News Analysis

Jim Carpenter spearheaded the petition drive to place Ralph Nader on the Wisconsin ballot as the Green Party’s presidential nominee in 2000.

This year Carpenter is flatly opposed to Nader’s decision to run for president as an independent, a race that is certain to be seen as “Nader’s Folly.”

Carpenter, a teacher of economics at a Milwaukee community college, is active in the presidential campaign of Dennis Kucinich, the progressive Ohio lawmaker.

“The best way to advance a progressive agenda is to support Dennis Kucinich,” Carpenter told the World. “Kucinich does not create the problem of splitting the vote in November. The focus has to be on removing George W. Bush from the White House. He turns out to be a lot more dangerous than we realized in 2000. We can have a debate on where we need to go as a nation and still unite around the goal of defeating Bush in November.”

Jim Baldridge, a Baltimore health care worker, agreed with that view of Kucinich’s positive role. Baldridge received 2,351 votes running as a Kucinich delegate in Maryland’s Super Tuesday Democratic primary. He told the World, “I was attracted by Kucinich’s stand against the Iraq war starting with his vote in Congress against the war resolution and his 10-point plan to end the occupation, to bring the UN in, and bring U.S. troops home.”

Kucinich and Vermont Gov. Howard Dean campaigned for eight months as peace candidates, arguably the main arena for peace activity since the end of the huge peace demonstrations a year ago. Nader has never placed opposition to the Bush preemptive war at the heart of his program.

Mark Green, a former “Nader Raider” who ran as a Democratic mayoral candidate in New York, said he is “very disappointed” at Nader’s decision, adding, “I believe that the risk of him helping re-elect the most reactionary president in our lifetime greatly exceeds the possible benefits.”

Tens of thousands of voters logged onto a web site, “Ralph, Don’t Run,” and sent him e-mails urging him not to enter the race. Now that web site,, carries the appeal, “Don’t vote Ralph.”

The Nation magazine, a longstanding Nader supporter, sent him an open letter dated Feb. 16, that said, “Ralph, this is the wrong year for you to run: 2004 is not 2000. … George W. Bush has led us into an illegal preemptive war, and his defeat is critical. … The overwhelming mass of voters with progressive values – who are essential to all efforts to build a force that can change the direction of the country – have only one focus this year: to beat Bush.”

Nader captured 97,000 votes in Florida in 2000. If he had not been on the Florida ballot, it is virtually certain that Democrat Al Gore would have garnered most of those votes and Bush would not be in the White House. That is the basis for charges that Nader was a spoiler who helped Bush-Cheney steal the 2000 election.

In 2000, Nader’s secretive links to billionaire textile magnate Roger Milliken, “sugar-Daddy of the New Right,” surfaced. Milliken also bankrolled the ultra-right, racist Pat Buchanan presidential campaign that year.

This year, too, Nader has been caught with some strange bedfellows. Nader spoke at a conference in Bedford, N.H., sponsored by Fred Newman and Lenora Fulani, gurus of the cultist, ultra-right New Alliance Party. The title of the conference was “Choosing an Independent President, 2004.”

Nader is not running as the Green Party nominee this year and faces a daunting challenge to collect the 1.5 million signatures to put his name on the ballot in 50 states. One question is who will sign his petitions. A clue came in Nader’s appearance on ABC’s Meet the Press where he said his “outreach” will be to “conservatives and liberal Republicans.”

Leaders of the surging movement to oust Bush-Cheney cite polls showing Nader receiving 6 percent of the vote, leaving Democrat John Kerry running neck and neck with Bush. But with Nader out of the race, Kerry is several points ahead of Bush. Nader could once again be the spoiler who helps Bush steal a second term.

Tim Wheeler is the PWW Washington correspondent and can be reached at