Democratic Party Should Live Up to Its Name

Ralph Nader, in a blistering op-ed in today’s LA Times, charges that the “Democratic Party Should Live Up to Its Name.”

Though the Democrats have the right to robustly oppose my independent presidential campaign, they don’t have the right to engage in dirty tricks designed to deny millions of voters the opportunity to choose who should be the next president. But that’s what is happening. Across the country, the Democratic Party, state Democratic partisans, corporate lobbyists and law firms are making an unprecedented effort to keep the Nader-Camejo ticket off the ballot. It’s a sordid, undemocratic tactic, an affront to voters and a threat to electoral choice.

We are the only serious candidates calling for a rapid withdrawal from Iraq. We’re the only ones highlighting how corporate control of the federal government has prevented healthcare for all Americans and how it has stymied passage of a wage that full-time workers can live on, as well as focusing on a host of other crucial but ignored issues. The so-called pro-choice Democrats do not want voters to have a political choice; they want them stuck with only two candidates. Democrats and corporate lobbyists conducted training sessions during the Democratic convention to plan a national campaign to keep Nader-Camejo off the ballot in as many states as possible. Participants were told that the most effective way to discourage people from signing our ballot-access petitions was to spread the rumor that the GOP supports our campaign in hopes of diverting Democratic voters.

That’s untrue. We estimate that less than 10% of the individuals contributing $1,000 or more are Republicans, while exit polls from 2000 show that nearly 25% of Nader voters were registered Republicans. The real meddling in our campaign has come not from Republicans but from Democrats, with, as a Democratic National Committee official told me, the DNC’s approval. This includes:

̢ۢ Spoiling our ballot access convention in Oregon by filling the auditorium with Democrats to undermine the convention by swelling the numbers and then not signing the petitions.

̢ۢ Hiring corporate law firms to block our ballot efforts with litigation on frivolous technical grounds. In Arizona, 1,400 signatures were challenged because the signatories, although giving their complete address, did not include the name of their county. We could not afford to pay defense counsel and incur delays.

• Trying to exclude thousands of signatures in Illinois because the signatories had moved since registering to vote — even though they still lived in Illinois and even though they were still registered voters.

• Inappropriately using state employees, contractors and interns who work for Illinois’ Democratic speaker of the state House to review and challenge signatures on our ballot access petitions.

Nader has every right to run. While I find it somewhat amusing, it’s a bit unseemly for Republicans to spend money to get Nader on the ballot when their intent is to take votes away from Kerry. Still, this is far less problematic than efforts to deny ballot access to legitimate candidates. Some of these tactics–if true–are more than inappropriate; they’re illegal.

The Democratic party went down a dark path in 2000, taking an anything goes route in an effort to win. They won Senate races they likely would have otherwise lost in New Jersey and Missouri through last-minute substitutions and illegally keeping the polls open later in Democratic districts. They did everything they could to overturn the election results in Florida, putting the country into a holding pattern for weeks and engendering a bitterness that still persists. All indications is they’re prepared to do this again in 2004. Indeed, the Kerry campaign already has armies of lawyers lined up to litigate in case they don’t win at the polls.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. McGehee says:

    And don’t overlook the DNC’s flying monkeys going after the Swifties and the Club for Growth.

    I’m very leery of backing the Swifties’ version of events since I think it detracts from focusing on more relevant matters, but threatening to sue over political speech is not the way to discredit them.

  2. Kevin Polk says:

    The Democrats are making a mistake focusing on Nader. Ralph Nader is no Ross Perot. He will be lucky to get half the vote this year as in 2000. And this election won’t be that close.

    The DNC is wasting its time going after the swifties too. Their leaky tub is already taking on so much water that the key people providing evidence for their version are abandoning ship.

    Lt. Commander Elliott bailed out today. I’m not sure they have anyone else who was on the boat with Kerry (and thus actually witnessed the events) or who was in his immediate chain of command.

    The swifties stuff is just a baseless he-said she-said smear campaign against Kerry. They have even less factual basis than the AWOL smear against Bush, which seems bogus too.

  3. legion says:

    Here’s something I don’t understand about the whole Nader thing; maybe someone can explain it to me…

    If the GOP is spending money & time getting Nader on ballots, how is Nader not a GOP candidate? How does it not violate election laws for a political party to boost the candidacy of someone who’s not on their ticket? Taken to a not-too-unlikely extreme, doesn’t this allow a single party to (effectively) field multiple candidates for the same office?

  4. James Joyner says:

    I’m pretty sure the GOP, per se, isn’t funding Nader–just groups sympathetic to the GOP.

    Running multiple candidates isn’t illegal, although it would be a horribly counterproductive idea since it would presumably divide the vote. For all intents and purposes, two Repubicans (Reagan and Anderson) ran in 1980, 1992 (Bush 41 and Perot), 1996 (Dole and Perot), two Democrats and two Republicans in 2000 (Bush 43-Buchanan and Gore-Nader).

  5. Attila Girl says:

    Buchanan as Republican! Eeek!

    (I’m not disagreeing; I’m just grossed out.)