( JOSHUA FRANK, author of the forthcoming book, Left Out, recently had the opportunity to have a quick chat with Ralph Nader about his Independent campaign for president.)
JOSHUA FRANK: Mr. Nader thanks for agreeing to do this interview. Given how worried the Democrats appear to be about your presidential run taking votes away from John Kerry, why do you think the Kerry campaign refuses to toss even a small bone to the progressive anti-war, anti-PATRIOT Act crowd — even though this is the contingent of voters that could quite possibly cost Kerry the election if they continue to be ignored?
Ralph Nader: Because they believe these voters have nowhere to go, especially with Dennis Kucinich’s endorsement of John Kerry in return for nothing. Also, Kerry’s campaign is trying to take the war, Patriot Act issues off the table and they do this by “me-tooing” these issues with Bush. Call it protective imitation.
JF: Do you find any irony in the fact that the Democrats, who have complained for the past four yours about disenfranchised voters in the 2000 election that were not allowed the right to vote for the candidate of their choice (think black voters in Florida), are actively trying to prevent ballot access for your campaign this year?
RN: Yes. They seem not to recognize that by their (and Republican) passed ballot obstruction state laws, and their “dirty tricks”, that they are violating civil liberties of Nader-Camejo and the millions of voters who should have the opportunity to vote for candidacies of their choice.
JF: How do you respond to charge that you have “sold out” by allowing conservative groups and individuals to aid your ballot access efforts in swing states such as Oregon and Michigan?
RN: False rumors promoted by Democrats to provide cover for their dirty tricks which are obstructing Nader-Camejo ballot access. We do not accept outsider organized political assistance whether Republican or anyone else with such motives.
JF: Why, after the 2000 election, when you garnered 3 million votes and probably had another 7 million who preferred you but voted for the lesser evil in Al Gore, was there not an effort to cohere all that grassroots support into a growing base for further activism and third-party building?
RN: There was — within the Green Party. I helped organize and attend some 44 gatherings-fundraisers for the Greens in 31 states since 2001. Other efforts were also undertaken for the Green Party. But it is hard to push a string. Now they can grow by themselves. Good luck to them.
JF: You have recently registered your own “Populist Party” in a few states that do not recognize “Independent” as a political affiliation. Do you plan to work and grow this party as an alternative to the Greens following the election?
RN: That will depend on support for the Party.
JF: Why, in swing states, where voters may be worried about your candidacy tilting the election to Bush, should people vote for you instead of John Kerry?
RN: If they are worried, let them vote for John Kerry. Voters should follow their conscience.
JOSHUA FRANK, a contributor to CounterPunch’s forthcoming book, A Dime’s Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils, is putting the finishing touches on Left Out: How Liberals did Bush’s Work for Him, to be published by Common Courage Press. He welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.