Drunken Politics is now on Breakthru Radio every Wednesday! This is in addition to our regular shows on Blogtalk Radio, which will return every Wednesday @ 11pm EST and Sunday @ 3pm EST starting November 26. When we come back from hiatus, we’ll have Noam Chomsky on our show.
In the meantime, this is the new site where Drunken Politics will air: http://www.breakthruradio.com/index.php?show=5302. There will be a couple NEW episodes airing here to tide you over during the hiatus.
This show is MUCH better quality, which will come as a relief to those of your sick of hearing Jamie get disconnected and Allison swear profusely.
If we get a ton of traffic on this new site, we’ll get to increase the number of shows we do every week. Basically, we need to show that Drunken Politics is in demand.
A new episode will be up every Wednesday at noon. The current episode has clips from Jamie’s new standup CD, a final fuck you to George Bush, Allison’s new political ad, and Independent vice-presidential candidate Matt Gonzalez, and former presidential candidate, Ralph Nader.
And next Wednesday we spend the hour with Eugene Jerecki, who won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance for his film Why We Fight. We talk about his new book The American Way of War, Barack Obama, and what we can do to stop the brutal Military-Industrial complex. We taped the interview today and trust us, you want to listen to it. He was fucking brilliant.
Finally, as you probably know, it is very easy to get swept up in the Obama craze, assume we won and stop paying attention to anything political, but California’s ban on gay marriage passed. Not only did it pass, but it passed in a state where Obama housed! Which means people we know, Democrats, voted to take rights AWAY from people in 2008.
We need to get the word out about the damage this is doing. We are not a free society unless all of our citizens have equal rights. Go to http://www.couragecampaign.org/page/s/repealprop8 to sign a petition to undo this miscarriage of justice.
Also there are a few limited edition CDs of Jamie’s stand-up left at myspace.com/jamiekilsein.
The election is over and we must begin turning our country around now, or the opportunity may not come again. By quickly organizing ourselves in each of the 435 congressional districts, over the next 100 days, we can make single-payer healthcare, a living wage, and a less militaristic society our long-term reality. We must do this because the founders of these United States gave us the power to do it. Please watch the video and sign up today.
Real change in America won’t arrive on November 4 in a compact package, complete with a shiny, new president and congressional Democratic majority. Real change will begin November 5, and positive change will only occur if Progressives demand representation from their leadership, and begin to shape politics first locally, and then spread outward to create national reform.
A fish rots from the head down, and so the American government has been rotting for decades, and we are finally seeing the effects on Wall Street and Main Street. The Progressives miscalculate and misallocate resources when they solely hunt for the presidency. It’s also important to snatch congressional seats and local offices in order to push the country left.
Many disheartened citizens feel they don’t have the right stuff to run for office. This assumption negates the wisdom found in Margaret Mead’s famous words: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Of course citizens can control the destiny of their government. After all, they fund the damn thing. They are government’s bosses. It’s about time they climbed in the saddle, took the reigns, and steered the country in a more desirable direction.
But real change will start at a local level and build upward. Only a serious, huge Progressive movement will support the occasional Progressive candidate that obtains a position of great power. Otherwise, it’s just dye drops in the ocean.
An example of this small fish-big pond syndrome is most clearly illustrated in what Ralph Nader would call a little Dennis Kucinich “window-dressing.” The Ohio Congressman is certainly one of the most progressive members of Congress, but he has been unable to create big, sweeping reforms due to being vastly outnumbered by his centrist Democratic colleagues. Think: a field mouse crossing a four-lane highway. Kucinich never stood a chance, but he should be applauded for being one of the last principled idealists left in the government.
It will take an army of Kuciniches to create any real change in the country, but where will these politicians come from? To put it simply: they will come from the people.
Beginning at a local level, Progressives can overtake their government piece-by-piece, beginning with city council positions, then extending to mayoral duties and then finally to governorships, congressional seats, and eventually, yes, the presidency. But first, a Progressive president will need a Progressive Congress in order to get bills passed.
