Ralph Nader, whose third-party White House bid in 2000 was blamed by some Democrats for helping elect President Bush, said on Sunday he will try again this year as an independent.Ignoring pleas from Democrats to stay out of the race, the veteran consumer advocate said he wanted to challenge the two parties’ stranglehold on the political process and their shared addiction to corporate interests.
“Washington is corporate-occupied territory, and the two parties are ferociously competing to see who is going to go to the White House and take orders from their corporate paymasters,” Nader said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Nader said claims that his candidacy would distract from efforts to beat Bush in November were a “contemptuous” attempt to restrict democracy and maintain what he called the “two-party duopoly.”
“It is an offense to deny millions of people who might want to vote for our candidacy an opportunity to vote,” he said, adding the “corporate government” practiced by both parties had led to rollbacks in labor, environmental and economic standards.
“This country has more problems and injustices than it deserves,”Nader said.
“It’s time to change the equation and bring millions of American people into the political arena.”
Nader’s Green Party bid won nearly 2.9 million votes in 2000 and was blamed for siphoning support from Democrat Al Gore particularly in Florida, where Nader won 97,488 votes and Gore’s loss by a bitterly contested 537 votes cost him the presidency.
Nader started an exploratory committee late last year to raise money for a presidential run. He had ruled out another bid for the Green Party, which was split on his candidacy and will not pick its nominee until this summer.
“I’ve decided to run as an independent candidate for president,” he said.
A public opinion poll in October found two-thirds of Americans did not want Nader to run again, and Democrats from across the ideological spectrum have asked him to stay out of the race and give them a clear shot at Bush.
An entire liberal Internet Web site, ralphdontrun.net, is devoted to urging Nader not to run again.
“Unlike 2000, there is no need for an alternative progressive voice, because we have progressive candidates in the primary that will challenge the Democratic Party’s shift to the right,” said civil rights activist Al Sharpton, who is making his own presidential bid as a Democrat.
Democrats expect Nader to have less of an impact this year than in 2000, saying party and left-wing activists have learned how wrong Nader was when he claimed in 2000 there was no difference between the two parties.
“I don’t think he’ll have a sizeable impact, but it’s terrible if he goes ahead because it’s about him, it’s about his ego, it’s about his vanity and not about a movement,” New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Democratic presidential front-runner John Kerry told reporters on Saturday night he was not afraid that a Nader candidacy would hurt his potential challenge to Bush. “I think my campaign is speaking to a lot of the issues Ralph Nader is concerned about,” Kerry said in Atlanta, Georgia.
Nader admitted that he would have some difficulty meeting the requirements to qualify for all 50 state ballots in the November election, describing the process as “like climbing a cliff with a slippery rope.”
“This isn’t just our fight,” he said. “This is a fight for all third parties … I don’t think America belongs just to the Democratic and Republican parties.