I am the campaign manager of Nader/Camejo 2004, but I am also a worker, taxpayer, citizen, and voter in the last colonial capital of the free world, known as Washington, DC, where voters do not have the same rights to statehood and representation as the rest of this country.
As the campaign manager, I have a lot of people to thank this evening.
Let me start with our most dedicated staff. This group started not with a campaign, but with a handful of people who simply started asking about a year ago whether Ralph Nader should run for president this year. We heard lots of anti-incumbent language: People said they would vote for Genghis Khan instead of this president. Some said they would vote for their pet monkey instead of this president. Others said, they would vote for any appliance in their house instead of this president.
When people started telling us they would vote for their toaster over the president, we knew there were many that demanded that George W. Bush had to go. Anybody but Bush was a zeitgeist as well as a mantra. But it was a vapid, vacuous mantra, to be sure. And as it developed, it didn’t really mean anybody but Bush, it was really anybody who is electable against Bush, no matter what the platform. And as one anti-war candidate after another was ridiculed, ignored, or sabotaged by their own political party, thousands of conversations were had across the country, on the phone, in living rooms, at kitchen tables in an attempt to ask what is the right thing to do when our country is at war and yet there will be no anti-war candidate offered by the two major parties come election day?
A lot of people from Marcia Jansen in Indiana with 13 grandchildren to Kevin Zeese in Maryland to Carol Miller in New Mexico, to Steve Conn in Alaska, to myself—looked at the faces of our children or grandchildren said, is it right in a time of war, to support a pro-war candidate?
And the young people on our staff – Jason Kafoury, Amy Auer, Rob Cirinicone, Matt Bradley and far too many more to mention -- who have brothers and sisters and peers or friends who could be drafted or who already serve, they too asked is it right to support more pro-war candidates?
And we all asked is it right in a time when 45 million people have no health insurance to support anything less than a plan to give health care to all? Is it right when 1 out of 3 Americans makes WalMart wages to support a family -- less than a living wage? Is it right when people are in jail without charges and without lawyers to support a pro-Patriot Act candidate to reduce everyone’s civil liberties? Is it right when whole industries are being outsourced to support a pro-NAFTA and WTO candidate? Is it right when we have a criminal injustice system and institutional racism to support a pro-drug war candidate? And the list goes on….and finally we asked is it right to sit down, shut up, toe the party line, and say nothing, as we were repeatedly told, all because George W. Bush has got to go no matter what?
We said no. The staff of Nader/Camejo said no – and stood up to a lot of pressure from their families, their peers, their role models – to say “No, it is not right.” All of them here and on the west coast with Peter Miguel Camejo, our eloquent Vice Presidential candidate, and in every state – Please stand, wave, take a bow.
You have been courageous and we thank you for saying yes to this campaign, to raising the progressive agenda, and for the thousands of hours you have devoted to put more voices and choices before the American people in this historic election.
To all of them and to their families (to my own family Todd Main and our 19-month old daughter Isabella) we say thank you for all your sacrifices. We know that this has been not just a sacrifice of time and energy and resources but an investment, an investment in the futures of our families, the country and the world.
To our thousands and thousands of volunteers, our campus coordinators, our high school students, our field coordinators in every state (especially Margaret Guttshall in a hospital in Michigan), to our 40 van people who have traveled to 800 communities often ignored by the major parties, to our thousands of donors (90% of you gave $100 or less and we still need your help at votenader.org!) and all the supporters we thank you for your brave persistence and determination to provide more voices and more choices at the ballot box in this election.
To the determined people who petitioned for us, who were met with abuse, subpoenas, threats, violence, intimidation, and dirty tricks of all kinds, we thank you for standing tall and taking it all.
To our compatriots who run as independent and third party candidates we took a lot of the ballot fights off your hands this year and tried to make it easier in the years that come. And we thank you for sticking up for our right to run.
To the Reform Party, the Greens for Nader, the Independence Party, The Independent Party, the Peace and Justice Party, the Better Life Party, the Populist Parties we thank you for your support.
To our lawyers and their helpers in the following states: Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Maine, North Carolina, Mississippi, and Florida; and to Bruce Afran, Harry Kresky, Carl Mayer, Smita Khatri, Mike Richardson, Richard Winger, Tarek Milleron, and Basil Culyba who have endured through more than most…
It has been a brutal fight—you are Greens, Independents, Republicans, Libertarians, and Democrats, but most of all you are true patriots and we thank you for your dedication to the First Amendment, to due process and the rights of the people to have the candidates of their choice on the ballot.
And to those who tried to stop this campaign – in many ways, big and small, from the petty to the criminal, we have three words for you:
Shame on you.
To Terry McAuliffe, Toby Moffett, Elizabeth Holtzman, David Jones, and all your operatives and donors, to the DNC, the state democratic parties, the Kerry/Edwards campaign, and the lawyers who abused and misused the legal process on behalf of their clients whose interests were to quote “drain our campaign of time and resources” – we have five words for you:
We will hold you accountable.
And to the Federal Election Commission that has not yet regulated these money sinkholes or put in place rules that prevent big money to try to bury small campaigns and parties, we have some words for you too:
And to our colleagues in the civil liberties and public interest legal world, as the First Amendment rights of voters were being abridged and abused, we have three words for you:
Where were you?
And to our fellow progressives, the peace and justice movement, the anti-corporate globalization movement, the labor movement, the civil rights movement, and others we hope that no matter who wins tonight you will take the gag out of your mouths and get back in the streets because there is too much injustice in this country. No matter who is running for president or holding office it is our obligation to say so.
And to the American People, this campaign has stressed the electoral system and we have to say out loud over and over again, no matter what the result of this evening:
Our electoral system is broken.
From the way you register to vote, to the way you get your information, to the bankrupt bipartisan outfit that controls the debates, to the billions of dollars involved, to the way your vote is counted, to how your vote ultimately counts, the American electoral system needs to be fixed. The Center for Voting and Democracy at fairvote.org will tell you about the reforms we need, starting with a constitutional right to vote.
It is one thing to have democracy in theory, it is another to have democracy in practice. Even when it is inconvenient. Democracy in practice means every vote must be counted, that you let every voter choose – and you do not let the two corporate-parties take voters off the rolls or candidates off the ballot.
Throughout the course of American history there have been people, no matter what the national mood, what the political convenience, or what the personal costs who have stood up and said NOW IS THE TIME to get things fixed. JUSTICE WILL NOT WAIT any longer.
From the abolitionists to the suffragists to the labor movement from Victoria Woodhull and Frederick Douglass, to Eugene Debs and Bob LaFollette, to Henry Wallace, to John Anderson and Ross Perot, to Ralph Nader this country has been made better because these people did not cower, they did not succumb to all the pressures personal and systemic to not run.
In 1864, Abraham Lincoln, the most successful third party candidate, was called many things: despot, liar, thief, braggart, buffoon, usurper, fiend, and butcher.
In 2004, there have been many vicious, racist and outlandish smears. History will be the judge of them.
It is easy to call people names and smear their reputations.
It is much harder to do the work of the people, of building democracy day after day.
Name calling, propaganda mailings and paid advertisements do not change the record or reality that for the last 40 years Ralph Nader has been and still is sticking up for the underdog, for the interests of the American people against giant corporations and their collaborators in the government.
If you are an American, from the air you breathe, to the water you drink, to the medicine you take, to the food you eat, to the car you drive, to the workplace you go to, to the plane you fly, to the toys your children play with, to the information you get from your government: Ralph Nader has made your life and millions of others better. He has stood up, time and again, to say that this country deserves better.
And we thank him for doing it again in the electoral arena in this most difficult year: