From firstname.lastname@example.org Thu Aug 31 14:20:00 2000
Date: Wed, 30 Aug 2000 23:27:10 -0500 (CDT)
From: MichaelP <email@example.com>
Subject: The Nader Factor
The Nader factor
By Brad Knickerbocker, Christian Science Monitor,
29 August 2000 3:09 p.m. EDT
MEDFORD, Ore. - It's called the "upper left coast" - that 800-mile stretch from San
Francisco Bay to Puget Sound. And along with its spectacular scenery, it
probably has more political progressives per square mile than any place
this side of Harvard Square.
This is Ralph Nader country, the region where the fiery consumer advocate
and Green Party presidential candidate - although he has virtually no
chance of winning the White House - could make all the difference in who
"A year ago it was a whisper in the wind," says Tim Hermach, an
environmental activist in Eugene, Ore. "Now I hear a rumble, and come
November it could be a shout."
Why the Nader attraction up here?
For one thing, there's a history of labor and social activism going back
more than a century. This quadrant of the American geopolitical landscape
is synonymous with free speech (Berkeley), the remnants of hippiedom
(Humboldt County in northern California), overt dissent (the World Trade
Organization meeting in Seattle), today's version of anarchism (Eugene,
Ore.), and environmental activism throughout.
There's also a tradition of maverick politicians from Wayne Morse to Tom
McCall to Mark Hatfield to the majority on today's Seattle City Council,
who are members of the Green Party. While 19 percent of the country was
going for Ross Perot in '92, the diminutive Texas billionaire was winning
more than one-fourth of the presidential vote in this part of the country.
"Perot was a bit of a fascist, but at least he was talking common-man
talk," Hermach says.
Nader's message of environmental protection, social justice, and
grass-roots democracy resonates with many here - particularly those who
see little difference between "compassionate conservative" Republicans,
buffing a more centrist image, and the predominant New Democrats, who have
shifted their party rightward.
"Back in 1992, I was really excited about Al Gore," says Washington State
activist and author David Korten. "My wife and I sent him a substantial
campaign contribution and talked up his candidacy with our friends."
But today, Korten told the Green Party convention in June, "we are Greens
because we are no longer willing to be manipulated by a political system
in which the Republicrats present us with a nonchoice among candidates
bought and paid for with corporate money."
Dan Hamburg, a former Democratic member of Congress from northern
California who switched to Green, echoes many Nader supporters when he
says, "I'm tired of the Democratic Party taking us for granted."
Gore may have gotten a post-convention bounce in the polls, but with Nader
running a full-blown campaign this year (as opposed to his desultory
effort in 1996), the vice president could be in trouble out here.
Political analyst Charles Cook includes Oregon and Washington as among the
dozen states "too close to call."
"In closer presidential contests, like this one,... tiny states, which
carry disproportional weight in the Electoral College, become a factor,"
he says. "It's tempting to completely dismiss (Reform Party hopeful
Patrick) Buchanan, and for that matter, Green Party candidate Ralph Nader
as insignificant factors in this race. But if this is going to be a really
close race, small things could be important."
Still, some observers throw a spray of cold, north Pacific water on the
Nader phenomenon. Citing the historical record of other left-wing
candidates such as Henry Wallace in 1948 and Eugene McCarthy 20 years
later, Oregon State University political scientist William Lunch says,
"It's an interesting phenomenon which will dissipate and go away as we get
closer to the election."
"In the short run, this is fun and it's a nice diversion," he adds. "But
in the long run, it's a footnote to our real politics."
For the moment, however, the Nader movement is very much abuzz in the
This past weekend, Nader packed a political rally in Portland. More than
10,000 people paid $7 each to attend, a larger group than any that has
come out to see either George Bush or Al Gore - including their
Nader's running mate is a big draw in this part of the country as well.
She's Winona LaDuke, a native American author and activist from Minnesota
who grew up in Ashland, Ore., graduated from Harvard in economics, and in
1994 was named by Time magazine as one of America's 50 most-promising
Many supporters feel as Steve Traisman of Ashland does: "If you vote for
the lesser of two evils, you still end up with evil." Traisman voted for
the Clinton-Gore ticket four years ago. But today he says he's fed up with
the major-party candidates and says, "I feel that Ralph Nader is the only
honest man that's ever run for president."
As the Democrats' vice presidential candidate, Joseph Lieberman, with his
pro-business record, could make things even tougher for Gore in this area.
And the "don't waste your vote and get Bush elected" argument put forth by
Democratic officials doesn't necessarily play here.
That's because there's a school of thought among such Nader supporters as
environmental guru David Brower that, between Gore and Bush, it may be
better to end up with the Texan. That would set the stage for a strong
third party, while driving the Democrats back toward their more
Lunch notes this "the worse, the better" strategy was followed by the
German Communist Party in 1932 before Adolf Hitler came to power.
"It's kind of a crap shoot ... dangerous when you look at Bush's record,"
concedes Hamburg, the former congressman. "Gore's a little better, but is
he that much better?"
Both major-party candidate teams are spending lots of time here.
Republican vice presidential nominee Richard Cheney was in southern Oregon
a few days ago, making his pitch in rural areas - to farmers, ranchers,
loggers, and mill workers who oppose the Clinton-Gore environmental record
of resource preservation.
With those folks going for the GOP and many enviros disappointed with the
Clinton-Gore record and favoring Nader, it could be a long campaign for
Gore-Lieberman in the Pacific Northwest.