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Kerry Picking Up Nader’s Populist Themes
in Final Weeks of Campaign

by Kevin Zeese
October 15, 2004

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Both The New York Times and Wall Street Journal are reporting that Senator John Kerry is beginning to pick-up issues put forward by Ralph Nader. Nader has been giving Senator Kerry a roadmap to defeat George W. Bush throughout the campaign, most recently when he had ten waiters serve him ten ways to defeat George W. Bush on a silver platter. (To see the issues and the photos of the waiters serving them in front of the Kerry headquarters see here and below)

As The New York Times reported, Kerry’s new populist themes are intended to attract potential Nader voters:

Mr. Kerry is going to turn up his efforts to portray the president as a tool of special interests, an approach he has signaled in his campaign speeches and in television advertisements, including one in which Mr. Kerry said the “middle class is paying the bigger share of America's tax burden, and the wealthiest are paying less.” It was a line of attack, though worded less strongly, reminiscent of the “people versus the powerful” argument Al Gore made in the closing days of his contest in 2000. Democrats said it was designed to appeal to supporters of Ralph Nader, the independent candidate who looms as a continuing threat to Mr. Kerry, and to rouse Democratic voters that some recent polls found have been left somewhat unmoved by Mr. Kerry.

The Wall Street Journal also highlights Senator Kerry’s populist message noting how “Mr. Kerry shares his stages with tearful workers who lost their jobs or their health coverage. In recent days, the Democratic Massachusetts senator has also been turning increasingly to anti-business populist rhetoric, railing against drug companies, health-maintenance organizations and oil companies.”

Ten Ways to Beat George W. Bush
A Gift from Nader/Camejo to Kerry/Edwards on a Silver Platter

1) The Failed Presidency of George W. Bush Shows he is a Compassionless Conservative

On the home front and around the world, President Bush has failed the United States. His economic record is one of record deficits, loss of jobs, creation of low-wage jobs. He has failed to create a budget that puts people's needs before corporate greed. He has made us less safe at home, turned allies into adversaries, and trapped us in an impeachable, illegal quagmire. The four-year record of George W. Bush shows his rhetoric of 2000 is not consistent with the impact of his presidency—more poverty; lower paying jobs; more people without health care; less protection from pollution, disease, and job hazards; and more military and civilian casualties.

2) Bush is Not Telling the Whole Story on Casualties in Iraq and the Likely Return of the Draft or Facing Up to the Challenge of Peace in Israel-Palestine

Consistent with the fabrications and deceptions that sent us to war and trapped the US in a quagmire, the Bush administration is under-stating casualties in Iraq by not reporting the likely thousands of wounded and sick soldiers hurt in non-combat situations. The administration is also not telling Americans about the likely reinstatement of the draft—yet where are the troops for escalation in Iraq going to come from when already 40% of the troops in Iraq have come from the National Guard and Reserve? A decisive peace plan for Israel and Palestine is needed ,rather than the drift and subservience of the Bush administration. Seventy percent of Americans of Jewish faith want peace in Israel and Palestine through a real peace, two-state, solution plan. What is not needed is automatic acceptance of the policies of the military government of Ariel Sharon. Seek peace in the Middle East by highlighting the voices of the broad and deep Israeli peace movement, which includes former military officers, rabbis, local and national government officials, legislative incumbents, and academics, among others, with their Palestinian and American counterparts.

3) Protect the Environment and Face Up to Global Climate Change

It is time to face up to the environmental crisis we are facing. The epidemic of silent environmental violence continues. Among the environmental emergencies are the 65,000 Americans who die every year from air pollution, the 58,000 Americans whose demise comes from occupational toxic exposures, and the cruel environmental racism leaving the poor and their often asthmatic children to live in pollution sinks located near toxic hot-spots. The evidence of global warming is mounting in Alaska, the Andes, and Antarctica. It is time to break our addiction to fossil fuels. We threaten the global environment with our continued use of fossil fuels. Not only is this an ecological threat, it is a tremendous economic threat, facing all of humanity. Global warming alarms the re-insurance industry, spreads infectious tropical diseases, causes massive ecological disruption, and increased severe, unpredictable weather—all of which will significantly impact commerce, agriculture, and communities throughout the US and the world.

4) Confront Corporate Crime & Corporate Welfare and Challenge Corporate Control of Government

It is time to end massive corporate welfare programs so costly to taxpayers; prosecute corporate crime, fraud; and abuse; and put the real owners of corporations in charge—the stock holders. In addition, we must pledge to not put corporate representatives in charge of agencies regulating their businesses.

