Citizen Nader, what have you done for me lately?

If you're like me, you've taken a lot of flack for not following in line during recent political campaigns. The bad news is that we're gonna catch hell again this time. The good news is that we're not alone. We've got good company. So, please, take heart.

Ralph Nader ran for president four times, but most people only remember when he ran against Al Gore and George W. Bush in 2000. As the Green Party nominee Nader got nearly 3 million votes, 97,421 of them in Florida — a pivotal state where, after a contentious recount and a Supreme Court decision, Bush beat Gore by 537 votes. Democrats excoriated Nader, calling him a spoiler. He lost many friends. Even Public Citizen, the advocacy group he founded in 1971, distanced itself from him. Nader has no regrets about running and has remained steadfast in his belief that democracy requires multiparty elections: it is not good enough to have people cast votes for the candidate they find less distasteful than the other one.

Before that election, Nader was among the most trusted people in the U.S. To some he was known as Saint Ralph. A ubiquitous consumer advocate, he’d gained a reputation for being a vigilant citizen. His coworkers remember the copious amount of mail that poured into his D.C. office: letters from fans and admirers; desperate pleas for help. Someone sent the driveshaft from a car, asking if it was defective; someone else sent a box of dry ice containing one of his lungs. Deemed cancerous, it had been surgically removed, and the man wondered if the operation had been necessary. But all that was forgotten.

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Consider this letter to the editor:

It was difficult to read David Barsamian’s interview with Ralph Nader, not because of what was said but because of who said it. Though I agree with Nader, I couldn’t help but remember that he was instrumental in helping George W. Bush get elected president: had Nader not been on the
ballot in Florida, Al Gore would have won the state, taken office, and most likely never ordered the invasion of Iraq. Gore would also have led in the battle against climate change. Yet Nader states he has no regrets. I take this to mean that, knowing what we know now, he would have run anyway. Rather than put a presidential spoiler on the ballot every four years, a viable third party should focus on
local or statewide elections. Unfortunately we saw key states go to Donald Trump in 2016 because of a third-party candidate. I wonder how a man who says the things Nader says can support third-party politics upending elections.

A second subscriber echoes the sentiment:

I am impressed with Ralph Nader’s lifelong service to society, but as someone who sees climate change as a top priority, I find his good work pales in comparison to the harm he caused
in the 2000 presidential election. Two points are undeniable: he had no chance of winning the election, and in a razor-thin race between a Texas oilman and one of the first major-party politicians to recognize the urgency of climate change, Nader swung the election to the former. This set the planet back considerably, which will cause the death and displacement of millions of people
and the loss of thousands of species. I appreciate Nader’s work on auto safety and many other things, but on balance, his reckless foray into presidential politics makes him an unmitigated disaster for humanity.

Read Nader's response below the fold.

Citizen Nader replies:

Thomas and Aaron blame the Green Party for having delusions of power in the 2000 election. But exercising our First Amendment right to speak, assemble, and petition is in the
tradition of America’s progressive third parties that first opposed slavery and demanded women’s right to vote, farmer and worker protections, and so on. No, they say, shut up let the two parties drive our country deeper into militarism, imperialism, corporatism, and gerrymandering districts to favor one party. Gore, who won the popular vote, did not become president for afew reasons: the antiquated Electoral College; vote theft in Florida; 300,000 Florida Democrats voting for Bush; and the Supreme Court coup d’état by Scalia that stopped the recount. Absent any one of these, Gore would have been in the White House. Moreover, was anything stopping the Democrats from adopting the Green Party’s proposals — living wage, full Medicare, fairer taxation, being tough on corporate crime — and thereby shrinking the small Green vote to a trickle? What prevented Congressional
Democrats from blocking the Iraq War and the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, or taking vigorous action against climate disruption? The two-party system should not be allowed to own all the voters. Those who want to stop the Democratic Party’s chronic scapegoating should work to revamp our voting system and abolish the Electoral College

Both passionate letters were written in response THE SUN INTERVIEW, from the May 2019 issue.

The Great Work: Ralph Nader On Taking Back Power From The Corporate State (BY DAVID BARSAMIAN)

Every major advance for justice in our country took no more than 1 percent of adults — around 2.5 million people — with public opinion behind them, mobilizing to change government policy. If you’ve got 2.5 million people, you can recover our country, recover our government, recover our hopes and dreams.

ralphnader.jpg

Nader remembers his childhood fondly. “I was very lucky,” he says, “with my parents.” Immigrants from Lebanon, they raised four children in the mill town of Winsted, Connecticut. Nader’s mother, Rose, was a civic gadfly who once convinced Senator Prescott Bush to build a dam so the town wouldn’t keep flooding. His father, Nathra, ran a restaurant and bakery, where he presided over political debates with his customers; Nader worked there when he wasn’t at the library. At fourteen he was reading copies of the Congressional Record. Rose once asked her son Ralph if he loved his country, and when he said yes, she told him to work hard to make it even more lovable. The Naders frequently attended Winsted’s boisterous town meetings, where locals aired their grievances. In retrospect it seems inevitable that all four Nader children would grow up to become advocates for the greater good.

