Activist Nader (The Seventeen Solutions: Bold Ideas for Our American Future, 2012, etc.) sketches out places of “convergence” where liberals and conservatives can start working together for the public good.
Though increasingly rare, the author points to a number of instances when lawmakers worked in concert to support automobile airbags, prison reform, halt media concentration, and oppose taxpayer-funded stadiums and arenas. Sometimes they found success; often, they got bogged down in committee or watered down during the process. However, as Nader argues, we also must acknowledge the global corporate giants, whose “DNA commands them to control, undermine or eliminate any force, tradition, or institution that impedes their expansion of sales, profits, and executive compensation.” Certainly, there is endless ammunition to support this point, and Nader trots out one infuriating illustration after another—e.g., “the Department of Defense cannot or will not make an annual audit of it sprawling $527 billion yearly budget, not counting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan”—but corporate and governmental malfeasance are givens. The issue is how to make government heed “the supremacy of civic values to which commercial pursuits must adjust.” Nader lists reforms with which many lawmakers would agree, including breaking up too-big-to-fail banks, protecting children from commercialism and ending corporate personhood. However, he also delivers many examples where lawmakers are despairing, stymied by partisanship or in the corporate pocket. “Whether Democrats or Republicans are in control, corporations still receive the same wasteful or expanding assorted privileges,” while corporate welfare is ever more varied and bipartisan. Nader hopes that “convergence stimulates the depth of our basic humanity and sense of justice,” but it feels awfully distant from this vantage point. If the best we can do is “agree on a general policy or stance without having to also agree on the exact implications or use that would be made of a policy,” that sounds like planting seeds with no hope of rain.
Despite the best of motives, Nader shoots down his own case for convergence.