As polls showed Democratic nominee Barack Obama with a growing, double-digit lead in Michigan, both he and Republican candidate John McCain largely abandoned their efforts in the state more than a month ago. Despite that, or perhaps because of it, third-party candidate Ralph Nader spoke to a large crowd at the Michigan Union Friday.
The consumer advocate and three-time presidential candidate held a press conference and rally with about 250 supporters, addressing the nation’s financial crisis, corporate responsibility, civic engagement and what he described as the failures of the two-party system.
“When are the American people going to get angry?” Nader asked the audience. “They’ve got two corrupt parties bordering on decay, who have turned your government — the only countervailing force against global corporations and corporate globalization — into an indentured servant for them.”
During a press conference before his speech, Nader spoke on issues specific to Michigan, including the state’s ailing auto industry. He said top car company executives have mismanaged their companies and should be fired.
“These top executives have tanked their companies, unemployed their workers, shredded their shareholder values, jeopardized the workers pensions, unemployed hundreds of thousands of workers and, in effect, surrendered the auto market to a rapidly advancing foreign car industry,” he said.
Nader, who’s running on the Natural Law Party ticket in Michigan and is on the ballot in 45 states, spoke at length about what he calls a “two-party prison,” and what he sees as a lack of proportional representation in U.S. government.
Real Clear Politics, a website that averages political polls, estimates Nader will receive 2.3 percent of the vote nationally, down from 5 percent in mid-September. Nader said he hoped to receive millions of votes on Tuesday.
He accomplished that in 2000, when he took 1 percent of the national vote as a Green Party Candidate but received slightly more in Florida. Many Democrats blamed Democrat Al Gore’s loss in Florida — and the presidency — on Nader’s participation in the election. Gore lost by just 537 votes to George Bush there.
Though most consider Nader a left-leaning political figure, he attacked Obama several times during his speech. He suggested that the Illinois Democrat’s campaign didn’t represent any real change, which has been Obama’s main claim since entering the presidential race almost two years ago.
“You are about to be exposed to one of the biggest political con jobs in American history,” Nader said. “He’s turned his back on the people. He’s raised more money from corporate interests than McCain.”
Despite record voter registration among college-aged voters and the general population, Nader said he didn’t think the youth vote would factor heavily on Tuesday’s election. He cited voting statistics from past elections.
LSA junior Alesha Barnes, who described herself as a longtime Nader supporter, attended the rally.
Barnes said it was the first time she had seen Nader in person. She said the rally was different from an Obama event she attended earlier this year because Nader on policy rather than politics.
“I think he wasn’t as glitzy or as glamorous as any of the other candidates, but he actually spoke to the issues.” Barnes said. “I’ve been to an Obama rally, and he just hyped up the crowd instead of actually speaking to the issues that matter.”
LSA freshman Chris Photiades, who said he used to support McCain supporter but voted absentee for Obama, said he attended the rally without knowing much about Nader.
“I disagree with a lot of the ways he goes about saying things, but I think it’s great that he’s challenging the status quo and the monopoly of the two party system,” Photiades said.