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COLUMN

Happytown

How to incorporate your uterus, commodify the homeless and get Rick Scott fired (if you're Ralph Nader)

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In the world of progressive activism, a shooting star appeared in Central Florida on April 7, that is, before darkness returned. That afternoon, Ralph Nader made an appearance at Valencia Community College to promote his book The Seventeen Traditions. Then, he was shuttled to Barry University, where a select group of law students saw the former presidential candidate speak for more than two hours on another Nader title, No Contest: Corporate Lawyers and the Perversion of Justice in America, coauthored with Wesley J. Smith.

Though the speech was marked by both embarrassing and endearing signs of old-man crotchery – Nader, 77, asked what the modern term for “dungarees” was – the left’s secular priest was still deftly skewering a vast array of current affairs, ranging from the war in Libya to bank bailouts to coal mining in Appalachia. The common thread in all this alleged corporate and political abuse of power was this imploring question: “Where are the lawyers?” Nader, a graduate of Harvard Law School, implored young law students to become activists, complaining that the country’s million-plus lawyers are all “anesthetized … give or take a few hundred.”

As expected, an audience member asked about the country’s hard political turn to the right and how citizens could battle further cuts and privatization. Nader responded with a call for “tightly organized watchdog groups” in every Congressional district, a plan guided by some strict math: 2,000 people from every district, each pledging 200 volunteer hours and $200 per year, opening two offices staffed by two people apiece. Based on a majority-informed agenda 
– which Nader believes includes single-payer health care and a “crackdown on corporate crime” – the groups could see some previously unimaginable results. “You’d see this Congress turn around so fast it’d make your head spin,” he told the crowd.

In case all that organizing proves to be too difficult, you could always just bait your legislator to say something racist, which is not what Nader suggested, but certainly what we thought of when Nader dissected the hypocrisy of public outrage. “What if Rick Scott gets up before the people of Florida … and utters two slurs, on Hispanics and blacks?” Nader said. “[He’d be] finished.”

“When a society goes nuts over bad words, but ignores totally the bad deeds that those bad words are simply symbols of,” Nader continued, “that’s a decay in society.”

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