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"I wish Scott Maddox would tell the tens of thousands of Floridians who want to vote for us that they are ösham' supporters," Nader scoffs, "especially since those are the very supporters he wants to get for Kerry/Edwards by keeping us off the ballot." As for being a Republican stalking horse, Nader is equally dismissive, though clearly he'll take his votes wherever he can find them.
"We have rejected Republican help in the three or four states where it has presented itself," he says. "If the Republicans really wanted to get us on 50 state ballots, they could've done so spending a quarter of the money that the Democrats have spent trying to exclude us." It's this state-by-state struggle that seems to vex Nader more than anything else, particularly when he finds himself squaring off against the same quarters who have been using the 2000 election debacle and its recount irregularities as a rallying cry. "They all say ballot-access barriers shouldn't be burdensome," he gripes, "but when it comes to a cutting-edge partisan demand, they often shove aside their civil liberties philosophy in return for bolstering a form of political bigotry -- which is what the Democrats are directing toward us."
"I told Kerry nine weeks ago on the phone, there are a lot of dirty tricks being done in your name and you better look into it," Nader continues. "Terry McAuliffe" -- the Democratic National Committee chairman --"told me he was going to fight me in the close states and get me off the ballots. Right off! This isn't hearsay -- he said it to me personally!"
Sure enough, Nader adds, he's seen what he terms a "mini-Watergate" unfold, with the Democratic Party or its thinly veiled surrogates employing every tactic imaginable to challenge his ballot status nationally. And just like Richard Nixon, he believes "Kerry is going to pay a bigger price after the election.... The phony lawsuits were unbelievable. I mean, arguments like 550 signatures were gathered by an ex-felon who hasn't paid a $400 fine to the State of Arizona. Therefore, strike the signatures!" Evidently Democrats believe the civil rights of ex-felons should be restored, unless they're working for Nader. "Some 1400 signatures in Arizona didn't have the county listed, although they had their name, street address, and city. So strike 'em! Can you believe these people? They're tools of corporate supremacists, just as much as the Republicans."
Nader's favorite example? When the Democratic Party hired a Michigan company to check the validity of thousands of his ballot-petition signers, the company outsourced its phone-bank work to India.
Any conversation with Ralph Nader ends with a reminder of hard-nosed electoral math. Consistently polling at two to three percent across the nation, Nader's chances of stepping forward to take the presidential oath of office on January 20, 2005, are slim to none. Nonetheless the Republican and the Democratic Party's leadership are taking actions that indicate they believe Florida's final results will be just as close as in 2000: Both parties not only have large, experienced legal staffs in place across the state, they've already quietly begun fundraising for the inevitable recount effort. In that light, might a Nader vote actually be, in the words of Scott Maddox, nothing more than "a vote for George Bush"?
If George W. Bush is re-elected by a handful of votes in Florida, will your campaign still have been worth it?
"Oh, yes!" Nader thunders back without missing a beat. "We're pushing the Democrats to take better positions --- a living wage, health insurance for all, getting out of Iraq. The old Democratic Party wouldn't have to be told."
You won't mind being blamed for having caused a second Democratic presidential nominee to go down in defeat?
"Of course not. If Kerry doesn't win, it's because Kerry blew the election six different ways when he should've landslided the worst anti-people, pro-corporate president in modern American history."
With a sigh of exasperation, Nader flips the script: "The press keeps saying to me: 'Why are you running?' I say, öBecause at your finest moments, I take you seriously.' The same media that has meticulously documented corporate crimes, the defrauding of consumers, corporate welfare abuses, environmental damage, and the outsourcing of jobs deserves to be taken seriously by at least one campaign. Why else are you writing these exposés? Are your stories just for your own edification? Nothing happens after you write them. Our democracy is so weakened that you don't get prosecutions, hearings, or regulatory actions. The least you should be grateful for is that we're trying to change the dynamics of the political system so that it can deal with the corporatists who have taken over."
To be sure, there are plenty of good reasons not to vote for Ralph Nader on November 2. Perhaps you feel that ousting Bush is an immediate priority second to none. Or perhaps -- and here's a truly radical notion -- you just believe that Ralph Nader wouldn't make a very good president, regardless of how admirable some of his positions are. No thanks to Laurence Tribe and his ilk, Florida's voters can still take the revolutionary step of deciding for themselves.