Breaking the Record.
Despite the terrible weather last night, I and about a hundred other people were able to hear presidential candidate Ralph Nader at the Raven Used Book Store in downtown Northampton.
A bookstore may seem like too small a venue for a presidential rally, but it's hard to draw a crowd out at ten o'clock on a miserable rainy Saturday night, especially since the mainstream media, in their arrogance, have decided that Nader is simply not a serious candidate. This despite the fact that he's on the ballot in 45 states, with organized write-in campaigns in the other five, and the public debate over the rip-off economic bailout bill involves issues on which he is a recognized expert.
I first saw Nader back when I was a student at UMass. He also passed through our Valley during each of his prior presidential campaigns. But every time I've gone to see him he has always been late. I read somewhere that he is the sort of person (Springfield's Charlie Ryan is another) who is simply impossible to keep on a schedule.
Last night was no exception, although this time more was at stake. Nader was attempting to break the Guinness Book of World Records total for the most political speeches given in at least 15 different towns or cities by a credible presidential candidate (meaning on the ballot in enough states to win 270 electoral votes) before an audience of at least ten people who are not part of the candidate's entourage, within one 24 hour period. Nader was supposed to appear at 9:20 but kept the audience waiting until a few minutes before ten. But hey, if you have to wait around, what better place to do so than a bookstore with all that great reading material to look at?
I knew some of the people who were waiting. Here is Joe, who used to volunteer at the Amherst Survival Center. Last I heard he had moved to Nova Scotia, but I'm glad to see he's back.
Here is a video showing when Nader first arrived.
Up close, Nader looks every one of his 74 years.
His speech was better than the overly wonkish one he gave several weeks ago at UMass. Nader was as usual very professorial, pointing to books he spotted on the shelves that he had read or were written by friends. He did little to attack John McCain, and never mentioned Sarah Palin, perhaps assuming that there were few borderline Republicans in the room.
Instead he launched into a merciless attack against Barack Obama, essentially calling Obama a phony and a sellout who will quickly disillusion his supporters if elected. Nader can be a dull speaker, but Saturday night he was on fire. At times he seemed to be openly calling for revolution, describing the system as irredeemably corrupt. His was not at all an optimistic appraisal of the near future, saying "hard times are coming" and said that the suffering may create fertile ground for a widespread uprising. At the end Nader stood with his fist raised in a power salute while a sea of fists pumped in the audience. It may have been October of 2008, but for a little while the radical spirit of the 1960's was alive in the Raven Bookstore.
Afterwards Nader signed books for those who made a financial contribution to his campaign. The man below with the goatee made a five hundred dollar donation on the spot.
Also present was Phyllis Rodin who ran for Mayor of Northampton in 2005. She first met Nader in the 60's and knew his mother.
Nader recognized Rodin and at the end of the night he gave her an autographed copy of his mother's autobiography.
Here a snippet of Nader's speech, where he talks about his family associations with Northampton's Smith College.
Afterwards as I was leaving, hurrying off to get to the bus stop and out of the rain, I was startled to see Nader himself being escorted to his car. I quickly whipped out my camera and captured this photo.
And so it was that one of the last of the uncompromising idealists of the 60's disappeared toward the highway. It was reported in the media today that he successfully beat the campaign speaking record.
At UMass they have started to compost the waste in the Blue Wall restaurant. If you've ever seen how much trash is generated everyday at lunch, when the place is packed blue wall to blue wall, you would know why this is a good thing. A 3-D poster over the trash bins tell the students what is suitable for composting.