Published on Saturday, October 14, 2000 by the Associated Press
Nader Rocks The Garden
15,000 Pack New York City Super Rally
by Beth Gardiner
About 15,000 supporters packed a sold-out Madison Square Garden to voice their noisy enthusiasm for Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader, angrily criticizing his exclusion from the recent presidential debates and hailing him as a reinvigorating force for democracy.
They grooved to musical performances by Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, Patti Smith, Ani DiFranco and Ben Harper, and raised the roof with a chorus of, "Let Ralph Debate."
"Welcome to the politics of joy and justice," Nader said. "We are building a historic, progressive, political movement in America; a movement for which Nov. 7th is just one stopping place."
In an hour-long speech that at times sounded like a left-leaning history lesson, Nader assailed big business for what he called "a corporate crime wave," and said the Democratic and Republican parties were controlled by corporations.
"Our country has been sold to the highest bidder," Nader said.
Concerning the environment, poverty, racism, workers' rights, defense spending and a slough of other issues, the lifelong consumer advocate accused politicians and business of failing the country.
"Corporations were designed to be our servants not our masters," he said. "We're going backwards, while the rich are becoming superrich."
It was a different kind of political fund-raiser from the swank events often hosted by Democratic and Republican candidates, with the atmosphere of a rock concert rather than a political rally.
"You're not seeing black ties," said Thomas King, 22, of White Plains. Although a Democrat, King promised to vote for Nader to send a message. "I'm not too pleased with the fact that Clinton and the new Democrats have moved so close to the center. ... This is a populist movement."
Cardboard boxes were passed through the crowd to collect donations.
Filmmaker Moore urged the crowd not to worry that voting for Nader might help Bush by taking votes from Gore.
"The lesser of two evils, you still end up with evil," Moore said. "You don't make a decision because of fear: you make it on your hopes, your dreams, your aspirations. ... Follow your conscience. Do the right thing."
Nader, meanwhile, was inching his way toward his fund-raising goal of $5 million with small personal checks from supporters, volunteer-hosted "house parties," and rallies like the one at the Garden. He has raised $4.7 million so far.
"We're very frugal. We know how to get more out of a campaign dollar than Bush and Gore," Nader is fond of saying.
© Copyright 2000 The Associated Press