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Nader Initiative is Another Thorn in Democrats' Flesh
Published on Wednesday, August 8, 2001 in the Guardian of London
Nader Initiative is Another Thorn in Democrats' Flesh
by Duncan Campbell in Los Angeles
 
Ralph Nader, the man still blamed by many Democrats for costing them the presidency, has formed a new movement that he hopes will change the political landscape.

Democracy Rising aims to "educate and empower people throughout the country" by involving them in campaigns on issues such as health care, energy, election reform and public transport.

The movement has set as its goal what it calls the "million-hundred-hundred" target whereby 1m people will dedicate at least 100 hours a year and $100 (£70) in order to achieve change.

This week Mr Nader, 67, addressed a crowd of 7,500 in Portland, Oregon, traditionally one of his strongest areas, to introduce them to the new movement. He now plans to take the message to other major US cities.

The idea behind Democracy Rising (website democracyrising.org) comes from last year's presidential race when two lawyers in Portland, Greg Kafoury and Mark McDougal, hired one of the city's largest venues for Mr Nader and found that 10,500 people were willing to pay $7 (£5) to hear him speak.

This snowballed into a series of super-rallies during the election campaign, culminating in a turnout of 19,500 who paid $20 to see Mr Nader at Madison Square Garden, New York.

Mr Kafoury said yesterday they realized then that there was a vast audience of committed people whose politics were not being addressed by the two main parties and they met Mr Nader in February to explore ways of tapping this constituency. Mr Nader came up with the idea of Democracy Rising, which would act as a way of directing people into existing campaigns.

"The idea was to try and use these large rallies as the engine of a new movement," said Mr Kafoury. He said that 130 local and national organizations had attended the rally and Mr Nader had encouraged people to get involved in whatever campaign they could commit to.

People paid $10 for admission and heard him say: "The new slavery is the ownership and control of the genetic inheritance of the world - the flora, the fauna and the human genes."

People who believe that Mr Nader was responsible for Mr Bush's victory picketed the rally carrying placards which read: "Back alley abortionists for Nader" and "Citizens against tundra", ironic references to Mr Bush's opposition to abortion and support for drilling in the Arctic.

The move marks the first major political step taken by Mr Nader since the 2000 election, in which he took 3% of the vote. He was criticized by many Democrats who claimed that his candidacy cost Al Gore vital votes in Florida that would have deprived George Bush of victory.

Mr Nader has said many times that the Democrats should look to themselves and their own candidate when casting blame for defeat.

Although the new movement is independent of any political party it has strong backing from the Green party.

Mr Nader has not yet indicated whether he plans to run again for the presidency in 2004. The Democratic party's own would-be candidates, who have already started jostling for attention, will be watching Mr Nader's gatherings with interest.

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2001

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