Nader visits Pittsburgh

“We are raised corporate, not civic,” was the mantra of Ralph Nader’s campaign speech last Wednesday night at the University of Pittsburgh.

Both Nader, an Independent presidential nominee, and Titus North, Pittsburgh’s Green Party congressional candidate, addressed a crowd of more than 500 enthusiastic students, faculty, and Pittsburgh residents. Free the Planet, Pitt’s environmental club, hosted the event.

After Bush’s victory in 2000, Democrats blamed Nader for taking votes from Gore; in 2004, Democrats succeeded in keeping Nader off the ballot in swing states like Pennsylvania and Florida. After much effort, in his fourth attempt to shake up America’s two-party system, Nader and ticketmate Matt Gonzalez, a civil rights lawyer from California, are officially on the ballot in 44 states, including Pennsylvania.

Nader stressed, however, that he is campaigning not to defeat the Democrats. Nader wants to “light a fire” in Americans by giving them a choice and raising expectations of their leaders, exposing truths about the issues on which John McCain and Barack Obama, the Republican and Democratic presidential nominees, respectively, will not take a strong stance.

Some of these issues discussed included foreign affairs, health care, energy independence, and the economy; however, Nader’s positions on these hot topics differ greatly from his opponents’ views, which Nader claims are heavily influenced by “corporate paymasters” and lobbyists.

Nader and Gonzalez are calling for a full military and corporate withdrawal from Iraq, a two-nation plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, single-payer national health insurance, energy independence focused on solar energy without any investment in nuclear, a $10 minimum wage, and an aggressive corporate crime crackdown.

“It’s refreshing to see a politician who answers questions directly and isn’t persuaded by political interests,” said Evan Langdale, a Pitt engineering student and Free the Planet member.

As Nader pointed out, corporate, rather than public interests, dictate a good deal of American policy. He warned that these inequalities were due to extreme voter apathy. According to Nader, most Americans take pride in exercising their sensual, personal freedoms like eating at McDonald’s and shopping at malls.

When he polled the audience about who had exercised their civic freedoms, however, few people had spoken to a representative or attended a town hall meeting.

“The government spends 22 percent of what we make,” Nader said. “If your neighbor told you he was going to spend 22 percent of your money, wouldn’t you hold him accountable?”

Now that he has overcome the obstacle of making the ballot, Nader’s next goal is to participate in the presidential debates. The Commission on Presidential Debates continues to block him and other third-party candidates from taking part in the debates.

Not everyone agrees with this sentiment, however, as Pitt graduate Ellen Metz expressed.

“I do not think that Nader should be included in the debates, because he will likely take votes away from Obama,” Metz said.

Voters can find out more about Nader’s campaign at (