The Nader factor

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We offer below a few takes on the Nader influence on this election

I/ Ralph Nader appeals for place on TV debates

By Elana Schor in Denver | [print_link]

The Guardian (U.K.) Thursday, August 28, 2008

Ralph Nader, mounting his third straight independent presidential run, yesterday held a rally in the shadow of the Democratic convention to urge Barack Obama to allow him into this year’s televised debates.

Still blamed by some Democrats for diverting votes from their party during the 2000 and 2004 elections, Nader is ready to fight equally hard against a party he sees as drifting to the right.

Obama “keeps talking about change”, Nader told guardian.co.uk. “But when you look at his policies … is he for change when he wants a larger military budget? “Is he for change when he doesn’t challenge the hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies for corporations?”

Nader acknowledged that Obama offered distinct differences from the Republican nominee, John McCain, on social security, abortion rights and gay rights. But he said the major parties’ closeness to corporate interests was enough to propel his candidacy forward.

“[The two parties] display a difference that can be described as the different velocity with which their knees hit the floor when corporations bang on their doors”, he said.

Nader’s two previous efforts to open the televised presidential debates to third-party candidates fell short, but last night he unveiled a potent lineup of backers. The actors Sean Penn and Val Kilmer, the folk singer Nellie McKay, and Brooke Smith, a star of the popular TV show Grey’s Anatomy, were slated to speak on his behalf.

“A lot of people, like myself, are very disillusioned with only having two centrist candidates to choose from,” Smith told reporters. “Neither party’s candidates are talking about issues that are important to me.”

Nader brought polling, conducted by CNN and Time magazine, to bolster his push for equal treatment from the media and the US political establishment.

In the four crucial swing states of Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada, Nader and his running mate, Matt Gonzalez, are polling between 6% and 8% among registered voters.

When voters are given only the option of Obama or McCain, the poll shows Nader cutting into a sizeable chunk of both major candidates’ bases. Obama’s 5% lead over McCain in Nevada was entirely erased when pollsters offered Nader as an option.

Nader said he had sought meetings with Obama 20 times over the past year but had been rebuffed.

“Basically what he’s saying is: ‘I’m going to make peace with corporations … so why should I talk to Nader? I know what he’s going to say,'” the long-time consumer advocate said.

Nader warned Obama against compromising on issues such as offshore oil drilling – which the Democratic nominee has come to accept – and the Bush administration’s government surveillance programme.

Democrats would lose the presidency if they “try to beat Republicans by becoming more like them, by blurring the differences”, Nader said.

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Editor’s note: We don’t exactly like the sardonic and condescending tone of this guy’s report toward Nader and dissidents from the official convention, but here it is, anyhow, in the interest of coverage. 

II/ 4,000 blow off Biden, Clinton for Nader, Penn

by Jesse A. Hamilton

The Hartford (CT) Courant (Mainstream newspaper)

8/27/08   

Yeah, most politically interested people in Denver and the nation are focused on former President Bill Clinton and newly minted vice-president candidate Sen. Joe Biden this evening. Those are the big names of the Democratic National Convention on the eve of the Barack Obama acceptance speech.

But at a University of Denver auditorium right now, a collaboration of the disaffected have come together. It is nominally a Ralph Nader presidential rally, but it’s acted in a larger sense as an Everybody Else town meeting. (Though it’s possible that one significant draw for the young crowd is the several musicians performing between those issuing political rhetoric.)

Sean Penn just spoke. He’s clearly not into the offerings of the Republicans and Democrats. He called McCain “the Man Who Would Be George Bush the Third.” He did seem to be pretty impressed with Nader, but he said he didn’t know who he’d vote for yet. He also blasted the media — at some length.

[Hey, Sean, I own “Dead Man Walking” and “Mystic River” and, if we want to recall how you weren’t always so serious, “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” Maybe it’s time you buy a copy of The Courant?]

Cindy Sheehan, the eternally Bush-baiting protester, also spoke. She now seems to blame the Democratic Party equally for the ills of the country. She called the two major parties “the twins.” “The twins, they don’t care about you,” she told the crowd (which looks mostly college-aged.) She talked about her son who died in Iraq. “I didn’t lose my son. If I lost him, I would go find him. He was murdered by the twins,” she said, blaming the parties’ alliance with the “military-industrial complex.”

