| Citizen Ralph Nader|
Ralph Nader urged a packed auditorium at Our Lady of the Lake University to vote him into the Oval Office in November, pointing out that Democrats wouldn't be hurt since Republicans have sewed up George W. Bush's adopted state.
Responding to a heckler, Nader said that neither he nor the Greens nor the Libertarians, cost Democrat Al Gore the 2000 election - but it was Bush, his entourage from Tallahassee - Governor Jeb Bush and Secretary of State Katherine Harris - and the Supreme Court who clinched for Dubya.
Ben Benavides, who claimed to be a psychiatric therapist and OLLU graduate, charged that Nader had a "disorder" in his quest to be president of the United States. Benavides called upon him to "cease this folly," to which the crowd booed and told him to sit down.
"You're trying to deny my right to freedom of speech," Nader responded. "Texas is a slam dunk (for Bush) state. Your theory doesn't apply. Why don't you want a third party to take on the corporate government of George W. Bush?
"The only wasted vote is a vote for someone you don't believe in,' Nader added, in response to the mainstream media's charge that his candidacy would waste votes and spoil the election for Democrats. "You're free to vote your conscious because of the one-sided vote in Texas."
Jason Kafoury, a national field coordinator for Nader's presidential campaign, said a petition drive would begin March 10 to collect 66,000 valid signatures in a 60-day window. "Our goal is to get 1,000 people to commit to get 100 signatures each."
Nader said that after the 2000 election, people told him he should not have run. "But that is not acceptable. People want more voices and choices. What would happen if nature prevented seeds from sprouting? Only in politics have we accepted a duopoly."
Nader urged Benavides to "cool down a bit, relax, rejoice and watch how this candidacy unfolds ... I want to see if I can open your mind one centimeter."
Nader had arrived about 40 minutes late for his speech in Thiry Auditorium on the OLLU campus. The crowd that had gathered to hear him leapt out of their seats, cheered, and clapped as he walked to the podium.
He asked for the lights to be turned up so that he could see the audience, and began his speech by saying that one-third of the people in the United States identify themselves as independent voters.
The two traditional political parties are stuck in a routine that consists of relying on big business campaign financing, he said, with the winner going to the White House to live off a corporate payroll for four years.
"There is no serious debate of the issues," Nader charged, slamming both parties for focusing their campaigns on a handful of slogans such as tax cuts and terrorism. "We're sick of the repetition. The president should not be elected on a few slogans that are empty of content, such as 'No Child Left Behind."'
Government, Nader believes, should "represent people first, first, first, and foremost. Instead, it is a government for Exxon, General Motors and DuPont. "They don't want to be told to build safer cars. They don't want law and order," Nader said, condemning the federal government for a allotting the Justice Department with an inadequate budget "to deal with a corporate crime wave. There are not enough cops on the corporate crime beat."
Nader cited the Constitutional right of the American people to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. "The sovereignty of the people must preside over corporate power. Corporations must be our servants, not our masters."
For example, Washington elected officials are outnumbered by lobbyists who work for drug companies that benefit from drug research that is paid for by taxpayers. The public funds the drug research, and the product is given to profit-driven drug corporations that charge the highest prices in the world.
"That's what's going on in Washington. The public pays for research and development," Nader explained, suggesting that big corporations should take out advertisements in newspapers and other media on April 15, thanking the "taxpayers for their largesse."
The U.S. government should be ashamed for playing politics with national security, Nader said. He cited the example of a cook who works for one of the large corporations that have contracts to service troops in Iraq. A cook who spends six months feeding soldiers in Baghdad is earning $120,000. "I was in the Army. We cooked our own food, and we were getting $90 per month."
In a separate interview, Green Party presidential candidate David Cobb said he welcomed Nader to the race, but "didn't see the goal of the Nader camp. I haven't heard him articulate a clear goal."
Cobb announced his presidential campaign run earlier this year. At the time, he said that he would run against Nader if he also sought the Green Party's nomination. Cobb also said he would drop out of the presidential race if Dennis Kucinich or Al Sharpton receives the Democratic nomination. With Kerry ahead in the polls and in the number of delegates, that scenario is unlikely, so Cobb will run. "I would invite Ralph to participate in a debate. The American electorate deserves to hear from us."
Additional reporting by Lisa Sorg.
| The Texas primary is Tuesday, March 9
Run-off elections, if necessary, are April 13. You can find out the names of your elected officials by clicking on a link at the Bexar County Elections Office website at www.co.bexar.tx.us/elections and typing in your street name.
This site also contains a list of Early Voting sites and sample ballots for the Republican and Democratic parties. You need Adobe Acrobat Reader to open these files.