- The Washington Times - Monday, June 26, 2000

DENVER Consumer advocate Ralph Nader won the Green Party presidential nomination yesterday by a huge margin, a move that could drain crucial votes from the Democratic Party's bid to hold the White House.
The 66-year-old Nader, a registered independent, and his running mate, Winona LaDuke, took 295 of the 326 delegate votes cast at the two-day party convention by vowing to end corporate subsidies, downsize the military, provide universal health care, push for public campaign financing and clean up the environment
Referring to the Democrats and Republicans as "the drab and the dreary" and "do-littles and do-nothings," Mr. Nader predicted his campaign would appeal to a wide spectrum of voters disgusted with a corrupt and unresponsive political system.
"Let us not prejudge any voters, for Green values are majoritarian values," said Mr. Nader, speaking to delegates behind a podium clustered with sunflowers at the Marriott Renaissance Hotel here.
Using the word "corporate" as an all-purpose slur, the longtime big-business nemesis spent much of his 90-minute acceptance speech denouncing "corporate welfare," "corporate abusers," "corporate paymasters," "absentee and giant corporations," "mass corporate power" and even "corporatists."
His nomination sends a ripple of unease into the tight presidential contest, particularly among Democrats and particularly in voter-rich California, where polls have shown him garnering as much as 9 percent of the vote.
Analysts agree that his entry into the contest could hurt Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore by siphoning off left-leaning voters.
But delegates at yesterday's convention said the prospect of boosting Texas Gov. George W. Bush's chances was the least of their concerns.
"That's not a worry, that's a strategy," said D.C. delegate Mike Livingston. "If the Democrats wanted support from voters that are left of center, they would field a candidate with views that were left of center. We hope this sends a message."
Thomas Smith, a Green Party candidate for the District school board, said that if Democrats lost the White House, "frankly, my dear, as Rhett said, I don't give a damn. They deserve to lose. They haven't represented working-class people for a long time."
Other delegates said they didn't care whether Mr. Bush defeated Mr. Gore because their parties are both are beholden to corporations and special interest groups.
"There needs to be a serious change in our political system," said Bill Smedley, an environmental activist from Pennsylvania. "I'm tired of the corruption in both parties."
Even Mr. Gore's much-touted environmental credentials, including his book, "Earth in the Balance," left delegates unimpressed. "He's a fake environmentalist. His book was ghost-written he doesn't believe any of it," said Vicki Smedley of Pennsylvania.
For many delegates, the last major-party candidate they supported was Bill Clinton in 1992. Most said they switched in 1996 to the Green Party, which drafted Mr. Nader as its presidential candidate with a shoestring budget of $5,000. Mr. Nader received less than 1 percent of the vote that year in the 22 states where he appeared on the ballot, finishing fourth behind Reform Party candidate Ross Perot.
This year, however, he has a fund-raising goal of $5 million, which will allow him to take his campaign on the road. His first stop: California, where he plans to hold two press conferences today.
Mr. Nader appears poised to surpass his 1996 performance. The ticket has qualified for the ballot, or expects to qualify for the ballot by June 30, as an Independent or Green Party candidate in 30 states.
"The states where Nader is strong Washington, Oregon, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Maine and California are all states that Gore has to win," ABC news analyst George Stephanopoulos noted yesterday on "This Week." "If Nader gets 5 percent, it could cut into that."
A Newsweek poll released Saturday showed Mr. Nader with 3 percent of the vote, ahead of Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan, who got 2 percent. Mr. Bush led with 42 percent, followed closely by Mr. Gore with 40 percent.
At a press briefing yesterday, Mr. Nader received the endorsement of the California Nurses Association based on his advocacy of universal health care. Afterward, Mr. Nader predicted a poor showing for Mr. Gore in that state.
"If Al Gore doesn't change the spectrum of his agenda and broaden it out, he's going to lose California," Mr. Nader said.
Cutting into Mr. Gore's voting bloc "is something we want to do because we want to win," he said. "We don't do that by allowing Al Gore to win."
As for the specter of a Bush presidency, Mr. Nader said he wasn't concerned. "You mean [do I worry] about George W. Bush replacing George Reagan Clinton?" he quipped. "You mean a do-nothing replacing a do-little?"
Told that he spends more time criticizing Vice President Gore than the Texas governor, Mr. Nader promised to rectify the situation over the next four months. "I do come in third to [columnist] Molly Ivins and Jim Hightower when it comes to bashing George Bush, but I hope to be first soon," he said, adding that "the record in Texas is really abysmal."
His first priority is to convince the two major parties to include him and Mr. Buchanan in the televised presidential debates. He also called on Mr. Bush and Mr. Gore to reject corporate sponsorship of the debates, which are now being funded by beer brewer Anheuser-Busch and others.
"Why are these two men afraid? They should overcome their fear of facing new ideas and alternative voices," Mr. Nader said.

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