Politics Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader on the Beacon Rising From Capitol Hill

A new progressive association is making waves in Congress.
[Arend / CC BY 2.0]

By Ralph Nader

The idea didn’t come from a newly arrived Harvard or Yale Congressional staffer. They mostly feel sufficiently anointed to the ways of Capitol Hill – getting along with style while going along for ambition.

Jacob Wilson, hailing from Pomona College in California, has a different definition of self-respect, and of his own humble significance in the furiously moribund culture of our most constitutionally powerful branch of government. He most certainly doesn’t fit in with the staff on loan from the corporatist canyons of K Street.

Wilson came from the peace movement – Peace Action – to be exact. He pitched practical peace to one Congressional office after another. His important message was not exactly a head turner, he discovered. War, military armaments’ lobbyists signaling campaign donations get the attention at the abdicating war-permissive legislature.

Wilson, 28, and Peace Action opposed the wars of Empire, nuclear proliferation and the giant, wasteful military budget authorized by both the Democratic and Republican Parties in the Congress. Once inside, he started thinking sequentially, observing that the staffers were either uneducated about these and other momentous issues, or they were indentured to corporate lobbyists for whom the doors were open. Corporate lobbyists are experts at cultivating Capitol Hill support with campaign contributions or by wining and dining our public servants. and other convenient facilities.

Wilson wondered why there weren’t more staff from the civic community, from those citizen advocacy groups that, over the decades, provided critiques and proposals for improved, responsive government that proved so accurate.

After joining Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI)’s office as a press secretary, Wilson in his free time began asking chiefs-of-staff and legislative directors about getting progressive employees of members together into what became the Congressional Progressive Staff Association (CPSA). They were very responsive.

Over a year old, CPSA has over 550 staff members, including 175 senior staff from the House and recently some from the Senate. Given its unprecedented nature, this is an impressive number. CPSA has been given formal recognition by the Congressional Administrative Committees so that it can use Capitol Hill rooms rent free for its gatherings.

Hundreds of official source journalists covering the Capitol Hill scene might ask “what’s the big deal?” This informal group has no real power base, hasn’t yet established any substantive agenda and hasn’t been either applauded or condemned by lawmakers. This would be a mistaken appraisal.

A more aware, connected group of staffers in touch with each other occupies a very large vacuum that is not remotely filled by the taciturn Progressive Caucus, composed of several dozen lawmakers in the House that should welcome their conscientious subordinates.

This new association of staffers knows what it doesn’t know. Jacob Wilson and his colleagues want to educate themselves about progressive history, and the contemporary, ignored progressive agenda and civic activities back home. The unexercised duties and authorities of Congress under the Constitution – many of which having been abdicated to the Presidency – will be a subject of increasing interest to the CPSA.

The CPSA wants to find its own voice, wants staff recruited for Congress from working class and civic backgrounds – “class diversity” – and more productive performances by legislative committees. They have launched a virtual lecture series that addresses the many delayed necessities of the American people and the world at large. They’re also aiming to start an educational book club.

Education, networking, and recruitment of Congressional staff from working America are the group’s initial three goals. In the process, the hundreds of national citizen organizations located in Washington, D.C. with millions of members around the country, may finally be able to get through to Congressional offices on current and proposed initiatives that are presently obstructed. The chance to make their case should excite citizen advocates for justice writ large and small.

Perhaps the CPSA will spark openness and more accountability by the members of Congress and their Committees. Senators and Representatives in Congress from both parties have reduced and robotized access to their offices like never before in this occluded Internet Age.  The CPSA might also move some of the 535 members of Congress to engage in some collective introspection about the way they are using the sovereign power given them by “We the People” in the Constitution. It is, after all, delegated to them as a matter of public trust – so often betrayed!

Unless you are a campaign donor, a circle of supporting politicians or a constituent who qualifies for personal “case work,” getting through to your Congress, its offices, committees, and staff has been getting more difficult by the year. The ingenious but devious ways the lawmakers block or impede access is a frontal assault on the people’s First Amendment right to “petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The CPSA might also increase Congressional receptivity to ending the two-party duopoly, embracing the ideas of third parties, and not obstructing independent political competition. Our political system needs more voices and choices!

