As Democrat and Republican strategists lobby to put the best spin on Wednesday night's debate between presidential candidates Al Gore and George W. Bush, Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder is instead lamenting the exclusion of Green Party nominee Ralph Nader.
In an exclusive interview with MTV News, Vedder said that he believes that Nader, a longtime consumer rights activist, has been barred from the first two presidential debates because of his well-documented stance against corporate involvement in government.
"There's a lot of people who feel that [Nader] should have been in those debates," Vedder said. "You see polls, but it's hard to think they'd go by polls [in determining who participates]. It's also hard to think that you've got debates that are funded and sponsored by corporations.
"The influence of the corporations is the only influence happening, as far as I understand, from what I've seen, in Washington, D.C.," he continued. "In order for a person to feel like they have a voice, you need to have a lobbying group behind you. So I understand why people feel apathetic these days, but that's why I think there might be this slight break in the curtain here [with Nader]."
Although the 2000 presidential debates have been organized by a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization known as the Commission on Presidential Debates, the CPD has received money from the likes of AT&T, Anheuser-Busch, 3Com, and US Airways, among others.
Last month, Vedder came out and publicly endorsed Nader during a campaign rally in Seattle (see "Pearl Jam's Vedder Rallies For Ralph Nader"), an event where the attendees' passion and enthusiasm admittedly caught the Pearl Jam singer by surprise.
went to one rally in Seattle," he recalled, "and I'd been watching Ralph on C-SPAN and have followed him through the years. I noticed that this was the first year that he was really gonna attempt a full-fledged campaign and I volunteered to help and just showed up in Seattle.
"I was really amazed at the energy in the room," he added. "It was as good and inspiring as any kind of piece of art or musical performance that I had seen in my life, which I think says a lot, especially if you know me, because music has been everything.
"I think what was so moving about [the rally] was this feeling of empowerment," Vedder said. "There was this hope that you could make a difference [in the election], and that there was someone that you could back that will make a difference." [RealVideo]
Vedder also told MTV News that his support
of Nader stemmed from his belief that the Green Party candidate offered the only real alternative to Gore or Bush, both of whom, he suggested, are controlled by the same overriding special interests.
"Right now, you've got a guy on the right and a guy on the left, and they're kind of puppets," he said. "So you've got this guy [talking] here and this guy [talking] there, and they're kind of saying similar things. You're wondering why, and then you look down and realize that, 'Oh, they're being [controlled] by the same person,' both these heads. That's the problem." [RealVideo]
Pearl Jam's involvement in an antitrust suit leveled against Ticketmaster a few years back has also factored into Vedder's support of Nader, and the singer-songwriter described how it helped him witness firsthand
what happens when pro-consumer
interests go head-to-head against corporations inside the Washington, D.C., beltway.
"We know through Ticketmaster [what happens]," Vedder said. "Our experience with Ticketmaster... is kind of a tremendous thing to have in the back catalog of depressing scenarios in your life, but [now] this turns out to be a great thing to have experienced, because you realize how things work. And that wasn't [decided] by a vote. The case went through the Justice Department, then all of a sudden it went away on a holiday weekend. It just changed.
"So this is how voices get [quashed] and decisions based on money are made," he concluded. "Ultimately, the same people who are funding these candidates, their major concern
is profit and not people's civil
rights, not worker's rights, and that's just not going to change." [RealVideo]
Vedder plans to continue stumping for Nader at a campaign rally set for Friday, October 13 at Madison Square Garden in New York City that will also feature appearances and performances by Ben Harper, Ani DiFranco, and Patti Smith (see "Vedder, DiFranco, Harper To Play NYC Nader Fundraiser").
Meanwhile, the third and final presidential debate is scheduled to take place at Washington University in St. Louis on October 17.
For a full-length interview with Ralph Nader, check out the Choose Or Lose feature "All About Ralph."