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Ralph Nader for President?

By Jesse Monteagudo

The American political system has not been good for small parties. Thanks to our federalist constitution, not to mention our "winner take all" elections, our country has developed into a two-party system. With few exceptions, all office holders belong to either the Democratic or the Republican parties, both centrist parties that promote personalities rather than issues.

But voter dissatisfaction with political corruption and government gridlock has given small "third parties" renewed hope. This November, along with presidential candidates Albert Gore (Dem.) And George W. Bush (GOP), voters will have the opportunity to vote for Harry Browne (Libertarian), Pat Buchanan (Reform), John Hagelin (Natural Law), and David McReynolds (Socialist) who, by the way, is the first openly gay presidential candidate to be nominated by a recognized political party.

Another "third party" that will try to make its mark in 2000 is the Green Party. According to the political Web site,, the Greens are a "US-affiliate of the left-wing, environmentalist European Green movement". A "collection of fairly autonomous state/local based political entities with only a weak national leadership structure", the Party is a medley of "traditional leftists, democratic socialists and environmentalists" under the umbrella of the Association of State Green Parties (ASGP).

In 1996 the Greens nominated consumer advocate Ralph Nader for President. Though he was on the ballot in only 22 states, Nader received over 700,000 votes, putting him in fourth place after Bill Clinton (Dem.), Bob Dole (Rep.) and H. Ross Perot (Reform).

This year the Greens are ready to once again nominate Ralph Nader for President. Though Nader is not the only Green candidate - his opponents are rocker Jello Biafra (of the punk group Dead Kennedys) and Stephen Gaskin (whom politics1 describes as "a teacher, author and aging hippie") - he is expected to get the ASGP's node at its June 24-26 convention in Denver.

A lawyer and author, the 66-year old Nader is best-known as a consumer advocate and the author of Unsafe at Any Speed (1965), an indictment of the auto industry. Though Nader was a half-hearted candidate in 1996, this time he means business, striving to be on the ballot in all 50 states and in the District of Columbia. As in 1996, his running-mate is Winona LaDuke, a Native American activist and author.

"Often dismissed as a fringe figure from the past, Nader is uniting disparate factions of the disenchanted into a notable political force," wrote Maria Recio, in the Miami Herald.

Previous People Features from the GayToday Archive:
What is The Green Party?

Citizen Activists Influence World's Health, Human Rights

Globalization: A Threat to Planet Earth

Related Sites:
Ralph Nader for President
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"His stance against global corporate power - he was at the Battle of Seattle, the anti-World Trade Organization demonstrations last fall - has won him a new generation of admirers, and his emergence as a political leader has given him new cachet." Nader's "anti-corporate, pro-environment message, coupled with his consumer credentials, is fusing audiences of blue-collar workers and young people into a 'blue-green' alliance."

In his speeches, Nader rails against America's "duopoly" and the corporate interests that control both major parties, creating a "democracy gap". "Over the past twenty years, big business has increasingly dominated our political economy," said Nader in a statement announcing his candidacy.

"Citizen advocates have no other choice but to close the democracy gap by direct political means. Only effective national leadership will restore the responsiveness of government to its citizenry. . . . This campaign will challenge all Americans who are concerned with systemic imbalances of power and the undermining of our democracy, whether they consider themselves progressives, liberals, conservatives, or others. . . ."

Many progressives, appalled by the Democratic Party's turn to the standpat politics of Clinton and Gore, are giving Nader a second look. "When George W. Bush was wasting his twenties and thirties as a party animal, when Al Gore Jr. was carefully plotting his climb up the ladder of corporate-financed politics, when Pat Buchanan was a Nixon hatchet man, Ralph Nader was with the folks, battling for both political and economic democracy", gushed Texas activist Jim Hightower.

Both the United Auto Workers and the Teamsters, distressed by Clinton-Gore support of free trade with China, are "exploring" the possibility of endorsing Nader. Members of the Sierra Club, disappointed by Al Gore's "tawdry environmental record", are also considering supporting Nader.

In 1996, Nader shocked gay activists when he refused to "waste his time" talking about "gonadal politics". This time he knows better. According to Peter Cassels of Boston's Bay Windows, Nader "endorses the full spectrum of gay rights legislation now before the U.S. Congress and favors repealing the Defense Of Marriage Act (DOMA)." "My comments [on gay rights] are four words: equal rights, equal responsibility", Nader said.

Nader also supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and hate-crimes legislation. Nader's position on AIDS-related issues is equally heartening. According to Doug Ireland, writing in POZ, "Nader is the only postulant for the White House to advance a comprehensive program for access both here and abroad to anti-HIV drugs and other lifesaving" medications.

There is no question that most Nader voters will come at the expense of Democratic candidate Al Gore. Will it be Gore or Nader? Politics, after all, is the art of the possible. Barring a miracle, there is no chance that Ralph Nader will be elected President of the United States. Gore is the only candidate that stands in the way of George W. Bush, the National Rifle Association and the Christian Coalition in the White House, and several right-wing, Supreme Court justices. We must remember that when we vote in November.

There is a valid role for Nader and the Greens in American politics. American politics in the Age of Clinton is the most corrupt that it has ever been. Offices are sold to the highest bidder, and candidates must throw away their principles and their morals in order to get elected. Nader and the Green Party's goal is to remind us Democrats of those progressive principles that were abandoned by Clinton and Gore, and to remind all Americans of the idealism and commitment that public service once stood for.

Perhaps, if the Green Party starts at the bottom, and works to elect candidates on the local and state levels, it can eventually become a major force in American politics. I really hope so.

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