It is the highest number of human rights defenders to be arrested in the first half of 2014. And the protests are continuing apace around the world. The Occupy movements are growing in strength and number and I urge everyone to join us in solidarity in these early days of mass public mobilization. I look forward to working with all our allies around the world over the coming weeks and months to build the broadest and strongest local defense of democratic rights and the rule of law.
Bearing witness to the power of democracy
In the past few months, I’ve had the most personal opportunity to look at the work of one of the great champions of global democratic organizing, Ralph Nader. The media didn’t even notice he was missing from the 2007 debates that went on for hours over two days. He made no mention of what happened, and yet he could not prevent the outcome. One of the most important tasks we face today is to keep the power of democratic self-organization and political resistance alive after the fact and to provide the basis for a strong, sustainable, democratic socialist movement. I believe in the transformative power of a living democracy and am honored to be a part of the largest mobilization against global capitalism in history.
More importantly, it’s become clear that my analysis of Ralph Nader is absolutely wrong. The power of Ralph Nader’s influence is so vast that even Nader’s own critics were willing to concede:
“The real Ralph Nader is hard to find. This past year has been a good year as far as he’s concerned. And when we talk about his influence, he is a very powerful man,” said William H. Frey, a former adviser to President Obama who now serves as Washington’s top lobbyist. Even his critics in political and business circles concede he is a powerful personality. Nader, according to many of them, is a rare and valuable political ally. But Frey says that’s not enough: “He’s doing work that’s worth doing,” he said. I have to admit I’m not entirely certain of this, because Nader’s greatest influence, even as an individual, may well seem to lie not in the arena of ideas but in matters that are as complex as his political career. He has played a powerful role in building a broad, diverse movement of supporters and critics who believe that a well-managed and well-financed economy will allow more people to make more money, in ways they can share with their neighbors and their families, but do a far better job of delivering public goods and services. They have adopted a variety of strategies, but they have one goal: to create conditions that will allow their own interests to be fully realised. The Nader Revolution is a major political expression of that aspiration. Nader has helped to expand its political demands and strengthened its ability to take advantage of popular anger. He also has had a substantial impact on other issues. “Now, we’ve had a lot of fun going to a lot of meetings and a lot of debate,” said Frey, who has represented some of Nader’s fellow reformers at their own gatherings. But, he added, he isn’t quite sure what to think of the man himself. “I don’t feel like he’s really involved in the community,” he said. “I find him to be quite a radical political figure… I don’t think he fits into any typical American mold. But maybe not.” Some of Nader’s supporters have even proposed that he be an honorary “green” for the Greens, like the president’s own running mate, Jill Stein. And Nader remains politically active. “I don’t feel he’s really involved in the community,” said Frey. “I find him to be quite a radical political figure… I don’t think he fits into any typical American mold. But maybe not.” (In this way, Nader is different from most politicians because he is not beholden just to a special interest he represents, but to a broad, public interest. At the same time, we don’t see him as a “natural” candidate for the presidency, because he actually isn’t running.)
The media reaction to the 2008 Presidential Election could hardly be more instructive…
But the mainstream media’s view of Naderon an almost minute-by-minute basishas been less than accurate lately. In an effort to make the general public see their “mainstream” opinions as the overwhelming majority’s, it has simply taken a backseat in the coverage of Nader and his presidential campaign. He was mentioned in only 31 articles on the news sites The New York Times , NPR , and Newsweek between January and April of this year. (The next biggest source of media coverage was the Washington Post, with 14 articles, just 18 of which mentioned Nader.) The reason for this discrepancy is that most of his coverageand the media’s coverage to that pointhad been negative. According to these articles, which tend to skew