Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader drew responses
ranging from adoration to outrage when he campaigned in the
Michigan Union yesterday.

In his speech, Nader encouraged students to become active in the
political process in order to counteract corporate influence on
politicians, which he said drives the agendas of the major
parties.

Nader admonished “cowardly” Democrats and the
left-leaning constituencies that he said have refused to put
pressure on them. He said labor unions, environmental groups and
the anti-war movement have compromised their agendas by adopting a
“supine relationship” with Democratic presidential
candidate John Kerry, endorsing him regardless of some of his
centrist positions.

Nader has come under fire from Democrats because of the
possibility that he will take votes from Kerry. Recently he angered
Michigan Democrats for accepting help from Republicans, who
gathered nearly all of the petition signatures to place Nader on
the ballot as an independent candidate for president.

Some of the more turbulent moments of the Nader visit came
during a question-and-answer session after the speech, when Nader
and some audience members argued over the “spoiler
effect” and whether Nader accepted Republican-gathered
signatures.

When University alum Tom Wieder accused Nader of lying in a
recent op-ed piece, in which Nader said his campaign has rejected
Republican signatures and donations, Nader bristled, saying Wieder
was “completely wrong on the facts.”

“Don’t say that we took the 45,000 (signatures);
that’s completely false,” Nader said. “The judge
is trying to force us to take the 45,000.”

Nader then asked Wieder if he was a Democrat, and told him to
vote for John Kerry when Wieder replied in the affirmative.

Michigan Democratic Party spokesman Jason Moon said Nader has
“chosen to abandon his integrity and principles” by
accepting help from Republicans.

But Kevin Zeese, a spokesman for Nader’s campaign, said
the campaign never had a chance to reject the signatures.

“The signatures were never given to us; they were given to
the (Michigan) Secretary of State,” Zeese said. “We
don’t see ourselves as associated with the Republicans at
all.”

Zeese added that the Nader campaign still hopes to gain access
to the ballot under the Reform Party ticket, in which case it will
not need to rely on petitions.

Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, a Republican, has
refused to put Nader on the state ballot as the Reform Party
nominee because there are two groups in Michigan that claim to be
the Reform Party.

Nader challenged Land’s decision in federal court, but
lost earlier this month.

Nadeam Elshami, a spokesman for the anti-Nader group United
Progressives for Victory, said the fact that Nader’s Michigan
campaign was able to gather only 5,000 of the required 30,000
signatures on its own is proof that Nader “does not have the
grassroots support he once had.”

“Progressives are united for defeating Bush,”
Elshami said.

Edwin Curley, a philosophy professor who was among the faculty
invited by the Nader campaign to a press conference before the
speech, arrived wearing a Kerry pin and engaged in a heated
argument with Nader volunteers before Nader arrived.

Curley argued that Nader cost Democratic presidential candidate
Al Gore the election in 2000 by drawing away valuable votes from
the Democrats.

A volunteer replied that Nader would have won the election using
the Condorset method, an obscure voting system that allows voters
to rank candidates in order of preference. Curley stormed off after
voices were raised and profanities exchanged.

Cassandra Talley, an LSA sophomore, said she was impressed by
Nader’s speech. “I’m now considering voting for
Nader, even though initially I was a strong supporter of
Kerry,” she said.

— Esther Fang and Jennifer Myaeng contributed to this
report.

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