Sunday, August 22, 2004

Defending Democracy from the "Anybody But Nader" Gang

The Democrats claim that they are campaigning for "Anybody But Bush." That is either a lie or a bad faith. Their creed is, in truth, Anybody But Nader.

I hate George W. Bush more than Democrats do. I've certainly organized and participated in more anti-Bush protests than them. In fact, my fellow left-wing activists and I were already doing all we could to build up opposition to the war on Afghanistan for which all Democratic politicians except for The Honorable Barbara Lee voted.

The Anybody But Nader gang do prefer John Kerry to Bush, but they are NOT opposed to Bush being on the ballots, and they would live with Bush should Kerry manage to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory. What they ARE opposed to is Nader getting on the ballots, for they can't tolerate the fact that anyone as well known as Nader is running without ruling-class permission, challenging the elite consensus for plutocracy and imperialism. Hence their crusade against the most basic of democratic rights -- the right to participate in politics: e.g.,
  • Ralph Nader's efforts to get his name on presidential ballots in important swing states are becoming mired in legal challenges and charges of fraud by Democrats who have mounted an extensive campaign to keep him from becoming a factor in this year's election.

    . . . [L]ocal Democratic parties across the country, aided by a group of lawyers calling themselves the Ballot Project Inc., have initiated mini-campaigns to stop him, state by state.

    "The Democrats are making this as difficult and as debilitating for him as possible, making him expend blood, sweat and tears for every inch," said Charles E. Cook Jr., a nonpartisan analyst who tracks races in every state. "He has only so many hours in the day and so many resources. And to the extent that he's tied up trying to get on the ballots, he's not getting any kind of message across."

    So far, only three states have closed the door on Mr. Nader: Georgia, Oklahoma and Indiana. He seems close to getting on the ballot in 11 states, either on the Reform Party line or as an independent, though he could still face challenges in some. He has filed petitions in about 20 others and is awaiting rulings on their validity. He has yet to file in 18 states.

    Most of Mr. Nader's deadlines come this month: the due dates for 23 states fall from Aug. 2 to Aug. 24, meaning he has had to meet almost daily deadlines across the country while fending off lawsuits.

    He is entangled in an assortment of suits, many in states that may be the most contested in November. He is in court in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Arizona and West Virginia, and faces potential suits or administrative challenges in Oregon, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and Maine. He is also in court in Texas and Illinois, which are not swing states but where his challenge to state ballot requirement is diverting his time and resources.

    The legal strategies in most states are being developed by local Democrats, but the Ballot Project is helping them to find lawyers to work pro bono and share information. "We're doing everything we can to facilitate lawyers in over 20 states," said Toby Moffett, a Washington lobbyist and former Connecticut congressman, who, with Elizabeth Holtzman, a former congresswoman from New York, is overseeing the Ballot Project.

    Because of federal campaign finance laws, the project cannot coordinate its activities with either the Kerry campaign or the national Democratic Party, but the party approves of the legal challenges, said Jano Cabrera, a spokesman, and is closely monitoring Mr. Nader's progress.

    . . . The requirements vary from the minimal in Louisiana and Colorado, which require only that a candidate pay $500, to the more onerous, like Texas, which required 64,000 signatures as early as May 10.

    "There is no other country in the world that has free elections that forces a candidate for chief executive to have to wrestle with 51 separate sets of laws," said Richard Winger, an expert on ballot access laws. . . .

    "Where are the battles?" asked Kevin Zeese, Mr. Nader's spokesman. "Everywhere. It doesn't matter if it's a swing state or a safe state. The Democrats are doing their best to harass us everywhere. Their goal is to divert our resources and bleed our campaign."

    At the same time, challenging the Nader petitions is "extremely difficult," said Dan Booker, a partner at Reed Smith, a Pittsburgh law firm that helped build the case against Mr. Nader in Pennsylvania.

    The drive by Pennsylvania Democrats is one of the most extensive and offers a glimpse into what it takes to mount such a challenge.

    Mr. Booker said that 8 to 10 lawyers in his firm were working pro bono on the case, 80 hours each a week for two weeks, and could end up working six more weeks. The firm also took on more than 100 volunteers.

