Ralph Nader '55, a well-known consumer advocate and environmental activist, announced his candidacy for president yesterday at a Washington D.C. press conference, adding his name to the recently shortened list of University alumni vying for the White House.
In an interview yesterday, Nader said he plans to seek the Green Party nomination at its convention in June.
"As citizen groups, we need to have access to the political system to prevail with our ideas. With such an intense concentration of power and wealth taking over our government, we have to push an alternative," Nader said, noting that the Green Party is such an alternative.
Madelyn Hoffman, Nader's running mate in New Jersey for the 1996 presidential campaign, offered her own perspective on why Nader chose to run for president again. "The corporatization of our democracy is out of control," she said. "He is running to raise issues of democracy."
Nader said he plans to pay special attention to younger voters and hopefully "bring thousands of young people into progressive politics" during this year's campaign.
Hoffman said Nader's race will target voters aged 18-to-35, a group that has been alienated from politics in the past. "They don't trust politics. They see the role of big money and don't feel like they're part of it because there is such a big gap between what politics is about and what they care about," she noted.
Co-chair of the Association of State Green Parties Tom Sevigny said many in the Green Party are pleased Nader decided to run. "It will get the message out about the Green Party and what he's fought for his entire life, and when it boils right down to it, it's democracy," Sevigny said.
Nader said his goals for the campaign include strengthening the Green Party to advance the progressive agenda.
Hoffman said she expects Nader's campaign will energize people to form Green Party chapters and invigorate existing chapters because Nader's name brings with it increased visibility.
Nader also said he hopes to help rebuild the Green Party "from the bottom up" by endorsing more than 100 local and state Green Party candidates.
In addition, he said he expects to challenge the major party candidates and force them to "stop engaging in language of avoidance regarding corporate abuse and the take-over of the political government by the corporate government."
"Candidates are funded by corporate money pots," he added.
Nader said he will attempt to be included in presidential election debates, though he added that as a third-party candidate that may prove difficult.
He also chastised the media for its failure to raise questions of corporate abuse in the campaign thus far. "You have to recognize the censorship in the political process," he said.
This will be Nader's third campaign for the presidency, appearing first as a write-in candidate in 1992. In 1996 the Green Party asked Nader to run, though he appeared on the presidential ballot in only 21 states, Hoffman said.
Nader's campaign experience in 1996 prompted him to plan a much more serious campaign in 2000, said Hoffman, who is also the interim coordinator for the New Jersey Green Campaign.
"He did pretty well for spending no money in '96," she said, referring to the $5,000 cap Nader had placed on his fundraising. This year, he plans to extend the cap to $5 million, she added.
The 2000 run will be Nader's first all-out campaign, according to Hoffman. "It wasn't as if he sat down with his political advisors and said 'I'm going to run for president in 1996,' " she noted. "Nader was never one to run for a political office until us upstart Greens decided we wanted to bring our message to a broader audience."
"Now, the Greens are much stronger than four years ago, but even so, he's used to going out on a limb," she added.