The CPSA has its historic work cut out for itself. It will take calm dedication, stamina, and wisdom while keeping their eye on the major objective – a functioning democracy where the laws are much more equated with justice than with limitless avarice and entrenched concentrated power.

17 comments

  1. We need constitutional law professors in Congress and in the White House. Wait! We have had that and it has worked exactly the opposite.

  2. Lotsa luck, Ralph!

    Our “Reps” will never be “receptive” to 3rd parties – case in point – leaving the decision of whom to allow in debates up to a non-gov’t body, the CPD, run by D/Rs, or the latest onslaught via the “poison pills” in the lauded voting rights act that makes it increasingly difficult for 3rd parties to even get on a ballot, or qualify for matching Fed’l funds …

    I do wish you, or Mr.Scheer, or anybody, would do an expose on how this act, in the name of increasing voter access, simultaneously decreases candidate access – so more and more folks can vote – as long as its for D/Rs …

  3. If something good comes out of it, wonderful. But I won’t hold my breath. The rot is too deep and the cancer is now eating the host and momentum is taking an every larger part in what’s going to happen next for any managerial inner system politic group to have much effect.

    I hope I am wrong, but all I have to do is open the paper, look at the news, walk out my door to see that this land and this planet is falling into a darkness the likes of which the world has never before witnessed. I do not exaggerate nor am I depressed or a cynic although my words of doom are so threatening that many choose to view them that way.

    But putting you head in the sand is not the best of survival traits. Time to wake up.

  4. Ralph Nader is one of the most dedicated and admirable people on the face of the earth!!!! His influence for good for so many decades could surely not be bettered by any other “ordinary citizen” in the USA and his ability to continue enthusiastically, methodically, with imagination and practical ideas and actions has never wavered despite huge setbacks. Every suggestion has been for the safety and improvement in the lives of the rest of us, and if someone of his calibre ever became POTUS the world would be a better place.

    1. Amen. Sadly, Ralph, is not looking well and I fear he will not be with us for many more years. I do have hope when I see a lot young people eschewing greed and materialism and putting their time into working toward the world Ralph has been striving for all his life.

  5. I just want to ask you why you keep doing what has never worked, and why you havent read some alternative books. Did you not notice that we had a choice between two skull and bonesmen, then we had a CHOICE between romneycare, hillarycare, and Obamacare. Then we voted for Hillary and got Rump. And in reality we voted for Bernie, and Bernie again, and most likely Rump won. We had 9-11 demolition job and despite proof that (read ANGRY LOUD AND CLEAR TRUTH) every politician in DC was complicit- Patriot Act, 3000 pages long voted for on 9/12. Perhaps the narrative you have been following is a lie??
    Look into the Council on Foreign Relations, with 300 members, 100 of which are media moguls, also some university heads, and military, energy, and more. Founded by and all members appointed by Rockefeller, owner of Blackrock and Vanguard, worth trillions of dollars. The administration of all presidents for many decades have been at least 75% CFR members.
    Look into who really makes legislation. Does Biden look like he really runs the show? Notice that democrats and republican votes on key issues are not so different.
    Just consider (I have known this for five years) that politicians are actors, figureheads. Throwing mud, making false promises never meant to be kept. No republican or democrat gets any significant position without proving loyalty to the globalists. Why do they never make good legislation for the poor? They are incapable?
    You really need to rethink what fairy tales you have believed.
    Why did Epstein get so much attention from reporter extraordinaire ( Not establishment news media) Whitney Webb that he was a mossad agent and that his island of sex was full of power people going there? IT was to have insurance that they followed through on their commitment to globalists- willing blackmail for positions of power and wealth. Israel does not rule mossad, but the Jesuit general rules over every secret intelligence of every nation. Sound absurd?
    Connect the dots. I gave you the quandary and the evidence, find names dates documents quotes sources in the book mentioned.
    Another angry journalist.

    1. “The eagle suffers little birds to sing, And is not careful what they mean thereby, Knowing that with the shadow of his wings He can at pleasure stint their melody: Even so mayest thou the giddy men of Rome.”
      William Shakespeare
      1592 Tamora to Saturninus.Titus Andronicus, act 4, sc.4, l.83-6.

