October 15, 2004

Knight '73 Discusses Nader

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“I have no idea why he’s running,” said Peter Knight ’73 of presidential candidate Ralph Nader, in a speech last night at Uris Auditorium. The former campaign manager for Bill Clinton’s successful 1996 re-election campaign spoke about the different responses from both Democratic and Republican parties to Nader’s candidacy.

Knight started by describing the “Nader voter” — mostly white, less educated, moderate, principled and disproportionately female voters.

“Nader voters hate George Bush…” Knight said, but, as he went on to describe, the Republican party loves Nader. 10 percent of Nader’s funding comes from Republicans. In Michigan, 43,000 signatures were gathered by Republican GOPs to get Nader on the state ballot. Other Republican efforts included Bush’s council in Florida, arguing Nader’s case in court to put the third party candidate’s name on the ballot.

After establishing that Nader voters do not like Bush, Knight went on to say that “…the problem for Kerry is that they don’t like him much either” — a feeling that is very much reciprocated.

Democrats have been fighting hard to keep Nader off the ballot, and they have been successful in Ohio and Oregon. According to Knight, the Democratic party has adopted a strategy targeting Nader voters who consider themselves ‘principled’ by asking, “how honest can he be if he’s cozying up to Republicans?” Other typical Democratic war cries designed to probe ethical soft spots in Nader-supporters include that he is anti-immigration, “awful” to his staff and has spoken out against Israel.

A second Democratic strategy, Knight explained, is to prove that Republicans are supporting Nader.

“A vote for a man bought to keep George Bush in office is not a principled vote!” Knight exclaimed.

When asked if he felt that all third parties have no legitimate right to run a candidate, Knight explained that “everyone has a right to do it.” One of his qualms with Nader running is that it is not even clear which party he is on. “He was on the Green party; now he’s on the Reform party … what is he?” Knight said.

Altogether, the speech was “very substantive; we could use more [speakers] like him,” said Jim Shliferstein ’06, president of Cornell Political Coalition. Shliferstein is a Sun columnist.

The event was planned by Cornell Political Coalition, Kitsch Magazine and Cornell Mock Election — a program co-sponsored by the Sun.

Knight was chosen to speak because “he has a distinct Washington personality and doesn’t come off as a cold intellectual,” said Katie Jentleson ’06, editor of Kitsch Magazine.

Students described their reasons for attending the event — with some audience members questioning the third party candidate’s influence in this year’s presidental race.

“I want to see if Nader will have an effect on the election. I’m nervous that Kerry will lose; I want to sleep better at night,” said Jonah Green ’06.

Much to the dismay of students like Green, Knight summarized that, “Today, Nader’s candidacy is ensuring the future of George W. Bush.”

Archived article by Erica Fink
Sun Senior Writer