Lewis Powell Jr. identified by name only a handful of "Communists, New Leftists and other revolutionaries" as enemies of American business in his now-infamous 1971 memo "Attack on the American Free Enterprise System." Foremost among them was consumer advocate Ralph Nader, who, in the soon-to-become Supreme Court Justice's view, was the single most effective antagonist of American business. Nader was a "legend in his own time and an idol of millions of Americans," Powell wrote. He quoted a May 1971 Fortune magazine piece that cast the leader of Nader's Raiders in abject terms:
"The passion that rules in him -- and he is a passionate man -- is aimed at smashing utterly the target of his hatred, which is corporate power. He thinks, and says quite bluntly, that a great many corporate executives belong in prison -- for defrauding the consumer with shoddy merchandise, poisoning the food supply with chemical additives and willfully manufacturing unsafe products that will maim or kill the buyer. … He emphasizes that he is not talking just about 'fly-by-night hucksters' but the top management of blue-chip business."
Lewis F. Powell's 1971 memorandum to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce --- "Attack on American Free Enterprise System" -- may or may not have been the first shot fired in the nation's late-20th-century right-wing revolution. But from the document's title to its ominous conclusion -- "Business and the enterprise system are in deep trouble, and the hour is late" -- it was a literal call to the political arms that have subsequently driven the nation's devolution from democracy to oligarchy.
While the then-Richmond, Va., lawyer couched his message in noble-sounding calls for openness, balance, truth and fairness, his overall tone was doomsday and militant. Referring to the enemies that Powell said were arrayed against the Chamber -- largely on campuses, in the media and in the courts -- he used the term attack 18 times; revolt/revolution/revolutionaries five; war/warfare four; assault four; hostility two; destruction two; and shotgun attack and rifle shot one each. The stakes, he said, were tantamount to life and death.
"The overriding first need is for businessmen to recognize that the ultimate issue may be survival -- survival of what we call the free enterprise system, and all that this means for the strength and prosperity of America and the freedom of our people," he wrote just two months before being nominated to the Supreme Court by President Richard M. Nixon.
Anyone whom Glenn Beck considers an anarchist radical, a black liberation theologian, a black nationalist and an avowed communist is clearly someone with a story worth hearing. And former Barack Obama advisor Van Jones, whom Beck drove from the White House with relentless, racist, red-baiting attacks in 2009, is telling his now.
Obama's former "green jobs czar" has written a new book titled Rebuild the Dream and took his message to MoveOn and Democracy Now! audiences on April 3, the day before the book's release, the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination.
"Ultimately, this book is just the prologue to what comes next," he wrote in an email to MoveOn members. "… America is not broke. We are a rich nation, and we can do much better than we are doing. We need a game plan for victories now and in the years to come."
While Jill Stein and the Green Party build on their infrastructure and now have 2012 ballot access in 20 states, Justice Party candidate Rocky Anderson is seeking a third way for his alternative-party bid -- direct nomination via the online Americans Elect process.
"Americans Elect provides a unique opportunity to third-party candidates," Anderson said in a March 14 news release. "It gives the American people the ability to select their choice for president without worrying about the corporate investors backing their campaign. Declared candidates of Americans Elect are selected based on their qualifications rather than the size of their campaign war chest."
Americans' faith in the two-party system of governance may have plummeted to the point where alternative candidates and parties like Dr. Jill Stein and the Green Party, former Democratic Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson and his new Justice Party, renegade Republican Congressman Ron Paul and/or his former Libertarian Party, or the Socialist Party USA just might have a impact.
"The mood of the country is toxic," Daily Beast contributor Douglas Schoen wrote on Feb. 14, 2012, echoing a growing conversation about the roles "third parties" might play in this year's presidential election. The day before, Huffington Post bloggers Sheri and Allan Rivlin posted what they called a "bold" prediction that there will be multiple alternative party surges before votes are finally cast on Nov. 6.
In the days since the U.S. Green Party's (GP) Feb. 1 announcement that two candidates - Dr. Jill Stein and comedian Roseanne Barr - had filed the necessary paperwork to meet party requirements for its presidential ballot, the Massachusetts physician has emerged as the odds-on favorite. Even Barr, who insists her candidacy is serious, accepts Stein as the nominee apparent. On Feb. 2, the National Journal reported a Barr tweet:
"I will run until the convention in July in Baltimore - I fully expect Jill Stein 2b the nominee & I will support her, but til then - I'll serve."
Rocky Anderson is always deferential to Occupy Wall Street when asked about the movement, most recently in a Jan. 31 interview with the online environmental magazine Grist. Occupy has been a "very healthy thing in this country," and there’s an "enormous convergence" between its concerns and his. But for inspiration, the Justice Party candidate points to Tahrir Square, not Zucotti Park.
"One of the great inspirations for us was what we saw in much of the Arab world, where people were intent on overthrowing their nations’ dictators," he told Grist's special projects editor Greg Hanscom during a wide-ranging Q&A. "… They put their lives on the line, utilizing democratized means of communication through social networking and engaging in classic grassroots organizing — and they succeeded."
In late December, Green Party (GP) Media Coordinator Scott McLarty said he hadn't heard from declared candidate Kent Mesplay in several weeks. Two months earlier, the Boston Globe quoted fellow GP candidate Jill Stein saying his campaign was "not particularly active." Indeed, the San Diego County air quality inspector did not attend the California State Green Party meeting in early December. And he hasn't yet qualified for the 2012 ballot.
But when Mesplay joined Stein for a live-streamed party response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address on Jan. 24, he confirmed he is still in the race and called on the party to embrace the youth and their issues, especially student loans.
"Since Washington likes to bail out bankers, we ought to be bailing out students from having to pay their student loans," he said, adding that, at a minimum, they should be relieved of the excessive fees and fines charged by the banks.
The Green Party's Jill Stein embellished her reputation as the first "Occupy Wall Street candidate" on the American political scene in the days leading up to the Jan. 20 Occupy the Courts demos, as she carried her presidential aspirations to protest gatherings in the D.C. area.
"My hope is to leverage and support and promote the incredible inspiration and power that we're seeing here in this field today," the Lexington, Mass., physician said on Jan. 17 at the Occupy Congress event across from Capitol Hill. "The effort to occupy Congress I think is all about occupying our economy, about taking it back, taking back our democracy, and that includes occupying our elections."
Watching Newsweek's Eleanor Clift confront the question "Are most political reporters simply insiders?" is a discomfiting experience. Her struggle to defend the indefensible unavoidably inspires compassion for her uneasy predicament. But the case she makes so proves the point that any sympathy engendered morphs quickly into cynicism.
The political reporter appeared on a Dec. 29, 2011, panel discussion on Al Jazeera, subtitled the question du jour. Joining her were Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman and Justice Party presidential candidate Rocky Anderson, of whose candidacy Clift knew nothing. Al Jazeera devoted a third of the half-hour program's opinions to the former Salt Lake City mayor. Clift apparently had never heard of him.
"I think Rocky Anderson is running probably to get his issues out there, more than from an expectation that he might necessarily win," she awkwardly speculated aloud, unsure about the Justice Party's name, no less.