enter the debates. “Our mission is to put all challenges on the table,” Penn said, “and to do that we must have open debate.”

Answering “spoiler” charges, Nader said it’s “political bigotry” to reduce third-party and Independent candidates to second-class citizenship.

“They’re all for civil rights and civil liberties except for a competitive election,” Nader said. “The 60th seed in Wimbledon, the 60th seed in the NCAA is given a chance to win the whole thing, but the third candidacy in the presidential campaign, Nader/Gonzalez, is not given a chance to win the whole thing because the two parties have the keys to the debates, which is the opening to reach tens of millions of Americans.”

A TIME/CNN poll released Aug. 27 noted Nader drawing 6–8% of the vote in some regions.

Other presidential campaigns visiting DU in recent months were John McCain, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton (for wife, Hillary), Mitt Romney and former candidate John Edwards.

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