Ralph Nader Cornel West Unveil Proposal to Challenge Obama in Primaries

September 19, 2011

Progressive leaders led by Ralph Nader and Cornel West unveiled a proposal today to challenge President Obama in the Democratic Party’s presidential primaries in 2012.

The proposal, which has been endorsed by over 45 distinguished leaders, seeks to have a slate of six candidates run against President Obama, each representing a field in which Obama has never clearly staked a progressive claim or where he has drifted toward the corporatist right.

“Without debates by challengers inside the Democratic Party’s presidential primaries, the liberal/majoritarian agenda will be muted and ignored,” said Ralph Nader.

“The one-man Democratic primaries will be dull, repetitive, and draining of both voter enthusiasm and real bright lines between the two parties that excite voters,” Nader said.

A letter is being sent to a list of distinguished elected officials, civic leaders, prominent members of academia and the NGO community who represent the fields of labor, poverty, military and foreign policy, health insurance and care, the environment, financial regulation, consumer protection, and civil, political and human rights/empowerment.

The list of potential candidates also includes progressive democrats who have held national and state office and have fought for progressive reforms.

“We need to put strong democratic pressure on President Obama in the name of poor and working people” said Cornel West, author and Professor at Princeton University. “His administration has tilted too much toward Wall Street, we need policies that empower Main Street.”

The letter pronounces that without primary challengers, President Obama will never have to seriously articulate and defend his beliefs to his own party. Given the dangers our nation faces, that option is unacceptable.

“It’s time for the White House to get into the trench with organized labor and lend a hand. We know what we need, and we don’t need another campaign speech,” said Chris Townsend Political Action Director, United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America. “The absence of discussion or debate about the failed strategies of this administration only emboldens the corporate onslaught.”

The letter points to numerous decisions that have drawn criticism from Obama’s own Democratic Party including his decision to bail out Wall Street’s most profitable firms while failing to push for effective prosecution of the criminal behavior that triggered the recession, escalating the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan while simultaneously engaging in a unilateral war in Libya, his decision to extend the Bush era tax cuts, and his acquiescence to Republican extortion during the recent debt ceiling negotiations.

“Robust debate on the crucial issues facing our nation, including global environmental devastation, should characterize all races for national public office and the Democratic presidential primaries are no exception,” said Brent Blackwelder, President Emeritus of Friends of the Earth. “The public needs to hear whether a second term Obama will be like the first term Obama, or perhaps more like the 2008 presidential candidate Obama or something else altogether.”

The list of prominent leaders receiving the letter is being kept private as a courtesy.

Here’s a partial list of endorsees:

James Abourezk
Former U.S. Senator, South Dakota

Gar Alperovitz, Professor University of Maryland, Co-Founder Democracy Collaborative

Norman Birnbaum
Professor Emeritus, Georgetown University Law Center

Dr. Brent Blackwelder
President Emeritus of Friends of the Earth

Ellen H. Brown
Lawyer and Author of Web of Debt

Edgar Stuart Cahn
Professor of Law, University of the District of Columbia
Co-founder Legal Services for the Poor

Pat Choate
1996 Reform Party Vice President Candidate

Charles Cray
Director of the Center for Corporate Policy

Peter Coyote
Actor, Author and Director

Ronnie Cummins, Executive Director, Organic Consumers Association

Charles Derber, Professor, Boston College

Ronnie Dugger
Founder, Alliance for Democracy

John Fullerton
President, Capital Institute

Rebecca and James Goodman, Northwood Farm

Randy Hayes
Director, Foundation Earth
Rainforest Action Network Founder

Chris Hedges
Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist of the New York Times and Author

Hazel Henderson,
Author of Ethical Markets: Growing the Green Economy
President, Ethical Markets Media, LLC.

Jean Houston
Psychologist, Anthropologist and Author of The Possible Human and The
Possible Society

Nicholas Johnson
Former Commissioner, Federal Communications Commission
Former Administrator, Federal Maritime Commission

Alan F. Kay
Author of Spot the Spin and Locating Consensus for Democracy

Harry Kelber
The Labor Educator

Andrew Kimbrell
Executive Director, Center for Food Safety&
International Center for Technology Assessment (ICTA)

Jonathan Kozol
Educator, Author of Savage Inequalities

Lewis Lapham
Former Editor, Harper’s Magazine

Leland Lehrman, Partner, Fund Balance

Rabbi Michael Lerner
Editor, Tikkun Magazine
Chair, Network of Spiritual Progressives

Dr. Richard Lippin, MD
Physician Forecaster, Board Certified in Preventive Medicine and
Advocate for both Individual and Institutional Prevention

Robert D. Manning
Founder and CEO, Responsible Debt Relief Institute
Author of Credit Card Nation

Dr. Samuel Metz, MD
Mad As Hell Doctors, founding member
Physicians for a National Health Plan, member of Portland chapter

Carol Miller, Community Activist, New Mexico

E. Ethelbert Miller, Board Chair Institute for Policy Studies

Ralph Nader
Citizen Advocate

Michael Parenti

John Passacantando
Former Executive Director, Greenpeace USA

Erich Pica
President of Friends of the Earth

Vijay Prashad
Author and Professor, Trinity College

Nomi Prins
Author and former Managing Director at Goldman Sachs

Marcus Raskin
Author of The Common Good and former White House Advisor

Andy Shallal
“Democracy’s Restauranteur” and Owner of Bus Boys& Poets

Michelle Shocked

David Swanson
Author, War is a Lie

Chris Townsend
Political Action Director, United Electrical, Radio and Machine
Workers of America (UE)

Gore Vidal
Author and Political Activist

Rabbi Arthur Waskow
Chair, The Shalom Center

Harvey Wasserman
Author of Solartopia! Our Green-Powered Earth

Cornel West
Professor and Author of Race Matters

Quentin D. Young MD
National Coordinator, Physicians for a National Health Program