Not Nader: Don't waste your vote
My Enemy, Myself Resources
March 22, 2004

Chicago Sun Times columnist William O'Rourke speculated in a February 29 column that Nader's campaign would likely receive clandestine support from Republicans, similar to the way Al Sharpton's campaign received assistance from Republican operative Roger Stone. Stone was exposed during the Watergate scandal for having infiltrated the McGovern campaign, and, according to Village Voice political reporter Wayne Barrett, "has been a player in virtually every major GOP scandal, from aiding the contras to the mob shutdown of the Miami/Dade County canvassing board during the 2000 recount." Initially without the knowledge of Sharpton's campaign manager, Frank Watkins, Stone arranged for hundreds of thousands of dollars to be contributed to Sharpton's nonprofit National Action Network. " Minor parties are often pawns the two large parties use in the chess game of elections, both local and national," O'Rourke observed. "They are invented if necessary, or made more viable than they would be naturally, like Sharpton's campaigns."

Although Nader spokesman Kevin Zeese insisted recently that the campaign was "gearing up for an independent run," the Texas Reform Party is reportedly courting Nader. The Reform Party, founded by Dallas billionaire Ross Perot, conservative, with an anti-immigration protectionist platform, seems on the surface an unlikely ally for a former candidate of the left-leaning Green Party. The association would be consistent in its strangeness with Nader's contact earlier this year with the cult-like New Alliance Party. "We do have a common interest in the trade issue," Texas Reform Party chairman Charles Foster told the Dallas Morning News, adding "it will be important for people to understand that we don't agree on every issue."

The Reform Party courtship came as Nader traveled to Texas to begin his quest to get on the ballot in all 50 states. Texas, with the toughest ballot qualification requirements in the country, requires a candidate not affiliated with any political party to obtain signatures totaling 1% of votes cast in the last presidential election (64,076, in this case). Moreover, no one who voted in the 2004 Texas primary may sign the Nader petition. Nader also must name a running mate, and must collect all signatures by May 10. Were Nader to become a third-party candidate, qualification would be significantly easier. Only about 45,000 signatures would be required, and the deadline would be extended to May 24.

Nader could also attain third-party candidate status by receiving the Green Party nomination, but this year his candidacy has led to what the Hartford Courant called a "civil war." Although the party is debating whether to nominate him, some Greens advocate sitting out the 2004 election altogether. The danger in that approach is that the party might forfeit its third-party status in the 2008 election. Other Greens advocate stronger ties with progressive Democrats and propose to nominate a candidate who will avoid the swing states where the election may be won or lost. That approach, supporters contend, would continue the progress the Greens have made at the local level. (In 2000, after promising associates he would not compete in states where he would hurt Gore, Nader spent the weeks leading up to the election systematically campaigning in the very states where his candidacy hurt Gore the most.)

In a recent essay published in the New York Times, Sean Wilentz, director of the American Studies Program at Princeton University, observed that, when Nader announced his candidacy, he claimed he would "fight for all third parties" against a political system "controlled by two parties in the grip of corporate interests." Yet he quickly distanced himself from the Green Party, vowing to run as "a true independent." Nader, wrote Wilentz, is not really opposing the two-party system, he's only opposing half of it -- the Democratic party.

Wilentz noted that third parties in the US have sometimes played an important role in the national political debate, as the Populists did in the 1890s, or the Socialist Party and the "Bull Moose" Party in 1912. Issues raised by third parties have sometimes become law -- for example, Socialist Party proposals that eventually became federal unemployment insurance and Social Security. But the success of third parties in promoting their issues is also their downfall as parties. Once their proposals are adopted by others, they become irrelevant, Wilentz suggested, "even as goads."

...[T]he American winner-take-all system, without proportional representation or a parliament-based executive, creates its own set of rules. Those rules favor the existence of two competing coalition-based parties in national politics. Short of a national crisis like the one that caused the Civil War, they ensure that third parties can be only goads or spoilers. Having renounced the first role, Nader has committed himself to performing the second in living out his grandiose delusions about destroying the Democratic Party.

