2004: Ralph Nader

PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN & ELECTIONS

AMERICAN HISTORY REFERENCE

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

2004 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: RALPH NADER

Ralph Nader, an activist, writer and lawyer made his fourth run for the presidency in the 2004 campaign. He has in total run five times for the presidency before retiring. Previously Nader ran as a write-in candidate in the 1992 New Hampshire primary, and then the Green Party’s candidate in 1996 and 2000, his last campaign was in 2008 as an independent. In 1996, Nader received less than 1 percent of the vote, but in 2000, he received nearly 3 percent and 97,421 votes.

 

Nader was born in Winsted, Connecticut in 1934 to Greek Orthodox Christian parents originally from Lebanon. Nader graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University in 1955, continuing for a law degree at Harvard Law School where he graduated in 1958. Prior to his presidential campaigns, Nader was known most of all for his “automobile safety activism.” A passion that began as a law student and culminated in a book Unsafe at Any Speed published in 1965 arguing the auto industry did not make cars safe for consumers, which resulted in government action, and enacting of safety measures. Afterwards Nader continued his consumer protection activism and created numerous non-profit organizations.[1]

 

In the 2000 presidential campaign, he served as a spoiler to Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore, because Republican George W. Bush won over Gore with only 537 votes, Democrats believed Nader’s over 91,000 votes could have altered the elections results. Nader explained in his book Crashing the Party that “In the year 2000, exit polls reported that 25% of my voters would have voted for Bush, 38% would have voted for Gore and the rest would not have voted at all.”[2]

 

Nader’s impact in 2004 was less noteworthy; third parties candidates’ impact in the 2004 presidential campaign was minimal at best including Nader’s campaign. Robert E. Denton, Jr. explained in his book The 2004 Presidential Campaign: A Communication Perspective that “Democrats united behind [John] Kerry, and Ralph Nader’s campaign never became a significant factor.[3] The only significant issue about his campaign was his fight to have his name on the ballot.

 

Nader’s first action in the 2004 campaign was “a 27-point “Spirit of the Common Good” agenda” which he submitted on October, 30, 2003 to the Democratic and Republican Party looking for their reactions. Nader then launched “a presidential exploratory committee and a website.”[4] Nader decided in 2004 he would not run as a Green Party candidate and made that announcement on December 24, 2003. Nader on February 22, 2004 announced his candidacy on NBC saying; “There’s too much power and wealth in too few hands.”[5] Nader also cited the “lack of substantive response from both the DNC and the RNC to important subjects and necessities facing Americans.”[6]

 

Democratic nominee John Kerry met with Nader on May 19, 2004 for over an hour, hoping to convince him to support his campaign and not continue his run that year, even though he did not explicitly ask Nader to run nor did they discuss the War in Iraq.[7] Nader particularly wanted “corporate welfare, corporate crime,” and “labor reform” to figure prominently in Kerry’s campaign, two issues important to Republicans and one that could be used against Bush.[8]

 

Nader faced opposition from former supporters and the Democratic Party, who found preventing Bush’s re-election more important than Nader’s campaign, they were concerned Nader would only spoil Kerry’s campaign. Former members of the “Nader 2000 Citizens Committee” created “Greens for Kerry,” and they issued a letter on September 14 calling for Nader supporters and Green Party members to “support for Kerry/Edwards in all swing states,” stating that “removing George W. Bush from office should be the top priority in the 2004 presidential election.” Even Nader’s former running mate Winona LaDuke endorsed Kerry on October 13, 2004.[9]

 

Although, he did not want to run for the Green Party ticket Nader hoped they would still nominate him at their convention. To appeal to the party Nader announced on June 21 that his Vice Presidential running mate would be Peter Miguel Camejo Guanche, a political activist of “Venezuelan descent,” who primarily associated himself with Socialist Workers Party earlier in his life and later on with the Green Party.[10] The Green Party shunned Nader and chose David Cobb as their nominee however, on May 12, the Reform Party endorsed Nader’s ticket.[11]

 

Democrats tried to convince Nader drop out if the race including Chairman of the Democratic National Committee Terry McAuliffe, who publicly stated that if Nader continued his campaign making sure Bush was voted in for a second term would tarnish his career and legacy.[12] Nader fought back stating; “Voting for a candidate of one’s choice is a Constitutional right, and the Democrats who are asking me not to run are, without question, seeking to deny the Constitutional rights of voters who are, by law, otherwise free to choose to vote for me.”[13][14]

 

