By Carolyn Steinle
Campus News Reporter

Citizens of Santa Cruz packed into the entranceway of the Rio Theatre last Monday, May 12 to see Ralph Nader, three-time presidential nominee and champion of three-party politics. That night, Nader and his running mate, Matt Gonzalez, made their case for real change against both the Democrats and Republicans.

“We show how the issues that the majority of the American people want in this country … are on our table … but are off the table for McCain, Obama and Clinton,” Nader said.

Nader began his third presidential campaign as an independent candidate on Feb. 24. A week after he announced his candidacy, he picked Gonzalez as his running mate, and the two have since been traveling the country with their progressive vision. Both politicians were sure to make a stop in Santa Cruz, where Nader has one of his largest followings. Many residents of Santa Cruz dislike having only two options for president and identify with Nader’s anti-corporate image.

“I am sick of the two-party candidates, because they just give rhetoric upon rhetoric and nothing real,” said [year] James Peterson.

Despite the enthusiasm for Nader from Monday night’s audience, the Nader-Gonzalez campaign is not expected to do nearly as well as Nader did eight years ago when he captured 3 percent of the national vote.

Some voters do not support Nader’s bid and blame him for taking votes away from the Democrats in 2000 and starting Bush’s first term in the White House. For the 2008 election, many liberals said that there is too much at stake to give their vote to an independent candidate.

Nader and Gonzalez did not fail to address these concerns.

“How can we vote for candidates that we want but that seem perhaps utopian in their vision, if that vote could in any way lead to a Republican presidency?” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez answered his own question by pointing out that the Democrats already have a majority in Congress and the Senate, but have still not been able to stop the war and have actually increased military spending.

“Why would we give them a larger office if they can’t even work with the office they have right now?” Gonzalez asked.

Though Nader and Gonzalez are leading an aggressive campaign, neither candidate is unrealistic in his hope to win the White House. They do believe, however, that the publicity from their campaign will force other candidates to address the issues Nader and Gonzalez bring up.

“A lot of people think that politics changes when you reach over 50 percent of the vote,” Gonzalez said in a 2006 interview with this reporter. “But the truth is that tipping border is really below 10 percent, and if you can have a movement happening the dominant parties have to change because of it.”

Nader and Gonzalez believe that for change to occur in Washington, citizens need to be active in monitoring their government. Nader envisions the citizen movement to be in the form of community-organized congressional watchdogs who would work like interest lobby groups, keeping daily tabs on what their congressional representatives are voting on in Washington.

“The one thing that Congress wants the most, above the wining and dining from corporations, is the vote,” Nader said. “If Congress does something at 11 a.m. and [members of the congressional watchdog] don’t like it on the Senate floor by 4 p.m., half of the people in the district can find out what they are doing.”

Nader noted the danger of political promises.

Nader said, “[The candidates will continue] to flatter you, the American people, and then betray you and turn your government, the most precious counterforce, into corporate power.”