  6. Thanks for this article and the glimmer of hope it offers. How you remain optimistic about a “progressive agenda” when the sociopathic zeitgeist of US empire has never been more apparent is beyond me. The bipartisan utter lack of concern let alone guilt for the tens of millions of innocent human beings killed, maimed, and displaced in US “interventionist” wars and coup d’états since WW2 subsequently revealed to be based on lies is astounding. The sociopathic zeitgeist that describes current US foreign and domestic policy is unconscionable. Dwight Eisenhower, whose credentials and military experience surpassed all other US presidents, sternly warned of a US military-industrial- complex coup in his critically important and eloquent farewell speech and no one listened—including and especially our most “respected journalists”—who have transmogrified into nothing less than press agents for the national security state. I don’t believe the decomposition of US democracy started with Reagan in 1980; it started with Truman in 1945 and continues to this day.

    1. You do know about Operation Paperclip where the CIA brought over 1000 Nazi scientists to US after WWII and embedded them in our military, biochemical weapons, and drug industry. Some of what we see today is the result of that. Government might have seemingly fought a war against fascists, but they really wanted their scientists.

  7. Cheers to the indefatigable Ralph Nader for revealing this ‘inside’ job.
    How long before the snakes in power wine and dine the members of CPSA and dazzle them with shiny things and trinkets?
    Not sure closing the divide between citizens and elected officials is going to work from the inside out.
    So many truths being exposed AND covered up these days. Time will tell how this group will do.

  8. Hi Mr. Nader,
    I was in college when your book “Not Safe ant any Speed” came out in the early 1960’s. Your career in speaking up for rational, even progressive causes to help American citizens has only grown to become invaluable over the years. Thank You!
    Mike Taibbi has a column today that blends in with your article on the CPSA, that is, a third party is needed, one with no connection to corporate America. And as you note, a whole lot of education, advocacy, and organizing across so-called “party lines” is needed to make any change in Congress. Prying the iron grip that corporate power has on the throat of Congress won’t be easy, and perhaps no possible. But we all need to try. As you’ve said before, there is a whole lot more of us that the favored few in Washington.

  9. That group of Congressional staffers will be fired if they do anything substantial that bites the hand that feeds them. But maybe in the intervening time before they get fired, they might learn something…Who knows. Might as well try. What makes me optimistic: cell phones take good video, CCTV cameras are getting cheaper, I can get international news for cheap (like phoenix TV in HK), and there are still a few good sources of info on the internet (if you know where to find them). Also, as the mafia state (collection of corporate thieves ) expands into every household, people of a certain temperament who are now hibernating/in denial will wake up as they realize the thugs have come for them and their family. In the mean time, some people who, even though they might be depressed at the current situation, will act (as Chris Hedges has spoken about), just to assert their dignity. As everything seems to burn around them.

  10. This is a positive step, to be sure. But as long as incentives are asymmetric, that is, as long as the rewards are still in place for expanding the military and aggressively pursuing world domination, progress will be very, very slow. The march toward war, the lack of any regard for international law by the U.S., the replacement of bullying for good faith diplomacy, are not driven by a lack of understanding or awareness. They are driven by an understanding and awareness of how much money and power can be had by those who support and promote the imperial project, that of “full-spectrum dominance”. We must remove the power-brokers from power and replace them with policymakers who answer to the people, not to corporate interests, Wall Street, investment banks, the whole MIC cabal of warmongers … https://peacedividend.us

  11. Isn’t this delusional. Who’s going to explain the Blob to Ralph, let alone explain to him how the world works?
    Nice fantasy, though.
    On second thought, I’ll provide a clue or two: Our awful foreign policy is what the ruling class want and what they pay politicians for. Low level congressional staffers won’t do shit to change that; a radical shift in what we elect is the only thing that would. OTOH, the window for doing that is likely shutting over the next couple of years. (BTW: Purity tests by our side over the years has contributed to the now-crisis.)
    I’m so cynical because I’m old and have seen too much. Sorry for popping any bubbles.

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