November 3, 2004 in City

Backers say Nader made a difference

By The Spokesman-Review
The Spokesman-Review photo

(Full-size photo)

WASHINGTON, D.C. – By 10:20 Tuesday night, about 150 people stood, yelling and applauding at the National Press Club as Ralph Nader spoke to the happiest party of any losing candidate in town.

Ten minutes before, in a darkened cove marked off with “press area” scribbled on a piece of paper, he told Fox News that he hadn’t been following the results too closely.

“Our purpose was to put the progressive agenda before the public,” he said. “The system is very rigged against competition.”

At the party his volunteers told of Democrats calling their headquarters and screaming into the phone, angry that Nader supporters took votes from Kerry since the independent politician wasn’t going to win anyway. But to the four-time presidential candidate and decades-seasoned social activist, that wasn’t the point.

“I think we really did have an effect on both these candidates,” said Ben Marcus, Nader’s campus campaign coordinator. He said President Bush and Sen. John Kerry wouldn’t have addressed the possibility of a draft at all if the consistently anti-war Nader campaign hadn’t pushed the issue.

A pumpkin with “Nader/Camejo” carved into it sat behind him as people trickled into the “schmooze and booze” event, as he described it. The atmosphere was relaxed, even as five TVs flickered the latest results from one of the tightest races in history. Still, supporters’ voices turned serious when it came to Nader’s core concerns of peace, anti-globalization efforts and the environment – issues they say are ignored by the two main parties.

Beyond voting, Laura Johnston didn’t even think much about politics until last year. But after reading one of Nader’s books on the political parties she decided to volunteer for the campaign. She respected his causes.

“Universal health care – I think that’s a great idea,” she said, as she sipped wine and looked up as light applause announced the tall, quiet candidate’s entrance.

However, some great ideas come at a cost. Nader became embroiled in ballot-related lawsuits in at least 16 states, including Idaho. The 3 percent of the electorate he held in 2000 had dwindled on Tuesday night. The Green Party dumped him from the ticket, and even his old running mate endorsed John Kerry.

But that didn’t stop his supporters from having a good time Tuesday.

“This is definitely not the end,” said Heather Vargas, as she manned a table full of T-shirts and mini-copies of the Constitution. She and others will continue to push the Nader agenda well after the election is over. “This is the beginning,” she said.

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email