Bedfellows: Nader and the GOP
years after the Florida debacle, with nearly all of Ralph
Nader’s longtime progressive allies now tactically supporting
Kerry in swing states to retire the Bush regime, the Nader
campaign has created none of the grassroots thunder of 2000.
Indeed, it has been a hollow enterprise—attracting a few left-wing
sects and polemicists.
Given this vacuum, it’s no surprise that pro-Bush forces have
rushed to Nader’s side. What is a surprise is the brazenness
of their support. And, how readily Nader has accepted the
Nader has complained—correctly in at least one state—of covert
Democratic efforts to keep him off ballots. But in Michigan,
he has no such excuse. In that key battleground state, after
Nader volunteers had collected only 5,000 of the 30,000 signatures
necessary to get on the ballot, Michigan’s Republican Party
came to the rescue with 43,000 Nader signatures.
Nader campaign spokesman Kevin Zeese initially took a principled
stand, telling Associated Press last week that the campaign
would not accept the GOP’s help: “We won’t take any signatures
from them.” But within hours he flip-flopped, AP reported,
saying the campaign might accept the Republican signatures
if state officials did not certify Nader as the nominee of
the Reform Party in Michigan, which is split into two factions.
Tuesday, team Nader made it official: They’ll accept the “independent”
ballot line provided by the Republican signatures in case
they fail to get the Reform Party nomination: “We have to
get on the ballot somehow,” said Zeese.
If Nader picks up the Reform line in Michigan, it will be
with the strong backing of the party’s national chairman,
Shawn O’Hara, who told a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter:
“I’m doing everything I can to make sure John Kerry never
gets around the White House.” O’Hara is a former evangelist
who now says he supports abortion rights but admits he once
supported the execution of doctors and nurses who perform
abortions. (The Reform Party, which ran right-winger Pat Buchanan
for president in 2000, still maintains an anti- immigrant
In Oregon, another swing state where Nader could tip the election
to Bush, he only needed to attract 1,000 registered voters
to a nominating convention to get on the ballot. Four years
ago, 10,000 activists rallied for Nader in Portland. But in
April, he couldn’t rally even 1,000 supporters.
Once again, the Right rode to the rescue. When Nader made
a second attempt at a convention on June 26, Oregon’s Republicans
enlisted the anti-choice, anti-gay Oregon Family Council and
the corporatist Citizens for a Sound Economy to recruit right-wingers
to attend and sign Nader’s petition. The CSE’s phone script
asking Republicans to put Nader on the ballot explained the
need to “pull some very crucial votes from John Kerry.” Nader’s
Oregon coordinator said he saw nothing wrong with right-wing
help: “It’s a free country. People do things in their own
With Democrats engaging in dirty tricks of their own in Oregon
(a county leader urged Dems in an e-mail to attend but refuse
to sign), Nader again fell short of the needed 1,000—despite
the Republican help. Nader’s campaign hasn’t submitted names
from the second convention to state officials, apparently
embarrassed at how many will be shown to be registered Republicans.
Citizens for a Sound Economy is a lavishly-funded corporate
front group, chaired by former top Republican leader Dick
Armey, which lobbies against virtually everything Nader has
ever lobbied for. Asked on CNN why such a group would back
him, Nader dissembled in the extreme, referring to it as a
group “opposed to Congressional pay raises” (perhaps the one
issue out of a thousand that Nader and CSE have in common).
That’s as honest as identifying Pat Buchanan as a Palestinian-rights
After Oregon, Armey’s army issued a news release pledging
to help Nader get on ballots “in key battleground states like
Wisconsin, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and elsewhere.”
Besides activists, Republicans are deploying money behind
Nader. On July 9, when the San Francisco Chronicle
reported that one out of 10 big Nader donors had also donated
to Bush and the Republicans, Nader’s vice presidential running-mate
Peter Camejo told a Chronicle reporter that the campaign
would consider returning money from Republicans hoping to
help Bush against Kerry: “We don’t want that money.”
Days later, Camejo flip-flopped, telling the same reporter:
“It is conceivable that pro-Bush, pro-Republicans believe
we have a right to be on the ballot. We will not establish
lie detector tests for people who give us money.”
Camejo’s new line was in keeping with Nader’s laissez-faire
attitude on accepting GOP cash: “Republicans are human beings
too,” he argued in a recent radio debate.
As a progressive, I’ve admired Ralph Nader for as many years
as I’ve disliked the corporate centrism of Democrats like
John Kerry. But compared to the corporate and religious right-wing
forces behind Nader, Kerry is a paragon of progressive virtue.
For many of us inspired by Nader’s 2000 campaign, it was easy
four years ago to dismiss the charge that “a vote for Nader
is a vote for Bush” as a Democratic defense of the corrupt
status quo. Today, the sad reality on the ground is that a
vote for Nader in these swing states is a vote for Bush’s
money, his organization, his right-wing activists.