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Ralph Nader 2000 presidential campaign

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Ralph Nader for President 2000
Ralph Nader Wiona LaDuke 2000 presidential campaign logo.gif
CampaignU.S. presidential election, 2000
CandidateRalph Nader
Founder of Public Citizen and
progressive activist

Winona LaDuke
Political activist
AffiliationGreen candidate
StatusLost election
HeadquartersWashington, DC
Key peopleWinona LaDuke
(Running mate)
(archived – May 12, 2000)
Nader speaks out against the presidential debates at Washington University in St. Louis from which he was excluded on October 17, 2000.

The 2000 presidential campaign of Ralph Nader, political activist, author, lecturer and attorney, began on February 21, 2000. He cited "a crisis of democracy" as motivation to run.[1] He ran in the 2000 United States presidential election as the nominee of the Green Party. He was also nominated by the Vermont Progressive Party[2] and the United Citizens Party of South Carolina.[3] The campaign marked Nader's second presidential bid as the Green nominee, and his third overall, having run as a write-in campaign in 1992 and a passive campaign on the Green ballot line in 1996.

Nader's vice presidential running mate was Winona LaDuke, an environmental activist and member of the Ojibwe tribe of Minnesota.

Nader appeared on the ballot in 43 states and DC, up from 22 in 1996. He won 2,882,955 votes, or 2.74 percent of the popular vote. His campaign did not attain the 5 percent required to qualify the Green Party for federally distributed public funding in the next election. The percentage did, however, enable the Green Party to achieve ballot status in many new states, such as Delaware and Maryland.[4]

Some analysis stated that Nader acted as a third-party spoiler[5][6][7][8] in the 2000 U.S. presidential election, while some statistics showed that the numbers of Democrats who voted Republican outweighed those who voted Green,[9][10][11] and Nader himself disputed the claim of being a spoiler.[12][13][14]

Nomination process

On July 9, the Vermont Progressive Party nominated Nader, giving him ballot access in the state.[15] On August 12, the United Citizens Party of South Carolina chose Ralph Nader as its presidential nominee, giving him a ballot line in the state.

The Association of State Green Parties (ASGP) organized the national nominating convention that took place in Denver, Colorado, in June 2000, at which Greens nominated Ralph Nader and Winona LaDuke to be their parties` candidates for President and Vice President, and Nader presented his acceptance speech.[16][17]

Ballot access

Nader's Ballot Access by State
  On state ballot
  Not on state ballot, eligible as write-in candidate only
  Not on State Ballot nor eligible as write-in candidate

Nader qualified to appear on the state ballot in 43 states along with the District of Columbia. In four states, Georgia, Indiana, Idaho, and Wyoming, Nader's name did not appear on the state ballot but he was eligible to receive official write-in votes that were counted. In 3 states, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and South Dakota, Nader neither appeared on the state ballot nor was he eligible to receive write-in votes.

Campaign issues

Nader campaigned against the pervasiveness of corporate power and spoke on the need for campaign finance reform. His campaign also addressed problems with the two party system, voter fraud, environmental justice, universal healthcare, affordable housing, free education including college, workers' rights and increasing the minimum wage to a living wage. He also focused on the three-strikes rule, exoneration for prisoners for drug related non-violent crimes, legalization of commercial hemp and a shift in tax policies to place the burden more heavily on corporations than on the middle and lower classes. He opposed pollution credits and giveaways of publicly owned assets. [18]

Nader and many of his supporters believed that the Democratic Party had drifted too far to the right. Throughout the campaign, Nader noted he had no worries about taking votes from Al Gore. He stated, "Isn't that what candidates try to do to one another—take votes?"[19] Nader insisted that any failure to defeat Bush would be Gore's responsibility: "Al Gore thinks we're supposed to be helping him get elected. I've got news for Al Gore: If he can't beat the bumbling Texas governor with that terrible record, he ought to go back to Tennessee."[20]

Campaign developments

Nader's supporters protest his exclusion from the debates.

