Ahem, now is the time for all good people to come to the aid of their country.... Ahem...
Nader supporters yearn for stronger effort
Marshfield resident Jim Valianti remembers being impressed at age 17 with Congressman John Anderson's 1980 campaign for president. The Illinois Republican ran as an independent against President Jimmy Carter and challenger Ronald Reagan.
As Election Day nears, some area Nader supporters seem ambivalent about their decision to stick with a sure loser. They are campaigning for him because they share his views on many issues, but they are also frustrated by the minimal impact he has made this year.
Nader has run for president four times and has never received more than 2.74 percent of the popular vote, as he did in 2000.
''Nader reminds me of a boxer that should have retired," said Michael Brown, political scientist and professor of politics at Emerson College.
Nader blames voter apathy for his political funk. ''We've become numb to the disintegration of our democratic society," he said during a recent rally at Harvard University.
And while Valianti agrees with that assessment of the political climate, he wishes the campaign had been more aggressive. He recalled telling Nader in April, ''I don't want to waste my time for you to only get 4 or 5 percent of the vote." Most polls show him attracting less than 2 percent of the vote nationally.
Valianti, who founded the Independent Association of Massachusetts, said, ''I thought if the campaign was done right and run seriously to win, he could help third-party people run and win; really that's what it's all about."
John Bescherer, 47, a Democrat from Mattapoisett, likes Nader's antiwar position, but also is disappointed by the candidate's campaign strategy. ''If you're running an active campaign there should be events," he said.
Bescherer has used a website to connect with other Nader supporters and is now a Nader group organizer for 40 cities nationwide.
Mike Richardson, 54, Nader's Massachusetts campaign organizer, said that an arduous petition drive and court battles to get on the ballot have left the campaign, in Massachusetts and nationwide, without the ''energy or resources that are put into a typical campaign."
Valianti said Senator John F. Kerry's supporters ''were brutal" during the petition drive to get Nader on the ballot in Massachusetts. ''If you asked 10 people, five would be belligerent."
The final tally was about 1,000 signatures short of the 10,000 needed, and Nader was kept off the ballot in Massachusetts. He is running as a write-in candidate.
Brown, who has taught politics for more than 30 years, said, ''A lot of people fear, absolutely fear, four more years of George Bush and that's why they're not supporting Nader."
Others resent Nader's decision to campaign in swing states, where any erosion of Kerry support could seal victory for President Bush.
Nader dismissed such complaints. ''I don't believe in safe-state, nonsafe-state discrimination. I believe in all-out," he said at a recent news conference.
But the stress of going all-out was apparently too much for some of his supporters. Richardson said at least 50 volunteers he worked with have quit because of harassment.
In 2000, Nader received 6 percent of the popular vote in Massachusetts, better than he did in most states. Still, Valianti believes he should have done better, noting that about half of the registered voters in the state are listed as unenrolled, or not affiliated with any party. Despite the challenges and relative lack of success, Valianti said, he believes an independent candidate will one day be elected president.
Brown said it won't be Nader. ''He needs to find a political happy farm to go to," he said.
But Mattapoisett's Bescherer is more optimistic. ''He is working for the right things, and if people really considered him, he would be viable," he said.