A shy, bookish student, Nader knew early on that he wanted to be a lawyer — specifically the kind who helped the downtrodden. At Princeton he studied Far East politics and four languages and sent feisty letters to the school paper, some of which concerned the dead birds he kept finding around campus: he blamed the school’s use of the pesticide DDT. When the paper didn’t publish his letters, he carried a dead bird to the editor’s office and gave it to him; the editor’s naive response was that the university’s scientists would never allow the use of DDT if it were unsafe.

After graduating, Nader hitchhiked across the country, picked apricots in California with migrant workers, and served food to tourists in Yosemite. Then he headed to law school at Harvard. He disapproved of the school’s emphasis on corporate law and sometimes skipped classes to explore issues that interested him: the exploitation of migrant workers, the plight of Native Americans, the need for third parties in U.S. elections. In his final year at Harvard he plunged into the subject that would make him famous: the ways in which automakers knowingly cut corners on safety features in their cars, causing millions of unnecessary fatalities. He published an essay about it in the Harvard Law Record titled “The American Automobile: Designed for Death?”

In 1964, after passing the bar, traveling around the world, and serving as a cook in the Army, Nader took a job in D.C. with Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the assistant labor secretary. One year later, in November 1965, he published Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile. The exposé of the automobile industry was packed with information about easily fixed design flaws: loose seats, poor brakes, weak frames, hazardous glove boxes (he’d witnessed an accident in which a little girl’s head had been severed by a glove-box door), steering columns that could impale drivers. The book became a best seller; Nader testified before Congress; auto-safety bills were signed into law; and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was established. Thanks to Nader we have seat belts and air bags, vehicles that don’t flip over because of suspension defects, engines that won’t explode in a crash. He was featured on the cover of Time in 1969 under the headline “The Consumer Revolt.”

It’s estimated that at least 3.5 million lives were saved between 1966 and 2014 because of Nader’s campaign against dangerous automobiles, and many more lives were saved or improved by his other investigations. He and the idealistic people who worked with him, called “Nader’s Raiders,” helped provide us with clean air and water; less-toxic foods; nutritional labels; cigarette warning labels; protective X-ray aprons; workplace-safety laws; toys that don’t choke kids; and medical devices that don’t electrocute patients. Nader is the country’s safety inspector, keeping an eye on the leaking roof, the cracked pipes, the seep of sewage into our daily lives.

A tall, solitary man with no wife or children (and apparently no car, cellphone, or romantic partners), Nader has founded more than fifty public-interest groups and watchdog agencies. Now eighty-five, he still resembles the somber, youthful David who battled Detroit’s mighty Goliath with a slingshot made of hard facts. Though Nader has never been a fan of computers or electronic gadgets, he does maintain an active Twitter feed (@RalphNader) and podcast (The Ralph Nader Radio Hour) dedicated to dastardly deeds committed by powerful people. His most recent books are To the Ramparts and the novel How the Rats Re-Formed the Congress. He recently called out the major airlines for unsafe practices and political favors — and a few days later, in a sad irony, his twenty-four-year-old grandniece, Samya Stumo, was killed in the Ethiopian Airlines crash caused by design flaws in the Boeing 737 MAX 8.

Underneath his serious demeanor, Nader is said to love humor, which perhaps explains his four appearances (including a stint as host) on Saturday Night Live. In one skit he inspected blow-up sex dolls; in another his own personal air bag failed to detonate when he was hugged. He’s a good straight man. Once there are no more injustices, Nader says, the ultimate purpose of life is laughter.

Nader wants us to realize our own power and to understand that a few determined citizens can change almost anything. These words he wrote in 1972 still feel relevant today: “Let it not be said by a future, forlorn generation that we wasted and lost our great potential because our despair was so deep we didn’t even try, or because each of us thought someone else was worrying about our problems.”

You can read the full interview here.

Citizen Nader has taken Dylan Thomas's advice and stubbornly refuses to go meekly into "that good night"

He has been in conversation with fellow paria, Chris Hedges:

Importance of a civic life with Ralph Nader

Rights and regulation with citizen activist Ralph Nader

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Comments

dystopian's picture

Good post PBF!

