October 2, 2000
MARGARET WARNER: Now, more on Ralph Nader's impact in the presidential campaign. Lee Hochberg of Oregon Public Broadcasting reports on the Nader factor in the Pacific Northwest.
SPOKESMAN: ...An American who's not for please welcome Ralph Nader. (Cheers and applause )
LEE HOCHBERG: Ralph Nader strode onto the stage in Seattle recently to an ardent outpouring.
GROUP CHANTING: Let Ralph debate! Let Ralph debate!
LEE HOCHBERG: 10,000 supporters demanded Nader's third-party candidacy be treated as seriously as those of Vice President Al Gore and Governor George Bush, that he be allowed into the presidential debates. For two hours, the young and the old hung on Nader's every word.
RALPH NADER: We need to spend more time an resource waging peace, not just spending billions preparing for war against no known enemy! ( Cheers and applause )
LEE HOCHBERG: They rose from their seats after each angry assault on the nation's political and corporate elite.
RALPH NADER: Corporations are artificial entities. They are not human beings. They should not have all the rights that we have and the privileges and immunities that we can never have because they're not real human beings.
LEE HOCHBERG: Nationwide, Nader is polling only 3%, but he's stronger in several Northeast states, Wisconsin, and Alaska, and he's especially strong in the Pacific Northwest, drawing 6% in Washington State and 8% in Oregon. With Gore and Bush running neck and neck in these typically Democratic states, he could siphon enough liberal votes to tip the states to Bush. ( Protesters chanting ) He's generated passion among some of the same groups that protested the World Trade Organization in the streets of Seattle last November, supporters of the consumer, environmental, and human rights movements, death penalty opponents, labor and anti-globalism activists.
RALPH NADER: There are people in the Northwest who don't like corporate globalization. All these are unique positions that are either ignored by Bush-Gore or they have the opposite position that's not very popular with these people.
RALPH NADER: I submit --
LEE HOCHBERG: Nader's strategy is to attack both the Democratic and Republican Parties and attract voters disaffected by politics as usual. He hammered away his belief that both parties have fallen captive to corporate interests.
RALPH NADER: Politicians move to reelect themselves by selling their government to the highest bidders, and this is serious, very serious stuff. I mean, in any sane society, this would be an act of treason. It wouldn't just be bribery, it wouldn't be just extortion, it would be an act of treason. ( Cheers and applause )
LEE HOCHBERG: The message plays in his national TV spot.
SPOKESMAN: ...$1,000 a plate. Campaign ads filled with half- truths: $10 million. Promises to special interest groups: Over $10 billion. Finding out the truth: Priceless.
LEE HOCHBERG: The campaign spent $1 million on air time, funded by contributions averaging $100 apiece. It's 1/30th of what the Gore-Bush campaigns have spent.
RALPH NADER: On the real, important issues of corporate power, the only difference between Gore and Bush is the velocity with which their knees hit the floor when big corporations knock on their door
SPOKESMAN: First, that our government is irretrievably corrupt.
LEE HOCHBERG: The anti-corporate, anti-two- party message has played exceedingly well in the Northwest. Young people like these at a Nader gathering in a Portland restaurant believe corporations control America, and hope Nader will fight them.
WOMAN: I want to have the assurance that the things that I live my life next to and via-- my clothing, my hair-styling products, you know, my food-- that all of this is created responsibly, and that the people who created this for me are treated well, and I don't have any of that assurance right now.
LEE HOCHBERG: While the Nader message targets corruption in both parties, his supporters hit Gore especially hard on environmental issues.
SPOKESMAN: It's about time the environmental community stood up and said, "we've had enough o your lies." I mean, Gore has been a disgrace
LEE HOCHBERG: At a neighborhood gathering in Eugene, Oregon, the leader of a group called Environmentalists Against Gore pushed Nader's plan to end logging in public forests
SPOKESMAN: I know the Clinton-Gore record on the environment, and without exception on the environment, every time they touched it and told me they were saving it, the were trashing it.
LEE HOCHBERG: Arguments like that resonate with former Gore supporters who say that during the Clinton/Gore administration the timber industry continued to carve Oregon's lush forests into patchwork quilts. ( Phone rings ) The Gore/Lieberman campaign dismisses the Nader environmentalists as unrealistic; the campaign notes the administration's forest plan put 85% of national forest land off limits to logging, and that the Sierra Club has endorsed the Vice President. Spokesman Bill Arthur:
BILL ARTHUR: Environmentalists against Gore in fact do represent a very small and narrow segment of the environmental community that have long been frustrated and... with the political process, don't like working in the political arena, don't like working with the political process, and the reality is, that's what America is made of.
