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Nader-Camejo Kickoff Campaign Rally, San Francisco

Stateside With Rosalea - Campaign Rally Watch

Nader-Camejo Kickoff Campaign Rally, San Francisco

Friday, July 16, 2004

What a difference four years makes. In 2000, I went to a couple of Nader rallies, and they were big affairs, held in large venues, with people like Patti Smith supporting him. Last Friday night's rally in San Francisco was held in a high school auditorium and at first I didn't think even those 800 seats would be filled. However, by the time Nader arrived, it was standing room only.

To begin with, outside on the street were two guys with signs implying that Ralph Nader is financed by Bush and a vote for him is a vote for a second-term president. They got a lot of supportive toots from passing cars and trucks, showing that San Francisco still is a Democrat-dominated town.

Perhaps surprisingly, considering that the Nader-Camejo ticket wasn't endorsed by the Greens at their nominating convention last month, the organisers of this rally included many local Green Party leaders. Signs above the stage highlighted the concerns the candidates share with what is called the progressive left here in the States: No to the war, the draft, the Patriot Act; Yes to a living wage, universal healthcare, driver's licences for all.

That last item is to do with the rescinding of a California law allowing undocumented immigrants to get drivers licences, something that is of great concern to the local Mexican American community. One of the people who spoke at the rally was from that community and he pointed out that a recent drunk driving blitz near the city of Fresno picked up all of 24 people who were drunk and 1200 people without licenses, raising questions about what the real intention of the drunk driving blitz was.

"I'd like to speak tonight of America. Not the America seen by Bush, and not the America seen by Kerry," he said.

Indeed, one of the aims of the Nader-Camejo campaign is to hold rallies that allow the many, many Americas that are not the America of Bush or Kerry to be given a voice. They give generous stage time for local community groups - from auto workers to teachers to Arab Americans to proponents of universal healthcare - to have their say. (For all I know, that's what the Republican and Democratic rallies are like too, but I never see any fliers posted around the streets telling me when and where they're holding them so I guess I'll never know.)

Ralph Nader began his speech by saying that "this campaign is about educating liberals never to put the struggle for justice on vacation." He was referring to what an earlier speaker had called "codependent political action"--the Democrats' anti-Bush strategy that is designed to drive any progressive left and liberal Dems who voted for Nader in 2000 back into the fold out of fear of the consequences if they don't vote for Kerry in 2004.

The Nader-Camejo ticket, Nader said, "pulls the Democrats and Republicans back in the direction of the people," instead of leaving them to be pulled only in the direction of the corporate funders of their campaigns. Their ticket is in the tradition, he said, of the great US movements for social change that "never settled for less."

To be honest, I wasn't going to go to this rally. After four years of trying to understand the US political system, my head hurts and I'd pretty much come to the conclusion that the two-party system that exists here is as good as it's ever going to get in this off-the-peg-only democracy, where, if you don't like the cut of either party's cloth, then you can go watch a ballgame instead.

But I'm glad I did. As Nader says, "Where's our dander?" I say, Let's get it up and keep moving forward, not just on.

© Scoop Media

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