Funny how the "Nader was a spoiler" people invariably fail to point out the most important fact, that Supreme Court stopped the recount, which Gore would have won had it been allowed to continue. So it was the SCOTUS that was the real spoiler. But you will never hear this from the 'it was Nader' people, which are invariably establishment dembots. Repeating estab talking points. which shows their bias is at a level that precludes objectivity.

The second thing you will never hear the "Nader was a spoiler" people say is that Gore did not win Arkasas OR Tennessee. This was a clear, plain and simple rebuke for what Bill did in the Oval Office. Gore did not win his own, and Bill Clinton's own, states. Whoever did that before in this situation? Had Gore won TN or AR, FL would not have mattered. But Nader.

Thirdly Bill and Monica are why TN and AR did not go to Gore. But Nader. These are the same brainwashed that blame Jill Stein, but not Gary Johnson. Russia but not Hillary. They are but bots when it comes to politics. Unable to see or think clearly for their ID politics glasses.

The letter to the editor mentalities displayed above are folks looking for excuses and blame instead of all the real answers. Gore lost because of Bill Clinton, not Ralph Nader.

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We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.
Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.
both - Albert Einstein

@dystopian Gore's real problem was that he cherry picked the counties he wanted a recount in. If he had asked for a recount for the entire state he would not have given the Supreme Court an equal protection issue to decide. Not entirely the SC's fault. And of course all of the justices on the SC who ordinarily supported equal protection didn't this time and all those who ordinarily didn't support equal protection did. It was a 5-4 decision which normally would have been 4-5 the other way. But it was Gore who gave the SC the case with his decision not to ask for a state wide recount.

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Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@dystopian

also serves the purpose of helping people forget the 2000 election fraud. Most people don't even know there was election fraud in 2004 as well.

Inevitably, people will start trying to excuse the election fraud by discussing how the Democratic candidates were lacking. That's somehow supposed to mean something in relation to fraudulently rigging a vote count in a presidential election.

I guess Gore and Kerry were crap candidates who would have lost anyway, so they deserved it. Or maybe they deserved it because they made dumb tactical errors like only recounting some counties. However, you know who didn't deserve it?

The people whose votes got tossed into the Atlantic. The people who had the FSP patrolling around their voting places. The people who were invaded by a group of screaming Republican Congressional aides, making it impossible to count votes. The people whose names were purged off the voter list months before because they were incorrectly identified as felons (that's one of my personal favorites, because the company that created the software told Jeb and co that they would get a lot of false positives and they said "That's exactly what we want." (that's from their own emails).

Most of these people were black. But those of us who are their white neighbors didn't deserve a fraudulent vote count either. It hurt everybody, including the white Republicans who decided to throw a party and celebrate like they'd won something. They hadn't. They'd lost something, like everyone else other than those psychopathic vermin who planned the fraud and put it into motion. And those who, no doubt, paid for it all behind the scenes.

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Actually, the issue at stake is patriotism. You must return to your world and put an end to the Commies. All it takes are a few good men.
--Q

Exit polls not involving George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton tend to be quite accurate.
--Doug Hatlem

joe shikspack's picture

oops, hightower nailed that democrat canard years ago...

[T]here are two other Florida constituencies that cost them more votes than Nader did. First, Democrats. Nader only drew 24,000 Democrats to his cause, yet 308,000 Democrats voted for Bush. Hello. If Gore had taken even 1 percent of these Democrats from Bush, Nader's votes wouldn't have mattered. Second, liberals. Sheesh. Gore lost 191,000 self-described liberals to Bush, compared to less than 34,000 who voted for Nader.

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@joe shikspack
that their policies were virtually the same but Bush was more likeable. There's a lot of truth in the first part of that.
But Gore was another candidate whose turn it was and who supposedly owned progressive voters.

BTW, I voted for Gore, solely because of Bush's surname.

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Wally's picture

@joe shikspack

Not Nader's fault there either.

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no one knows (it wasn't just young people who were disgusted with her odious and hypocritical music censorship crusade. No one likes a holier-than-thou fascist.

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17 users have voted.

A PROUD Hillary hater since 1993

@doh1304
but I don't vote based on first ladies.

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Jen's picture

@doh1304 I believe Tipper had more to do with him losing than Nader. I was in school when she went on her censorship campaign. I remember the hatred and anger towards her. By 2000, all those kids and teenagers she pissed off were able to vote or were able to refuse to vote. For 19 years I've claimed Tipper was the reason he lost.