Call it the big fish-small pond strategy. A good example of this approach working is Matt Gonzalez’s 2003 campaign for the office of mayor in San Francisco. Matt Gonzalez is currently running as Ralph Nader’s vice-presidential nominee for the Independent Party. But back in 2003, Gonzalez was largely unknown on the national stage even though he was one of the first Green Party candidates to be elected to office in the Bay Area.
From the start, his main competitor, Gavin Newsom, outmuscled him financially. Newsom spent over $4 million during the race, while Gonzalez spent around $800,000. With little money and resources, Gonzalez stood on street corners and introduced himself to San Francisco’s residents. He attended living room Q&A sessions, and he and his staff went door-to-door and gradually began to take votes from Newsom.
Gonzalez received a major bump in the polls when he enthusiastically embraced the idea of gay marriage, an issue hugely important to San Francisco constituents. In a panic, Newsom matched Gonzalez’s enthusiasm, though Newsom had been considerably hesitant to discuss the issue of gay marriage before Gonzalez’s statements. Gonzalez’s presence in the 2003 mayoral race is credited with Newsom’s current stance on gay marriage, a microcosm of what could theoretically happen if more Progressives were permitted in national debates.
It’s unfortunate that a Democratic mayoral candidate in San Francisco, Mecca to liberals and gays, can’t even speak out in favor of equal rights for citizens. However, it’s important to recognize how a progressive candidate running for a local office influenced real policy change. Unlike Kucinich window-dressing, Gonzalez was able to push a Democratic candidate left, and Newsom adopted progressive stances on gay marriage because of his run.
On a ballot with nine candidates, Gonzalez came in second with 19.6 percent of the total vote. Newsom earned 41.9 percent. Since no one secured a majority, there was then a run-off election, which received national and international media coverage. San Francisco has wisely adopted the extremely democratic run-off system that permits third party candidates to competitively campaign. This is also the same system that would have secured the state of Florida for Al Gore in the 2000 election. It gets rid of the stupid policy of awarding a candidate with all of the votes if they haven’t secured a majority. See: George W. Bush.
Though Newsom eventually won the race, Gonzalez had emerged as a serious contender, and as the face of a new Progressive movement in California.
Running as a Progressive is not for the fainthearted. Democrats’ favorite pastime, ranking higher than even making weak attempts to thwart Republicans, is keeping Progressives out of the election process. Progressives are told to wait four more years to run nationally (as Nader was told in 2000, 2004, and now in 2008,) and they are also told to delay running locally as Gonzalez was heavily pressured to do by California Democrats. If it’s not the most critical election ever, ever, then it’s just bad timing. It’s too sunny to run. It’s too rainy. It’s the wrong month. Venus is in retrograde.
You get the idea. Democrats can’t have Progressives running because they might have to – the horror – adopt some Progressive ideas.
When I recently interviewed Matt Gonzalez, he explained: “I think a healthy challenge by a truly Progressive candidate that shows the strength of the Progressive community makes it clear to the other candidate that he’s going to have to face this again four years later unless he realigns his own politics for this new emerging power.”
But back to that whole apathetic/scared thing infecting the Progressive movement. Bitching liberals are often overheard lamenting that there aren’t enough hours in the day, dollars in the bank, or ounces of courage in voters to get Progressives elected to local seats. Gonzalez disagrees.
“Running for office is important, and you don’t really need more than to be right on the issues, and to be able to articulate what it is you believe. You don’t need a certain background. You don’t need to be a lawyer. You don’t need to have some professional degree. If you engage people honestly, and you’re willing to do the leg work, people will respond to that. I’ve run for office, and I’ve stood on street corners, while people walked by me and didn’t want to talk to me, and did not think I was a credible candidate. And then four years later, I was nearly elected mayor of San Francisco, so I know what it takes. It just takes commitment, and a small group of people that will really try to address the issues.”