She compared President Bush to a boil, and added Barack Obama and John McCain to her boil list. “Unless we cure the disease, the boils will keep popping up.”

[Actually, I did see a girl with an Obama 08 shirt here. Then again, I also saw a guy with a Nine Inch Nails shirt.]

Nader’s money guy took the stage to plead for cash. (“Every vote that Nader gets is somebody saying, I’m not going to take it any more,” he said.) He started with the maximum allowed campaign contribution, $4,600, and seemed to get a couple of takers. Then, like an auction in reverse, he lowered the request incrementally until more and more people in this gathering of the alienated agreed to give. “The rent’s not free,” he said. “The campaign’s not free.”

Now, Nader’s finally been introduced, to blasts of red, white and blue confetti over the stage. (“Don’t worry,” he said. “All of this is going to be recycled.”) He immediately began criticizing the Democratic Party and its nearby corporate-sponsored convention. “They’re being wined and dined by the corruptors,” he said.

Of the Democrats and Republicans, Nader said, “They’re turning our country into, essentially, a one-party state.” He said,

(The Connecticut native, while admitting that Democrats are more supportive of social security, even slipped in a dig against a senator from his home state. “They don’t want to send [social security] to Wall Street — except for Joe Lieberman.”)

Nader got major cheers during his amnesty talk for non-violent drug offenders. Replace them in the prisons with corporate criminals, he said.

Nader cautioned about his fellow politicians: “Every politican I’ve ever known from the major parties … starts flattering the people. Oh, how they flatter the people! Because that’s what gives the people weak knees. … Well, we have got to start getting tough with each other.” He said he’s disappointed about the percentage of people 18-24 who don’t vote. “Read the grim lesson of history, here and abroad. When people do not turn on to politics, politics will turn on them.”

“If only you knew the power you have at this young age,” he said. “Chuck the iPod once in a while. Stop listening to non-stop music, which is blowing out your mind. And get serious.”

III/ Nader stops by to call Democrats corrupt

by Shawn Zeller, CQ staff
CQ Today Online News
8/28/08

Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader delivered an indictment of the Democratic Party Wednesday night and assailed the press for ignoring third-party candidates.

Speaking to reporters before a Denver rally of supporters and onlookers, Nader said the Democratic Party has abandoned “working people” and become “an indentured servant” of corporations.

He went on to blast the party for accepting contributions from business interests to fund this week’s Democratic convention. “The corporate merry-go-round has hitched its wagon to the Democratic Party and the rhetoric of the Democratic Party has responded accordingly,” Nader declared.

Nader’s supporters staged Wednesday’s rally to back his position that he and other third-party candidates should be included in this fall’s debates. But Nader launched into a broader attack on the two-party system, corporate influence on government and a press corps Nader accused of acquiescing in a duopoly.

“If we were in the debates, we would have a three-way race,” Nader said. “But tens of millions of Americans have never been told we are even in the race.”

Six percent of respondents to a July CNN poll said they want Nader to be president. A Wall Street Journal poll around the same time had Nader at 5 percent.

A number of minor and major celebrities and musical acts took the stage before Nader, including antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan, who said she first blamed President Bush for her son’s death in Iraq but now believes both parties are captive of a “military industrial complex.”

Actor Sean Penn said he came as a supporter of no candidate, but praised Nader and joined him in attacking the media as “servants of a corporate agenda” and accusing Obama and McCain of “diminishing our Constitution” in their support for Bush administration anti-terror policies at home.

Rally organizers said 4,000 people paid $10 in advance or $12 at the door to attend. They listened patiently and occasionally cheered wildly while Nader delivered his views about corporate influence on the two major parties.

Most of the attendees interviewed at the rally said they were not certain to vote for Nader in November but wanted to hear the consumer advocate make his case. “I think Nader has less appeal [than he did in 2000 or 2004 ], but he deserves to be heard,” said undecided voter Ali Cochran. The Democrats and Republicans “play to win, not to do what’s right,” said Cindy Bulinski of Bennett, Colo.

Nader won 2.7 percent of the popular vote for president in 2000, when President Bush narrowly defeated Democrat Al Gore.

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