Preliminary echoes from the 2012 presidential campaign don't bode well for social, environmental and economic justice in America, yet again. President Barack Obama is, with cynical predictability, adopting populist rhetoric on justice issues like student debt, gay marriage and immigration. But after four years of his pursuing moderate Republican policies, progressive voters find it impossible to take him seriously. Mitt Romney is the quintessential 1 percent candidate who instinctively parrots plutocratic doctrine, no matter how contradictory on its face.
On the alternative party front, Dr. Jill Stein, who once opposed Romney in a race for Massachusetts governor, garnered enough delegates in California's June 5 Green Party Primary to clinch its nomination at the Green's July convention in Baltimore. But what little media coverage there was of Stein's achievement focused on Roseanne Barr, who lost to Stein in California and then announced she will continue her candidacy and form a new party called the Green Tea Party.
Barr had previously said she would run until the convention but fully expected Stein would be the nominee and would "support her."
And Stein and the Greens face a formidable challenge to any claim as the 2012 progressive alternative from Justice Party candidate Rocky Anderson, who won the June 5 California Peace and Freedom Party Primary.
Anderson is featured in a multipart Q&A on the Washington Times website titled "Rocky Anderson is Rocking the Vote," in which he emphasizes the compromised nature of the Democratic Party, from which he defected out of frustration.
"The Democratic Party is now simply one of two political parties feeding at the same trough of special interest money. The Democratic Party has turned away from fundamental Democratic Party values of economic, social, and environmental justice." - Rocky Anderson, Justice Party presidential candidate
"The Democratic Party is now simply one of two political parties feeding at the same trough of special interest money," he said. "The Democratic Party has turned away from fundamental Democratic Party values of economic, social, and environmental justice."
Democrats, he charged, have colluded with Republicans and led the nation into "illegal, tragic wars of aggression; a crushing debt and interest burden, exacerbated by astounding tax breaks for the most wealthy; a two-tiered system of justice, pursuant to which there is no accountability for war criminals, no accountability for those who engaged in felonious surveillance of citizens' communications, and no accountability for those on Wall Street who engaged in massive fraud, contributing to severe economic problems negatively affecting hundreds of millions of people."
More significantly, 1996 Green Party presidential nominee Ralph Nader has endorsed Anderson.
"Ralph Nader is backing Rocky Anderson for president," Current TV reported on May 26, "because Rocky had 'a very, very progressive record' when mayor of Salt Lake City and because he was a constitutional lawyer, a civil rights lawyer, a candidate of conscience for voters of conscience."
The report features an April 17, 2012, Nader interview with CBS News's Brian Montpoli. While Obama is more protective of social programs like Medicare and Social Security, the difference between the two major party candidates is negligible, Nader said. Among Anderson's attractive qualities are his message and record of getting elected Salt Lake mayor twice, while advocating and pursuing a demonstrably progressive agenda.
"It’s good to have someone on the ballot who focuses on many redirections that most people in this country would want and who doesn’t have marbles in his mouth," Nader said. "And people need, as voters, to have more choice than the increasingly corporate-indentured Democrat and Republican parties."
Nader, whom a pre-Supreme Court Lewis Powell Jr. identified as corporate America's No. 1 enemy in his infamous 1971 memo to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, has taken the electoral offensive.
A Nader essay, "Romney's Inane Campaign: the Politics of Amnesia," is featured on the June 15-17 weekend edition of CounterPunch.
Romney, Nader wrote, is everywhere and nowhere in the 24-hour news cycle.
"The Democratic Party has become a party of caution, cash and co-optation. And so, they don’t even know a winning humanitarian, moral and political issue if it was put on their desk." - Ralph Nader, former presidential candidate
"Even his argument that government can only create jobs by getting out of the way of the business world rings false," he said, noting that Romney also claims that he created jobs when he was Massachusetts governor.
Romney wants more tax reductions for the rich and their companies even though business is already taxed far less as a percentage of profits than it was in the more prosperous 1960s, Nader said.
"Not since the 1950s have taxes overall been lower as a percentage of the GDP than they are today," he said. "This is a major reason for the growing federal deficits."
Romney trumpets fewer regulations as freeing companies to create jobs, Nader continued. But, as always, he is vague about specifics.
"Since 2000, diminished or no bank regulations have been a major cause for the spiral of reckless speculation and the growth of the complex, abstract derivatives monster which brought down large companies and cost so many millions of people their jobs," he wrote.
Nader was also interviewed on the June 15 edition of Democracy Now! in a segment called "30 Million Workers Would Benefit from Raising Minimum Wage to 1968 Level."
Raising the minimum wage from its current $7.25 is a winning issue, and the stars are aligned for Obama and the Democrats to benefit, Nader told DN!'s Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez.
Republicans Romney and Rick Santorum have at least said they want the minimum wage to keep up with inflation. And large membership groups like the AFL-CIO, NAACP, National Council of La Raza, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and many more support increasing it.
But Nader does not see the Democrats seizing the historic moment.
"The Democratic Party has become a party of caution, cash and co-optation," he said. "And so, they don’t even know a winning humanitarian, moral and political issue if it was put on their desk."
U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., and 20 other progressives have forced the issue on their party's agenda by proposing a bill that would raise the minimum wage to $10 an hour, Nader told the Democracy Now! audience. Jackson calls his bill the "Catching up to 1968 Act of 2012."
In a statement on the Time for a Raise website, where citizens can sign a petition supporting the bill, Jackson says a $2.75 an hour raise may sound like a lot, but it would take $11 an hour to equal the purchasing power of the 1968 minimum wage.
"The bill will affect more than 30 million workers and give the economy an immediate boost by significantly increasing aggregate demand." - U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill.
"The bill is really only allowing American workers a degree of “catch-up,” the congressman wrote.
Under Jackson's bill, the $10 minimum wage would take effect 60 days after passage, and it would raise the rate for those who work on tips to from $2.55 to $5.50.
"The bill will affect more than 30 million workers and give the economy an immediate boost by significantly increasing aggregate demand," Jackson wrote. "Most economists that I’ve talked with said there was no economic reason to increase it incrementally over a couple of years."
Nader said the bill has provided the jolt that everybody’s been waiting for. The AFL-CIO, the White House and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have all been waiting for U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the House Workforce Committee, to act on the minimum wage.
"In a few days, George Miller, after three-and-a-half years of doing nothing, is going to put in a bill for a three-year stage, going to $9.80 by 2014," Nader said.
Miller's bill, Nader said, is inadequate for American workers and for the Democratic Party.
"The U.S.’s federal minimum wage is lower than all Western countries," he said. "Ontario in Canada has a minimum wage of $10.25."
Steven Higgs can be reached at editor@BloomingtonAlternative.com.