Ralph Nader is the only politician with the guts to tell the truth. The nation of the people, by the people and for the people is turning into "America Inc.," and the "mainstream" politicians just don't get it.
Working people have been told by both parties that their jobs were leaving the country. Family farmers have been told (wrongly) that they are not competitive with large-scale agricultural operations.
The wealthiest 1 percent own as much as the bottom 92 percent, and the gap widens every year. Twenty-two percent of our children live in poverty. The middle class is shrinking. If this were happening in a developing country, someone would be ringing alarm bells about the risk to democracy posed by such a concentration of power. Al Gore and George W. Bush cannot see beyond the performance of the stock market; Nader alone understands what's at stake.
Our offices are for sale to the highest bidder. Is it any wonder that voter turnout and voter registration keep dropping? Young people have a hard time believing that their vote matters, and their parents' generation can say little to change their minds. Bush and Gore give bare lip service to campaign finance reform, while seeking record amounts of special interest money to wage their media battles. Nader advocates public financing, and his campaign is driven by volunteer commitment.
Then there's health care. Nobody likes managed care. Nobody. Not doctors, not patients, and I even know one insurance executive who says "health care as a risk cannot be underwritten." This should not surprise anyone. Have we ever seen an HMO advertise its qualifications for caring for AIDS patients or anybody who is really sick? So why do we tolerate it?
Why in record prosperity are 45 million of us without insurance? Why do we allow the insurance companies to continue to put profits ahead of people?
The mainstream candidates want to tinker with managed care and continue to let the corporate bottom line dictate medical decisions. But Ralph Nader advocates universal coverage under a single payer plan.
If we the people do not have a fair share of the county's wealth, or decision making power, or health care resources, what role do we have? We all know the answer from watching television: our role is to be consumers! And corporate America has trained us to do that very well.
Most (happily not all) young people today think that the most important thing about being an American is that you can buy an awful lot of wonderful stuff! The practice of good citizenship is a long forgotten lesson.
Ralph Nader's message is and has always been that democracy requires constant work, the involvement of everyone, and challenging the concentration of power. In his 35-year career in public life he has taught by word and deed that we the people do indeed have the power and the duty to involve ourselves in the decisions and policies of our government. His message is urgently needed.
Nader's talents are no less needed. His accomplishments in public policy, from workplace safety, to cleaner air, to the Freedom of Information Act, to redressing systemic power imbalances, leave no doubt about his abilities. His integrity and energies are legendary.
For many Nebraskans a vote for Nader is the only meaningful option; a vote for Gore has almost no chance of counting in the Nebraska electoral system, which Republicans have won every time since LBJ, and before that, since FDR. But if Nader gets 5 percent of the popular vote nationwide, he and the Green Party will qualify for federal matching campaign funds in 2004. Like it or not, our nation's corporate controlled media will then have to allow a real debate.
Nader is on the ballot in 20 states; all others have committees working to put him on their ballots. By the end of June, Nader has said he expects to be on the ballots of 40 states. In Nebraska, signatures of 6,000 registered voters are needed by Aug. 1.
We need a Green Party and we need to reclaim our populist roots. Nebraskans deserve a chance to vote for Ralph Nader.
The writer, an Omaha dentist, is the co-chairman of the Green Party Organizing Committee in Nebraska. Dr. Mendenhall can be reached at (402) 213-4594.
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