Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Ralph Nader Announces His Candidacy For the Presidency

Many Greens Wonder Whether He Will Pursue the Green Party Nomination or Seek a Party-Splitting Endorsement

On Sunday morning,Ralph Nader announced his Independent run for the Presidency on "Meet the Press" citing issues of civil liberties and ballot access as driving him into the race. Nader charged the Democratic candidates with taking issues such as single payer health care, labor law reform and the bloated defense department budget “off the table”.

On Thursday, February 27 he will hold his first public address in Washington, DC and announce his running mate. In the past, he has run with Winona LaDuke, Medea Benjamin and Peter Camejo.

Nader’s declaration met with mixed reactions from Democrats as well as some Green Party members. Democratic Candidate Senator Hillary Clinton stated that Nader’s candidacy is “…unfortunate” and “It’s not good for anybody, especially our country.” She cited Nader’s run with the Green Party against Al Gore saying “Nader prevented Gore from being the Greenest President we could have had.”

Senator Barak Obama commented: “Ralph Nader deserves enormous credit for the work he did as a consumer advocate. But his function as a perennial candidate is not putting food on the table of workers.” He also downplayed the impact of Nader’s candidacy, saying "I think anybody has the right to run for president if they file sufficient papers. And I think the job of the Democratic Party is to be so compelling that a few percentage of the vote going to another candidate's not going to make any difference."

This response from Obama is, at least, refreshing compared to many Democrats, who are determined to win the next election at any cost, according to Progressive Radio Talk Show Host Ed Schultz. As an example, Democratic party operators sued Nader during his 2004 run to try and keep him off the ballot in a smattering of states. Defensively, Nader is suing the DNC for infringing the rights of third parties to attain ballot access.

While many Greens are relieved and thrilled that Nader has committed to a run, others are unsure what this means for their Party as they apportion delegates. Nader has already decisively won the Green Party’s primary contest in California. If Nader runs outside the party, will he still receive a motherlode of delegates from the Green Party of California? How does this impact the other candidates vying to be on the top of the Green Party ticket, including former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, who has won the Green Party primaries in Washington, DC and Illinois and came in second behind "undecided" in Arakansas.

Political Director of the National Green Party (GPUS), Brent McMillan said, "Clearly, Ralph would be one of the front runners if he chooses to seek the Green Party's nomination. We currently have a great field of candidates that are campaigning aggressively for the nomination. We believe that seeking the Green Party's nomination will ultimately be of greater value than running as an independent."

Nader's camp assures that he intends to seek the nomination, but if that effort is challenged, will the independent State Green Parties ignore the national party's nomination and offer Nader a party splitting endorsement? This choice wreaked havoc within the party in 2004 and many are concerned that another split will fracture the Party while it needs to be coming together. Most Greens want a candidate who will run hard - in their name.

Green Party Presidential Candidates Kent Mesplay, Jesse Johnson and Kat Swift

Three of the four Green Party Presidential candidates met in Scottsdale, AZ this last weekend to help with a signature drive to get the Green Party on the state's ballot. Though the party gained ballot access in Arizona after the 2000 election, the Greens have to regain their ballot lines for the upcoming contest. Green Party Presidential candidates Kat Swift and Kent Mesplay pounded the pavement for signatures at a parade and festival on Saturday and Presidential candidate, Jesse Johnson helped with Sunday's efforts.

They felt that Nader's lack of commitment to run as a Green is disrupting the Party. While Nader can expect to pull many votes from Greens, many party organizers and members feel that it is time for the Green Party leader to be a party member.

It’s frustrating," said Swift. "We (grassroots candidates) are totally excluded from consideration by members of the party because the focus is on whether or not Nader is going to run. It leaves us all up in the air and doesn’t help build cohesiveness in the party, which is why we are all running. We’re all trying to build the party and win the nomination and then get behind whomever does win the nomination, move forward and win the election.”

"Ralph Nader has been accorded special draft status," said Mesplay. "When does that end? I have a feeling the way things are going, that at the time of the Convention, he will still be, in whatever way he can maneuver, a draft status candidate and that is just not good enough. We can respect Nader for being an Independent, but if he wants our ballot lines he has to take that extra step and register as a Green."

From California to Illinois and Pennsylvania, the discussion amongst Greens is hot and diverse. After tomorrow's announcement regarding Nader's selected VP, a profoundly new stage of the Green Party Presidential campaign will have been set.

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