It’s too much to hope that the Democrats in Congress will correct their behavior on their own. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have had ample time to show their true intentions, which thus far appear to be rolling around helplessly on their backs and crying. Gonzalez sees the Democrats as unable or unwilling to assertively block the Republicans from steamrolling over themselves and the Constitution:
“Harry Reid has admitted that in the last two years, there have been more Republican filibusters in the Senate than in the history of the United States. Reid lets the Republicans phone-in to say they’re going to filibuster. In other words, he doesn’t even require them to come to the floor of the Senate and physically have to filibuster. How can these guys call themselves a political party and allow the party in the minority to run over them like this? It’s pathetic.”
Hope cannot be left in the hands of politicians. It needs to be cared for and cultivated by engaged citizens, who are willing to dip into the political pool. It will take dedication and some time, but Progressives should focus on winning local races and creating a serious, grassroots movement that will grow upward and branch into the dominant levels of government.
Quotes are excerpts from Gonzalez’s interview with Drunken Politics.
On Sunday, the War on Terror spilled into Syria, and the only people more surprised than the Syrians are Americans. See, the war has already spilled into Pakistan. It’s unclear where the United States will be heading next, but I hear Kazakhstan is hunkered down and braced for an attack at any moment. Sure, they’re a member of NATO and the UN, and have nothing to do with any of this, but their funny-sounding name and population of foreigners is working against their innocence. All it will take to gain popular support for an air assault is the presence of American ignorance regarding Kazakhstan’s people, policies, and culture. Bad news Kazakhstan: we have no idea who you are. Head for the hills!
Even as the war expands, the definition of victory remains opaque. Though the Bush administration has no long-term vision of what a stable Middle East looks like (Bush has said something about an Iraqi ‘Mickey D’s being a ‘sweet idea’)several senior American officials simply expressed hope that the unwise war policies of preemption and perpetual, borderless war would “be embraced by the next president as well.” And these policies will be embraced unless the American people demand something different from their leaders.
At home, people are losing their jobs and their homes, while their tax dollars go to bailing out corporate crooks who base their livelihoods on speculative lending, shady mortgages, and outsourcing American jobs overseas. The policies of corporate socialism (where tax dollars go to bailing out huge corporations) will also continue unless the American people stand up and say no more.
In desperate times, the American people have a history of embracing the least worst politician, but it’s time they demand more from the next president of the United States. It’s time to transcend pretty rhetoric and empty promises. The new president must aggressively embrace a Progressive agenda or it will be impossible to reverse the damage committed over the past few decades.
Ralph Nader, Independent Party presidential candidate, has been pleading with the American people to demand more from their leaders. Unsurprisingly, the corporately sponsored Commission on Presidential Debates did not permit Nader into the debates, even though a majority of the American people supported opening the debates to other party candidates.
Regardless of how one feels about his presence in the 2008 election, Ralph Nader is undeniably the leader of the last real Progressive wave in this country. It was because of his uncompromising vision that Congress passed the 1966 National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act. Just during the 5-year period between 2002 and 2006, seat belts have saved over 75,000 lives (PDF). His list of Progressive accomplishments includes the Clean Air and Water Acts, the Occupational Health and Safety Act, and the Freedom of Information Act.
Ralph Nader and his army of conscientious citizens were the last organized, serious movement that demanded accountability from Washington.
The so-called Progressives today are allowing Barack Obama to compromise on everything from FISA to the anti-war movement. But even as he votes for telecom immunity and talks about Afghanistan as the good war, Obama has never lied about being a Progressive. In fact, he seems rather confused that any of his followers think he’ll be anything but a centrist in the White House. Progressive groups that score Obama with a 50% approval rating seem confused by this as well.
The Progressives have pinned their hopes and dreams to a man they have asked nothing of, and they’re going to be sorely disappointed when he, in turn, does nothing for them.
