Ralph Nader ended his latest presidential bid Tuesday with a fraction of the votes he won four years ago, but vowed to continue his insurgent campaign against corporate domination of American politics.
The consumer advocate — denounced as a spoiler in 2000 by Democrats who blamed him for costing Al Gore the election — lashed out at the “liberal intelligentsia” for pressuring him to end his campaign and rallying instead behind Democrat John Kerry.
“The liberals who staff and fund so many of those good groups, that years ago made demands on politicians, they don't make demands on the Democratic Party anymore,” a raspy-voiced Nader told about 150 supporters gathered in Washington.
“The contempt that the Democratic Party has for groups that support them, when these groups do not make any demand on them, they are making the Democratic Party seem more like the Republican Party,” Mr. Nader said.
Incomplete returns indicated that Nader was much less of a factor this year than in 2000, when Democrats say he siphoned votes from Mr. Gore in Florida and New Hampshire, giving the states and the election to George W. Bush.
The independent presidential candidate was drawing about 0.5 per cent of the vote in Florida with most of the returns counted, while Mr. Bush led Mr. Kerry by more than 4 percentage points. By contrast, Mr. Nader won about 2 per cent — more than 97,000 votes — in Florida four years ago. Democrats believe most of those votes would have gone to Mr. Gore, who lost the state by 537 votes.
In New Hampshire, Mr. Nader was getting less than 1 per cent of the vote, compared to 5 percent four years ago.
Mr. Nader also failed to crack the 1 per cent mark in Minnesota, another state where he received 5 per cent of the vote and some of his strongest support four years ago.
Mr. Nader was on the ballot in 34 states this year, including at least a half-dozen battleground states where Democrats feared his presence could tip the balance in another razor-thin presidential contest.
Deb Callahan, president of the League of Conservation Voters, called Mr. Nader's candidacy a failure that did nothing to fulfill his promise to build a grass-roots progressive movement.
“I think Ralph Nader has really ruined the reputation that he built throughout his career,” said Ms. Callahan, whose group endorsed Kerry. “He lost the credibility to lead because leadership means you're striving for results. He was striving to make a point, not make a change.”
Mr. Nader claimed he would take more support from Republicans than Democrats and pledged to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq, provide universal health care and boost the minimum wage.
In 2000, Mr. Nader won 2.7 per cent of the vote nationally as the Green Party's candidate in 43 states. This year's pre-election polls showed him drawing about 1 per cent this year as he struggled to get his name on state ballots in the face of a co-ordinated legal campaign by Democrats to challenge his petitions.
Mr. Nader said Tuesday that Democrats should “stay tuned: We are just beginning to fight. We'll make ballot access and electoral reform a prime civil liberties issue.”
Stephen Conn, a 29-year-old Nader voter from Las Cruces, N.M., said he admired Nader's fight against two-party domination.
“I still believe that third parties, despite how they've been marginalized, play a vital role,” Mr. Conn said. “I think Nader is one of the last of his kind.”