Political activists, ecologists, students, music fans and the just plain curious descended on the Sun Dome Saturday night to witness the eighth leg of Ralph Nader’s People Have The Power Tour.
Speaking for more than an hour, Nader covered topics such as the American Revolution and the civil rights movements of the 1960s. Nader said the success of previous civil rights struggles should give people the faith to believe that they can make a difference.
Nader said history taught people that when commercial interests seize or are given too much power, civic values of health and safety, of opportunity and tolerance and of environmental protection are denigrated.
“These interests measure their progress by profit and anything that gets in the way, such as democratic accountability, such as health and safety, are to be overrun, undermined, controlled, restricted,” Nader said.
Nader said “growing up corporate” is tearing apart the social fabric of America.
“We don’t learn civic skills in school. We don’t learn how to practice democracy. We don’t know about our own community, our own history,” Nader said.
Citing examples of corporate America’s abuses of democracy, Nader said the veto by Congress of President Harry Truman’s universal health care program in 1950 occurred because the American Medical Association had more power than tens of millions of Americans who were not organized.
“Fifty-two years later we are the only Western democracy that does not have universal health care for all it’s people,” Nader said.Over a rising chorus of cheers, Nader brought many people to their feet applauding his plea for a change in the balance of power between commercial and civic interests.
“Our elections should never be for sale. Our politicians should never be for sale. Our government should never be for sale. Our human genes should never be for sale. Our children should never be for sale to the marketers,” Nader said. “But while corporations dominate our society, everything is for sale.”
Nader concluded his speech by asking everyone to become involved in democracy.
“Organized people can defeat organized money, anytime, anywhere, anyplace.” Nader said. “Freedom is participation in power.”
Kelly Snodderly, a student at Hillsborough Community College, said she agreed with Nader’s ideas.
“Nader is what our country really wants but is not saying to itself,” Snodderly said. “We’re not going anywhere with what we have now.”
Sue Cartwright, a USF alumna, said the format of the rally meant that Nader’s message reached nonpolitical people.”Some of the people that I know that came here only came to hear Patti Smith play. They heard a whole lot of things that they would not have heard otherwise.” Cartwright said.
At a pre-rally news conference, Greg Kafoury, Democracy Rising event organizer, said the failure of the media to report the first Nader rally at The Memorial Coliseum in Oregon in August led to the idea of the tour.
“The next day we weren’t anywhere in the national press – we had to fill a whole bunch more stadiums before they even began to pay attention,” Kafoury said.
Michael Moore, a filmmaker and author, said that the high approval rating for President George W. Bush did not reflect long-term approval but was simply a consequence of the terrorist attacks.
“He got that rating because human beings, when attacked, have a tendency to rally behind the leader,” Moore said. “This isn’t, ‘We want George W. Bush’ – it’s more like, ‘Love the one you’re with.'”
Moore said that of the 200 million voters in the United States, 154 million voters did not want Bush in the White House. Moore said Bush was only elected following an “immoral and horrific theft of the election right here in the state of Florida.”
Moore said the American people were more liberal than was generally acknowledged in the media.
“Fifty-eight percent consider themselves pro-labor, 63 percent now consider themselves pro-choice, 85 percent consider themselves pro-environment,” Moore said. “That’s the country you live in; it’s a liberal, progressive country.”
The audience, estimated by Sun Dome officials at approximately 6,200 people, heard speeches by what Nader said was one of the largest citizen gatherings in Tampa Bay history.
“I’m told that the last time there were 5,000 people in this Sun Dome was when President Reagan came in 1988,” Nader said.
“There are now 6,200 people, at least, at the Sun Dome.”
Contact Chris O’Donnell at email@example.com