Nader dismisses talk of wasted votes


Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Ralph Nader wound up his protest campaign for the presidency today, dismissing as “foolish talk” the complaints of Democrats that a vote for his Green Party would be wasted or worse.

Nader encouraged all supporters to “vote entirely their conscience,” whether they live in states with close races between Democrat Al Gore and Republican George W. Bush or in states where one of the candidates is expected to win easily.

“The only wasted vote is voting for someone you don’t believe in. The only wasted vote is when you stay home and don’t vote at all,” he said.

Nader hovers below 5 percent in national polls, but support for him is higher in some states where the race between Gore and Bush is close, including California, Minnesota, Michigan, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin.

Nader predicted his best showing Tuesday would come in those states, as well as in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. He expressed confidence he would get at least 5 percent of the total vote, which would ensure his party federal campaign money for the 2004 elections.

Nader’s role as a potential spoiler for Gore has put the longtime consumer activist under increasing pressure from Democrats who want him to drop out.

But Nader dismissed that as “foolish talk.”

“When the voter votes for a candidate, the voter votes for a candidate, period,” he said. “I think it’s very arrogant for Al Gore and his surrogates to run around the country disrespecting voters who want to vote for a viable third party.”

Despite the low poll numbers, Nader said he considered “very encouraging” the attention and support his campaign has received despite its limited budget, lack of media coverage and exclusion from the presidential debates.

“I think this campaign is performed in an exemplary manner,” he said. “It is based on lifting the expectation levels of the American people, in terms of what their country can become, what their country can be.”

Nader also predicted the Green Party would become the nation’s third-largest party, replacing the Reform Party created by Ross Perot and now led by Pat Buchanan.

“What do we expect from our votes tomorrow? We expect people will help build a viable third party, a Green Party that will put the politicians’ feet to the fire and make the two parties more honest or more responsive,” he said. “And if that doesn’t succeed, then those two parties will shrink in future elections and the Green Party will field thousands of more candidates at the local and state level.”

Nader called the Republicans and Democrats tired, “out of gas” and indentured to corporate interests.

“The two parties need a jolt. They need a civic jolt, and they need a political jolt, and the Green Party intends to give them that jolt on Election Day,” Nader said.

Nader, who was making final campaign stops in New York, Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, cautioned voters to be wary of politicians who sweet-talk, make promises “and then they go to Washington and break them.”

“The only politicians that you should listen to are politicians who have a record of fighting for you, as I have for 37 years,” he said. The nation has air, food, water and automobiles “safer than they would have been because our groups fought for you seven days a week in Washington, D.C., for over 30 years.”

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