Ralph Nader plans to announce in January that he intends to run a serious campaign for president next year under the Green Party banner, according to reports in the web site Salon and The Nation.
Nader got nearly 700,000 votes -- just under 1 percent of the total -- as the Green Party's 1996 candidate despite running a non-campaign that confused and angered many of his supporters, writer Micah Sifry noted. Officially Nader has not made up his mind about running again and will not do so until January. But when he spoke at a meeting of the Association of State Green Parties last June in Connecticut, he all but announced his candidacy, promising that he wouldn't limit his fund-raising as severely this time around, and that he would make at least three major appearances in every state where he is on the ballot before the summer is through, with more selective targeting of key states in the fall -- "if," he added, "I run."
According to sources close to Nader -- one a senior Green activist who met with him at length last June, the other a close associate who is a former "Nader's Raider" -- Nader is privately saying that he will indeed run, Sifry wrote.
Nader already has allowed the California Green Party to place his name on their March 2000 primary ballot (a decision that had to be made by this November), and he has convinced Native American activist Winona LaDuke to again be his vice-presidential candidate, even though she had earlier announced that she didn't want to run again, according to Sifry.
Nader hopes to get at least 5 percent of the vote. That would make the Green Party eligible for a proportional share of public funding for the next presidential campaign. The Reform Party's presidential candidate next year will get $12.6 million in federal funds because of Ross Perot's 8 percent showing in 1996.
A core group already is laying the groundwork for Nader's campaign. Members include Carol Miller, co-chair of the New Mexico Green Party and recent congressional candidate; Ronnie Dugger, founder of the Alliance for Democracy; and Mike Feinstein, a Green member of the Santa Monica City Council. They've set up a National Committee to Draft Ralph Nader for President, HCR 65 Box 98, Ojo Sarco, NM 87521, and set up a Web site (www.nader2k.org) to attract volunteers and raise money.
Other candidates who are seeking the Green Party nomination include Joel Kovel, a psychiatrist and radical activist from New York and Stephen Gaskins, a self-described "Hippy Priest, Spiritual Revolutionary, Cannabis advocate, shade tree mechanic, cultural engineer, tractor driver and community starter." For information see (www.greens.org).
"Does a Nader run make any sense?," Sifry asked. "Of course. Nader is one of the few progressives with enough public standing to enter the celebrity sweepstakes of presidential politics. He is to backbone what most politicians are to waffles. His message cuts across the simple labels of left and right, capable of reaching conservative home-schoolers anxious about rampant commercialism, small business people angry about special privileges for big corporations, unionists upset about jobs disappearing overseas, and anybody who knows someone who's life was saved by an airbag -- as well as hardcore enviros, consumer activists and other progressives. He retains a strong following among seniors who have followed his whole career, and still draws a respectable showing at his many campus speaking gigs.
"Two months ago, I saw Nader speak to an active group of ex-Perotistas, at the American Reform Party's national convention in Washington. At the end, they gave him a standing ovation, with several people chanting, 'Run, Ralph, Run!'
If Pat Buchanan becomes the Reform nominee, Sifry noted, he would siphon hard-right votes away from the Republican candidate, taking some of the edge off the argument that Nader would merely "spoil" the Democrats' presidential hopes. Also, Sifry noted, "an aggressive Nader campaign could offer a clearheaded alternative to Buchanan's xenophobic populism. For while the two men may agree about who the villains are in the trade wars, they disagree about many of the solutions; Nader could inject critically needed arguments into the national debate, and his candidacy would inevitably put pressure on Gore's and Bradley's instinctive centrism."
Finally, Sifry noted that many congressional Democrats might welcome Nader's activity, since a strong progressive-populist campaign can reach into the growing ranks of nonvoters, who are disproportionately lower on the socioeconomic ladder, and bring them back to the polls. "That is the lesson of victories like U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone's (D-Minn.) in 1990 and 1996 and U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) in 1990, and even of last year's Washington state initiative to raise the minimum wage to the highest level in the country," Sifry wrote. "In every case, voter turnout rose significantly."
Once those voters are in the polling booth, they are likely to vote Democratic down-ballot. Indeed, Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico credited his narrow 1994 re-election to the turnout boost from the Greens' gubernatorial candidate, Roberto Mondragon, who got 10 percent of the vote that year.
Sifry wrote that Nader would file with the Federal Election Commission and would raise money, which should be a relief to supporters who were frustrated by his last campaign, which he limited to less than $5,000 in total expenditures.
FREE TRADE COSTS JOBS. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) cost 440,172 American jobs from 1994 through 1998, the Economic Policy Institute reported in November. Moreover, through the first half of 1999 the portion of the U.S. trade deficit attributable to NAFTA has nearly doubled in comparison to the same period last year, leading to even more job losses. Although gross U.S. exports have increased dramatically -- with real growth of 92.1 percent to Mexico and 56.9 percent to Canada -- these increases have been overshadowed by the growth in imports, which have gone up by 139.3 percent from Mexico and 58.8 percent from Canada. In 1993, the United States had a net export deficit with its NAFTA partners of $18.2 billion (all figures in inflation-adjusted 1987 dollars). From 1993 to 1998, this deficit increased by 160 percent to $47.3 billion, resulting in job losses in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. For the report, "NAFTA's Pain Deepens," see (www.epinet.org) or call 202-775-8810.
GREAT PLAINS SUFFER. During the past decade, widespread poverty, depressed incomes, slumping populations and lagging job growth have plagued rural areas in six Plains states, the Nebraska-based Center for Rural Affairs reports. The study, "Trampled Dreams: The Neglected Economy of the Rural Great Plains" (available online at www.cfra.org or call 402-846-5428) documents a demographic trend that has been underway throughout the late 20th century in rural America: The number of farmers and rural residents has dwindled as farm size has exploded, and incomes have dropped. As recently as 1977, residents of rural farm counties had, on average, higher incomes than residents of cities and suburbs. But in 1995, the overall poverty rate in rural farm counties was 14 percent -- nearly 60 percent higher than the 9 percent rate that existed in metro counties. Child poverty is even more pronounced in rural farm counties: 18 percent, compared to 12 percent in metro counties. Rural advocates hope to use the study to develop comprehensive development policy for rural and agriculturally based communities.
SEATTLE VIDEO. Video of the WTO Protests in Seattle are available from JusticeVision and the Independent Media Center. Ralph Cole of Justice Vision is offering an eight-videotape set (8 hours for each of 8 days he was there) that cover protests, rallies and forums for a requested donation of $80, although he will go as low as $40. Individual days can be ordered for $10 each. He will fill the $80 orders first, then the $40 orders and finally the special $5 per session offers he made during the events in Seattle. Contact Ralph Cole, 1425 W. 12th St. #262, Los Angeles, CA 90015. (If sending a check, please make it payable to Justicevision); phone 213-747-6345; email DemocracyU@aol.com
Independent Media Center tapes include interviews with a wide array of ordinary people on the streets, speeches at Tuesday's mass rally and the Steelworkers/Earth First rally and interviews with organizers, plus clips of police overreaction and violence, arrests, jail vigils, etc. To obtain tapes for local organizing or for your local cable stations, see www.indymedia.org or call Deep Dish at 212 473 8933 or Whispered Media, 415-641-1540.