Prior to the 2000 presidential election over 100 people (including this journalist) joined a "Nader 2000 Citizens Committee" after being personally invited by Ralph Nader to join and support his campaign for the presidency.
Having known Nader for some 30 years, respected his principled stands in an age of corporatist state politics, enjoying his support in pursuing in a number of public interest projects, including the publication of my book The Corporate Reapers: The Book of Agribusiness [Essential Books: 1992] I welcomed the opportunity to join that committee and enthusiastically support his bid for the nation's chief executive office.
Following the subsequent loss by Al Gore (with able assists from the Florida Secretary of State's Office and the US Supreme Court) it was Nader who was made a scapegoat for the loss by a politically bankrupt Democratic Party and its candidate in his waging an inept strategic and unwise campaign.
Yet the Democratic Party, rather than heed an obvious growing dissatisfaction with its policies and leadership, continued to dismiss Nader voters as party wreckers and ignore the clear message that a return to its principled populist roots and a divorce from its corporate paymasters was being called for by voters.
Instead it began a renewed effort to further compromise its principles and woo right-of-center voters, culminating in the nomination of a lame John Kerry in 2004 while at the same time rationalizing its position in opposing George W. Bush by holding to the position, that its candidate was the lesser of two evils.
As Nader himself rightfully pointed out, immediately prior to announcing that he planned to run again in 2004, the tendency of progressives tied to the Democratic Party was to admit to the party's sizable failings, yet cling to the idea that "this is not the time" to run a third party campaign from the left.
"They have no breaking point, no point of termination" Nader added. He said such people, with organized labor being a prominent example, have watched Democrats in office offer them one defeat after another without ever being willing to establish a termination strategy, a point beyond which too much was too much.
After announcing his 2004 decision to run, the Democratic Party leadership immediately decried his efforts pointing out he could do more good by attempting to work within the party structure and thus instigate his reforms. In making such an argument the lessons from the Howard Dean primary campaign (where Dean tried to do that very thing) were conveniently ignored by that same leadership that spent much effort and money trashing Dean's primary campaign.
Subsequently, nominal Democrats (under the leadership of the Democratic Leadership Council) with able assists from several of Nader's Raiders' "alumni" began collecting money and forming committees to sabotage the Nader campaign, denying his access to the ballot in several states by using the ruse that the long-time consumer advocate was in the race strictly to satiate his own ego.
As the New York Times' Katherine Q. Seelye reported, Nader's response to such silliness was simply: "`For 40 years, I've been giving members of Congress credit for things that I could take credit for,' he said. 'Ego? I don't know the meaning of the term.' He gestured to the cramped storage room where he sat for the interview. 'Isn't this fun?' he asked sarcastically. 'I invite anyone to travel with me and see how much fun it is, from their point of view.'"
Peter Camejo, Nader's current running mate, put it so forthrightly when he accepted Nader's invitation: The effort to deny Nader a place on the ballot is only one example of a fundamental attack on democracy. It is saying the public must choose between two candidates, no matter how distasteful both candidates may be to them. It is making it impossible for the will of the people to be properly expressed.
One can only imagine the intense and productive political dialogue that would be taking place if our election process were truly open to all instead of limiting our political debates to an echo rather than a choice. Instead, the major parties, with an assist by the so-called pandering "liberal" and "progressive" media on one hand and a corporatist controlled media on the other hand have sought to discredit any and all other candidates that seek to be heard.
Within the Democrat Party, at least, is it becoming increasingly clear with each passing day that Pogo's words have fallen upon deaf ears: "We have seen the enemy and it is us!"
"What these people are all afraid of -- the Democrats -- is democracy. That's what they're afraid of," Nader told NBC's Meet the Press. "They're afraid of competition. They're afraid of the tradition of third parties in the 19th and early 20th centuries pushing the two parties to pay attention to the needs of the people, instead of their own careerism."
Nader recognizes that many of his old friends are disappointed. "I think this may be the only candidacy in our memory that is opposed overwhelmingly by people who agree with us on the issues," he points out.
Undeterred, however, the effort to thwart Nader has continued illustrated by a most recent try coordinated by John Stauber, co-author of five books including Banana Republicans, Weapons of Mass Deception, Mad Cow USA and Toxic Sludge is Good For You. Gathering together more than 70 members of Nader's 2000 committee (this writer NOT included) Stauber & Co. have joined in issuing a statement urging "support for Kerry/Edwards in all swing states" because "removing George W. Bush from office should be the top priority in the 2004 presidential election."
While their statement and list of signers is being widely circulated, Stauber claims the group's effort is not coordinated in any way with the Kerry campaign or the Democratic Party.
Their statement reads as follows: "We, the undersigned, were selected by Ralph Nader to be members of his 113-person national 'Nader 2000 Citizens Committee.' This year, we urge support for Kerry/Edwards in all 'swing states,' even while we strongly disagree with Kerry's policies on Iraq and other issues. For people seeking progressive social change in the United States, removing George W. Bush from office should be the top priority in the 2004 presidential election. Progressive votes for John Kerry in swing states may prove decisive in attaining this vital goal."
[Editor's Note: See the statement and signers with this article.]
Call it a throwback to my valued Jesuit education, my allegiance first and foremost is to my conscience and my conscience tells me after carefully considering their positions on the important issues of the day, their politics, and their personal integrity that my vote will remain safely in the Ralph Nader column, even if I have to write it in on my ballot.
A.V. Krebs is director of the Corporate Agribusiness Research Project. He publishes a free email newsletter, The Agribusiness Examiner; email firstname.lastname@example.org; website www.electricarrow.com/CARP/.