I just read they separated in 2010. If he had done that 11 years sooner, he might have won.

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10 users have voted.

They get people debating whether they should elect a crook in a red hat or a crook in a blue hat, rather than whether or not they should be forced to elect crooks. -Caitlin Johnstone

boriscleto's picture

94,000 voters purged...blah blah blah...Butterfly ballot...blah blah blah...


"Twelve percent of Florida Democrats (over 200,000) voted for Republican George Bush"
-San Francisco Chronicle, Nov. 9, 2000

Half of the registered Democrats in the state didn't even bother to vote. Maybe Gore put them in his lockbox.

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" In the beginning, the universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry, and is generally considered to have been a bad move. -- Douglas Adams, The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy "

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@boriscleto

I object to you calling it "blah blah blah." It was a lot more than that. Among other things, it was the first sign that our republic was dead and the coffin nailed shut.

However, your point about the Bush Democrats is well-taken. In a world with actual journalism, they would have never gotten away with blaming this on Nader and progressives.

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Actually, the issue at stake is patriotism. You must return to your world and put an end to the Commies. All it takes are a few good men.
--Q

Exit polls not involving George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton tend to be quite accurate.
--Doug Hatlem

Citizen Nader), but since we're revisiting the matter, I'll add my own oft-offered analysis.

All claims that Nader "cost" Gore the election revolve around "first-order" analysis. "First-order" analysis refers to changing one or more parameters in a system described by complex mathematical relationships, and then assuming that nothing else will subsequently be changed.

An excellent example is the typical RWNJ take on raising the minimum wage. The first-order analysis of a wage hike is simple: if the cost of labor goes up, all else being equal (as the economists love to say), then the demand for labor must go down. That's how supply and demand work. Therefore, boosting the minimum wage -- indeed, having a minimum wage at all -- must invariably, inevitably put people out of work. This is nonsense of course, because raising the minimum wage puts more disposable income in people's pockets, thus increasing demand for goods and services, providing a higher return to small businesses on their capital investment, offsetting the increased wages (at least, maybe). But that analysis is "second-order" -- it follows the wage hike through a cycle of spending, rather than stopping just at the "increased cost to employers" step.

So anyway, the first-order analysis of the 2000 election is the one that assumes that if you take Nader out of the equation, everything else will be equal. Gore's campaign will be the same. His ads will be the same. His responses to questions in the debates will be the same. And the Bush campaign's tactical maneuvers (and even electoral strategy) would have been the same. And the attitude of all of the voters would have been the same. But of course, none of these things would have been the same. It's utterly impossible to predict what the outcome would have looked like.

Feh.

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The earth is a multibillion-year-old sphere.
The Nazis killed millions of Jews.
On 9/11/01 a Boeing 757 (AA77) flew into the Pentagon.
AGCC is happening.
If you cannot accept these facts, I cannot fake an interest in any of your opinions.

@UntimelyRippd @UntimelyRippd
The thing I kept saying at the time was that Bush was going to win in a landslide because Gore was hopelessly ruined by his refusal to separate himself from NAFTA, Hillarycare and Tipper. But the Media couldn't allow that, they had to have a "story", a "close race" to keep people watching. So they invented the "Nader as spoiler" narrative.
Note also that Nader was polling at 11% at the time, and if Nader had gotten 10% of the vote the Greens would have gotten matching funds, which they would have used to... destroy the Democratic Party decades early and revived the American democracy, which is the establishment's greatest fear.
So they ran hundreds of stories about how that sad sack sacrificial lamb Gore could actually win. The plan was to fool Nader voters to panic switch to Gore - to stop Nader from getting matching funds. BTW it worked.

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A PROUD Hillary hater since 1993

@UntimelyRippd of analysis there is no guarantee Gore would have kept us out of Iraq unless maybe one assumes 9/11 didn't happen somehow with him in office which I for one do not believe for one minute. As regards climate change, again, no guarantee anything substantial would have been done there either. But it's a nice dream, right? A destructive one of course due to all those pesky assumptions which are usually never what they're assumed to be.

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@UntimelyRippd
Even that first order analysis assumes that the current wage is the equilibrium wage in a free market. But the labor market is not a free market. One buyer,many sellers, monopsony.

If the minimum wage is still set below the free market wage, there should be NO change in employment.
Example: Free market wage is $10. Employer would be willing to pay $10 for his existing workforce if he had to, but he doesn't have to because he controls the market, it is not free. So raising the min wage from say $7.50 to $9.50 has no effect on employment.

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@The Voice In the Wilderness @The Voice In the Wilderness

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1 user has voted.

