Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader continues to wage an unrepentant campaign, and says his focus is on building a political movement, not on whether his showing hurts Vice President Al Gore or helps George W. Bush. Nader appeared at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis Tuesday as a guest on ABC's Nightline with Ted Koppel and Gov. Jesse Ventura. The topic of the show was third parties, and both Nader and Ventura advocated a number of reforms they say would open the political process to third party candidates and galvanize more Americans to vote.
Gov. Ventura (left), and Ralph Nader (right) appeared together on an edition of ABC's Nightline.
See larger image.
NADER FACED A NUMBER OF SKEPTICS in the Nightline audience at the University of Minnesota, including retired federal judge and DFL veteran Miles Lord. Lord said he remembers when the battle between Democrats Gene McCarthy and Hubert Humphrey helped Republican Richard Nixon get elected in 1968. He told Nader he'd been willing to help him get five percent of the vote for the Green party in Minnesota, to help the Greens achieve major-party status. But Lord said now he's conflicted because Nader has done almost too well in the state, and could change the election outcome.
"If you keep going like you're going, we're going to have Mr. Bush for president," Lord told Nader. "I don't know what to do. Would you forgive me if I just took a day off and voted for Gore?"
Nader told Lord he shouldn't vote for the lesser of two evils, but vote his own mind and conscience. Nader also dismissed the concept of sympathetic voters "trading" votes between safe states and tossup states as a "frivolous and diversionary tactic," and again said if people supported him, they should vote for him regardless of the consequences.
Ventura backed Nader's pronouncements on third-party votes, and said he hopes to see public financing of federal races in order to encourage a wider array of candidates.
"I think that there should be a cap put on how much you can spend. I think campaigns should be only allowed within the year of the election. So we're not getting it two years ahead of time of all that spending," said Ventura.
Ventura said once parties clear the five percent threshold to become major parties, money to fund their campaigns should come from the government and everyone should get the same amount. Otherwise, he pointed out, only former wrestlers and others with high name recognition will ever have a shot of winning as third-party candidates.
Ventura and Nader put forward other ideas for political reform, including having more presidential debates featuring all the candidates, and having a "none of the above" choice on ballots that could trigger new elections if enough people chose it.
Speaking at a press conference, Nader said Ventura has led the charge to re-engage voters, emphasizing the policies that played a role in his own election. (MPR Photo/Amy Radil)
The sometimes prickly Nader, who has had harsh words for some of his old friends and allies since they've asked him to drop out of the race, had nothing but admiration for Ventura. Speaking at a press conference, Nader said Ventura has led the charge to re-engage voters, emphasizing the policies that played a role in his own election.
"He is the leader in articulating reform of election procedures, of access to debates, of same-day voter registration, of more public financing of public campaigns," Nader pointed out.
Nader said he has sights set not on election day returns, but on advocating political reforms and expanding the Green Party beyond next Tuesday. One of the party's first efforts, he said, will be to establish what he called the People's Debate Commission, to work for presidential debates including more candidates than the Republicans and Democrats. He said he also wants to help the party recruit more candidates and stay involved in issues at the local level around the country.
"That's what's different about the Green Party," he said. "The Republican and Democratic parties after the election they take a breather and then they turn themselves into money-making machines."
Nader said while some liberals and progressives have cursed his candidacy for possibly costing Gore the presidency, he's given them an alternative and raised their profile within a Democratic Party that has for too long taken their votes for granted.