Reprinted from www.yesmagazine.org
Why do so many policies popular with Americans languish in Washington, D.C.? Why, for example, is there no action on a federal minimum wage boost, a breakup of too-big-to-fail banks, or a tax on carbon--all policies favored by a majority of the electorate?
In his book, Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State, Nader lays out a plan for challenging this stranglehold: Noncorporatist conservatives and liberals could join forces to win battles on issues where they agree --especially those focused on economic justice and strengthening democratic rights.Ralph Nader argues that both Republican and Democratic leaders are too cozy with large corporations to allow such measures. Each election year, hot-button social issues dominate, and in between, talk show hosts maintain a drumbeat of fear and anger that keeps Americans divided.
Who would benefit from such an alliance and who would be left out? And could it work? To find out if conservatives are on board, we invited Daniel McCarthy, editor of The American Conservative magazine, to join a three-way conversation with Ralph Nader, erstwhile presidential candidate, and YES! Magazine. McCarthy--a maverick on the right just as Nader is on the left--worked for Ron Paul's 2008 presidential campaign and has written for The Spectator, Reason, and Modern Age.
Sarah van Gelder: Daniel, your magazine, The American Conservative, includes scathing critiques of U.S. overseas wars, of the use of torture, and of corporate power. So what makes your magazine a conservative publication instead of a progressive one?
Daniel McCarthy: Well, Pat Buchanan is one of our founders. Mr. Buchanan was very critical of the kind of liberalism embedded in corporate culture and of trying to export American institutions to the world at the barrel of a gun.
There's always been a conservative critique of both big business and crony capitalism, and also of what President Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex. The American Conservative magazine represents that strain of conservatism.
van Gelder: Ralph, in your book, Unstoppable, you discuss at length cherished conservative values and some key conservative thinkers. So are you actually a closet conservative?
Ralph Nader: Well, liberalism and conservatism, in various ways, have been hijacked by corporatism.
Liberalism in the 18th and 19th centuries was the classic philosophy aimed at restraining arbitrary government power--then often exercised by kings and emperors. Civil liberties were the foundation of freedom of speech and due process of law, which became part of our Constitution.
Fast forward, you now have corporate liberals-- like the Clintons--and you have the corporatists who call themselves conservatives throughout Congress. They're all pushing corporate welfare and bailouts for banks.
What we're trying to do here is go back to fundamental principles and un-hijack conservatism and liberalism. When we do that, we see that there's a convergence of support on a lot of major issues.
van Gelder: I'd like to go through a few of the 25 proposals from Unstoppable, and ask you, Daniel, whether you agree with Ralph that these are proposals conservatives support. The first one is audit the Department of Defense.
McCarthy: Oh yes, very much so! [laughter] The Department of Defense is a government bureaucracy, and just like any government bureaucracy, it has to be held accountable. It has to be efficient and effective in terms of what is good for the American people and what is good for a genuinely limited foreign policy, not a kind of open-ended ideological foreign policy trying to transform the world.
Nader: And it's completely out of control! The budget is $800 billion, and often they don't know where to find the spare parts for the Air Force, or what happened to billions in Iraq. That's what happens when it's not audited.