Largest Green Rally of 2000

9.23.00 | MINNEAPOLIS -- Green Party organizers had sold only 3,000 tickets by Wednesday for a Friday night rally for Ralph Nader at the Target Center. Still, they decorated the stage with bales of hay, pumpkins, cornstalks and other colorful symbols of Minnesota's fall harvest. They set up folding tables in the lobby with handwritten signs reading "Cash, Credit Cards, Checks." And they piled Nader/LaDuke lawn signs by the exit doors, hoping that enough people would show up to take them home. So they were nearly beside themselves when close to 12,000 people poured into the stadium, paying seven dollars each to hear Nader's message of radical political reform.

The crowd was the largest to see Nader during his presidential campaign, topping a rally in Portland last month that drew 10,500 paying supporters.

As the crowd roared "Let Ralph debate!" Nader attacked the entrenchment of the two-party system and said his campaign "is about removing the giant boulder on the highway to democracy that is the dirty corporate money in politics." Moving methodically through a laundry list of social issues, he received the biggest applause when supporting gay rights, environmental justice, trade unions and military budget cuts.

Nader veered off the policy discussion to talk about his now-famous campaign commercial, a parody of a MasterCard commercial which led to a lawsuit by the credit card giant. He called the lawsuit "one of the great corporate blunders of the last twenty years" and laughed that the company charged him with a violation of their copyright on the word "priceless," which played into the commercial. He said his office received a flurry of cut-up MasterCards from around the country after the lawsuit was filed.

Preceding Nader was his vice presidential running mate Winona LaDuke, a Harvard-educated economist, social activist and Native American who lives in Minnesota. LaDuke invoked Native American philosophies about protecting the earth, and in a jab at a controversy over Democratic political donors sleeping in the White House, said that under her vice presidency "any descendent of a slave who built the White House can stay in the Lincoln Room."

Former talk show host Phil Donahue introduced Nader as "the most important private citizen of the 20th Century," while filmmaker Michael Moore confronted the concern of many liberal voters that a vote for Nader will help Republican George W. Bush defeat Democrat Al Gore.

"A vote for Gore is a vote for Bush, a vote for Bush is a vote for Gore," said Moore, who recently directed a Rage Against the Machine music video that depicted Bush and Gore as two halves of a single alien creature. A vote for Nader is a political Molotov; throw that Molotov into these elections!"

Annie Young, an emcee of the event and board member of the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Department, was delighted with the turnout and credited it to the state's traditional political bent. "Minnesota has always been known for its progressive politics. We had (Gov.) Floyd B. Olson, we had (Gov.) Elmer Anderson. Even (Gov.) Hubert Humphrey who pushed civil rights," said Young. "This is a state that Senator Paul Wellstone wasn't supposed to win and Governor Ventura certainly was never ever supposed to win. I personally and most of my friends love the underdog, and we believe that anything can happen, especially in this disenfranchised society right now," she said.

People arrived from all around the state, including large contingents from Duluth, Winona and St. Cloud. Craig Schuster, a barber from Fairbow in south central Minnesota, thought that frustration over the corporate influence in politics generated much of the local support for Nader.

"The people of Minnesota have proven that by voting down the stadium issues as far as the Vikings and the Twins are concerned," Schuster said. "That's a form of corporate welfare and greed, and by saying no to them twice, I think we've sent a message to them. And I think a lot of people have turned out tonight to see that there's a party willing to do this not only on a state level, but on a national level."

Dean Zimmerman, a Minneapolis handyman and rally organizer, agreed that Nader had a particularly strong base of support in Minnesota. "Jesse Ventura was running against Hubert Humphrey and the mayor of St. Paul and was able to beat them because the people are really tired; they know that the Republicrats are bankrupt for ideas, even though they're certainly not bankrupt for money."

Even those who cannot yet vote showed up to lend their support. Zoe Corneli, a 16-year-old Minneapolis high school student, came to the rally with a dozen friends, all sporting Mohawks, pink hair, dreadlocks and piercings.

"I think he showed that even though he's old, he can still energize the youth," Corneli said. "Up until now I've been kind of reluctant to take responsibility for my opinion on the election because I know I don't really have to make the decision, but I think it's important to take a stance anyway."

The Minneapolis event was the last stop in a three-day "Non-Voter Tour," which stopped in six cities with the goal of galvanizing people who have never voted before. One such non-voter, twenty-two year old Matthew Buell, a University of Minnesota history student, said that the Target Center rally insured he will vote this November for his first time.

"I didn't vote in the last presidential election for the express reason that I didn't believe in either of the candidates," said Buell. "I think Ralph is the real thing; you can tell that he's doing it for the people."

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