People Over Profits

According to a poll done in late April, 2000, Green party candidate Ralph Nader had 6 percent of the presidential vote, Pat Buchanan 3 percent, and a vast majority of Americans wanted Nader to be included in debates with George W. Bush and Al Gore. According to a study of the integrity of the presidential candidates, only Nader was given a rating of 100 percent.

I am convinced that Nader’s percentage of the vote will be much higher come November if more people become aware of his campaign. I speak to people all the time who would embrace his platform if they knew it existed. The two men whom Nader refers to as “the Tweedledum and Tweedledee candidates masquerading as two different parties” can be expected to do everything possible to exclude him from debates. If they fail, we are in for some tremendous entertainment.

I don’t mean that Nader will bring the colorful chatter of a Ross Perot or the malapropisms of a Dan Quayle or a George Bush. I mean that he will make Bush and Gore look like a pair of intellectually-challenged corporate goons with relatively little grasp of voters’ concerns or how to satisfy them. Of course this will come as no surprise to the majority of registered voters who already see things that way and choose not to vote.

Bush and Gore and their parties are constantly co-opting each other’s positions. Gore is supposed to be the one for better public education and environmental protection, but is he? Who can tell? The two have similar education plans, Gore has done little for the environment and promises less. The Pentagon is already given millions of dollars in “pure pork” that it doesn’t even ask for, but Gore wants to increase military spending more than spending on education. Meanwhile, Bush is proposing token programs to alleviate poverty and struggling to give some kind of meaning to his self-characterization as “compassionate” other than his being a likable guy. We have little reason to believe these two would have the same views after the election as they happened to have come November. And with their views so nearly identical, we’ll end up voting on the basis of some trivial difference or not voting at all.

I heard Nader speak some weeks ago at UVA, and he’s brilliant. That speech was the only one I’ve ever heard by a president or a presidential candidate that struck me as intelligent. Nader’s arguments, if they are heard, will attract many of the disaffected “I’m-not-a-political-person” crowd that has been drawn to people like Jesse Ventura and John McCain. Nader’s central issues are reforming campaign finance, ending pork-barrel spending and corporate welfare, giving democratic voice to citizens, and assisting those left behind by the rich-get-richer economy.

Nader offered as one of countless examples of what he would like to do a recent success in Connecticut, where along with the Green Party he saved taxpayers from subsidizing the owners of an NFL football team with millions of unneeded dollars. The local government was prepared to give the Patriots a stadium on the taxpayers’ tab, and polls suggested that the taxpayers liked the idea. Then Nader and company hit the phones and the doors, explaining to people how much money was involved – more than was needed to fix all the problems in a struggling education system – and how little of it would return to the public account. The NFL owners ended up “going back to Massachusetts to build a stadium with their own money for a change.”

With the Reform party imploding, the Green party may offer the best chance at opening up the two-party system and including a greater variety of positions in public debate. Of course, Gore and Bush are not strictly identical. People have good reason to prefer one to the other. But Nader’s positions, if they become known, can be expected to strike many voters as superior. If he has 6 percent before his campaign has even gotten started, I think he has a distant shot at winning and a good shot at receiving the 5 percent needed for his party to receive funding next time around. His success will also boost Green candidates in local elections around the country. A Nader vote will not be wasted, and if he draws more voters away from Gore than from Bush in Virginia….well, did anyone believe Gore could beat Bush in Virginia anyway?

Nader has been known for his public activism since he published “Unsafe at Any Speed” in 1965. To learn more about him, and to sign a petition to get his name on the ballot, visit, write to, or call (540) 456-8555.

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