Published on Saturday, September 23, 2000 in the Minneapolis Star Tribune
Nader Rallies More Than 11,000 At Target Center
by Bob von Sternberg
Ralph Nader brought his longshot Green Party presidential campaign to Minneapolis Friday, headlining a rally at Target Center that drew thousands of supporters.
The Nader campaign said that 11,500 showed up, leaving the turnout only slightly short of his organizers' hopes.
Nader told the wildly cheering crowd, "The most important control system the power brokers have established in our country is that we will settle for less, that we will settle for the least worst. We have to raise our expectation level. In this period of American history, we settle for too little."
As the crowd roared "Let Ralph Debate!" Nader added: "I hope Al Gore and George W. Bush are listening to this."
Winona LaDuke, the Minnesotan who is Nader's running mate, told the crowd: "We will not be taken for granted -- and we will vote."
Nader also shared the stage with former TV talk show host Phil Donahue, campaign finance activist Granny D and video satirist Michael Moore.
Donahue, who called Nader "America's most important private citizen of the 20th century," said he has "known this man for 35 years, and he gave me the first look I ever had at the raw, obscene use of corporate power in this country. Ralph has been singular in his blowing the whistle on concentrated corporate power. For a long time, no one else was out there."
Donahue, who said he has never before supported a presidential candidate, recorded a campaign ad for Nader before the rally.
Peggy Heffner brought her 10-year-old son, Chris, from their home in Plymouth to the first political event she has attended in 40 years.
"If my one vote can get some campaign funding into some worthwhile coffers for the next presidential election year, and encourage new individuals to step forward to run for office, then I'll feel that this vote in this election year was the most important that I have ever cast," Heffner said.
If Nader and LaDuke manage to win at least 5 percent of the vote nationwide, the Green Party will qualify for federal campaign funds for the 2004 presidential race.
Joe Horkey, a south Minneapolis resident who was handing out campaign fliers in the arena, said he supports Nader "because he's fun" -- a description rarely applied to the dour consumer activist. "I enjoy how he's anti-corporate."
Michael Kelly, a onetime DFL activist from St. Paul, managed to buttonhole Nader during a fund-raiser that preceded the rally.
"I used to support the other guys, but I got tired of wasting my vote on a status quo that keeps the same thing going election after election," Kelly said.
"And you know this guy can't be bought off -- that's a good enough reason alone to vote for him," he said.
Chose his venues
Nader's Minneapolis rally was the sixth stop on a four-day campaign swing through the Midwest and on to the Northwest that was to wrap up today in Seattle.
With little cash, Nader chose cities that have either large college populations or that he thinks are inclined to be liberal and receptive to his anti-corporate, pro-consumer message.
News coverage of the campaign has been picking up, with organizations as disparate as the New York Times, USA Today and Swedish Television covering the tour; the rally Friday was broadcast on C-SPAN.
During the Twin Cities stop, Nader kept up his steady rhetorical drumbeat in an attempt to be included in the three presidential debates between Democrat Gore and Republican Bush.
Nader and Reform Party nominee Pat Buchanan have been excluded because their national poll support has registered in the low single digits, far short of the 15 percent demanded by the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates.
"You can campaign in all 50 states, as I have, for 10 years and still not reach as many voters as you will in the debates," Nader said.
Donahue said that if Nader isn't included in the debates, "we'll have no real gutsy, so's-your-old-man political discourse that we deserve. Remember, there wasn't much resonance for Jesse Ventura's ideas until he got in the debate."
Nader said he plans to be in Boston, site of the first debate on Oct. 3, outside the hall where it will be staged.
He said his staff members are discussing a plan with executives of the Fox network that would possibly allow him to field the same questions being asked of Gore and Bush. Nader's answers could then be inserted into the taped debate.
Moreover, he unveiled a new tack Friday in pushing for an opening to the debates: "George W. Bush should favor a four-way debate because it will put Al Gore on the defensive because Al Gore is a certified political coward."
Although Nader was contemptuous of both candidates, he aimed his sharpest barbs at Gore, who most analysts said is likely to lose the most votes to Nader.
Nader dismissed the opening of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, announced Friday, as "a little tricky election-year ploy to make Al Gore look good." He said the release of the oil "is too little, too late" to make a significant dent in climbing oil prices.
Earlier Friday, Nader released a detailed farm policy that, among other things, would halt the growing concentration of agribusiness ownership, create a farmer-owned grain reserve that would cushion commodity prices, encourage organic farming and eliminate the ban on growing industrial grade hemp.
"The agriculture crisis is the most serious in the history of the country," Nader said. "It has been brought about by the collusion of giant agribusinesses and their government henchmen in Washington, D.C."
© Copyright 2000 Star Tribune