Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader said Saturday that neither major party candidate is addressing what he sees as some of the nation’s most serious problems: poverty, the war on drugs, corporate abuse, and ending the war in Iraq.
He addressed an audience of about 200 supporters inside the First Unitarian Church at 2125 Chestnut St. He laid out his platform and criticized the two-party system and excessive corporate power in the United States.
Nader, who is battling legal efforts to keep his name off the ballot in Pennsylvania, challenged the “anybody but Bush” mentality that is held by many Democrats and progressives. He said that Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry has engaged in “protective imitation” to avoid being seen as too different from President Bush.
“Nobody likes to be occupied,” said Nader. “It’s a humiliating, brutalizing experience. The withdrawal of our military and corporate forces from Iraq must be done if we’re going to expect the mainstream Iraqis who want their country back to distance themselves from the insurgency.”
He called for continued humanitarian aid to Iraq, internationally monitored elections and an abandonment of Bush administration plans to build several U.S. military bases in Iraq, saying that such bases would create a feeling of “permanent occupation” for Iraqis.
Nader also advocated a peaceful, two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and condemned all forms of racism against Jews and Arabs.
The size of the venue and number of people in attendance were a sharp contrast from what one could expect during Nader’s 2000 campaign for president, when one of his “super-rallies” filled Madison Square Garden in New York City.
This year, liberals and progressives are more cautious about supporting Nader because of the slim margin by which Bush won the election in 2000 and their perception that Nader’s candidacy helped Bush secure that victory.
The announcement that Nader would run for president this year was met with bitter outrage from the Democrats and little enthusiasm among most who supported him in 2000.
“I’ll be voting for Kerry,” said Dan Leonard of Newtown, Pa. “But Nader’s the real person to look to. He’s the wave of the future.”
Disappointed with the major parties, some voters are still backing Nader.
“He’s the only person who talks about concrete ideas, like a living wage,” said Bertha Braddock, a resident of Hawaii who plans on voting for Nader. “People call him a radical, but these are basic things. Healthcare is a basic right. Education is a basic necessity.”
After making the speech and taking some questions from the audience, Nader sat down to autograph copies of his recent book, Crashing the Party.
Ralph Nader is currently on the ballot in 22 states and will campaign in all 50 states until the Nov. 2 election.
John Titlow can be reached at email@example.com.