Nader’s campaign manager Theresa Amato, later revealed that McAuliffe also try to pay-off Nader into not campaigning in battleground states to help Kerry’s campaign, which Nader also refused.[15] In 2009 Nader recounted; “Terry McAuliffe is slipperier than an eel in olive oil.”[16] Supposedly, money that Nader did not refuse was donations, United Progressives for Victory revealed on October 26 that Nader received money particularly from wealthy Republican and Bush supporters and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, who wanted Nader to serve as a spoiler to Kerry’s campaign.[17] Despite urgings from Democrats, including McAuliffe and his running mate Camejo, Nader did not return any donations no matter the origins or reasons behind them.[18]

 

In an interview with ABC News’ Good Morning America, Nader admitted that he hoped his campaign in 2004 would achieve the same spoiler status as in 2000; “We’re trying to get as many votes as possible, which means we’re going into states that are characterized as safe states, battleground states and states that fall in between.”[19]  Nader focused on making personal campaign appearances only in battleground states. Not only did Nader want to be a spoiler for the two major party candidates, he stated that his “long-range goal is to break up the two parties,” Nader called the two-party system “a menace and subversion of our democratic processes and it’s basically sold our elections and our government to commercial interests.”[20]

 

Nader expressed the main issues of his campaign were “political reform, economic reform, getting out of Iraq, a living wage for families.” Ending the War in Iraq was the most important issue to Nader, and he considered both President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney as war criminals for starting the war.[21]

 

Although he personally was running as an independent, Nader appeared in certain states as the candidate for smaller third parties, including the Reform Party USA, Independent Party of Delaware, Independence Party, and the Peace and Justice Party. To simply access to having his name on the ballot, Nader created a new party, the Populist Party, using the same name of an earlier political party from the 1890s. [22]

 

Nader’s fight to be on the ballot consumed his campaign; he found it difficult to get enough signatures on the official petition to be placed on the ballot, his volunteers and workers were harassed, and many signatures were “disputed.” Nader blamed the Democrats for making all the difficulties, “legal challenges,” and preventing his name on the ballot, especially in battleground states. Nader called what the Democrats were doing “dirty tricks designed to deny millions of voters the opportunity to choose who should be the next president.”[23] Nader had legal fights in some states that had appeals through the court system up to the Supreme Court. [24] Nader was mounting legal battles in 21 states by September and fought until the election. The Supreme Court denied him access to the ballot in Ohio and in Oregon where the decision came after the election.

 

Nader spent a total of $4,566,037 for his campaign and legal fights to get his name put on the ballot,[25] while he raised only $3,390,009.32.[26] Nader was on the ballot in 34 states and left off in eight including, “California, Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Virginia.”[27] In the states where his ticket was off the ballot, they still allowed Nader to be included as a write-in vote. His running mate Camejo was replaced on the ballot in four states; in Alabama, New York, and Ohio by Jan D. Pierce and in Montana with Karen Sanchirico. In the end, Nader received 463,655 votes, and only 0.38 percent.[28] Nader’s showing in 2004 was the worst of his five attempts at the presidency.

 

 

Sources:

 

ABC News Reporter, “2004 Vote Profile: Ralph Nader,” ABC News, January 6, 2006 (Accessed September 16, 2014) http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/story?id=178532&page=1&singlePage=true

 

Appleman, Eric M. /Democracy in Action. 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004. “Ralph Nader-2004 Independent Candidate” George Washington University, (Accessed, September 16, 2014), http://www.gwu.edu/~action/2004/nader.html

 

An Unreasonable Man, 2006, http://www.anunreasonableman.com/

 

Burden, Barry C. “A Tale of Two Campaigns: Ralph Nader’s Strategy in the 2004 Presidential Election,” PS: Political Science and Politics, Vol. 39, No. 4 (Oct., 2006), pp. 871-874.

 

CNN Reporters, “Kerry, Nader focus on common ground in meeting,” CNN, May 19, 2004 (Accessed September 18, 2014) http://www.cnn.com/2004/ALLPOLITICS/05/19/nader.kerry/

 

Denton, Robert E. Jr. The 2004 Presidential Campaign: A Communication Perspective. Lanham, Md. : Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2005.

 

Kumar, Anita and Rosalind S. Helderman, “Nader: McAuliffe Offered Money To Avoid Key States in ’04 Race”. The Washington Post, May 9, 2009, (Accessed September 16, 2014) http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/28/AR2009052803823.html
Marinucci, Carla. “Nader defends GOP Cash,” San Francisco Chronicle, July 10, 2004 (Accessed September 16, 2014), http://www.sfgate.com/politics/article/Nader-defends-GOP-cash-Candidate-says-he-s-2742925.php

 

Leip, David. “2004 Presidential Democratic Primary Election Results.”  US Election Atlas.

http://uselectionatlas.org/RESULTS/national.php?f=0&year=2004&elect=1

 

Troy, Gil, Arthur M. Schlesinger, and Fred L. Israel, eds. 2012. “2004 Overview” History of American presidential elections, 1789-2008. New York: Facts On File. https://presidentialcampaignselectionsreference.wordpress.com/overviews/21st-century/2004-overview/  (Accessed, April 24, 2014)

 

Wikipedia contributors, “Peter Camejo,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (Accessed September 16, 2014), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Camejo

 

Wikipedia contributors, “Ralph Nader presidential campaign, 2004,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (Accessed September 16, 2014),  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ralph_Nader_presidential_campaign,_2004

 

Wikipedia contributors, “Ralph Nader,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (Accessed September 16, 2014), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ralph_Nader

 

 

[1] Wikipedia contributors, “Ralph Nader,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (Accessed September 16, 2014), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ralph_Nader

[2] Ibid.

