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Nader: Parties 'dialing for the same dollars'

Ralph Nader announced his independent candidacy for president Sunday.
Ralph Nader announced his independent candidacy for president Sunday.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Ralph Nader, a Green Party candidate for president in 2000, announced Sunday that he would again seek the presidency, this time as an independent candidate. The announcement worried Democrats, who believe that Nader cost Al Gore key votes in the close 2000 election.

Nader discussed his decision Monday with CNN anchor Judy Woodruff.

WOODRUFF: You ran four years ago. You got, what, 3 percent of the vote. Do you honestly and seriously believe that you have a real shot at winning this election this year?

NADER: Well, you know, the stock answer, it depends on the voters and the media. But there are other purposes for the campaign.

I don't think there's too much political organization behind 45 million workers who don't make a living wage in this country, or 45 million people who don't have health insurance, of which 18,000 die every year. Or there's enough organized effort to crack down on corporate crime, fraud and abuse, or [on] the environment. In other words, we need more voices, more energies, more political and civic involvement.

WOODRUFF: I hear what you're saying, but the practical effect -- if you're saying, in essence, there are other reasons, beside actually going to win this election, the practical effect is to help or hurt the other candidates. And as you know, practically every Democrat who's got vocal chords today is out there saying, "Ralph Nader, you're making a mistake."

NADER: Well, first of all, they're wrong. I mean, I've seen the assertions that New Hampshire was lost, you know, because of my vote. I got more Republican votes than Democrat in New Hampshire in 2000.

So if CNN does a poll for my supporters, and breaks them down in the next few weeks, how many come from Republicans, how many come from independents, how many come from Democrats, very few are going to come from Democrats, because the out-of-power party members come back into the fold, as Senator [John] Kerry said quite correctly two days ago.

WOODRUFF: So you're saying you think you will be drawing as many Republicans as you are Democrats in this campaign, given your positions on the issues?

NADER: Yes, because look at the overlap of concurrence here. The conservatives are furious with Bush over corporate subsidies and the energy and Medicare bill. OK? Now, I agree with that. They're furious with him over the Patriot Act and big brother and surveillance. I agree with that.

WOODRUFF: But why would they turn to Ralph Nader rather than some other conservative who's running?

NADER: Because there isn't any other conservative. They're either going to vote for an independent or stay home. And, by the way ...

WOODRUFF: But aren't they more likely to stay home, which is what a lot of analysts are saying?

NADER: They can be encouraged to stay home by an independent candidacy. You see, I can probe that area, because there's so many overlaps. They don't like the idea of Congress increasing their pay regularly. They don't like the idea of softness on corporate crime, the Enron thing. They're very upset by that. They hate the deficits that are growing.

There's a real revolt brewing in conservative circles. And then there's the liberal Democrats -- excuse me, the liberal Republicans, who never liked Bush to begin with.

WOODRUFF: Essentially, you're arguing that the White House should be worried about your candidacy. But they're not saying anything negative about it. They're saying it doesn't affect anything they're doing.

NADER: Well, that remains to be seen. But I think we have ways to take the Bush administration apart that the Democrats are either too cautious or indentured through their financial contributors [to do].

For example, President Bush is raising $200 million. Now, he's raising it from all the corporate fat cats who've got business before the Bush administration: contracts, grants, deregulation, things they want, right? Why aren't the Democrats exposing that? Because they're dialing for the same dollars. I'm not dialing for those dollars.

WOODRUFF: You endorsed Dennis Kucinich back in January.


WOODRUFF: And you said you were supporting him. What happened? He's still in the race.

NADER: Well, I still urge Democrats in the primary to support him. I've worked with him for 30 years. I would love him to be the Democratic nominee.

WOODRUFF: But what? I mean, but you've announced you're running.

NADER: It doesn't seem like he's a front-runner yet. That's the problem. The real Democrats in the progressive tradition of the Democratic Party are getting nowhere in the midst of the corporate Democrats.

WOODRUFF: We've already heard from John Kerry, John Edwards. They both have said they wish you weren't running. We've heard from any number of other Democrats.

Howard Dean just put out a statement saying -- he said, if George Bush is re-elected, all of the health, the safety, the consumer, the environmental, the open government things that you've spent your life working for, will all be undermined. And he said that the judges that the president is appointing will still be in office 50 years from now.

NADER: Agreed.

WOODRUFF: In other words, that's going to be on your shoulders.

NADER: Agreed. I think that a second front against Bush is going to be very, very effective.

By the way, Governor Dean did his best to rip into Kerry. Remember -- I mean, they ought to talk. The main thing is we need more competition, more voices and choices. We're asking for volunteers to get on the ballot in those difficult states.

And, by the way, Judy, you should see the bias in state laws against third parties, independent candidates. We've got a whole listing of the 50 states' requirements on our Web site:

WOODRUFF: But you're saying you can get beyond that. Ralph Nader, finally, all these people are saying this is all about Ralph Nader's ego, about himself, and not about the party, and not about the cause.

NADER: This is a commitment to justice, Judy. I've been working for 40 years on behalf of the health, safety and economic well-being of the American people. I don't like citizen groups being shut out by both parties in this city, corporate-occupied territory, not having a chance to improve their country.

WOODRUFF: Doesn't hurt you to hear that?

NADER: Hurt me to hear what?

WOODRUFF: That people are saying this is all about your ego?

NADER: That's because they have no other argument. You see, that's name-calling, like Governor Bill Richardson, who is a chronic speedster in his car as governor. He violates speed laws. He's probably a little irritated that I pointed that out.

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