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: And there's no greater treasure than this pristine stretch of the Columbia River.
LEE HOCHBERG: Gore has been a fixture in the Northwest throughout his vice presidency, often coming to deal with environmental issues.
MUSIC PLAYING: Here's to the keen men in the ground in Rome. Here's to the workers of the fields...
LEE HOCHBERG: On campaign visits, he's continued that focus, also emphasizing health care and prescription drug costs.
VICE PRESIDENT AL GORE: We the people of this country can have a prescription drug benefit if we're willing to fight for it. ( Cheers and applause )
LEE HOCHBERG: He largely has ignored Nader and Nader's call for universal health care. His campaign says voter interest in Nader will wane as Gore pounds harder on the real differences between himself and Bush.
SPOKESMAN: I think that there was kind of somewhat of a summer flirtation that went on in some quarters, but I think also as we march towards election day, more and more people recognize that there's only going to be one of two people that are going to be President of the United States. It's either going to be Candidate Bush or it's going to be Vice President Al Gore.
LEE HOCHBERG: The Bush campaign says it's not worried about Nader either. Bush has stayed with his conservative, anti-government themes in several trips to Oregon and Washington.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH: Our governments ought to trust local people to make the right decisions for the communities in which they live.
LEE HOCHBERG: The governor believes Nader voters will peel away a crucial slice of Gore's support in the Northwest.
RALPH NADER: Are all of you going to try to each bring in 40 votes by November?
LEE HOCHBERG: There is the question of how many of Nader's supporters, like these 10,000 who came to a recent rally in Portland, will actually vote for Nader in November.
SUPPORTERS: (Chanting) We want Carter! We want Carter! We want Carter!
LEE HOCHBERG: Oregon voters have hurt major candidates before by embracing third-party candidates. In 1976, Jimmy Carter lost the state to Republican Gerald Ford when 40,000 voters cast ballots for independent Eugene McCarthy, but political observers say this year as many as one-half of Nader's supporters will go back to Gore if a Bush victory seems possible. University of Washington Professor David Olson:
DAVID OLSON: If they see their protest leading to the Bush presidency with conservative appointees and with policies that favor gun advocates and privatization of Social Security and health care, they're quite rational, and they will stay at home within the Democratic Party.
LEE HOCHBERG: On the streets of the Northwest, some voters say they've already decided to do that.
VOTER: I don't want to take any votes away from Gore because I would not like to see Bush in there.
RALPH NADER: I wouldn't be running if I was worried about Al Gore being entitled to votes. We all have to earn our votes.
LEE HOCHBERG: Nader says it would be shortsighted for voters to avoid him for fear of aiding Bush.
RALPH NADER: When you engage in tactical voting, you will be trapped in legitimizing the decay of the two parties every four years.
SPOKESMAN: Al Gore may be bad, but George W. Bush is worse.
LEE HOCHBERG: Nader derisively chides Bush, but he says a Bush presidency might actually galvanize his movement. Environmentalist Tim Hermach agrees.
TIM HERMACH: We would fight Bush if he tries to do stupid things. We aid and abet or at least allow Clinton and Gore to do worse things.
LEE HOCHBERG: Attitudes like that suggest the Democrats will have a tough time winning back all of the Nader supporters. Pollster Tim Hibbits found half of Nader's backers in Oregon have never voted for the major parties or have soured on them and wouldn't vote at all if Nader weren't running.
TIM HIBBITS: A significant slice of the Nader voters, the gore people can talk to them till they're blue in the face, and it isn't going to make any difference. They I think are lost, what I would describe as lost to the two major parties for this election.
LEE HOCHBERG: It's likely Nader will hold on to at minimum 2% to 4% of his voters in the region. Whatever effect that has on the election, he hopes it forces Gore and the Democratic Party to the left. (Cheers and applause ) His nationwide revenge of the non-voter tour, which took him through Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota before coming to Seattle, seems to have energized his fledgling Green Party.
SPOKESMAN: The Green Party's going to be more familiar after the year 200 and it will assist the green par in what it does best, which is n a top-down campaign for the presidency, but it's a bottom-up campaign for school boards, for city council, for state legislature.
RALPH NADER: Go on and build the might progressive political movement that history will record as having done it and done it right for a change! Thank you! ( Cheers and applause )
LEE HOCHBERG: Nader's Northwest campaign could help decide who leads the country for the next four years, but his real impact may be to add to the choices voters have for many years after that.