Yeah, most politically interested people in Denver and the nation are focused on former President Bill Clinton and newly minted vice-president candidate Sen. Joe Biden this evening. Those are the big names of the Democratic National Convention on the eve of the Barack Obama acceptance speech.
But at a University of Denver auditorium right now, a collaboration of the disaffected have come together. It is nominally a Ralph Nader presidential rally, but it's acted in a larger sense as an Everybody Else town meeting. (Though it's possible that one significant draw for the young crowd is the several musicians performing between those issuing political rhetoric.)
Sean Penn just spoke. He's clearly not into the offerings of the Republicans and Democrats. He called McCain "the Man Who Would Be George Bush the Third." He did seem to be pretty impressed with Nader, but he said he didn't know who he'd vote for yet. He also blasted the media -- at some length.
[Hey, Sean, I own "Dead Man Walking" and "Mystic River" and, if we want to recall how you weren't always so serious, "Fast Times at Ridgemont High." Maybe it's time you buy a copy of The Courant?]
Cindy Sheehan, the eternally Bush-baiting protester, also spoke. She now seems to blame the Democratic Party equally for the ills of the country. She called the two major parties "the twins." "The twins, they don't care about you," she told the crowd (which looks mostly college-aged.) She talked about her son who died in Iraq. "I didn't lose my son. If I lost him, I would go find him. He was murdered by the twins," she said, blaming the parties' alliance with the "military-industrial complex."
She compared President Bush to a boil, and added Barack Obama and John McCain to her boil list. "Unless we cure the disease, the boils will keep popping up."
[Actually, I did see a girl with an Obama 08 shirt here. Then again, I also saw a guy with a Nine Inch Nails shirt.]
Nader's money guy took the stage to plead for cash. ("Every vote that Nader gets is somebody saying, I'm not going to take it any more," he said.) He started with the maximum allowed campaign contribution, $4,600, and seemed to get a couple of takers. Then, like an auction in reverse, he lowered the request implementally until more and more people in this gathering of the alienated agreed to give. "The rent's not free," he said. "The campaign's not free."
Now, Nader's finally been introduced, to blasts of red, white and blue confetti over the stage. ("Don't worry," he said. "All of this is going to be recycled.") He immediately began criticizing the Democratic Party and its nearby corporate-sponsored convention. "They're being wined and dined by the corruptors," he said.
Of the Democrats and Republicans, Nader said, "They're turning our country into, essentially, a one-party state." He said,
(The Connecticut native, while admitting that Democrats are more supportive of social security, even slipped in a dig against a senator from his home state. "They don't want to send [social security] to Wall Street -- except for Joe Lieberman.")
Nader got major cheers during his amnesty talk for non-violent drug offenders. Replace them in the prisons with corporate criminals, he said.
Nader cautioned about his fellow politicians: "Every politican I've ever known from the major parties ... starts flattering the people. Oh, how they flatter the people! Because that's what gives the people weak knees. ... Well, we have got to start getting tough with each other." He said he's disappointed about the percentage of people 18-24 who don't vote. "Read the grim lesson of history, here and abroad. When people do not turn on to politics, politics will turn on them."
"If only you knew the power you have at this young age," he said. "Chuck the iPod once in a while. Stop listening to non-stop music, which is blowing out your mind. And get serious."