When I interviewed Ralph Nader, he explained what will happen if Barack Obama is elected president:
You take the 20 leading groups supporting him in the liberal-progressive pantheon: labor, anti-poverty, civil rights, women’s rights, gay-lesbian rights, environment, consumer – you name it – not one of them is putting any demands on him. Unconditional voting for the least worst of the two parties means that your vote has no political leverage whatsoever. It allows Obama to take it for granted, and not give the anti-war people anything because he knows he has the anti-war vote. Then they go to the right wing and slice off a few votes there by going more corporate and flip-flopping on offshore drilling. This is the same merry-go-round every four years. The liberal intelligentsia is doomed unless they solve this problem of unconditional voting for the least worst candidate.
Closed debates and apathetic, naïve voters will result in a continuation of Bush’s policies, and Americans will be told to wait another four years for single payer health care, a living wage, the end of the Iraq war, cutting the bloated military budget, ending the death penalty, ending the wasteful War on Drugs, investing in solar power, and the end of nuclear power.
When neither party is talking about any of the above issues, the American people are screwed because they’re at the mercy of a winner-take-all system. Nader explains:
The people are in a two party prison. There can be something like a Green Party in Germany because if you win 5% of the vote you get 5% of the parliament. Here, you’ve got to win 51% or a plurality, which is why people don’t support small starts to make them build into larger movements because they think: well, they’re only 4 or 5% in the polls and I don’t want to waste my vote. It’s time to break out of the prison.
A 4-5% Progressive voice won’t be enough to create real change. And Americans are ready for real change. They don’t want to triangulate and compromise. Compromise results in, as Nader puts it, “a macho competition” between Democrats and Republicans, who disagree on if abortion is a matter of killing babies, but agree on bombing foreign babies every chance they get. The 2008 US military cash-burning extravaganza is currently hovering around the $623 billion mark. That’s more than the rest of the world’s military budgets, combined.
It’s time Progressives stop playing defense and start setting the agenda. They can do that by putting real pressure on Barack Obama if he is elected president. They must organize and demand a stop to the wars, and not settle for, as Obama is suggesting, the continued presence of U.S. bases and private mercenaries. They also must demand publicly funded elections, and an open system that allows the American myth that anyone can run for president to become reality.
Currently, the Military-Industrial Complex, which feeds on war and suffering, controls America. Progressives claim to be the blockade between greedy politicians and federal tax dollars, and yet they are continuing to let Obama get away with catering to the middle.
They make this unforgivable compromise because they’re certain Obama is a radical Progressive simply spouting some centrist rhetoric until he can get into the White House. And then it’s free health care and peace for everybody!
I’m paraphrasing what a California lawyer told me at the Nader-Gonzalez Wall Street bailout rally a few weeks ago. Michelle, the lawyer, and a minority Obama supporter (she came to the rally because she was curious,) said she was absolutely 100% certain that Barack Obama was a Progressive, and he is only saying he’s pro-death penalty and for the bailout because he needs to get elected.
I asked her what evidence she had of this claim. She had none. She just felt it in her heart.
Progressives need to stop acting on what they feel in their hearts and look at what is happening to their leadership. If they don’t collectively demand real, sweeping reform from the next president, then the president will bow to the only real pressure he feels – the pressure from corporations and war hawks.
For more information on Ralph Nader, visit: Votenader.org.
Transcript taken from Ralph Nader’s interview with Drunken Politics
More info is here: Votenader.org
On Corporate debates
Every major poll since 2000 has registered that a majority of the American people want Ralph Nader on the debates.
[In order for a third party candidate to get into the debates] five major polling companies have to poll 15% or higher that people want Nader/Gonzalez on the ticket. But the Commission on Presidential Debates won’t release the names of the polling organizations. And they won’t name the media conglomerates that owns the polling organizations. So if the media isn’t covering third party candidates, they obviously don’t poll well.