In Florida, where the 97,488 votes Nader received in the 2000 election were many times the 537 that separated Gore from Bush, anti-Nader sentiment runs high among Democrats. One recent "meetup" organized by the Nader campaign in St. Petersburg was attended by four people, one of whom was a journalist. The equivalent meeting in nearby Sarasota was canceled. Charlie Cook, editor of the Cook Political Report, speculated recently to the New York Times, "My hunch is that some of the most miserable people in America are the 97,488 Floridians who voted for Ralph Nader in 2000." Nonetheless, a A Miami Herald/St. Petersburg Times poll in mid-March showed Nader drawing 3% of the vote -- nearly twice his 2000 total.

Justin Martin, author of Nader: Crusader, Spoiler, Icon. told the Hartford Courant "What you have here is the pragmatic vs. the idealist.... The pragmatic people vote for one of the two major parties. Nader speaks to a different strain - to people who are incredibly idealistic, for better or worse."

Some analysts have suggested that Nader is likely to receive no more than one-third or one-half of the 2.7% of votes cast that he received in the 2000 election. That may still be enough to tip the election to the Republicans, however. If Republicans retain their hold on the 23 states and 200 electoral votes analysts expect them to carry, and Democrats hang on to 11 states and the District of Columbia for 168 electoral votes, 16 states are still in play. If the pattern from the 2000 election holds, these are states where Nader can make a decisive difference.

In addition to Florida and New Hampshire -- the two states most often cited in analyses of Nader's effect on the 2000 election -- he very nearly tipped the balance in a number of other states. In Iowa, Gore won the 2000 contest by about 4,000 votes, while Nader received approximately 30,000. Gore carried Minnesota by 58,000 votes; Nader received 126,000. In New Mexico, where Gore won by the smallest margin of any state -- 366 votes -- Nader drew 21,000. In Oregon, Gore won by 6,765 votes; Nader received 77,357. Gore won Wisconsin by 5,700 votes, while Nader drew 94,000. And in Washington, Missouri, and Ohio, Bush beat Gore by only slightly more than the number of votes Nader received.

Nader's statements suggest he believes (or pretends to believe) that disenchanted conservatives will vote for him. Speaking at the National Press Club he said "We hope to show that, increasingly, corporations are trampling conservative values.... Conservatives and independents who are very upset with the Bush administration's policies are left with two options: vote for the Democrats, which is unlikely, or vote for an independent ticket." But while conservatives have been heard grumbling recently about Bush's immigration proposals and the budget deficit, there is no massive defection from the Republican party, much less any groundswell of conservative support for Nader.

To the contrary, as in 2000, Nader's current support appears to come at the expense of the Democratic nominee. In 2000, exit polls showed that 30% of Nader voters would not have voted had he not been on the ballot. Of the remaining 70%, however, 22% would have voted for Bush, while 48% would have voted for Gore.

A New York Times/CBS News poll conducted in early March 2004 found Nader's candidacy "a potentially lethal threat to Democratic hopes of regaining the White House." When presented with a two-person race between Bush and Kerry, 46% of respondents favored Bush while 43% favored Kerry -- a statistical tie. When Nader was factored into the race, however, he drew 7% of the hypothetical votes, nearly all at the expense of Mr. Kerry. A more recent Newsweek magazine poll produced similar results, with 45% of respondents favoring Bush, 43% favoring Kerry, and Nader drawing 5%. In a two-man race between Bush and Kerry, the Newsweek poll found an even 48% - 48% split. Bush's support among Republicans is more consistent than Kerry's support among Democrats. A hopeful sign for Democrats, however, is that only 20% of the Newsweek poll respondents who favored Nader said they supported him "strongly." A Zogby poll published March 21 found Kerry leading Bush 48 - 46% in a two-man race, and a 46 - 46% tie with Nader in the race (drawing 3%).

Nader's candidacy has the potential for great tragic irony. Bill Duryea of the St. Petersburg (FL) Times noted four key areas in which the actions of the Bush administration have methodically dismantled safety measures, and consumer, environmental and health protections that Nader worked for years to establish.

