Not Nader: Don't waste your vote
King Ralph Resources
NotNader.com
February 25, 2004

Ralph Nader gained national attention in 1965 with the publication of his critique of US automotive design titled Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-in Dangers of the American Automobile. According to Nader's web site (nader.org) the "pioneering insight" of the book was that the main cause of car injuries was not operator error, but "the inherent engineering and design deficiencies of the motor vehicle." Nader's efforts led to federal auto safety legislation, and at least indirectly, the establishment of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Nader went on to investigate the meat and poultry industries, natural gas pipelines, radiation emissions from television sets and X-rays, and the working conditions in coal mines. Many of these efforts led to laws reforming industry practices. Using a task force of law students, dubbed "Nader's Raiders" by then Washington Post reporter William Greider, Nader turned his investigative eye on the Federal Trade Commission. His efforts led to a major reorganization of the agency, which then promptly launched investigations of the food industry.

By 1970 Nader had founded the Center for Auto Safety, which continued to look for defects in US automobiles, the Project on Corporate Responsibility, which advocated a greater role for consumers and shareholders in corporate policymaking, and the Public Interest Research Group, which undertook legal actions related to public health. In time the focus on health and safety concerns broadened into efforts to organize a "consumer movement" to combat abuse of consumers and work to reform corporate power. Nader was joined in 1970 by Harvard Law School graduate Mark Green, who would become "a close confidant and protege." Green became director of Congress Watch, Nader's consumer lobbying group, in 1972. (Green left Congress Watch in the late 70s and moved to Manhattan where he continues to pursue his own political career, including a recent run for mayor of New York City.)

In the 80s Nader's consumer groups joined international efforts on a variety of issues, including limiting marketing abuses by pharmaceutical companies and manufacturers of infant formula, controlling the use of pesticides, and curbing the dumping of hazardous waste. In 1990 the consumer movement lobbied against attempts to use the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) to reduce safety and environmental protections and increase foreign control of Third World markets and resources.

Nader was the Green Party nominee in the 1996 presidential election, but he refused to raise or spend more than $5,000 on his campaign. He qualified to appear on the ballot in only 22 states, and received 0.71 percent of the vote. Nader reportedly had agreed to be the Green party candidate only if he could retain complete control over all aspects of the campaign including fundraising and advertising. During the campaign the Green Party's environmental agenda was subordinated to Nader's denunciations of bogus "tort reform" and protectionist trade policies.

In an interview with CNN's Bernard Shaw on April 9, 1996, Nader declared that he was running to build a progressive political movement for the future, and to bring disenchanted voters -- particularly young people -- into the political process. Nader denied that he was siphoning votes from Democratic candidate Bill Clinton, citing a write-in campaign in New Hampshire in 1992 in which 52 percent of those voting for Nader were Republican.

Again in 2000 the Green Party had little control over Nader's campaign strategy or hiring practices. He refused to turn over to the Green Party his campaign donor list, falsely claiming that federal law prohibited it. In contrast to 1996, however, the 2000 Nader campaign raised more than $8 million.

In the days leading up to the 2000 election, Nader came under criticism from former political allies, including a number of former "Raiders" who went public with the revelation that Nader had promised them he would not compete in states where he could hurt Gore. Nader dismissed his colleagues' plea, calling them "frightened liberals" on Good Morning America. He spent the final weeks of the campaign in Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Oregon, and Washington -- the very states in which he would hurt Gore the most.

NewsForChange.com reporter Matt Welch observed that, while Nader frequently declared that the differences between the Democratic and Republican parties didn't matter, since both were subservient to "the permanent corporate government that runs Washington," he also argued that the Democrats had failed "to defend this country against the extreme arch-corporatist reactionary wing of the Republican Party." Jacob Weisberg has noted that Nader stated publicly in TV appearances that he did not care who won. But this, says Weisberg, should be no surprise. In Weisberg's view, Nader is ideologically a Leninist, seeking to "heighten the contradictions," i.e. increase public perception of the need for change by allowing conditions to worsen. According to a story in The Nation, Nader told an audience in Madision, WI in mid-2000, "When [the Democrats] lose, they say it's because they are not appealing to the Republican voters. We want them to say they lost because a progressive movement took away votes."

