The International Writers Magazine: REALITY
The Ralph Nader Interview
NADERS LAST STAND?
interview with the presidential candidate 2004
This discussion was
conducted over the phone lines from Nader Campaign Headquarters in Washington
D.C. and The Desk on 8/5/04.
In this polarized political landscape of 2004, its getting harder
to not be swept up in the fervent "pick a side" mentality
both The Right and The Left. Independent voices are as welcomed as
dissenting voices were in the weeks after 9/11 or the weeks leading
the Iraqi war. One such voice has been vilified from all sides for
feeding his ego, mucking up the process, and aiding the enemy. Hes
begged to pack it in by the Democrats and even accused of getting
Republican support to stay in. Yet he fights on, but for what purpose,
His name is Ralph Nader and he is running as an independent
candidate for the countrys highest office, and this space (an
long suffering proponent of a viable independent national political
voice) thought it wise to give him the floor to explain his side, a
too popular whichever way you lean.
James Campion: Why are running for the presidency again in 2004?
Ralph Nader: Because the two parties are proxies of large corporations
who have turned Washington D.C. into corporate occupied territory and
are excluding citizen groups from trying to improve their country.
jc: I agree with that assessment of the two-party system, but many voters,
including those who support a majority of your issues feel that the
Kerry campaign, despite your stance, embrace many of the same concerns.
Why should a voter consider your independent campaign over a larger
party who has a legitimate chance to unseat this president?
RN: The majority of people in this country want out of Iraq. Bush and
Kerry are pro-war, pro-occupation. No withdrawal date. The majority
wants to settle the Israeli/Palestinian conflict with an independent
Palestinian state, including almost 70% of Jewish Americans. Kerry and
Bush are supportive of the Israeli military policy. Kerry and Bush both
support the Patriot Act. Kerry and Bush both support the bloated, redundant,
wasteful, and sometimes corrupt military budget, which amounts to half
of the federal governments operating expenditures. Both Bush and
Kerry are for corporate globalization, NAFTA and WTO style. They want
to expand it. Both Bush and Kerry are for the failed war on drugs. Both
Bush and Kerry do not have a health care plan for all or a living wage
for all. Both Bush and Kerry are for capital punishment, although Kerry
is for a modified form. Both Bush and Kerry do not support public funding
of public campaigns. Both Bush and Kerry will not take a stand against
the draft. Weve sent them letters and theyve refused to
take a stand against the draft.
jc: Pretty good list. Lets concentrate on two specific ones trumpeted
by the mainstream media. Although Kerry has talked a good game about
jobs being transferred to other countries, he did vote for NAFTA and
supporter of the WTO. He is also a supporter of the war, whichever way
he would like to slice it. Ive written several times that youre
only anti-war candidate standing, but why do you think it is so
difficult for voters to differentiate your candidacy from the Kerry
whose supporters continually cite that your existence in this race
compromises their effort to oust Bush?
RN: Its very simple, all these voters you talk about believe Bush
been a terrible president and so anything, they think, is better than
Bush. But once they analyze it, anything is not very good at all. In
other words, they are falling prey to the "least worst" voter
which, in effect, leaves Kerry without a mandate. Without having any
demands made on him by environmental, labor, minority, consumer, youth
groups, because theyre so freaked out by Bush, Kerry can get elected
mandates. Now, what are mandates? Mandates are the way voters can pull
candidates toward their interests before the election, when they have
the bargaining power. If you dont demand anything of Kerry you
basically playing a one-sided tug-of-war that youre losing, because
the corporate lobbies are pulling Kerry and Bush 24-hours a day in the
direction of no health insurance for all, no living wage for all, no
reduction of the military industrial complex, no revision of the fai!
led war on drugs, on and on.
