Albion Monitor
Speech of Ralph Nader (St. Francis Church, Sacramento, CA) October 17, 1996
Part 4 of 6

Why You Should Vote for "None of the Above"

Imagine the gall of a Presidential Debate Commission, a private agency even though it sounds official, created and controlled by the two parties, Republican/Democrat, or for shorthand Repdems or Demreps, and who funds the debate commission?

Well, look at the disclosures recently: Ford Motor Company, Phillip Morris, RJ Reynolds Tobacco. And guess what the debate commission did: they excluded third party presidential candidates and vice presidential candidates, in my case Winona LaDuke from Minnesota. They excluded third party candidates from the national debates and 25 million people -- it would have been 50 million people if there were other people on the debate. And I can assure you that Mr. Clinton's silver tongue would have been turned to mush I was on that debate.

Someone in the White House told me in an unguarded moment months ago that they felt I was President Clinton's kryptonite, and I said, "He's no Superman!"

Now imagine what's coming. In four years from now we're going to have negotiated politics. There'll be enough third parties getting three, five, four, two, one percent of the vote, and they will begin to spell the margin of defeat or victory for the two major parties. And when the two major parties know who controls the margin, they're going to become one of two reactions.

They're either going to shape up more, or they're going to start declining entirely. Already they are fossil, hollow parties with no mass base. They don't even have store fronts any more in Presidential elections. They engage in huge money-raising from special corporate interests largely, and they engage in electronic thirty second combat over television. That's the way they operate.

Now that is not a formula for durability in a tumultuous 21st century. I might add, to President Clinton I would say, "There's no way that your Democratic Party as we know it is ever going to be a bridge to the 21st century."

Much less, the Republican Party.

Notice this, if you will: What do you want your vote to mean? I ask myself that question. If I don't like any of the candidates, I say to myself -- I never disclose who I voted for, I think voting is a private matter and should remain so, unless you want to, you know, toot it -- I say to myself, do I really want to vote for these people?

I'm being forced to vote between the bad and the worse. I'm being told that I can only go to the polls and vote yes, unless it's a referendum when you can vote no or yes. But for candidates, isn't it interesting that in the United States you can only vote yes or stay home? Half the people stay home in Presidential elections; two-thirds of the people stay home in Congressional elections; 82 percent of the people stay home in primaries.

We have the lowest voting turnout in the western world.

We're also the biggest debtor nation in the western world, when we were the biggest creditor nation in 1980.

Here's what I suggest: I submit that in two years and three weeks this could become law in California by referendum, that next to every candidate ballot line, Assembly, State Senator, U.S. Senator, Representative, there is a Binding None of the Above. Which means people are sick and tired of politics as usual and no choice. They're not going to stay home any more. They can go down and vote for None of the Above and if None of the Above wins, it cancels the election and sends the candidates packing, and orders a new election in 30 days with new candidates.

Now I submit to the Green Party of California and all supporters of the broad, profound and courageous platform that takes on corporate power, demands specific political reforms, urges a sustainable, full employment economy, urges the preservation of our environmental heritage which is inextricably linked, not just with recreation, not just with our trusteeship for future generations, but with the viability of the economy itself, I say to all those people that the Binding None of the Above can be passed by referendum in 1998 in California overwhelmingly.

You know the only time, as one Oscar Wilde, the Irish literary specialist once said, that socialism will never work because it requires too many committee meetings. Well let me tell you, democracy will not work well because it requires a lot of time and if people don't put the time into it as citizens we will not have democracy, except in name. We will have a plutocracy, rule by the wealthy, oligarchy, ruled by the powerful, and our government will become a wholly-owned subsidiary, a government of the Exxons, by the General Motors, for the DuPonts.

The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary. And what we need to say to ourselves is that democracy starts with "I, the citizen, informed, committed, self-reliant and not too self-righteous; willing to engage in options of revision when new evidence and new experience comes to the forefront."

And you say, "I, the citizen, committed in time, and my talent and my sense of justice," and you over there say "I, the citizen, committed in time, my sense of justice and my ideas," and all of you say "I, the citizen," what happens after a while? "I the citizen" becomes "We the people," a forging of the populace, a forging of people who know that throughout history a society tends to behave like a fish that is no longer alive, which rots from the head down and society is rebuilt from the bottom up.

There's no guy on the horse, no leader today in America who even if elected could deliver, given the concentration of power and wealth in Washington DC and in state capitols, unless we have mass intelligent citizen mobilization and movement, from which our leaders come in all directions, not just political -- economic, environmental, artistic, cultural, civic, educational.

We will never build an enduring, sustaining great society that can take the buffeting of the backlash of the forces of greed and power, forces of gluttony and mischief, the forces of institutions that don't see beyond their nose, that have no sense of legacy, no sense of trusteeship, no sense of passing on an ever greater society to the future generations yet unborn.

The Athenian oath of citizenship in ancient Athens said it in a very succinct way. "I pledge to leave Athens better than I entered it." that does say a lot to contemporary America.

And I leave you with one exhortation. It is not my style for 30 plus years of fighting literally day and night seven days a week for the people of this who were being exposed to threats to their health and safety in the workplace, marketplace, in the environment, fighting to make our government something we can be proud of, and at times it has made us very proud -- the environmental laws, consumer laws, the GI Bill of Rights, the Social Security that cut elderly poverty in half, Medicare that gave elderly people health insurance, and in the old days the Homestead Act that led to the small farm economy instead of the plantation farm, and the step-by-step evolution of civil rights and civil liberties -- who else intermediate between the forces of greed and power if it wasn't a government pushed, and demanded and exhorted by the people as its backbone?

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Albion Monitor October 27, 1996 (

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