A few months later, Nader told David Moberg of In These Times that he wanted to lead "the Greens into a 'death struggle' with the Democratic Party to determine which will be the majority party." In the interview Nader also discussed wanting to run Green Party candidates against such liberal stalwarts as Minnesota's Paul Wellstone, Wisconsin's Russ Feingold, and California's Henry Waxman. "I hate to use military analogies, but this is war on the two parties," Nader told Moberg. Weisberg points out that the same argument was made by the Nazi party against the Communist party in Germany in the 1930s, and helped the Nazis rise to power. Says Weisberg

To Nader, it is liberal meliorists, not right-wing conservatives, who are the true enemies of his effort to build a 'genuine' progressive movement. He does have a preference between Republicans and Democrats, and it's for the party that he thinks will inflict maximum damage on the environment, civil rights, labor rights, and so on. By assisting his class enemy, Nader thinks he can help pull the wool from the eyes of a sheeplike public.... His Green Party will not flourish under Democratic presidents who lull the country into a sense of complacency by making things moderately better. If it is to thrive, it needs villainous, right-wing Republicans who will make things worse.

Nader appeared on the ballot in 43 states plus the District of Columbia, and received 2.74 percent of the vote. As shown dramatically on the web site RalphDon'tRun, the votes that constituted that percentage, and where they came from, tipped the balance in the presidential election in favor of George W. Bush. At a news conference the day after the 2000 election Nader dodged the question of whether he had cost Gore the election. NewsForChange.com reporter Matt Welch reported that certain drunk Republicans had no doubt, cheering "Thank you Ralph" as CNN declared Bush the winner on election night. A late October 2000 CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll of Nader voters showed that 43% said they'd vote for Gore, 21% for Bush and 21% would not have voted. But a CNN poll that aired election night showed that 61% of Nader voters would have voted for Gore if Nader had not run. Somewhat more soberly than Welch's Republicans, CNN's Bill Schneider declared, "Ralph Nader is the reason why Al Gore didn't win the presidency."

"I'll tell you who's squirming now!" Nader shouted during one of his concession speeches. "There are a lot of people in the Democratic Party squirming now! If we make 'em squirm enough, and sweat enough, maybe they'll squirm and sweat into becoming a little more honest, a little less corporatist, a little more human-oriented!"

Nader supporters have pointed to a multiplicity of factors that contributed to Gore's losing the 2000 election. But as Ronnie Dugger, who presented Nader to the Green Party convention in 1996 and 2000 wrote in November 2002 in The Nation:

...the fact that an event has a multiplicity of causes does not dissolve any of those causes or absolve any group of players of their responsibility. National exit-poll data published the day after the election suggested that Nader's candidacy cost Gore about three-quarters of a million votes, but even exit polls that Nader himself cites indicate that arguably we Nader voters made it possible for Bush to win New Hampshire's four electoral votes (remember, Bush "won" by just four) and clearly converted a Gore victory in Florida, with its decisive twenty-five electoral votes, into the mesmerizing seesaw that the Supreme Court stopped when Bush was allegedly up on Gore by 537 votes.

Dugger observed, "Ralph's own statements in the 2000 campaign, and his decision to campaign during its last days in states that were tossups between Bush and Gore, including Florida, indicate that he believes it is appropriate for the Greens to cause the Democrats to lose the presidency again if that's what it takes to move the Democrats to the left." Dugger took issue with Nader's continued assertion that it does not matter much whether a Democrat or a Republican occupies the White House. While conceding that there is some truth to the Green Party assertion (shared by Senator John McCain) that both parties have to some extent sold out to the highest bidder, Dugger noted:

  • The majority of House Democrats and almost half the Democratic senators rejected Bush's request for blank-check authority to wage war against Iraq.
  • Democrats in the Senate have blocked right wing judicial nominees to the federal courts.
  • Democrats in the House and Senate are significantly more committed to protecting civil rights, civil liberties and abortion rights.


Citing Bush's Draconian assault on individual rights at home, and bellicose policy abroad, Dugger concluded "These are the realities that tell us Bush must be beaten in 2004. Not only the nation, but the world, depends on it. If we divide our votes for President again between the Democratic nominee and Ralph Nader, we will very probably help elect Bush."

