Call it the pairing of the political malcontents – the Green Party and the Libertarians are combining their efforts in Illinois to back the 2008 version of consumer advocate Ralph Nader’s presidential fantasies.
The activists who worked to get nearly 50,000 signatures of support on nominating petitions for Nader (out of hope that at least 25,000 of them are found to be valid, thereby qualifying Ralph for a spot for president on the Illinois ballot) are a combination of the two factions that in theory are ideological opposites.
GREENS IN THEORY are people who push for a pro-environment, highly liberal vision of government, while Libertarians in theory are people who would like to have no government because it often interferes with their socially conservative views on many (but not all) issues.
The two factions have one thing in common – they think the current two-party system is messed up, and they are more than anxious to have a third person to vote for when they walk into their polling place Nov. 4 to cast ballots for president.
Nader’s allies filed their nominating petitions at the Illinois State Board of Elections offices in Springfield, hoping that the powers that be with the two established political parties do not figure out a way to knock off enough signatures of support to kick Ralph off the ballot.
Under the rules governing elections, officials with the established political parties now have one week to decide whether they want to challenge his ballot position on grounds that the signatures of support are not valid.
MY GUT FEELING says Nader got enough signatures that any challenge will amount to little more than political harassment. He will be on the Illinois ballots along with Obama and McCain – and Nader already is going after Obama, claiming he is changing his mind on everything from NAFTA to public spending limits for political campaigns.
Now nobody seriously expects Nader and his running mate, former San Francisco board of supervisors member Matt Gonzalez (who even by California standards is considered a touch eccentric), to win the Electoral College process and actually becomes president.
Nobody even expects him to win any states, or to get any significant number of votes in Illinois.
This is more about giving the people who just can’t bring themselves to vote for Republican John McCain or Democrat Barack Obama a person to support. If in the process, Nader manages to advance public debate on their pet issues, then so much the better. He will have achieved something, in their eyes.
IN FACT, ONE look at Nader’s campaign platform makes it very clear he doesn’t expect to get much real voter support in Illinois – or anywhere in the now-flood-covered Midwest.
Besides calling for health care access reforms, Nader is campaigning against the concept of ethanol – the motor fuel that is a blend of byproducts made from corn. Nader is following the West Coast party line that says federal subsidies to encourage ethanol production are actually doing more these days to drive up the price of food.
That may get him a couple of votes in San Diego, but in the rural Midwest, it will hurt him. Farmers in the regions surrounding Chicago have always liked the idea of encouraging ethanol production because it means that someone else will be interested in buying their corn crop so it can be turned into motor fuel.
Rural Illinois farmers will see Nader as a guy who wants to take money from their pockets, particularly at a time when many of them have suffered severe financial loss due to the Mississippi River flooding that has wiped out their crop altogether for this year.
URBAN ILLINOIS (A.K.A., Chicago) will care less about this issue, other than to see Nader as someone who is spending precious time worrying about something that won’t drive down the price they pay for gasoline.
So the real trick in Illinois will be to see how little Nader gets in the way of votes. When he ran for president in 2000 (the year he allegedly cost Al Gore the presidency), just over 103,000 people cast ballots for Ralph.
But this year, Obama is expected to dominate the Illinois political scene – in large part because of his hometown Chicago popularity. Cook County, Ill., gave Obama nearly 70 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary (his largest primary victory margin anywhere in the United States), and some people are convinced he will do equally as well against McCain in the general election.
There’s a very good chance that the 50,000 or so people who bothered to sign nominating petitions for Nader will be the only people who will vote for him come Nov. 4.
BUT WHAT THEY’RE shooting for is to get enough votes to qualify for automatic ballot positions in Illinois.
State law gives candidates running as Democrats and Republicans advantages in terms of getting on the ballot, based on the belief that the established parties have shown they have significant support among Illinois residents. Third-party candidates have to come up with more signatures of support on their nominating petitions.
Receiving a significant number of votes could put whatever party label Nader chooses to use in line to become a recognized legitimate political party, just like the Dems or GOP.
That’s the odd part of Nader’s campaign this year. He has run on the Green Party label in the past, but this year, he’s going as an independent, using a mixture of his old Green Party followers and other people who view the political establishment with distaste.
SO THAT’S THE real goal of the political malcontents – use Nader to advance their cause in hopes that the day will come that they can put together a campaign for a candidate who stands a real chance of getting elected to a government post.
Some political observers might take one look at the often amateurish campaign tactics used by these people and figure they’re never going to get to that point. But that is their dream.
And as for Nader, he’s willing to use the oddball coalition of Greens and Libertarians to feed his ego and let him make yet another run for the White House.
EDITOR’S NOTES: Ralph Nader hopes to get more votes in Illinois this year than he did in 2004, when his (http://newsblogs.chicagotribune.com/clout_st/2008/06/nader-says-hell.html) write-in campaign received about 3,500 votes.
Did Nader manage to stop off at Norb Andy’s for a “horseshoe” on Monday in between his visits to (http://www.votenader.org/media/2008/06/20/Illinois/) the Statehouse and the State Board of Elections offices? Somehow (http://whatscookingamerica.net/History/Sandwiches/HorseshoeSandwich.htm), I doubt it.
He might not be their actual candidate, but Green Party officials will be talking up the Nader candidacy (http://thirdpartywatch.com/2008/06/23/why-isnt-nader-running-as-a-green-candidate/) when they hold their national nominating convention July 10-13 at the Palmer House Hilton and the Symphony Center.
Illinois’ Green Party has its own activity beyond supporting Nader (http://chicagoargus.blogspot.com/2008/04/greens-will-go-way-of-solidarity-and.html), while his running mate, Matt Gonzalez, has a record (http://southchicagoan.blogspot.com/2008/02/nader-choice-doesnt-boost-latino.html) of being – to put it politely – a colorful character.