The campaign staged a series of large rallies that each drew over 10,000 paying attendees, such as 12,000 in Boston.[21]

In October 2000, at the largest rally, in New York City's Madison Square Garden, 15,000 people paid $20 each to attend. Nader said that Al Gore and George W. Bush were "Tweedledee and Tweedledum - they look and act the same, so it doesn't matter which you get."[22] He denounced Gore and Bush as "the bad and the worse," whose policies primarily reflect the influence of corporate campaign contributions.[23][24] He further charged that corporate influence has blurred any meaningful distinctions between the Democratic and Republican Parties.[25]

The campaign secured some union help. The California Nurses Association and the United Electrical Workers endorsed his candidacy and campaigned for him.[26]

Nader did not appear on the ballot in some states. The Nader campaign launched an effort to challenge the inclusion criteria for the presidential debates sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates.[27]

The "spoiler" controversy

External video
video icon Booknotes interview with Nader on Crashing the Party: How to Tell the Truth and Still Run for President, February 3, 2002, C-SPAN

In the 2000 presidential election in Florida, George W. Bush defeated Al Gore by 537 votes. Nader received 97,421 votes in Florida (and Pat Buchanan and Harry Browne received 17,484 and 16,415 respectively), which led to claims that Nader was responsible for Gore's defeat. Critics[who?] rarely mention Buchanan (who should be considered due to the butterfly ballot) or Browne. Nader, both in his book Crashing the Party and on his website, states: "In the year 2000, exit polls reported that 25% of my voters would have voted for Bush, 38% would have voted for Gore and the rest would not have voted at all" (which would net a 13%, 12,665 votes, advantage for Gore over Bush).[12] Similarly, in New Hampshire, Bush won a plurality by garnering 273,559 votes, 48.07%, to Gore's 266,348 votes, 46.80%. The 22,198 votes for Nader (3.90%) was triple the margin of victory for Bush (the combined 4,372 votes for Buchanan and Browne fall below the margin of difference). If Gore had received all of Nader's NH votes, he would have won with 15,000 to spare, but if Nader's figures of 38% for Gore and 25% for Bush held true, Gore would not have carried NH. When asked about claims of being a spoiler, Nader typically points to the controversial Supreme Court ruling that halted a Florida recount, Gore's loss in his home state of Tennessee, and the "quarter million Democrats who voted for Bush in Florida."[14]

Prior to the election

As pre-election polls showed the race to be close, a group of activists who had formerly worked for Nader calling themselves "Nader's Raiders for Gore" urged their former mentor to end his campaign. They wrote an open letter to Nader dated October 21, 2000, which stated in part, "It is now clear that you might well give the White House to Bush. As a result, you would set back significantly the social progress to which you have devoted your entire, astonishing career."[28] Mainstream media noticed the publishing of the petition.[29][30][31][32]

When Nader, in a letter to environmentalists, attacked Gore for "his role as broker of environmental voters for corporate cash," and "the prototype for the bankable, Green corporate politician," and what he called a string of broken promises to the environmental movement, Sierra Club president Carl Pope sent an open letter to Nader, dated October 27, 2000, defending Al Gore's environmental record and calling Nader's strategy "irresponsible."[33] He wrote:

You have also broken your word to your followers who signed the petitions that got you on the ballot in many states. You pledged you would not campaign as a spoiler and would avoid the swing states. Your recent campaign rhetoric and campaign schedule make it clear that you have broken this pledge... Please accept that I, and the overwhelming majority of the environmental movement in this country, genuinely believe that your strategy is flawed, dangerous and reckless.[34]

Pope also protested Nader's suggestion that a "bumbling Texas governor would galvanize the environmental community as never before," and his statement that "The Sierra Club doubled its membership under James G. Watt."[35] Wrote Pope in a letter to the New York Times dated November 1, 2000:

Our membership did rise, but Mr. Nader ignores the harmful consequences of the Reagan-Watt tenure. Logging in national forests doubled. Acid rain fell unchecked. Cities were choked with smog. Oil drilling, mining and grazing increased on public lands. A Bush administration promises more drilling and logging, and less oversight of polluters. It would be little solace if our membership grew while our health suffered and our natural resources were plundered.[36]

On October 26, 2000, Eric Alterman wrote for The Nation: "Nader has been campaigning aggressively in Florida, Minnesota, Michigan, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin. If Gore loses even a few of those states, then Hello, President Bush. And if Bush does win, then Goodbye to so much of what Nader and his followers profess to cherish."[37]

In addition, the Republican Leadership Council ran pro-Nader ads in a few states in an effort to split the liberal vote.[38]

After the election

Harry G. Levine, in his essay Ralph Nader as Mad Bomber states that Tarek Milleron, Ralph Nader's nephew and advisor, when asked why Nader would not agree to avoid swing states where his chances of getting votes were less, answered, "Because we want to punish the Democrats, we want to hurt them, wound them."[22]