[3] Robert E. Denton, Jr. The 2004 Presidential Campaign: A Communication Perspective. (Lanham, Md. : Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2005), p. 143.

[4] Appleman, Eric M. /Democracy in Action. 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004. “Ralph Nader-2004 Independent Candidate” George Washington University, (Accessed, September 16, 2014), http://www.gwu.edu/~action/2004/nader.html

[5] Wikipedia contributors, “Ralph Nader,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (Accessed September 16, 2014), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ralph_Nader

[6] Appleman, Eric M. /Democracy in Action. 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004. “Ralph Nader-2004 Independent Candidate” George Washington University, (Accessed, September 16, 2014), http://www.gwu.edu/~action/2004/nader.html

[7] Ibid.

[8] Wikipedia contributors, “Ralph Nader,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (Accessed September 16, 2014), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ralph_Nader

[9] Appleman, Eric M. /Democracy in Action. 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004. “Ralph Nader-2004 Independent Candidate” George Washington University, (Accessed, September 16, 2014), http://www.gwu.edu/~action/2004/nader.html

[10] Wikipedia contributors, “Peter Camejo,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (Accessed September 16, 2014), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Camejo

[11] Appleman, Eric M. /Democracy in Action. 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004. “Ralph Nader-2004 Independent Candidate” George Washington University, (Accessed, September 16, 2014), http://www.gwu.edu/~action/2004/nader.html

[12] Wikipedia contributors, “Ralph Nader,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (Accessed September 16, 2014), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ralph_Nader

[13] Ibid.

[14] An Unreasonable Man, 2006, http://www.anunreasonableman.com/

[15] Anita Kumar and Rosalind S. Helderman, “Nader: McAuliffe Offered Money To Avoid Key States in ’04 Race”. The Washington Post, May 9, 2009, (Accessed September 16, 2014) http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/28/AR2009052803823.html

[16] Ibid.

[17] Appleman, Eric M. /Democracy in Action. 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004. “Ralph Nader-2004 Independent Candidate” George Washington University, (Accessed, September 16, 2014), http://www.gwu.edu/~action/2004/nader.html

[18] Carla Marinucci, “Nader defends GOP Cash,” San Francisco Chronicle, July 10, 2004 (Accessed September 16, 2014), http://www.sfgate.com/politics/article/Nader-defends-GOP-cash-Candidate-says-he-s-2742925.php

[19] ABC News Reporter, “2004 Vote Profile: Ralph Nader,” ABC News, January 6, 2006 (Accessed September 16, 2014) http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/story?id=178532&page=1&singlePage=true

[20] Ibid.

[21] Wikipedia contributors, “Ralph Nader,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (Accessed September 16, 2014), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ralph_Nader

[22] Wikipedia contributors, “Ralph Nader presidential campaign, 2004,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (Accessed September 16, 2014),  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ralph_Nader_presidential_campaign,_2004

[23] Appleman, Eric M. /Democracy in Action. 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004. “Ralph Nader-2004 Independent Candidate” George Washington University, (Accessed, September 16, 2014), http://www.gwu.edu/~action/2004/nader.html

[24] Wikipedia contributors, “Ralph Nader presidential campaign, 2004,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (Accessed September 16, 2014),  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ralph_Nader_presidential_campaign,_2004

[25] Gil Troy, Arthur M. Schlesinger, and Fred L. Israel, eds., “2004 Overview” History of American presidential elections, 1789-2008. New York: Facts On File, 2012, (Accessed, April 24, 2014), https://presidentialcampaignselectionsreference.wordpress.com/overviews/21st-century/2004-overview/

[26] Appleman, Eric M. /Democracy in Action. 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004. “Ralph Nader-2004 Independent Candidate” George Washington University, (Accessed, September 16, 2014), http://www.gwu.edu/~action/2004/nader.html

[27] Wikipedia contributors, “Ralph Nader presidential campaign, 2004,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, (Accessed September 16, 2014),  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ralph_Nader_presidential_campaign,_2004

[28] David Leip. “2004 Presidential Democratic Primary Election Results,” US Election Atlas,

http://uselectionatlas.org/RESULTS/national.php?f=0&year=2004&elect=1

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