October 28, 2008
Nader seen as alternative for some local voters
Recent polls show third-party candidate expected to get about 3 percent of presidential vote
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
A group of SUNY Cortland seniors, from left, Carl Winter, Sara Diaz, Chrissy Rusin and Mary Papageorgiou, pose in front of a documentary Thursday about Ralph Nader, which they watched at Corey Union Exhibition Lounge. The students all plan to vote for Nader.
He hasn’t appeared in debates, and you won’t hear his campaign analyzed on “Meet the Press.” Few people have even posted his signs on their lawn.
But despite the lack of attention, some Cortland residents said they still plan to vote Ralph Nader for U.S. president on Nov. 4.
In November, Nader will appear on the ballot as an independent candidate in 45 states, including New York, and recent polls show the 74-year-old consumer advocate pulling about 3 percent of votes across the country.
SUNY Cortland campaign coordinator Carl Winter described people’s attitudes as “pretty hostile” when he tried to hand out Nader buttons and fliers on campus.
“I just try to discuss things rationally with people,” said Winter, a senior majoring in secondary education. “Because Nader doesn’t get a lot of press, it’s hard to get through people’s perceptions about what he stands for.”
Nader is a Harvard Law School graduate who lobbied Washington to pass laws, such as the Clean Air Act, the Freedom of Information Act and the Wholesome Meat Act, which mandated federal inspections of meat plants.
His campaign focuses on slashing military spending and providing more access to health care, along with slamming corporations for abusing consumers.
This year marks Nader’s fourth bid for president, with the most controversial campaign occurring in 2000, when Democrats blamed Nader for taking votes from the party and allowing George W. Bush’s victory.
In 2004, Nader received less than 0.5 percent of votes, and he probably won’t get as many votes as seen in the polls, said Richard Semiatin, an assistant professor of government at American University.
“He has zero chance of winning, and he probably won’t get enough votes to make a difference on whether the Democrats or Republicans win,” said Semiatin, who conducts research on electoral campaigns.
But local Nader supporters said that does not make a difference in how they will vote.
Brendan McGovern of Woodcrest Drive in Cortland said he began supporting Nader after hearing him speak in 1996. Four years later, McGovern registered with the Green Party to work in Nader’s campaign office in New York City.
McGovern said he agreed with Nader on other presidential candidates being too connected to corporations.
“They’re indebted to businesses and not the American people,” McGovern said, adding that he planned to vote for Nader even if he doesn’t win.
Winters said he encourages people not to think of a vote for a third party candidate as “wasting” a ballot.
“If nothing else, (these votes) will show the state’s conscious when the popular vote is analyzed later,” Winter said. “It might not seem like much now, but (these votes) will say something about our state in historical context.”
With major news media outlets focusing on the Democrats and Republicans, Nader is not taking the lack of attention lightly. On Saturday, he attempted to break a Guinness world record by speaking at 21 different locations in Massachusetts over the course of twenty-four hours. He’ll hold the record if Guinness officials determine that he spoke for at least 10 minutes in front of 10 people not related to his campaign at each stop.
“Obama is going to win,” the Boston Globe reported Nader saying at one of these stops. “But we can start building a third party now.”
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