Nader refuses to quit race for White House

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The Independent US

Ralph Nader, the independent candidate accused by Democrats of threatening to wreck their chances of beating George Bush in November's election, has said there are no circumstances in which he will drop out of the contest.

Ralph Nader, the independent candidate accused by Democrats of threatening to wreck their chances of beating George Bush in November's election, has said there are no circumstances in which he will drop out of the contest.

Throwing down the gauntlet to Democrats who have pleaded with him to stand down, Mr Nader said to do so now would be an insult to his supporters and make people even more cynical about politics.

He said it was damaging to democracy that voters should have a choice between two parties that he claimed were controlled by lobbyists and corporate interests. In an interview with The Independent, Mr Nader, said: "Under no circumstances would we drop out ... [That would be an insult] to all the people who have sweated their hearts out for us and add to the cynicism of the public."

Mr Nader also said that in the unlikely circumstances that John Kerry offered him a position in a future government he would not accept it.

The comments from Mr Nader, 70, will add to the fury with which many Democrats anticipate his participation in the election. Party activists still blame Mr Nader for taking crucial support from the Democrats in the 2000 election, which saw Mr Bush assume the presidency despite having lost the popular vote. The anger directed at Mr Nader often appears to have a sharper edge than the emotions directed at Mr Bush.

Polls suggest this year's election will be equally close and that the outcome will be decided by a sliver of undecided voters in a dozen battleground states. Latest figures show that in many of these places Mr Kerry is leading Mr Bush by a small margin, but the pollster John Zogby said Mr Nader was "the difference in virtually every battleground state".

When Mr Nader ran in 2000, obtaining 2.74 per cent of the total vote, he was the official candidate of the Green Party. This time he and his running mate Peter Camejo are standing as independents and their attempt to get on the ballot has not been easy. Mr Nader accused the Democrats of running a sordid "dirty tricks campaign", doing everything they can to undermine his efforts. In addition, an umbrella group called United Progressives for Victory has initiated a series of measures to counter Mr Nader state by state. As a result of lawsuits filed by Democratic supporters, Mr Nader has so far only managed to get on to the ballot in 11 states.

"Once you accept the 'anybody-but-Bush' position, the brain really does close down," said Mr Nader. The veteran consumer rights advocate said he was the only candidate running on a truly populist platform: a rapid withdrawal from Iraq, healthcare for everyone, a living minimum wage and environmental protection. He said that while he expected Mr Bush to lose the election and Mr Kerry to become the next president, he was running to try to "pull the other way" and ensure that certain issues were debated.

"I said to Kerry months ago that we should take on Bush together - the Democrats in their way and us in ours," said Mr Nader, who said his offer of a tactical pact was ignored. The Democrats have highlighted how in certain states Republicans are fighting to get Mr Nader on the ballot - helping to collect signatures and even organising donations - in an effort to split the anti-Bush vote. It was recently revealed that one in 10 people who donated more than $1,000 to Mr Nader is a long-time contributor to the Republicans.

Mr Kerry, meanwhile, has stepped up his demands that President Bush "stand up and stop" personal attacks that have been made by a group of Vietnam veterans questioning his claims about his military record.

At a fund-raiser on Saturday night Mr Kerry said the attacks by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth group - closely linked to senior Republicans - had intensified "because in the last months they have seen me climbing in America's understanding that I know how to fight a smarter and more effective war" against terrorists.

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