Moreover, syndicated columnist Marianne Means said of Nader's 2000 candidacy,

His candidacy was based on the self-serving argument that it would make no difference whether Gore or George W. Bush were elected. This was insane. Nobody, for instance, can imagine Gore picking as the nation's chief law enforcement officer a man of [John] Ashcroft's anti-civil rights, antitrust, anti-abortion and anti-gay record. Or picking Bush's first choice to head the Labor Department, Linda Chavez, who opposes the minimum wage and affirmative action.[6]

Jonathan Chait of the American Prospect said this of Nader's 2000 campaign:

So it particularly damning that Nader fails to clear even this low threshold [Honesty]. His public appearances during the campaign, far from brutally honest, were larded with dissembling, prevarication and demagoguery, empty catchphrases and scripted one-liners. Perhaps you think this was an unavoidable response to the constraints of campaign sound-bite journalism. But when given more than 300 pages to explain his case in depth, Nader merely repeats his tired aphorisms.[39]

In contrast, an analysis conducted by Harvard Professor B.C. Burden in 2005 showed Nader while did "play a pivotal role in determining who would become president following the 2000 election", but that:

Contrary to Democrats’ complaints, Nader was not intentionally trying to throw the election. A spoiler strategy would have caused him to focus disproportionately on the most competitive states and markets with the hopes of being a key player in the outcome. There is no evidence that his appearances responded to closeness. He did, apparently, pursue voter support, however, in a quest to receive 5% of the popular vote.[40]

However, Chait notes that Nader did indeed focus on swing states disproportionately during the waning days of the campaign, and by doing so jeopardized his own chances of achieving the 5% of the vote he was aiming for.

There was the debate within the Nader campaign over where to travel in the waning days of the campaign. Some Nader advisers urged him to spend his time in uncontested states such as New York and California. These states – where liberals and leftists could entertain the thought of voting Nader without fear of aiding Bush – offered the richest harvest of potential votes. But... Nader – who emerges from this account as the house radical of his own campaign – insisted on spending the final days of the campaign on a whirlwind tour of battleground states such as Pennsylvania and Florida. In other words, he chose to go where the votes were scarcest, jeopardizing his own chances of winning 5 percent of the vote, which he needed to gain federal funds in 2004.[39]

Defenders of Nader, including Dan Perkins, argued that the margin in Florida was small enough that Democrats could blame any number of third-party candidates for the defeat, including Workers World Party candidate Monica Moorehead, who received 1,500 votes.[41]

Furthermore, in an article published by on Tuesday, November 28, 2000, progressive activist Jim Hightower mentioned that in Florida, a state Gore lost by only 537 votes, 24,000 Democrats voted for Nader, while another 308,000 Democrats voted for Bush. According to Hightower, 191,000 self-described Liberals in Florida voted for Bush, while fewer than 34,000 voted for Nader.[9]

An analysis and study by Neal Allen and Brian J. Brox titled "The Roots of Third Party Voting" stated that although Nader did affect the outcome of the election by changing the outcome in Florida:

On the whole, however, our analysis of voters who support third party and independent presidential candidates suggests that these voters, in keeping with the history of third party candidacies as vehicles for protest against the two-party system, would have voted for other independent or third party candidates, or would not have voted, if Nader had not been an available alternative to Gore or Bush.[42]

Also, a study in 2002 by the Progressive Review found no correlation in pre-election polling numbers for Nader when compared to those for Gore. According to the study, most of the changes in pre-election polling reflect movement between Bush and Gore rather than Gore and Nader, and they conclude from this that Nader was not responsible for Gore's loss.[10] However, the study also targets Bill Clinton as "the individual who did the most harm to Gore (aside from himself)", a statement challenged by analysts and the press.[43][44]


Nader's vote share by county
  Not on state ballot
Note: Nader not on ballot and only eligible as write-in candidate in Georgia, Indiana, Idaho, and Wyoming

Best states

In order for the Green Party to qualify for federal funds in the next election, Ralph Nader would have needed 5% of the total popular vote. Nader did receive 5% or more of the vote in the following states/districts:[45]

Best counties

Campaign staff



Political figures



Political parties (organizations)

Political publications

  • International Socialist Review published by Center for Economic Research and Social Change[77]




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Further reading