While competitors John McCain and Barack Obama focus their efforts in battleground states across the county, third-party presidential candidate Ralph Nader, in a move perhaps emblematic of his divergent political path, campaigned here in Michigan on Friday at the Michigan Union.
A long-time consumer advocate, Nader held a press conference and rally in the Union, addressing issues like the country’s economic woes, corporate responsibility, the failures of the two-party system and civic involvement.
“When are the American people going to get angry?” Nader asked the nearly 250 people in attendance. “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.”
Nader, who’s running on the Natural Law Party ticket in Michigan, 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.
While many consider Nader a left-leaning political figure, that didn’t stop him from targeting Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama multiple times in his speech.
He insisted that the Illinois senator’s campaign did not represent any real change, which has been Obama’s main central claim since entering the presidential race.
“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.”
Nader, running for the presidency for the third time, spoke for about an hour, and afterward his campaign held an impromptu fundraising session. Later, Nader returned to the stage to take questions from members of the audience.
Despite his frequent campaigning on college campuses, Nader said he doesn’t feel the young vote will make much of an impact on Tuesday’s election, and that in the past, his presidential bids have been disappointed by low turnout among 18-to-24 year olds.
He added, however, that he supports lowering the voting age to 16 years old.
“If you’re old enough to work and old enough to drive, you should be old enough to vote,” he said.
During a press conference that preceded his speech, Nader spoke more specifically on issues relating to Michigan, including the state’s ailing auto industry.
On this topic, he said top car company executives are to blame for mismanaging their companies and that these executives 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.
LSA junior Alesha Barnes attended the rally and is a long-time Nader supporter.
She said environmental and social justice issues are among her top concerns, and she feels the bipartisanship of the U.S. government is lacking.
Friday’s rally was Barnes’s first time seeing Nader in person. She said the nature of the rally differed greatly from an Obama event she attended earlier this year.
“I think he (Nader) 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.”