Nader's Texas Two-step

News & Politics

AUSTIN, Texas -- Ralph Nader's delicate balancing act between risk-free party building and purposeful election-spoiling came to George W. Bush country Tuesday, for the first leg of a short "Don't Waste Your Vote" tour through states where the presidential race is safely one-sided.

The Green Party candidate collected some Reform Party endorsements, stepped up his attacks on the Texas governor and tried to convince Al Gore supporters to switch their votes to help build a progressive Third Party movement at a series of engagements culminating in a rousing paid rally of 5,000 supporters in the state capital.

Though the focus was on mobilizing disaffected voters and persuading liberal Democrats that they "have no reason to vote for Gore in this state, because he's gone, he has no chance," Nader did not shy away from previous statements that a Bush victory might give the Left the motivation it needs to reinvigorate its political approach.

"We're going to decide this election," Nader told an Austin press conference with a mischievous grin. "This election between Bush and Gore will be decided by the Green Party. ... The one that loses is going to have to rethink what they've been doing all these years."

If Nader has a tangible effect in close races in states such as Missouri, Oregon and Michigan, it will be the Democratic Party that loses ... along with those who believe a Bush administration would be disastrous on issues like abortion rights. As has been his style, Nader sought to reassure those Democrats, even while sounding a clear warning to their party.

"They say they're not losing any sleep over the Green Party candidacy. If they're not losing any sleep over the Green Party candidacy, why should anybody else?" he said. "Slumber on, Al Gore, slumber on."

Earlier, Nader reiterated the claim that his campaign is "the only candidacy that carries the torch of reform" for "those millions of voters who voted for Ross Perot, and Bill Bradley and John McCain." Three former Texas Reform Party leaders backed that concept at Dallas' Richland College with their support, which, judging by their comments, had more to do with his anti-corporate and anti-trade positions than his commitment to campaign finance reform.

"Mr. Nader ... and the Reform Party are both agreed on basic principles regarding trade, opposition to (trade agreements and organizations such as) NAFTA, GATT and the WTO," said Paul Truax, founder of the state's Reform Party. "I am in complete agreement with Ralph Nader in opposition to globalization and the corporatization of the world."

Nader, who spends the bulk of his time bashing Gore and the "New Democrats," used his visit as an opportunity to get some extra blows in on Bush. He accused the Republican governor of hypocrisy in enforcing unforgiving drug laws, crowned him "the corporate welfare king of all presidential candidates" for the way he converted his name and a tax-financed stadium project to make more than $14 million on the sale of his chunk of the Texas Rangers baseball team, and further claimed that under "Dubya's" watch, Texas has sunk to the "lowest ten percent" among states in "96 out of 150" categories of key social indicators.

"Dubya Bush has been saying around the country he's going to do to America what he's done to Texas!" Nader told a booing Austin crowd. "You know, I don't know what he has against Texas."

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