Nonetheless, by late fall 2003 Nader was gearing up once again for a presidential campaign. This time, however, he faced opposition from within the Green Party. Elizabeth Horton Sheff, an African-American Green Party member, and Hartford, CT city council member told The Nation in November 2003, "I don't think Ralph Nader should run again. Our message of grassroots inclusion did not get through with this candidate. His appeal is not broad enough to reach my community." Larry Barnett, former mayor of Sonoma, CA, current city councilman, and a Green Party member labeled a Nader campaign "an ego-centered exercise in futility," adding that "wasting .. time" in unwinnable races only detracts from the party's message, long term goals, and current accomplishments. Speaking to Micah Sifry earlier in the year, John Rensenbrink, a founder of the Green Party, denounced Nader:

People...are very focused on stopping the right-wing cabal that has taken over the country. Therefore, the focus has to be on defeating Bush. Beyond that, the Green Party needs to project a sense of urgency around saving the country, saving the Constitution, saving the planet.... There's a concern that we'll be deflected from that message because of the baggage Ralph Nader has from 2000. I doubt he can get over 1 percent of the vote.... I'd add to that that he doesn't want to be a Green, he runs with his coterie rather than party organizers, he doesn't involve local Green leaders and he doesn't get the racial issue. I fear if Nader runs, he'll drag down every other Green in this country. I love him, but this is sheer practical politics.

Robert McChesney, a member of Nader's Citizen Works' Corporate Reform Commission, and president of the professors' council of the US Campus Greens, concurred. "I don't think Ralph should run," he told The Nation's Sifry. "It would be bad for him personally; I doubt he would get half the number of votes he got in 2000. And it would be bad for the Greens.... Core elements of progressive constituencies, exactly the groups that the Greens need to build upon, will revolt with open contempt--far worse than 2000--to anything that helps keep Bush in office."

On January 11, 2004 Nader was the featured speaker at a conference of so-called "independents" in Bedford, NH, organized by Choosing an Independent President 2004 Campaign (ChIP). According to reporter Doug Ireland, the organizers of ChIP are former Lyndon LaRouche associate Fred Newman, and Dr. Lenora Fulani, former presidential candidate of the New Alliance Party. The New Alliance party has claimed to advocate peace, social justice, multi-racial harmony, and an end to discrimination against gay men and lesbians. Organizationally, however, it is held together by a brainwashing scheme known as "Social Therapy" which, according to one deprogrammed ex-NAP member "impairs critical thinking skills and which uses repression, dependency and guilt-inducing techniques to control and lure patients into political activity and, ultimately, into blind allegiance to Newman."

Political Research Associates (PRA) have traced NAP's intellectual history to Lyndon LaRouche, who, as a leftist in the late 60s and 70s, developed an analysis of history and economics that emphasized the role of powerful families and "elite policy groups." PRA characterizes LaRouche's analysis as simplistic, because rather than viewing these factors in context, it "sees a handful of malicious elites manipulating an idealized society against the will of the people." One can discern the possibility of some congruence with Nader's thought in the idea of the left and the right joining forces to defeat the corrupt regime controlled by an elite few. But, as Doug Ireland wrote, "one cannot believe that a politically sophisticated chap like Ralph doesn't know exactly who Newman and Fulani are, and why they are so despicable." "I wanted to ask him why he is so desperate for applause that he has to turn to these dangerous loonies, but he didn't return my calls," he added. "It's a pathetic way for Nader to begin a last, counterproductive campaign."

Nader announced his candidacy as an independent in an appearance on NBC's Meet the Press on February 22, 2004.

The Public Eye, web site of Political Research Associates.

Matt Welch's reporting on the Nader 2000 presidential campaign.

References:
Bollier, David Citizen Action And Other Big Ideas Center for Study of Responsive Law. 1991 quoted in The Nader Page.
"Ralph Nader Says America Needs to Build Democracy Again" Interview with Bernard Shaw. CNN AllPolitics. 9 Apr. 1996.
Weisberg, Jacob "Ralph the Leninist" Slate. 31 Oct. 2000
Welch, Matt "The Spoiler's Fuzzy Math" NewsForChange.com. 8 Nov. 2000
Dugger, Ronnie "Ralph, Don't Run" The Nation 14 Nov. 2002
Sifry, Micah L. "Ralph Redux?" The Nation 6 Nov. 2003
"The Newmanites and Lenora Fulani" The Public Eye

 

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