Nader Achievements Bush Administration Actions
Capitalizing on publicity from his 1965 book Unsafe at Any Speed, a critique of General Motors' poor product safety standards, Nader founds Public Citizen in 1971, dedicated to "protecting Democracy and the health, safety and pocketbooks of consumers." which led to the formation of Consumer Product Safety Commission. As documented by a PBS report in December 2003, the Bush administration removed from the public domain millions of pages of information on health, safety and environmental matters. Among the information now considered "classified" are auto and tire safety data. The report accuses the Consumer Product Safety Commission of "frequently withholding information that would allow the public to scrutinize its product safety findings and product recall actions."
In 1971 Nader played a key role in the creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In 2001, the Bush administration abolished the OSHA ergonomics standard that had been created to help reduce repetitive stress injuries, and the following year proposed that industries develop voluntary standards. In March 2002 they proposed replacing federally funded union programs for providing safety information to non-English speakers with a cheaper program that funded web sites to be set up by faith-based groups.
Nader's advocacy helped pass the Clean Air Act, and Public Citizen lobbied successfully for the Superfund law, which provides federal funding for cleaning up environmental contamination. In his 2003 State of the Union message, Bush proposed the Clear Skies program which he claimed would reduce air pollution 70% by 2015. Environmentalists have suggested that the proposal would actually lower standards from current levels. Also, according to the League of Conservation Voters, in a similar deceptively named initiative, Bush's "Healthy Forest" program would open 20-million acres of national forests to logging.
Public Citizen's Health Research Group has fought against public health risks ranging from Red Dye #2 to ephedra. It has also helped pass health-related legislation and regulations, including the Meat and Poultry Inspection Rules. In January 2002 the Department of Agriculture decided to continue a program that the General Accounting Office determined did not "reduce disease-causing organisms" believed responsible for 76-million cases of food poisoning a year. During 2002, 27.4-million pounds of contaminated poultry was recalled in a single week. 23 people died. Critics asserted that the department had yielded to industry pressure to allow faster processing of meat and poultry, and attempted to shift responsibility for food poisoning from the producer to the consumer.

As Howard Dean observed in a February 23 speech, "Ralph Nader has made a great many contributions to America over 40 years. But if George W. Bush is re-elected, the health, safety, consumer, environmental and open government provisions Ralph Nader has fought for will be undermined. George Bush's right-wing appointees will still be serving as judges 50 years from now, and our Constitution will be shredded. It will be government by, of and for the corporations - exactly what Ralph Nader has struggled against."

Writing in the March 8 issue of the New Yorker, Hendrik Hertzberg underscored the same point.

For the past three years, everything Nader accomplished during his period of unparalleled creativity, which lasted from around 1963 to around 1976, has been systematically undermined by the Administration that he was instrumental in putting in power. Government efforts on behalf of clean air and water, fuel efficiency, workplace safety, consumer protection, and public health have been starved, stymied, or sabotaged in tandem with the shift of resources from public purposes to high-end private consumption, the increasing identity of government and corporate interests, and the growth of a cult of secrecy and arrogance that began well before September 11, 2001. Nader bears a very large share of responsibility for these spectacular traducements of his proclaimed values.

Zogby Polls

The Village Voice

Barrett, Wayne "Sleeping With the GOP" Village Voice 5 Feb. 2004
--. "Sharpton's Cynical Campaign Choice" Village Voice 11 Feb. 2004
O'Rourke, William "Bush's strongest campaigner: Nader" Chicago Sun-Times 29 Feb. 2004
Jeffers, Gromer Jr. "Nader has new suitor: Reform Party" Dallas Morning News 13 Mar. 2004
D'Arcy, Janice "Nader Supporters Resolute" Hartford Courant 13 Mar. 2004
Wilentz, Sean "The Third Man" NY Times 7 Mar. 2004
Schneider, William "The Nader Calculation" The Atlantic 10 Mar. 2004
Nagourney, Adam and Janet Elder "Nation's Direction Prompts Voters' Concern, Poll Finds" NY Times 16 Mar. 2004
"Poll: Neck and Neck" Newsweek 20 Mar. 2004
"Whatz New?" 21 Mar. 2004
Hertzberg, Hendrik "Reckless Driver" New Yorker 8 Mar. 2004
Duryea, Bill "Ralph Nader: A traitor to himself?" St. Petersburg Times 21 Mar. 2004



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