Stanford Report Online

Stanford Report, October 25, 2000
Nader attracts crowd, calls Gore and Bush 'creatures of corporate conformity'


Before a full house of students and community members at Memorial Auditorium on Monday night, Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader challenged his audience to recognize and fight increasing corporate control of the government and universities. "This election is not just about the power structure," Nader said. "It's about our standards, and whether we're going to engage the power of people . . . over the power of corporations."

Stanford in Government, a nonpartisan student group sponsoring the event, last week offered students, faculty and staff 1,000 tickets that disappeared in an hour and a half. The hundreds gathered outside Memorial Auditorium before Nader's talk hoping for one of about 500 additional available seats were joined by members of the student-run Stanford Democrats, who passed out fliers urging people to consider the closeness of the election in many states and vote for Vice President Al Gore.

"You have a stake in democracy," said Medea Benjamin, who is running on the Green Party ticket against California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat. Benjamin exhorted the audience to become part of the political process and reminded them that the Green Party was not being allowed into debates. "We want a seat at the table," said Benjamin, who warmed up the crowd before Nader took the podium. She listed some of the main goals of the Green Party, including a living wage, proportional representation, an end to the death penalty and major cuts in defense spending.

Nader walked on stage to a standing ovation and decried the similarities between the Republican and Democratic parties, calling Gore and Bush "creatures of corporate conformity" and charging that "both are complicit in selling the government to the largest commercial bidders." The two parties have merged into a "corporate party," he said, stating repeatedly that citizens groups and concerns are being pushed out of the political process as politicians become more and more dependent on corporate money and support.

"Yardsticks in our culture are corporate profits, stock prices and inflation rates," Nader said. "Right now those appear rosy." Reminding the audience that poverty and racism are still powerful forces, he added that discrimination is now more subtle, coming from an unequal distribution of wealth and power in the country.

Nader asked the audience to recognize that many have been left out of the boom economy. He said 25 percent of Californians live in "deep poverty" and another 20 percent live at "near poverty" levels. "Poverty is a scar on our conscience," Nader said, calling for a living wage.

He also attacked the trend of corporations entering into agreements with universities and individual professors as damaging to the independence of educational and research institutions. "What's your curriculum made of?" he asked students. "On-the-job training for the business establishment?"

"It's about 2,000 weeks before you are 65," he told students, whom he called members of the "contented classes." Nader urged them to look toward the future and become a part of the political process, and to be leaders instead of being content with material success. "You are going to have power," he told the students. "Don't trivialize your future." SR

Joanna Hiatt / Stanford Daily