Both parties are being pulled in one direction by extremely powerful
forces, and Kerry and Bush are saying to their voters, "Youve
got nowhere to go, other than to stay home or vote for us, shut up and
get in line." Kerry says, "You obviously know that Bush is
worse than me" and Bush says, "You obviously know that Kerry
is worse than me." The "Anybody But Bush" attitude is
a brain closer. Nothings else is discussed, entertained, analyzed, or
absorbed, not even the spillover vote from the Nader/Camejo candidacy,
which might tip the scales in the few close races in the House and Senate
and give the House and/or Senate to the Democrats, so if they dont
beat Bush, they can block him. They dont even want to talk about
that. Its a kind of political hysteria thats going on. The
"politics of fear" at work.
jc: I call it the "politics of the moderate", wherein the
candidates of both parties feel they have to swing to the middle for
a few months. Therefore the differentiation of the platforms is not
distinguishable. In fact, Im still waiting for a platform from
the Kerry campaign, beyond being the alternative to crap.
RN: Exactly, in fact Kerrys main strategy is to take major issues
off the table by "me too-ing" Bush; the war in Iraq, the Israeli/Palestinian
issue, the Patriot Act, and, most importantly, where hes getting
his money. Pretty soon you take so much off the table you become indistinguishable
from your opponent. George Will said on television a couple of weeks
ago, "I just read the Democratic platform, and you know what?,
it could be the Republican platform."
jc: Let me ask you politically about the games being played right now
over you getting on the ballot in certain states. I understand youve
just won a battle to be included on the ballot in New Jersey.
jc: What exactly is the Democratic Party doing to keep you from getting
on ballots in different states?
RN: As we speak, they have nine computer terminals trying to bump us
off the Pennsylvania ballot. They hired three corporate law firms in
Arizona and they bumped us off the ballot with all kinds of legal challenges
we couldnt afford to defend at $250 dollars-an-hour for our lawyers.
Theyve stalled us in Oregon by infiltrating our convention. Under
Oregon law, you can get on the ballot in two ways; a thousand registered
voters all at once in an auditorium signing for you, under state election
supervision, or fifteen thousand verified signatures around the state.
So we took the convention room between five and seven in the evening
about a month ago. Six-thirty arrived, and we got around eleven hundred
people in the room, and the counters didnt take signatures from
them. This was done openly. Then in Illinois, the House Speaker sent
some of his staff people over to examine our ballots, which is pretty
inappropriate unless they took a leave.
jc: Would you say you represent a dissenting voice of the electorate?
In other words, if some of your principles and your main platform for
running for president fails to make a dent, a likely scenario, do you
then believe by merely running youll make transparent the two-party
machinations to keep an independent voice out of the process.
RN: Of course. Were setting an example. Were setting a framework.
Were laying the basis for post November 2 expansion of progressive
political movement. Were bringing in a lot of young people who
will be the leaders of the future, who are presently turned off politics,
and above all were pushing the agenda and trying to educate the
voter to how to be much more discriminating between the two parties,
and much more demanding. Some of the things weve stimulated are
available on www.opendebates.org.
jc: In 2000, when you and Pat Buchanan were trying to get into the debates
and the election commission arbitrarily put out a number of 15% of the
vote needed to participate, I wrote a piece denouncing it and interviewed
Pat on the subject, to which he was predictably candid. And I would
think that was the strongest example of your argument against the fear
of the two-parties right there. But how direct has the Democratic Party
been in speaking to you on your candidacy this time around? Did Terry
McAuliff or anyone, even Kerry himself, ever approach you directly and
ask you to not run.
RN: Every time I talk to McAuliff, he says, "I hope you withdraw."
jc: But have they promised you anything if you bowed out, tried to cut
RN: No. (laughs) Did they promise anything to Dennis Kucinich, a loyal
Democrat, who campaigned for two years, and they handed him his head
and refused him every one of his proposals for the Democratic platform?
These guys are massively arrogant. Its their way or no way. Theyre
unlike European majority or plurality parties who negotiate with small
parties and coalitions. The arrogance here is unprecedented.
jc: Id like to get to some items that have been reported and I
touched upon recently in previous columns regarding the Edwards choice
for vice president and your alleged public, or not so public
recommendation of him. A lot of people I talked to inside thought once
accomplished it would serve as an appeasement to get you out of the
How true was that nugget?