So we called Gallup, and asked if they are one of the five. They are. But Gallup said they don’t poll Nader/Gonzalez. This is classic deception. The whole thing is a commercial corporate rigged system designed to keep us off the debates. The game is corporate fascism.
Only a multi-billionaire like Michael Bloomberg could buy his way onto the debates by purchasing air time. It’s like what FDR said to Congress in 1938 “When government is controlled by private economic power, that’s fascism.”
So we know what the diagnosis is. The question is: what is the prescription?
In 2012, starting in early January, major national and local citizen groups in a massive coalition should get on a letterhead, lay out the entire schedule of 25 debates from Boston to San Diego, Miami to Seattle, for all the presidential candidates who have enough theoretical electoratal college states to win the election. That way, the dynamic shifts from the two parties, who control the agenda and have the photo opportunities, and sweep through certain states and ignore most of the states because they’re slam-dunk Republican or slam-drunk Democrat, and shift the entire power to shape the agenda into citizen groups, who then become participators, and not spectators.
On the Progressive Platform
What’s going on here is the concentration of too much wealth and power in the hands of the few. And they make decisions for the many. So it’s not surprising that the Nader/Gonzalez campaign and the agenda, which is supported by the majority of the American people: Single payer health, living wage getting out of iraq, cutting the bloated military budget, solar power first, no to nucleur power, is opposed by the minority of power brokers. That’s why we’re exluded from the debates.
It’s not our agenda, it’s your agenda.
The people are in a two party prison. The system is rigged, electoral college, winner take all. There can be something like a Green party in Germany because if you win 5% of the vote you get 5% of the parliament. Here, you’ve got to win 51% or a plurality, which is why people don’t support small starts to make them build into larger movements because they think: well, they’re only 4 or 5% in the polls and I don’t want to waste my vote. It’s time to break out of the prison.
Unfortunately, the only person who could do that is a mega-billionaire with liberal tendencies, who will blow the two parties into a three-way race. That’s coming. Mayor Bloomberg could have done that this year.
On Afghanistan Being Portrayed as the “Good War”
Afghanistan will be Obama’s Vietnam. He’ll sink in that quagmire. Just putting more soldiers in there controlling a high-tech attack on a low-tech resistance will kill a lot of civilians. And it already has and it’ll be more: wedding parties blown up, villagers blown up, children blown up, and that enflames and vastly expands the resistance in those rugged mountains. Nobody conquers those people. The British Empire tried twice and failed, the SU poured everything it had and failed, and the US will fail.
The finance Administrator for Karzai and head of the Afghan national university said you don’t do it that way. You do it through negotiation with tribal chieftons, by public works, by creating jobs, by getting these tribes that have a stake in passifying the area, but Obama, who’s father was an African from Kenya, he should know better, says to pour the soldiers in so he can show he’s more macho than McCain.
It was a macho battle in the third debate. Obama matched him in supporting the militaristic repression and exploitation and colonization of Palestine and its people, in being beligerant toward Iran, and in being beligerant toward Russia. This man is going to be the biggest disappointment ever. He’s a brilliant tactician and he’s pulled something off that nobody could have predicted, but he is going to be the biggest disappointment for Liberals and Progressives that they have ever seen. This is the biggest political con job in the last century, the Barack Obama victory. There’s no mandate. He just floated in. He had an easy act to follow. The Wall Street collapse opened the gap with McCain, who isn’t the greatest campaigner, and who wanted to be a clone of Bush, a disastourous tactical mistake for a so-called Maverick.
You take the 20 leading groups supporting him in the liberal-progressive pantheon: labor, anti-poverty, civil rights, women’s rights, gay-lesbian rights, environment, consumer – you name it – not one of them is putting any demands on him.