    Working with Reed Smith was a Philadelphia lawyer, Gregory M. Harvey, an elections specialist who has been detached from his firm while he organized 70 volunteers at his end of the state. . . .

    On Aug. 2, the Nader campaign filed about 47,000 signatures in Harrisburg. The Democrats responded with the equivalent of a statewide bucket brigade: Officials in Harrisburg, under the auspices of H. William DeWeese, the House minority leader, photocopied the 47,000 signatures and trucked them to Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, where volunteers began examining them line by line. They had one week in which to file their challenge.

    In Pittsburgh, software programmers and data-entry volunteers occupied three conference rooms at Reed Smith, where they created a database of the 47,000 names that were checked against the state's list of registered voters.

    In Philadelphia, Mr. Harvey sent volunteers to the city board of elections, where they compared the signatures from the petitions with those on voter registration lists.

    . . . On Aug. 11, James Gardner Colins, president judge of the Commonwealth Court, ordered all parties to meet Thursday to set a date for hearing the evidence. He took the highly unusual step of ordering at least five judges in courtrooms throughout the state to hear the individual signature challenges simultaneously. That means at least five cadres of lawyers for the challengers and for Mr. Nader and probably handwriting experts for each side in each courtroom. . . .

    Mr. Zeese said it was "crazy" to have to appear in five courtrooms at once. "This is a perfect game plan for how to destroy independent politics in this country," he said, accusing Democrats of "antidemocratic activities." (Katharine Q. Seelye, "Democrats' Legal Challenges Impede Nader," August 19, 2004)

  • Democrats will soon air TV ads in Wisconsin and New Mexico trying to link Republican groups to independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader.

    The Nader Factor -- led by former campaign workers for presidential hopefuls Wesley Clark, John Edwards, Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt -- expects to spend up to $50,000 on the ads.

    The spots are set to launch Tuesday in Madison and Albuquerque, N.M., and run through Sunday. (Juliet Williams/The Associated Press, "Anti-Nader Coalition to Air Ads in Wisconsin," The Post-Crescent, August 21, 2004)
Ohio, too, may become a ballot access battleground. Even though Ohio petitioners for Nader/Camejo submitted 14,473 signatures -- nearly three times the required 5,000 in Ohio -- "Don McTigue, a Columbus lawyer who specializes in election law, was hired by the Ohio Democratic Party to scrutinize" them; and Ohio Democratic Party spokesman Dan Trevas ( x129) "said party officials will decide, in consultation with McTigue, whether they want to file legal challenges to Nader's petition" (Alan Johnson and Jonathan Riskind, "Nader Petitions Questioned: Ohio Democrats Might Fight Independent's Bid to Get on Ballot," Columbus Dispatch, August 21, 2004, p. B1).

If the Ohio Democrats do file legal challenges, all who defend voting rights, not just Nader/Camjo supporters, should hold a protest or a sit-in or street theater at the Ohio Democratic Party headquarters (271 E. State St. Columbus, Ohio 43215)!!! And so should all who live in the states where the Democrats have already trampled, or are trampling, on the civil rights of Nader/Camejo voters. The Nader/Camjo campaign now needs to become more than a good fight on the electoral front. It's time to take action in the streets.


Anonymous said...

Why don't you consider that these Democrats of which this article speaks are acting as a balance to the right-wingers who are petitioning (disingenuously) to have Nader on the ballot. Conveniently absent from this article.

Anonymous said...

The Democrats are not a monolithic group, but they are a party. Their primary goal is to get elected, and then apply pressure to their candidates to do as they wish. Nader is a roadbump to this goal, therefore, they will use every legal means to remove him from the ballot.

Yes, it's undemocratic, but, it's politics.

Anonymous said...

The absurdity of this article is that it ignores why we Dems are essentially opposed to Nader: He helped put Bush in office in 2000, and he could keep him there in 2004. Nader is Bush's best friend. Naturally I want to be Nader's worst enemy.

Yoshie said...

