Video: Nader to run ... again

By Tom Curry National affairs writer
msnbc.com
updated 2/23/2004 2:57:05 PM ET 2004-02-23T19:57:05

Newly announced independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader contended Monday that he did not pose a threat to a Democratic nominee's chances of beating President Bush in the Nov. 2 general election.

Nader predicted at a Washington news conference that in November he would not get a substantial number of votes from Democrats.

“Democratic members will come back into the (Democratic) fold. The party that is out of power finds that its members come back into the fold, so this candidacy is not going to get many Democratic Party votes,” Nader said.

Addressing himself to Democratic Party leaders and presidential hopefuls, Nader said, “Relax! Rejoice! You have another front, carrying the ancient, but unfulfilled pretensions and aspirations of the Democratic Party. Do not deny millions of voters the opportunity to vote for this candidacy.”

Some Democrats believe that in the 2000 election, Nader’s presence as a Green Party candidate on most state ballots hurt Democratic candidate Al Gore’s chances of winning.

Democrats theorize that in New Hampshire and Florida, for example, many of the Nader voters would have voted for Gore if Nader had not been on the ballot.

This theory is unverifiable, since the secret ballot makes it impossible to interview all Nader voters and since the tiny sample of exit poll interviews with self-identified Nader voters in key states offers, at best, ambiguous evidence.

Nader refrained for the moment from specific criticism by name of the two leading Democratic presidential contenders, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, even though both of them voted for the Iraq war resolution and for the USA Patriot Act, which Nader opposes.

Focus fire on Bush
“There’s limited media time for independent candidates,” he explained. “That media time will be focused on the giant corporation in the White House masquerading as a human being, George W. Bush.  As the Democrats assail our positions or our entry into this campaign, our candidacy will reply. If the Democrats persist in supporting the Patriot Act … they will be criticized. If they persist in supporting the further quagmire of war in Iraq without end … they will be criticized. But I don’t think they are going to.”

Despite those somewhat conciliatory words for Kerry and Edwards, Nader dished up a full menu of sardonic comments about the party whose nomination they seek.

Nader called the Democratic Party “decayed,” “too cautious and too indentured” to big corporations, “commercially rigged,” and “very good at electing very bad Republicans.”

The two major parties, he said, “are converging with more and more similarities towering over the dwindling real differences they’re willing to struggle over.”

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Nader called his candidacy “a liberation movement for the Democratic Party.”

New Mexico Green Party activist Carol Miller, who showed up at the press conference to give Nader her support, said Nader’s backing “is coming from frustrated voters. The biggest party are the non-voters, who don’t think the system represents them. We will be a sham democracy if the majority of people do not vote. Those are the people who are excited to have a candidate who is going to speak about issues they care about and who is not going to back down.”

But Miller added, echoing Nader, “Democrats in New Mexico are going to vote for the Democratic candidate. We don’t have to reach out to those people.”

Anybody but Bush?
Miller said that even Democrats who are deeply anti-war or anti-corporate in their views will end up voting for the Democratic nominee and not for Nader.

“People have really bought into this ‘anybody but Bush’ argument in the Democratic Party. It’s possibly a fatal mistake on the part of the Democratic Party: They are only running on fear and ‘anybody but Bush.’”

Nader said he will travel the country running on a platform that is sharply different from either the Democratic or Republican agendas.

He called for:

  • Cutting the $389 billion Defense Department budget which called “bloated, wasteful, (and) redundant.”
  • Repealing the USA Patriot Act, which gives the attorney general broader powers to detain non-citizens suspected of terrorism, and authorizes nationwide search warrants in terrorism investigations.
  • Withdrawing from the North American Free Trade Agreement and the World Trade Organization which, he said, “undermine our nation’s sovereignty.”
  • Curbing “corporate pornography and violence (on television) beamed to children at a very impressionable age, undermining parental authority.”

With his stinging anti-corporate rhetoric, Nader is perhaps the leading man of the Left in American politics and thinks the Left is being ignored by the Democratic leadership and by major news media organizations.

Nader complained that during the 2000 campaign the Democratic Party leadership failed to make overtures to Green Party leaders to see if they could make common cause.

“You would think that as in western Europe if the Democrats think the Greens are a challenge to them they sit down and say, ‘Where can we come together on issues which you, the Greens, think we have ignored?’”

As for the current U.S. political situation, the question, Nader said, is “How can we collaborate against the Bush regime?”

At the same time, he hopes to spark interest among left-wing voters and help elect what he called “deserving” left-leaning Democrats to the House in the hopes of helping the Democrats win back the majority they lost in 1994.

“The senior Democrats in the House represent the finest Democratic traditions and will be the heads of (House) committees” if the Democrats regain the majority. He mentioned Reps. George Miller, Henry Waxman, John Conyers, and socialist Bernie Sanders as House members he admired.

Difficulty of getting on the ballot
Nader acknowledged that his campaign faces a daunting challenge in satisfying state ballot access requirements. In Texas, for example, Nader and his allies must amass more than 66,000 signatures to be gathered in a 60-day period. No Texan who voted in a party primary election is allowed to sign a petition for an independent candidate such as Nader.

Other states however have less onerous requirements: In New Jersey, for instance, Naderites would need to collect only 800 signatures by July 26 to get him on the November ballot. “We do expect to get on the 50 states (ballots) and it won’t be easy,” Nader told reporters at Monday’s press conference.

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