Oct 2, 2021 • 1HR 0M

Strip Mining Democracy

 
1.0×
0:00
-1:00:15
Open in playerListen on);

Appears in this episode

Ralph Nader
Ralph Nader talks about what’s happening in America, what’s happening around the world, and most importantly what’s happening underneath it all.
Episode details
Comments

On today’s program, we look at two ways that corporate lobbies and their political allies subvert democracy: “gerrymandering” and “preemption.” First, law professor Herman Schwartz breaks down the scourge of partisan gerrymandering. Then Mark Pertschuk, director of “Grassroots Change,” sheds light on how states and the federal government can “preempt” cities and local communities from for instance raising their own minimum wage, allowing paid sick leave, regulating firearms, banning plastics, or enforcing anti-discrimination laws. Plus, Ralph, David, and Steve discuss the infrastructure package and stock buy backs.


Herman Schwartz is a Professor of Law Emeritus at American University Washington College of Law. He formerly chaired National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty and has developed a course in which students work with national and local public interest organizations that deal with poverty issues. He co-chaired a project on transitional justice in emerging democracies, founded the ACLU Prison Project and argued two cases in the Supreme Court relating to prisoners rights, and throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s he served as chief counsel in school desegregation cases in the North and the South.

There was a guy who was really a genius who died recently, named Hofeller. Who was the Republicans’ star gerrymanderer… He was quoted at one point saying: “Gerrymandering is the only legal way that one can still steal an election.”

Professor Herman Schwartz, American University Washington College of Law

[Gerrymandering] is predictable because of the mountain of data that is now available about practically every single house on a block.  Every single street.  And all of the various ways in which all of our data– our personal data– is available, pretty much, to anybody who wants it.

Professor Herman Schwartz, American University Washington College of Law

I’ve noticed that this issue of gerrymandering doesn’t get people very angry because it tends to be technical. It’s quite simple in terms of its political intent. The party in charge of the state government wants to pick their own voters, rather than have the voters pick the candidates.

Ralph Nader

What is happening is the growth, mostly by legislative initiatives, voter initiatives in the commission movement. Unfortunately, it tends to be concentrated among Democrats. You don’t see too much of it, except over the dead bodies of Republicans… That’s one of the few successful things that’s taken place. Some people think that the Democrats who were pushing this are engaging in unilateral disarmament.

Professor Herman Schwartz, American University Washington College of Law

It seems to me… that the only real way to overcome it and then change it once more progressives and “small-d” democratically inclined legislators get into office is by getting out the vote in the minority areas which are being discriminated against.  And having a progressive agenda reaching people who want a living wage and universal health insurance. Even though they call themselves Conservatives or Republicans. They’re putting their families first.

Ralph Nader

[Preemption] aborts local democracy. It strip-mines democracy. People around the country mobilize, and they elect people to their local government, and they think they’ve got some sort of control, and they start improving the community… And they just pull the rug out from under them.

Ralph Nader


Mark Pertschuk is the Director of Grassroots Change, an organization that connects grassroots leaders with the evidence, tools, and training to advance grassroots health and safety movements. One of their initiatives, Preemption Watch, helps grassroots advocates understand and track whether local authority has been preserved or preempted, and counter preemption.

Historically, [local] jurisdictions have taken the lead– it’s an understatement to say they’ve taken the lead on protecting people in the community. Going back for a century… But now that we are so limited at this moment in time in what we can do to take hold of our destiny, to take hold of our lives and our communities, the attack on local [government] is just a broad attack on one of our last avenues.

Mark Pertschuk, Preemption Watch and Grassroots Change

Grassroots movements…when they’re successful, can be incredibly powerful. They may be one of the only things that can counterbalance corporate power. True grassroots movements. And the industry knows that by preempting local authority, they are forestalling grassroots movements at the local level.

Mark Pertschuk, Preemption Watch and Grassroots Change


Ralph Nader Radio Hour Ep 395 Transcript
223KB ∙ PDF File
Download
Download