Election 2000: Third party may swing election

While no third-party candidate has ever won a presidential election, outsiders sometimes play an important role influencing which party steps into the White House.

This third-party scenario may significantly affect the outcome of this year’s election. The campaign of Green Party candidate Ralph Nader, some worry, could take away vital votes from Democratic candidate Al Gore.

I am worried about Nader, said sophomore Brett Kaplan, a Democrat. He might take the essential votes away from Gore, and hand the election over to Bush.

GW political science professor Larry O’Rourke said Nader’s candidacy has impacted Gore’s campaign the most.

Nader has no doubt forced Al Gore to run a different kind of campaign than he would otherwise, O’Rourke said. In past elections, Gore chose to position himself as a New Democrat, championing a moderate agenda that included downsizing and reinventing the government. His rhetoric has taken on a more populist tone in this campaign, emphasizing the role of the government as a check on the excesses of corporate power.

GW students have come out in large numbers to support Nader. Students for Nader, headed by sophomore Bernard Pollack, took 50 GW students by bus to the Nader Super Rally in New York City last month and organized a rally with about 50 students at the Commission on Presidential Debates to demand including Nader in the dabates.

The goal for this election is to be able to get enough of the vote to run a competitive Green Party campaign in 2004, to help develop a real grass-roots party, building it from the ground up, Pollack said.

Gore supporters said they worry this might be the first time a third-party candidate sways the outcome of the presidential election since Theodore Roosevelt earned 27 percent of the popular vote in 1912, running for the Progressive Party. Roosevelt topped Republican incumbent William Howard Taft, but lost to Democrat Woodrow Wilson.

The Republicans seems to be taking note, going as far as sponsoring ads that support Nader’s campaign in Oregon – a state closely contested by Democrats and Republicans where Nader has strong support, according to an Oct. 28 New York Times article.

The Republicans know what they are doing, they see a real opportunity to sneak into the Oval Office, sophomore Anna Sampogna said.

Republicans and Democrats have taken turns in the White House since 1853, when Millard Fillmore, a member of the Whig Party, left office. But, some say the tide may be turning in the new millennium.

The public is dissatisfied with having a two party system, especially with having two centrist candidates such as Gore and Bush, said Tom Adkins, Nader’s assistant press secretary.

I believe that the strength of Nader’s candidacy is a sign that Democracy is still alive and well in America, said professor O’Rourke, who is not a Nader supporter. Political support is not just a function of the amount of campaign cash that you can raise, but is founded on the clarity of your vision and the appeal of your ideas.

Before the 1996 elections, polls showed that both Democratic and Republican voters sought more choice on the presidential ticket.

Analysts speculated in 1996 that Nader, running in his second presidential election, would cut into President Bill Clinton’s vote. The same feelings haunt Democratic in 2000 as election day draws near.

The Green Party stands for a government of, by, and for the people, not corporate interests, according to the party’s Web site.

Since the 1960s, Nader has been considered the most prominent leader of the U.S. consumer protection movement, and was named by the LA Times as one of the 50 people who most influenced business during the 20th century, according to Speakout.com.

His team of investigators, called Nader’s Raiders, helped push federal consumer protection legislation such as the Safe Drinking Water Act and the creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Environment Protection Agency and the Consumer Product Safety Administration. Nader founded the Center for the Study of Responsive Law, the Center for Auto Safety and the Public Interest Research Group, according to the Web site.

His supporters say Nader breathes new life into a conventional election.

In this election, Nader will serve to start a new progressive movement for third-party candidates, Adkins said.

Adkins said the party is hoping for at least 5 percent of the popular vote, a figure which would make the Green Party eligible for federal campaign funds in 2004.

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