5) Expand Worker's Rights by Developing an Employee Bill of Rights and Providing a Living Wage and Health Care to All NOW

The rights of workers' have been on the decline—take-home pay is at the lowest percentage of GDP since 1929, when figures started being collected. It is time to reverse that trend and begin to give our workers—the backbone of the US economy—the rights they deserve. Workers need a living wage for themselves and their families—not a minimum wage—as there has been an ongoing decline in median family income, access to health care, and reductions in medical benefits and pensions for current employees and retirees. Roadblocks to union organizing, including the Taft-Hartley Act, need to be removed. The US should withdraw from trade agreements that undermine worker's rights, environmental protections, and consumer rights by putting corporate profits before national sovereignty. The US should renegotiate them so they are "pull-up" and not "pull-down" trade agreements. See: For more information see: Workplace Fairness,

6) End the Drug War and Restore, Expand Civil Liberties and Constitutional Rights

Civil liberties and due process of law are eroding due to the "war on terror" and new technology that allows easy invasion of privacy. Americans of Arab descent and Muslim-Americans are bearing the brunt of these dragnet, arbitrary practices. Advocacy is necessary for the restoration of civil liberties; repeal of the Patriot Act; an end to secret detentions, arrests without charges, no access to attorneys, and the use of secret "evidence;" military tribunals for civilians; non-combatant status; and the shredding of "probable cause" determinations. Civil liberties must be expanded to include basic human rights in employment and truly equal rights regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, or religion. An end must be brought to the failed and expensive war on drugs—with public health, social services, and tender, supportive time with addicts, especially youngsters, in our depersonalized society. Law enforcement should be at the edges, not the center, of drug policy.

7) Institute a Fair Tax Where Workers' First $50,000 in Income is Not Taxed, Where the Wealthiest and Corporations Pay their Share; Tax Wealth More than Work; Tax Activities We Dislike More than Necessities

Taxes are skewed in favor of the wealthy and the corporations, further garnished by tax shelters, insufficient enforcement, and other avoidances. Corporate tax contributions as a percent of the overall federal revenue stream have been declining for fifty years and now stand at 7.4% despite massive record profits. Tiny taxes (a fraction of the conventional retail sales percentage) on stock, bond, and derivative transactions can produce tens of billions of dollars a year and displace some of the taxes on work and consumer essentials. A fundamental reappraisal of our tax laws should start with the principle that taxes should apply first to those behaviors and conditions we favor least, such as the clearly addictive industries (alcohol and tobacco), pollution, stock speculation, the gambling companies, and extreme luxuries.

8) Create More Jobs by Investing in America's Infrastructure, Investing in Americans, and Withdrawing From Trade Agreements that Cost us Jobs

Since January 2001, 2 million jobs have been lost, and more than 75% of those jobs have been high-wage, high-productivity manufacturing jobs. Overall, 5.6% of Americans are unemployed, while 10.5% of African-Americans are unemployed. Unemployment among Latinos is nearly 30 % higher than January 20, 2001. By requiring two-way equitable trade, investing in urgently needed local labor-intensive public works (infrastructure improvements), creating a new renewable energy efficiency policy, fully funding education, and redirecting large bureaucratic and fraudulent health expenditures toward preventive health care, we can reverse this trend and create millions of new jobs.

9) Announce an Exit Strategy for Iraq With a Definite Date of Withdrawal

The only way to reduce the escalating violence is Iraq is to announce a dual military and corporate withdrawal from Iraq, so mainstream Iraqis know they will be getting their country back. US withdrawal should be preceded by internationally-supervised elections to replace the puppet government that we have installed. Continued planning of an ongoing military and corporate presence in Iraq fuels the resistance and prevents the onset of democracy and self-rule in Iraq.

10) Face Up to Increasing Poverty Especially Among Children and Demand an End to Commercial Exploitation of Our Children

The commercialization of childhood seems to have no limits. Children are urged to consume bad products and watch entertainment that is harmful to their physical and mental health. We must remove corporations from child-rearing and restore that role to parents. We must face up to the rise in poverty: the Department of Agriculture estimates that 34.9 million Americans, including 13 million children—experience food insecurity, or the lack of consistent access to enough food to ensure active, healthy living. Overall, households with children reported food insecurity at more than double the rate of households without children, 16.5% versus 8.1%. Forty-seven percent of single-mother households faced food insecurity. Make ending poverty for all Americans a priority, weave it into a network of known, proven policies, many advanced by conservatives and economists years ago. See Growing Up Empty: The Hunger Epidemic in America, By Loretta Schwartz-Nobel (Harper Collins 2004)


When Ralph Nader entered the presidential race, Senator Kerry repeatedly said he was not worried because he “would take Nader’s voters by taking Nader’s issues.” Since that time he has run to the right of George W. Bush on many issues, especially the Iraq War, and promised his donors he was “not a redistributionist Democrat.” But, as the Election Day looms, he is now taking a populist tack in order to take Nader’s votes. While the Nader-Camejo campaign appreciates the rhetoric, we urge Senator Kerry to make rhetoric into reality if he is elected because the needs of the people are very real.

Kevin Zeese serves as Ralph Nader's spokesman. Before joining the Nader Campaign ( Mr. Zeese worked with the Campaign for Fresh Air and Clean Politics of Maryland ( which was a founding member of the Montgomery County Coalition for Alternatives to War. He is also noted for challenging paperless electronic voting and the war on drugs. Mr. Zeese can be reached at

Other Articles by Kevin Zeese

* Time for the Peace Movement to Flex Its Muscles
* The Challenge and Opportunity of 2004