Unconditional voting for the least worst of the two parties means that your vote has no political leverage whatsoever. It allows Obama to take it for granted, and not give the anti-war people anything because He knows he has the anti-war vote. Just like Kerry turned his back on the anti-war movement. Then they go to the right wing and slice off a few votes there by going more corporate and flip-flop on offshore drilling. The same merry-go-around every 4 years.
The liberal intelligensia is doomed unless they solve this problem of unconditional voting for the least worst candidate.
On the Death Penalty/War on Drugs/ Cynthia McKinney
I’ve been against the death penalty since I was a student at Harvard Law school in the 1950s when I saw what kind of defense accused people of impoverished means got when they were prosecuted. They got the most incompetent lawyers, that meant a lot of innocent people got executed just for lack of effective defense. Some of these laywers are so bad they fall asleep in the middle of proceedings.
The death penalty doesn’t deter crime. And it’s much more expensive to proceed on a capital case toward execution than it is life imprisonment without parole. It’s always the poor and minorities who have the huge proportion of people that are executed. Finally, there’s a moral issue. Even Bill Clinton executed a retarded prisoner. Other western states don’t have the death penalty.
We’re for a national amnesty for all non-violent drug offenders. Let them out of jail and use the empty cells and fill them with convicted, corporate crooks. That will also improve prison conditions because powerful convicts just won’t stand for the food.
We don’t send nicotine addicts to jail, and cigarettes take 400,000 lives a year, 40 times what hard drugs do. And we don’t send alcoholics to jail. Why do we send drug addicts to jail? We’re not talking about kingpins. This isn’t a criminial issue. This is a health issue.
800,000 young people in this country are arrested every year in this country for possession mostly of small amounts of marijuana. This is madness, not to mention the billions of dollars this costs taxpayers.
On if Nader’s Raiders Would Be Possible Today
It would possible to form it, but the doors (in Washington) have slammed shut. That’s why I’m running for office. I’m trying to mobilize civic energy. Most of those citizen groups, and many of them I’ve started, just don’t like to admit that they are working harder and harder for virtually nothing. It’s corporate occupied territory. There isn’t one department agency, including departtment of labor that isn’t controlled by corporate influence inside and out. Look at the Treasury, Goldman Sachs veterans going to Washington to bail out their buddies, department of defense, deptartment of agriculture, interior, and so on. Either we organize new institutions, political institutions, or shut down and go watch the whales in Monterey.
The liberals and progressives just don’t want to face reality. It’s over, and it’s over with the Democrats, too.
The Democrats just thumb their noses at the groups that say you can’t pass the $700 billion bailout like this with a little Barney Frank and Chris Dodd window dressing. You’ve got to have reregulation now. This is when Washington had Wall Street over a barrel. You give authority to shareholders to control their out-of-control bosses, you make the speculators pay for their own bailouts with a 1/10 of 1% of a derivatives’ transaction sales tax. People pay 6-8% sales tax on necessities in stores as we’re speaking and there’s no sales tax on billions of dollars traded every day. It’s $500 trillion traded this year, so 1/10 of 1% would produce $500 billion. We need a speculation tax. But they’re too cowardly to even do that.
So they gave a blank check and said: ‘oh, we’ll look at it next year.’ These people are cowards. Aside from Kucinich and one or two other people, they’re cowards.
Drunken Politics had the privilege of interviewing presidential candidate Ralph Nader, possibly one of the most admired and divisive figures in the world.
Topics of discussion:
- Commission on Presidential Debates
- Corporate Greed
- Cowardly Congress
- Civic responsibility
- Presidential debates
Much thanks to the Nader team, who we know are insanely busy, but who took the time to give us the interview. The same cannot be said about the other presidential candidates.
Drunken Politics interviews Ralph Nader’s running mate, Matt Gonzalez, tonight @ 11PM EST!
Our favorite politician on the planet will be calling in to Drunken Politics tonight. You can stream it live at myspace.com/drunkenpolitics @ 11pm EST – Send us any questions if you got ‘em.
If you have not checked him out yet please do: