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Thursday, September 09, 2004

Nader vs. the Democrats

Ralph Nader published an article in Sunday's Washington Post about the political parties, especially the Democrats, attempts to keep him off the ballot.

This summer, swarms of Democratic Party lawyers, propagandists, harassers and assorted operatives have been conducting an unsavory war against my campaign's effort to secure a spot on the presidential ballots in various states. It is not enough that both major parties, in state after state, have used the legislatures to erect huge barriers, unique among Western democracies, to third party and independent candidacies. Now they are engaging in what can only be called dirty tricks and frivolous lawsuits to keep me and my running mate, Peter Miguel Camejo, off the ballot while draining precious dollars from our campaign chest. This contemptuous drive is fueled with large amounts of unregulated money, much of it funneled through the National Progress Fund, an ostensibly independent group led by Toby Moffett, a former Democratic congressman who is currently a partner in a largely Republican lobbying firm called the Livingston Group. By contrast, to defend ourselves from the assault, we have to draw on funds that are limited and regulated by the Federal Election Commission.
That last part is especially troubling and shows a deep flaw in campaign finance reform. I am strongly of the opinion that there should be no limitations to donations for political campaigns but there should be a strict accounting and disclosure of who contributes what amount. In any event, it is clear that it is possible to challenge signature petitions and other minutiae of election law without coordinating with a major campaign (although it is far from clear that coordination has been absent in this case) but it is impossible to defend a campaign without coordinating with that campaign. This is an extremely unfair and anti-democratic situation. I am certainly not a big Nader fan, for one I generally think corporations are good things and not evil incarnate, but I believe that he has the right to be on the ballot. I also am very skeptical of any claims that Nader cost the Democrats the last election or will cost him this one. It is my belief that a huge percentage of Nader voters in 2000, and potential Nader voters this year, are people who otherwise would not have voted at all. I also expect that the impressive interest that Nader generated in politics on college campuses in 2000 caused a number of voters for Gore to turn out who wouldn't have been at the polls without the interest that Nader generated. Getting young people interested in politics is a good thing and something that Nader should be praised for, even by those of us who disagree with his politics. I also have to wonder at the Democrats strategy here, especially in the long term. A fair amount of the Democratic base of support is from young, idealistic voters. While they may vote Democrat, many of these people have sympathy with Ralph Nader's cause. The blatant hypocrisy and legalized maneuvering to gain power will not resonate well with these people and may, especially over time, totally disillusion them with the Democratic Party. They probably will not vote Republican, rather they will simply not vote at all. For a Party who has a great deal of difficulty sometimes in getting their natural supports to actually go to the polls this seems like a very poor strategy to me. There has also been a lot of talk about Republicans supporting Nader as a way to draw off support for Kerry. Ralph disputes this claim.
To excuse and distract from this accumulation of organized misdeeds, the Democrats are feeding the press the Big Lie that the Republicans are bankrolling and supporting us. If the Republicans were to spend one-quarter as much to support us as the Democrats are spending to obstruct our access to ballots and our supporters' civil liberties, we would be on all 50 state ballots by now. We have not been accepting signatures obtained through organized Republican Party efforts in the three or four states where we have learned of such activity.
It seems like there is a chance here for some Republicans to make some political points on all of this without actively supporting Nader however. I would imagine that a 527 formed to expose the ballot maneuverings of the Democrats could have a fairly significant effect. If I had a few million extra dollars lying around I might try this myself.


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