by Ralph Nader
November 2, 2002
The Democrats should have an easy time winning control of the House of Representatives and the Senate in next week's election. Recession is deepening, unemployment is rising, and corporate corruption headlines are proliferating. Health care costs, drug prices and the number of Americans without health care coverage are all increasing. Median household incomes are falling. Corporate crime has heavily depleted 401Ks and other pension losses.
These should all help the Democrats win against the corporate-indentured Republicans marinated in corporate cash, soft on corporate and environmental crimes and demonstrably anti-labor.
Why then is the overall contest for Party control of Congress too close to call? Because Democrats are not clearly, relentlessly and aggressively emphasizing these fundamental issues to distinguish themselves from the Republicans. Why? Are they unaware, neglectful or torpid? No, their chronic ambiguity flows from being largely indentured to the same monied commercial interests as the Republicans.
So Governor Shaheen of New Hampshire, running for the U.S. Senate, refers to corporate crime as "corporate mismanagement" and other Democratic candidates are allowing the Republicans to blur key poll-tested issues like prescription drug benefits, tax cuts for the super wealthy, and corporate crime enforcement.
Voters want to know whose side candidates are on in their daily struggles as workers, consumers, patients, small taxpayers and savers on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the giant corporations that pay for control of our government in order to get all the goodies that come out of the hides of working families. Fairness is the great issue in American politics, stupid!
Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Democrats won election after election by conveying one singularly clear impression - that the Republican Party was beholden to the wealthy and the Democratic Party represented the working people. Karl Rove, in the Bush White House, understands this history. That is why he is engaged in the "blur and spur" strategy of fuzzing the hot-button issues to portray the Republicans as fighters for ordinary Americans, instead of the big businesses which own them. This is also why the Republicans are using the spur of the drumbeats of war to distract the country away from pressing domestic necessities, injustices and hazards.
By a margin of nearly two to one the American people do not want a war against Iraq that involves an invasion, American casualties and essentially having the United States go it alone. Not when rigorous UN inspectors can go to Iraq first.
Even more Americans would join these citizens if the mass media relayed the facts about how boxed in the militarily-weakened dictator of Iraq is, surrounded by more powerful enemies (Iran, Turkey, Israel), two-thirds of his country out of his rigid control (no fly zones), deterred, contained and under 24-hour satellite surveillance.
More voters would be anti-war if there was greater media discussion about the likelihood of awful civilian casualties and sickness among the innocent children and adults of Iraq. Voters would also be anti-war if Americans were given the facts about the opposition to the touted conduct of this war from inside the Pentagon, among retired military officers and other experts who believe the risks of undermining the effort against terrorism, of generating a boomerang of domestic terrorism around the world and an endemic civil war in Iraq (where the U.S. stays as expensive occupier) are not worth toppling the government of Iraq by a unilateral invasion.
When a group of Gulf War veterans had a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington on October 24 to point out some of these consequences (which included conditions, leading to the sickness of 128,000 Gulf War veterans in 1991) the media did not show up. (For their statements, see www.veteransforcommonsense.org).
The "cakewalk" view of the planned war widely espoused by the circle of chicken hawks surrounding George W. Bush is obscuring serious public debate about another possible outcome -- diverse human and economic consequences adverse to U.S. and global security during and after the war is over.
The Democrats can still raise their voices for the people in the next few days before November 5th, if they understand that waffling rarely wins campaigns. The people want it straight talk and real action.
Ralph Nader is Americaís leading consumer advocate. He is the founder of numerous public interest groups including Public Citizen, and has twice run for President as a Green Party candidate. His latest book is Crashing the Party: How to Tell the Truth and Still Run for President (St. Martinís Press, 2002)