RN: Not true at all. This is just part of trying to make Kerry a better
candidate, as far as wrongly injured people given their day in court,
which Edwards should be champion, but is not. Thats been taken
off the table too. You hear the Republicans ragging against wrongfully
injured peoples right to go to court, an all-American right that
goes back to the challenge of King George, the right of trial by jury
that the colonies accused him of taking from them, and the Democrats
cant stand up for people who the business press has shown wrongfully
injured and defrauded and are finding hard just to get a hearing in
court with all the tort reform that is going on in state and federal
jc: How do you feel about your impact on the 2000 race, one of the
closest in this nations history?
RN: The Democrats should be going after the Republican thieves who stole
the election from their candidate, instead of the Green Party, but theyre
into scapegoating, because they dont want to look at their own
internal weaknesses and infirmities.
jc: Many categorized your campaign, especially the Democrats, as that
of playing the spoiler, and putting Bush, a sub-standard president,
in office in the first place. Of course I applauded the Gore defeat
merrily. So thanks for that.
RN: Well actually it could have come out very well for the Democrats,
because Gore did win nationally and in Florida in respect to a statewide
count. The Republicans stole the election from Gore before, during,
and after the Florida election. Secretary of State Katherine Harris,
Jeb Bush, the Supreme Court, and all the shenanigans with falsely designating
ex-felons and the crazy ballots did them in.
jc: Im so sick of hearing, "We won the popular vote!",
when thats not the name of the game.
RN: Yeah, well youd think since they won the popular vote theyd
the rollback of the Electoral College, and theyre not even doing
jc: But you must admit there is some credence that your 2004 candidacy
threatens the Kerry campaign to some degree.
RN: Not so. Either campaign could benefit from our agenda. In late
October I sent to the RNC and the DNC a 45-page document called "Agenda
Inquiry for the Common Good". Inside are 25 issues the Democrats
pick up on and landslide Bush, like living wage. Thats worth four,
million votes right there that they wouldnt get. Youll also
there the letters were sending to Bush and Kerry. I mean, look,
them a letter to take a stand on the draft, they wont take a stand
the draft. Were going to send them a letter basically asking them
campaign in Hawaii and Alaska, which Democrats and Republican never
travel to, because Hawaii is Democrat and Alaskas Republican.
carve the country up into these districts and they abandon these people,
and they really resent it. I just came back from those two states. To
if you run for president, you campaign in 50 states. You could flunk
both parties just on the grounds that theyre carving up the countr!
y into single party districts.
jc: Regardless of what happens in this election, do you have a positive
viewpoint for the political process at large as a result of this
RN: Well, were keeping the hope for a progressive agenda alive
country. Were giving voice to tens of millions of people. Were
underdog candidates for tens of millions of American underdogs who get
pushed around and defrauded and harmed and disrespected and excluded
underpaid and laid off and denied health care. Thats a pretty
constituency in this country, and its a pretty sad commentary
Democratic Party that it chooses not to vibrantly represent these people
because it wants to privately raise tens of millions of dollars in
commercial interests to keep up with the Republican campaign finance
fund-raising party. So we think thats a very important role that
In my book, "The Good Fight" I quote Eugene Debs "The
American people can have anything they want, the problem is they dont
seem to want anything at all, or at least it seems that way on Election
Day." We are all prisoners of an exclusive two-party monopoly with
a barrier called an electoral college and weve got to break out
of prison. We have to liberate our minds, begin voting our conscience,
and stop voting for politicians who go to Washington and month after
month vote against their supporters.
jc: Do you foresee anyway come October that anyone can convince you
either side to step aside and throw your support for either national
party candidate? Even if you are only on seven to ten to twelve ballots
nationwide, do you see any way youre not still standing come the
week of November?
RN: No, because all they can offer are words by politicians whove
left a trail of broken promises to millions of Americans over the last
decades. Were not interested in words; were interested in
deeds. Theyve had many years to demonstrate good deeds, and instead
theyve have sold our democracy, our elections, and our government
for a mess of corporate pottage. Theyve turned over the U.S. government
to an increasingly smaller number of giant multi-nationals, whove
turned Washington into corporate occupied territory, and have no allegiance
to our country or communities other than to control or abandoned them
to China or elsewhere as they see fit. Check our web site, http://www.votenader.com/
and youll see how were challenging Kerry and Bush almost
once or twice a week on various issues.
© James Campion 22.08.04
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