The earth is a multibillion-year-old sphere.
The Nazis killed millions of Jews.
On 9/11/01 a Boeing 757 (AA77) flew into the Pentagon.
AGCC is happening.
If you cannot accept these facts, I cannot fake an interest in any of your opinions.

Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

@UntimelyRippd

given that George, Jeb and Karl had put a plan in place months before the election to steal Florida's votes, that they would not have called that off had Nader dropped out of the race.

Nor do I think they came up with the plan for fear of Ralph Nader.

If all things are equal, perhaps your assertion would be more applicable. All things weren't equal. Two people who weren't cheating were running against a person who was. That changes everything.

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1 user has voted.

Actually, the issue at stake is patriotism. You must return to your world and put an end to the Commies. All it takes are a few good men.
--Q

Exit polls not involving George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton tend to be quite accurate.
--Doug Hatlem

Eagles92's picture

I've always liked Nader -- and yes, I voted for him in 2000 -- but didn't even know the half of his story. Mad respect. We indeed need more citizens like him.

(I also didn't know about his grand-niece and the MAX. How horribly sad).

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phillybluesfan's picture

The views expressed in these letters reflect what I hear a lot from friends who consider themselves liberals. Might be more accurate to describe them as "socially progressive & fiscally conservative". But I have come to the conclusion that they really don't want to change anything because they are personally doing fine. So I really don't buy "Biden is not the enemy; Trump is." That strikes me as New Democrat double speak ... and leave me cold.

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Few are guilty, but all are responsible.”
― Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Prophets

phillybluesfan's picture

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Few are guilty, but all are responsible.”
― Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Prophets

Implement ranked-choice voting, and eliminate party primaries, and the whole "spoiler effect" will go into the dustbin of history.

Then maybe the people elected can manage to implement multi-member districts with its variant of RCV, Single Transferrable Vote, and have gerrymandering join plurality victories.

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Hawkfish's picture

Is another reason third parties have to run presidential campaigns. In most states a party can only get ballot access if they get a certain percentage of the vote in the previous presidential election. The amount varies from 1-5% but it is not zero.

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We can’t save the world by playing by the rules, because the rules have to be changed.
- Greta Thunberg

@Hawkfish
Thanks for the info. In Illinois it might be gubernatorial election. I remember the old Socialist Workers Party getting decent votes for Governor (probably from corruption disgusted Democrats) but very few for President.
And I read on capitalfax.com that the Conservative Party will have ballot access in 2020. They got ballot access in 2018 from a breakaway Republican disgusted with Rauner. Actually disgusted fr the wrong reason, Rauner was pro-abortion, the only decent stand he had.

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Lily O Lady's picture

coverage of Gore beside that of Bush that Bush was the favored candidate. The Dems allowed the bogus Brooks Brothers riot to be taken seriously instead of calling it out for the astroturfing that it was. Still, at the time, I was in thrall to the two party system. It took 2016 to fully bring me to my senses. Sorry Ralph. You deserved better.

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"The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?" ~Orwell, "1984"

orlbucfan's picture

@Lily O Lady cos the die was cast. jeb! ran the state as governor with Katherine Harris ready to jam the works if the vote was close. It was too close and played right into the GOPukes' hands. Nader's ego got in the way. He was a millionaire so he didn't need the bribes. What if? is a valid question.

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3 users have voted.

" Our solutions to the climate crisis must match the demands of physics."
c/o truthout

@orlbucfan
a couple of states he had no chance to win, giving the Green Party a clear shot at 10%, in exchange for Nader withdrawing from Florida.

Notice how ludicrous that formula sounds when you present it from that perspective.

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2 users have voted.

The earth is a multibillion-year-old sphere.
The Nazis killed millions of Jews.
On 9/11/01 a Boeing 757 (AA77) flew into the Pentagon.
AGCC is happening.
If you cannot accept these facts, I cannot fake an interest in any of your opinions.

wendy davis's picture

and hadn't nader also famously said to those who said he'd stolen votes from them: "no, you stole votes from me!"? or close to that?

i loved it that his 2000 running mate was winona la duke, too. she's da bomb! i guess he kinda lost me with his 'only the super-rich can save us' book, but the wiki says he got the idea from warren buffet's 'stop coddling the uber-wealthy', or something like that.

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Cant Stop the Macedonian Signal's picture

I'm with him.

Why does saying that feel so different than "I'm With Her?"

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Actually, the issue at stake is patriotism. You must return to your world and put an end to the Commies. All it takes are a few good men.
--Q

Exit polls not involving George W. Bush or Hillary Clinton tend to be quite accurate.
--Doug Hatlem