I wish that Nader/LaDuke could really boast that they caused Al Gore's defeat, but the ticket received only 2,882,955 votes in 2000. In contrast, "Nine million Democrats voted for Bush" (Sam Smith, "Nader Not Responsible for Gore's Loss,", a far larger number than the Nader/LaDuke voters who would have voted for Gore in Nader/LaDuke's absence. The Democratic Party is mathematically challenged.

Supporting "your enemy's enemy" by signing petitions and making financial contributions is not a violation of anyone's voting rights, but filing frivolous lawsuits, having your friends in the government disqualify signatures, and so on in order to exclude candidates from the ballots is. "The Center for Responsive Politics found only 4% of Nader's funding came from donors who had also given to Republicans. This compares to 25% of Nader's votes in 2000 coming from registered Republicans. These same Republican donors gave more money to Democrats ($66,000), than to Nader ($54,000). See" ("Egg On Their Faces: Democrats' Big Lie Exposed," August 20, 2004, I'd say that Republicans ought to send more money and sign more petitions for the Nader/Camejo 2004 campaign.

In any case, Kerry is a friend of Bush -- his fellow Democrats even put Bush on the ballots in nine states, and they agree with each other on almost all important issues. Kerry is certainly closer to Bush than to Nader. Hence the Democratic Party's Anybody But Nader crusade.

Anonymous said...

First of all, I apologize for saying this post was 'absurd'. I meant only that the post ignores that Dems are supporting Kerry because he's the only candidate able to beat Bush, and Nader's campaign will only take votes from Kerry--tipping the scales ultimately in the favor of Bush, not Nader.

Accepting that all you write above is true, still *why* would one vote for Nader knowing that he will not win, and voting for him will take votes from Kerry--againk, the only candidate who can beat Bush in thie election. Given all that's at stake, perhaps the Supreme Court appointments in particular, why would one vote for Nader?

Anonymous said...

Oh, yes, the judicial appointments-

I thought they were an issue also, until I read the quotes from John Kerry boasting about how he voted for Scalia'a appointment to the bench. Kerry says he would support anti-choice nominees to the bench as long as they did not cast the deciding vote (i.e., a 5-4 situation) on Roe vs Wade. So much for the judicial appointments and abortion rights- but we always have stem cell research, yes, indeed, there Kerry actually differs significantly from Bush!

steelhammr said...

Kerry doesn't have a chance if the issues Ralph raises do not get brought up. There is no way Kerry will bring them up on his own.

Anonymous said...

Kerry and Bush are different only to the people who are assiduously supporting Kerry. George Will doesn't see one. Neither does the typical Nader supporter who notices such things like the Cato Institute's 85% approval rating of Kerry's voting in favor of issues they care about.

Ya, I know all about that rating that says Kerry is the most liberal Senator, but given how much he complies to Cato policies, it doesn't say much about the rest of the Democrat Party (see for details on the Kerry voting record).

Kerry persuades no Republicans to vote for him as he continues to try to out-Bush Bush--why not vote for the real Bush. And so the Nader voter has to figure out why vote for any Democrat at all? With all the Blue Dogs and Zell Millers in the Democrat Party....there really is no difference.

"It's the voting record, st00pid!"

-------Clara Listensprechen

cantelope said...

I live in "The People's Republic of Cambridge," Massachusetts, the bluest of the blue states and my right to vote for Nader was stripped from me in the 2000 election. I was registered as an independent and when I went to vote, I was told I had to insert my ballot into the side vent at the bottom of the ballot box -- avoiding the date/time stamp of the machine -- because it was a "non-standard" ballot, that Nader hadn't been on the rolls in time to have genuine ballots printed (in fact, he had and the ballots they had looked just like the others except a different color). What's discouraging to me is the fact that the cop proctoring the poll (an African-American male) had left the room and the three registers -- one of whom physically blocked my access to the opening of the ballot box -- were also African American (women). I guess it's true -- persecuted people often become persecutors ("it's THEIR turn now" syndrome). Sad. I re-registered as a Democrat and wrote in Nader's name in 2004. My ballot wasn't questioned when I went to file it (but it probably wasn't counted, either; I have no idea how Ralph did, but given the shenanigans that went on at the DNC and UMass, with Nader being prevented from speaking, I can probably guess).