Went to see Ralph Nader speak. Wow.

Amber, her brother, her father and I all went to see Ralph Nader speak at Cabell Hall at UVa last night. I made my mind up to vote for him a few months ago, but last night certainly cemented things. Amber and her father didn’t expect to vote for him (Cory is too young to vote), but they changed their minds before long.

The place was packed, with many people standing, crowded into walkways and peering around corners and pillars. Without going too much into specifics, I will say that he’s really very eye-opening. I’d never really realized what a red herring issues like abortion and gun control are. He didn’t even talk about them, not so much as a whisper or a reference. At first I thought that was weird, but I realized that both issues are created by the popular press to distract us from things that really count. Corporate welfare, homelessness, the disaster of NAFTA and the money being wasted on building up our military to defend us against non-existent aggressors. He talked for a couple of hours about these genuinely important issues to an increasingly amazed and excited crowd. You could almost see the scales falling from people’s eyes.

The conclusion that I think everybody came to is that a victory for Bush would be disasterous, and a victory for Gore would simply maintain the status quo. (Which, compared to Bush, looks really good.) But when the option of Nader enters the picture, both start to look downright awful. Those two main candidates campaign on such narrow, similar platforms, and never so much as mention some of the most important issues, wasting time on the buzzwords. They’re the political equivalent of all of those CMP publications like InformationWeek and InternetWeek. “XML!” “B2B!” “P2P!” Buzzword, buzzword buzzword, but not a second of anything that matters. We’ve all managed to convince ourselves that we simply must vote for Gore in order to keep Bush from winning. And, after all, he’s not such a bad guy, right? But he’s not Bush, and that’s what’s important.

So perhaps the most interesting part was when Nader asked the crowd, not rhetorically, if they wanted congressional members who voted their conscience. The audience shouted out “Yes!” And Nader replied “So why don’t you?” Shocked silence descended, and then laughter and thunderous applause.

I’m certainly no Green Party member. (If anything, I’m a Libertarian.) Amber’s father describes himself as a Republican. Amber’s a Democrat that felt she had to vote for Gore out of fear of Bush. We’ve all changed our minds. If Virginia had people register their party affiliation, I imagine that we all would have switched right then and there.

If you think I’m just a whacked-out extremist hippie protester, or if you think that Nader is just some left-wing nut, I recommend that you take a look at votenader.org. The guy is amazingly rational, intelligent, up-front and straightforward. He’s spent his whole life making the world a better place, and that’s no exaggeration.

Your vote isn’t wasted on Nader. It’s wasted if you vote for who you believe will win, as opposed to who you believe should win.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »