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In a move reminiscent of the 2000 presidential election, Ralph Nader announced on Sunday that he will again run for president, only this time as an independent.
The announcement by Nader, the one-time Green Party presidential nominee who drew criticism from Democrats for tilting the last election toward the Republican party, is already sparking interest on campus.
Daniel DiMaggio ’04, an active member of the Harvard Socialist Alternative, said that he is in the process of forming Harvard Students For Nader.
“We’re planning our first meeting to be this Sunday,” said DiMaggio. “The plan is to organize some sort of kickoff event for March 9.”
The campaign is coordinating kickoffs for that day on over 100 campuses nation-wide.
Andy J. Frank ’05, president of the Harvard College Democrats, said that though students who support Nader may be “well-intentioned,” they would be throwing away their vote.
“If you vote for Nader you might as well vote for Bush,” he said.
Lauren K. Truesdell ’06, the spokesperson for the Harvard Republican Club, called Nader’s candidacy a welcome—if unecessary—development in the Republican race against the Democrats.
“We believe that we can beat any Democratic challenger with or without Nader, but this is an added bonus,” she said. “We don’t believe that any candidate will defeat Bush, but obviously John Kerry has more of a chance than Ralph Nader.”
Nader campaign spokesperson Linda Schade denied that the longtime consumer advocate would act as a “spoiler” in November.
“He’s looked at this. He wants to beat Bush, that’s his main objective,” she said.
“He will keep the Democrats true to their Democratic base.”
She said that Nader’s candidacy draws new voters who ultimately end up casting ballots for Democrats.
But Dan Glickman, the director of Harvard’s Institute of Politics, said he thought Nader is facing a much different race this time around and will have less of an effect on the election than he did in 2000.
“This time there’s more intensity and unity among Democrats to defeat Bush. He’ll get some votes but not as many as last time,” he said.
Glickman also pointed to Nader’s absence from the public sphere since the 2000 election.
“He hasn’t been a major force in the past few years like he was 30 years ago,” Glickman said. “I’m not sure what he’s trying to push and what his goals are. In the last couple of years he hasn’t been out there articulating anything. I haven’t seen him give a compelling reason why the two-party system isn’t working.”
But Schade said that Nader has criss-crossed the country delivering speeches about democracy, and since the 2000 election he has also founded two grassroots political organizations—Citizen Works and Democracy Rising.
“He works 20 hours a day,” Schade said. “Has he gotten media coverage? Is the public aware of that? That’s a different story.”
Schade said that the campaign has raised $88,000 since Nader made his announcement Sunday morning on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“We raised more money in the first 24 hours of this campaign than any day in all of the last campaign,” said Schade, adding that the announcement has caused a flurry of activity in the real and virtual worlds.
“Volunteers are flooding the website. I hear people running down the halls saying, ‘The web numbers are tripling!’” Schade could not provide any numbers for the 36-hour-old campaign.
Grace Ross, co-chair of the Massachusetts Green-Rainbow Party, said that Nader’s decision to run as an independent has created a “conflict” for Greens.
“There are clearly people in the Greens who support Nader. There are people who are committed to him as an individual,” Ross said. “But there are also people who want to build a long-term movement, an alternative to the two-party system.”
Schade said that the biggest obstacle Nader faces is getting on the ballot. Yesterday in Washington, D.C., Nader pledged to run a 50-state campaign.
“One of the flaws of our current electoral system is that ballot access laws are so different across the country,” he said.
In Colorado, for example, Nader will get on that ballot by paying $500, while in Texas, Nader will have 60 days to collect 65,000 signatures from people who do not vote in Texas’ March 9 Democratic and Republican primaries.
“Forty states are not even swing states,” Schade said. “It’s a collusion of the two parties.”
—Staff writer May Habib can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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