Consumer advocate Ralph Nader, an independent candidate for U.S. president, has blamed Democratic party for its efforts to keep him off the ballot in a number of states. The liberal activist, campaigning in California Friday said he hopes to have his name appear on most of the 50 state ballots in November.
Democrats are challenging Mr. Nader's efforts to get on the ballot in South Carolina, Pennsylvania, and other states where his supporters are collecting petition signatures. Mr. Nader blames Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe for the effort, but has this message for the party's presidential nominee John Kerry.
"Call off your dogs," he said. "Stop engaging in dirty tricks, or you will be held responsible for those directly."
Mr. Nader claims Democratic tactics include "harassment" and "abuse" of those collecting signatures, and scrutiny of petitions in a search for irregularities. He also accuses Democrats of packing a Nader rally in Portland, Oregon, then refusing to sign a petition to get Mr. Nader on the ballot in that state. He says the tactics may not be illegal, but he calls them unethical.
Many of Mr. Nader's former supporters are grudgingly giving support to Democrat John Kerry as only candidate who can beat President George W. Bush this year. And many Democrats call Mr. Nader a "spoiler," accusing him of drawing votes away from Democrat Al Gore in the 2000 election. Mr. Nader won nearly three percent of the votes nationally that year, enough of them in Florida, and possibly New Hampshire, to swing the election in Mr. Bush's favor.
The independent candidate says he is puzzled that Democrats blame him for Mr. Gore's defeat. He points out that Republican George W. Bush won far more Democratic votes in the 2000 election than he did.
Mr. Nader says his polls shows him with the support of at least five percent of voters in this year's election. He says that should be enough to give him a place in the presidential debates, but it will not. The debates have a threshold of 15 percent, which he says is yet another sign that the two major parties control the election process.
He says both parties rate poorly on issues like health care, workers' wages, and what he calls the "bloated" budget of the U.S. military. He says he would impose a six-month deadline for withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, while the major candidates oppose any deadline.
Mr. Nader ran for president under the Green Party banner in 1996 and 2000. He is running as an independent this time, although in a number of states he is a candidate for the small Reform Party. He parted ways with the Greens this year partly because of a decision by party officials to tone down their activities in so-called swing states, where the vote is closely divided, to give Democrat John Kerry a better chance of winning.
Mr. Nader says, however, that he and vice presidential running mate Peter Camejo will stay in the race, despite what he calls the "whining" of Democrats.
"The ticket is here to stay to give voice to millions of Americans who want the opportunity to vote for the Nader-Camejo ticket," he said. "It is here to stay to elaborate the agenda of progressive, responsive, clean politics in our country, as if people mattered first and foremost, and as if corporations were our servants, not our masters."
Mr. Nader says that he and his running mate will campaign in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., unlike the targeted efforts of the major candidates, Mr. Kerry and Mr. Bush, who will focus on swing states like Ohio, Missouri and Michigan.