A corporate-funded political party is attempting to censor its left-wing challengers, using slander and fear-mongering in the media, verbal and physical assault of activists, threats of jail time, and legal challenges to ballot access. We are, of course, talking about the Democratic Party and its offensive against the campaign of independent anti-war presidential candidate Ralph Nader.
The Democratic Party’s massive voter disenfranchisement campaign puts Florida Governor Jeb Bush’s 2000 election chicanery to shame.
Jim Pederson, Arizona’s Democratic Party chairman, says the party has assembled a team of lawyers to look at every single one of the signatures Nader collects. “Our first objective is to keep him off the ballot.” (Time, 5/24/04)
In Oregon, the Nader campaign first tried to qualify for the ballot by organizing a convention of 1,000 people to sign a petition. However, the Democratic Party infiltrated the auditorium with people hostile to Nader who occupied enough seats that actual Nader supporters had to be turned away. Then they all refused to sign the petition, leaving Nader 50 signatures short.
This maneuver forced the Nader campaign to try to qualify again but this time they had to collect 15,000 signatures. The Democrats responded by hiring a law firm to send letters to Nader petitioners stating that they were “under investigation” for fraud on the petitions.
The Democrats even went as far as to send two of their stooges to the house of an elderly Nader petitioner. They tried to frighten her into submission by informing her that she was under investigation, facing possible jail time for not filling out her forms correctly. Of course, all her forms were in compliance.
In Maine, the Democratic Party has taken out a series of ads urging ordinary Democrats to harass Nader petitioners.
In Massachussets, Nader fell short of the required 14,694 valid signatures by only 550. In this state, the Democrats used a law that disqualified signatures collected by an ex-felon. Perhaps this is why the Democratic Party did not fight more against the use of ex-felon lists to disenfranchise African Americans in Florida.
The Democrats’ attacks on Nader have made the already undemocratic ballot access system even more exclusive to minor parties and independent candidates. North Carolina, for example, requires a prohibitive 100,000 valid signatures, but the standards of what constitutes a valid signature are so strict that in effect 200,000 signatures are required!
Since Nader refuses to accept corporate donations, the campaign does not have the deep pockets necessary to hire expensive lawyers to challenge the Democrats’ legal tricks.
Using “527 organizations,” a campaign finance loophole, the Democratic Party has set up an organization called the National Progress Fund with the sole purpose of discrediting Nader’s campaign. Its wealthy backers financed a series of four TV ads claiming that supporting Nader helps Bush. One ad attempted to smear Nader as a tool for Bush’s campaign, citing Republican donations to his campaign. The irony of these ads is that millions of dollars are being spent to undermine a campaign that does not have enough money to run any TV ads of its own.
In reality, only 4% of Nader’s contributions ($54,000) come from people who have also donated to Republicans. However, these same individuals donated $66,000 to Kerry’s campaign.
25% of Nader’s votes in 2000 came from registered Republicans. Nader cannot be expected to perform a lie detector test on each contributor to see if they are working-class Republicans or wealthy fat cats cynically trying to hurt the Democrats by helping Nader.
The Democrats hypocritically scream bloody murder about Nader’s donations, yet they rake in hundreds of millions of dollars from giant corporations that control their party, sometimes from the very same corporations that donate to Republicans. Kerry’s campaign, like his 20-year career in the Senate, is soaked in corporate cash.
Another fabricated rumor is that Nader’s signature gatherers are paid by the Republican Party. If the Republicans really wanted to put Nader on the ballot, he would be on in all 50 states already.
In reality, the corporate media devotes its entire Nader coverage to these few Republican troublemakers. The media’s attitude towards Nader is best described by the screaming headline on the front cover of The Stranger (Seattle) newspaper’s February 26 edition: “RALPH NADER IS A MEGALOMANIACAL ASSWIPE.” This article was literally a web of lies, exaggerations, and character assassinations.
The media offensive has tapped into ordinary people’s fear of the Bush administration, whipping up a vitriolic hysteria against the Nader campaign. Nader petitioners have been harassed, intimidated, and in a few cases assaulted. Frenzied reactions like this demonstrate the power big business has over elections, the media, and both major political parties.
Presidential candidates used to be required to only poll 5% to be allowed to participate in the televised presidential debates. But after Ross Perot ran for President on the Reform Party ticket, winning 19% of the vote, the Commission on Presidential Debates, which is controlled by the Democratic and Republican parties, decreed that candidates must poll 15% in five consecutive polls, systematically excluding minor party and independent candidates.
What are the Democrats and Republicans afraid of? Do they think we are not smart enough to make up our own minds, so they must limit the debate to two candidates who agree on key issues like the war in Iraq, corporate globalization, tax cuts for the rich, and the Patriot Act? What would happen if Nader were allowed to make his case to an audience of tens of millions for free national healthcare, an end to the war, a living wage, and taxing the rich instead of working people? Perhaps that is what they are afraid of.