Some followers of presidential candidate Ralph Nader are beginning to see him as another Mahatma Gandhi. In their view, it's not just good politics to vote for the consumer advocate, but a purifying act.
Yet with the race between George W. Bush and Al Gore remaining tight, Naderites have to choose between principles and practicality, because heavy voting for the Green Party candidate could usher in a conservative victory. To prevent that, Nader supporters have devised a new scheme for swapping votes on Election Day, one that resembles the trading of pollution credits.
As one Green leader put it, "It works like this: If you're in Illinois where the contest between Bush and Gore is tight, it's OK to vote for Gore if you can find someone in Texas, where Bush will win easily, to vote for Ralph." That way, you help to build a big Nader vote in the Lone Star State.
In Oregon, where the contest is close, lefty Dems worry themselves sick over being called spoilers for voting their consciences. There, the scheme works like this: An Oregon voter can go ahead and cast a ballot for Gore and still feel good, if he or she can find someone in neighboring Washington, where Gore will be an easy victor, to vote for Nader.
Another scenario has people actively pairing votes. Take, for example, two individuals who hold Nader in high esteem but think it's silly to waste a vote on him when they might actually affect the two-way battle between Al and Shrub. The man who abhors Bush so much he'd vote for Gore pairs with the woman who detests Gore so much she'd vote for Bush. Instead, both people vote for Ralph and feel great.
As the election nears, the always shaky liaison between the Green Party and Naderites has grown more tenuous than ever, with state Green chapters lusting after money from Nader's superrallies. Part of the Greens' original deal with Nader called for him to visit local party headquarters to help them fundraise and build their organizations. A Nader spokesman said money collected at the $10-per-person rallies will go to help finance the campaign.
Lockstep support for Nader has slipped particularly among environmentalists out West, where he is jokingly referred to as "the Gus Hall of the Greens," after the stolid American Communist Party leader.
Scraping rock bottom in the polls but buoyed by turnouts of more than 10,000 at superrallies in Portland, Minneapolis, and Seattle, Ralph Nader heads to Boston's Fleet Center Sunday for a rally two days before trying to gate-crashwith Phil Donahue in towthe presidential debate between Bush and Gore Tuesday night. Nader supporters are planning demonstrations outside the event, which is being held at the University of Massachusetts in Boston.
Nader and the Fox network are reportedly continuing to discuss the possibility of setting up some kind of simulcast during the debate, giving Nader the chance to answer the same questions put to Gore and Bush. He also has upcoming guest spots with David Letterman and Saturday Night Live.