"How do we build a more democratic society?"
Vice-presidential candidate Matt Gonzalez is standing before a crowd of nearly 500 and asking that question. And now he's answering it.
Friday night's Orpheum crowd is smaller than the over-packed house (too late to call the Fire Marshall) of 2000 who came to rally with Nader and LaDuke, but it represents a definite step up from Nader's 2004 campaign. Considering that he is competing head to head tonight with Phil Donahue and Ed Garvey's Fighting Bob Fest, it's not bad at all. Nader's already seen his nadir, and together with Matt Gonzalez, his 2008 running mate, he is attracting support from new quarters.
And that question, "How do we build a more democratic society?" may be one reason for the apparent Nader comeback. For all that Barack Obama offers as a candidate, and there is much, he has still failed to really address the deeper issues, issues of power.
Obama will pause, and then speak, and then pause once more. Depending on your perspective, this gives the impression either of thoughtfulness or close-handedness.
McCain rarely pauses, but usually should.
Nader speaks truth to power. It's why he's running his fourth presidential campaign. He is nothing if not a grim revealer of malfeasance, sardonic challenger of dogmas, and happy champion of alternatives. And judging by the passion visible on the faces of his supporters here Friday night, Nader's truth-telling is reaching an audience.
Here he is now, talking up issues and solutions in a cutting way that Obama simply won't: "We will get rid of corporate prisons. For those interested in prison reform, it's simple. Fill the prisons with corporate criminals, and then you'll get prison reform"
This crowd is of the Nader mold. These are, most of them, the children of 1980s-era liberals. Being the son of 1970s-era liberals, I can relate. My grandmother, active with her Unitarian Church, posted pictures of Ralph Nader and the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., in her kitchen. Saint Ralph, not Paul, Peter, or Patrick, was our patron saint when I was growing up.
Here he is now, asking, "How many more years? How many more years will we give the establishment parties until we get the basic, decent standards, of health care and labor that they have in Europe? I suggest that there should be a statute of limitations on how those in power get to make things right."
And so, while I am not of them tonight, I still relate to Nader's crowd, and to his 43-year old running mate, Matt Gonzalez, in particular. Gonzalez represents a next generation in the American tradition of speaking truth to power. Together with the Green Party presidential nominee, Rep. Cynthia McKinney, and her running mate, Rosa Clemente, who appear Saturday at 5:30pm at the High Noon Saloon, Matt Gonzalez and these Nader supporters gathered at the Orpheum tonight mean that after Nader, there will be others.
Ralph often says, "The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers." Tonight, he must be happy.