Nader: The lone crusader

"Nader: The lone crusader" Continued...

Issue: "Remaking the family," March 6, 2004

That leaves Mr. Nader as the best-known candidate committed to running an aggressive, national campaign. Eager to preserve their alliance with left-wing Democrats, some national Green Party leaders are urging members to vote for no nominee at all, leaving the Green line empty on state ballots.

But the no-nominee strategy angers many Greens like Mr. Kamleiter, who don't want their party to become a Democratic lap dog. In a discussion about Sen. John Kerry, the likely Democratic nominee, a fellow Green recently told Mr. Kamleiter, "Sometimes we just have to hold our nose and vote for the winner." Mr. Kamleiter's response: "I've been there, done that, and I can't do it anymore."

How many hard-line, left-wing voters feel the same way? Democratic leaders don't know-and they're afraid to find out. Many Greens feel alienated by Sen. Kerry's votes in favor of the Patriot Act, the war in Iraq, and the Bush tax cuts. Mr. Nader, on the other hand, appeals to them on those very issues, leaving them with the agonizing choice of voting for principle or pragmatism.

"Greens are very sensitive people," Mr. Kamleiter explains. "Many of them are hurt by the charge that Nader's candidacy tipped the election to Bush in 2000." At the same time, however, they wonder whether the Democrats will ever support the left-wing causes they hold dear. "Personally, I've given up on that," he says. Instead, he's working actively in the Draft Nader movement, and he's confident his candidate will win the party's nomination.

The outcome, however, won't be known for months. In Florida, as in other states, presidential preference ballots are now being mailed to party members, and state conventions in the coming weeks will name delegates to the party's national convention in Milwaukee, June 23-28. No one knows yet just what the rules will be ("We're not the most organized people," Mr. Kamleiter confesses), but a simple majority of delegates should be enough to secure the nomination.

If the nomination does go to Mr. Nader-or if he qualifies through the petition process in even a few, key states-the Democrats will have the unenviable job of appealing to centrist, independent voters without driving leftists to vote their conscience and go with the Greens. It's a quandary that will require the wisdom of Solomon-and Ecclesiastes won't offer much help.


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