ader rally draws more than 12,000

by Peter Johnson

Conventional wisdom might prompt some voters to write off Green Party Presidential candidate Ralph Nader almost immediately.
As a third-party candidate who accepts no corporate campaign finances and speaks about “corporate extremists” dominating the government, Nader’s political views could be viewed by some as the most left-wing stances American presidential politics has ever seen.
Yet to the more than 12,000 people filling the Target Center on Friday night, Nader’s message resonated as a viable alternative to the Republican and Democratic parties.
“They are parties of slogans — they don’t say what they mean and don’t mean what they say,” Nader said.
Nader officials, who said the event was the largest presidential rally in U.S. history, charged $7 per person. Besides Nader and Vice Presidential candidate Winona LaDuke, the roster of speakers included former talk show host Phil Donahue, campaign finance reform activist Doris “Granny D” Haddock and filmmaker Michael Moore.
The large turnout helped the Green Party raise more than $110,000, gave Nader an international audience via C-SPAN and lent credibility to an insurgent campaign which many predict is doomed to defeat.
Speeches centered on reform-minded issues about everything from education and environmentalism to corporate welfare.
“This is a country which has no shortage of solutions. What we have however is an absence of political will,” LaDuke said.
The party’s goal appeared to be the acquisition of political will. This is a task attempted through organizing and party-building — fundamentals which have proven difficult for some other third parties.
Yet the Green Party seems to have no shortage of prominent supporters.
Talk-show icon Donahue supports Nader, finding collusion on issues like Nader’s opposition to capital punishment and campaign finance reform.
“To the spinners and handlers of the two parties: we’re not going away, we’re getting bigger. We’re reaching out to young people,” Donahue said.
Filmmaker Michael Moore is unabashed in his support for Nader.
“Nader is a real alternative; that’s a real choice. Nader has done more for this country than Gore or Bush,” Moore said. “A vote for Nader is a political Molotov.”
If Nader’s supporters seem outspoken, his own words pull few punches — especially when talking about his two main rivals.
“(Republican) George W. Bush is really a major corporation running for president disguised as a human being,” Nader remarked.
He is equally critical of Vice President Al Gore, criticizing him for his constantly changing convictions.
Speaking on Gore’s book “Earth in the Balance,” Nader said, “He has turned his back on (the book) so many ways as to set a political record.”
Nader’s tallest hurdle may be battling the perception that voting Green Party is throwing a vote away — or worse, is a vote for Bush.
“If they want to throw their vote away they should vote for Bush or Gore, who represent two parties who are wasting our democracy,” Nader said.
Campaign finance reform advocate “Granny D” Haddock encouraged people to vote for their convictions and not their fears.
“We must always be prepared to suffer the consequences of doing the right thing. We must vote our thoughts as we must live our lives by our hearts,” she said.
Nader closed Friday’s event by outlining his formula for victory to his supporters.
“If you can bring 60 voters each, we can carry the state of Minnesota,” he said.
The Nader-LaDuke campaign will head to Boston and Seattle this week, hoping to break the attendance record set in Minneapolis and to build support for Nader through word-of-mouth and grass-roots organizing.

Pete Johnson welcomes comments at [email protected].