ANNAPOLIS – While Maryland Green Party voters are willing to put their money into their presidential candidate, some may be a little less willing to give Ralph Nader their votes.
Robert E. McGarrah Jr. of Chevy Chase contributed $250 to Nader’s campaign, although he said he has not decided if he will vote for Gore or Nader on Nov. 7.
“I don’t want to make a vote that’s simply just a protest vote,” he said. McGarrah, an attorney, worked for Nader’s Health Research Group when he first got out of law school.
McGarrah has eliminated one candidate.
“Having (Republican George) Bush make Supreme Court appointments alone…would be really dangerous to civil liberties,” said McGarrah.
McGarrah referred to a Sept. 10 E.J. Dionne column in The Washington Post in which he identifies a growing feeling among many Nader admirers: a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush.
Critics of this view have said Nader isn’t stealing votes from Democrat Al Gore but bringing a lot of people, especially students, to the polls who wouldn’t have otherwise made the trip. Both Nader and Gore appeal to more liberal voters, while Bush appeals to conservatives.
Nader votes carry more power in this election, said McGarrah. If Nader can get 5 percent or more of the general election votes, the Green Party could qualify for federal matching funds in 2004, as did the Reform Party with Ross Perot in 1996.
“Third parties don’t have a very good track record in this country,” said McGarrah. “(Nader) needs to qualify and at least get to that threshold.”
That seems to be the goal of many Nader supporters.
“Obviously I know he’s not going to be president this year and probably ever,” said Charles Higley, a writer from Takoma Park who also gave Nader $250.
Although he is a registered Democrat, Higley voted for Nader four years ago. His Democratic status, Higley said, he uses to vote in the primaries for the least conservative candidate.
“Often the only real choice we have as voters is which Democratic candidate is going to be the Democratic Party nominee,” said Higley.
But Mary B. Marcellot said, in this election, she won’t vote for either major party. Period.
“I don’t like the big parties-too powerful, too much money,” said Marcellot, a Queenstown retiree and independent.
Marcellot, who backed Clinton in 1996, said she will vote for Nader.
These three Nader supporters, all contributors and active voters, are not the people targeted by his campaign.
Nader is looking for their opposite – those turned off by politics and less likely to vote.
“Those are the people who the Nader campaign focuses on…those are the people who are most ready for the third parties,” said Isaac Opalinsky, Maryland Green Party spokesman.
It seems Opalinsky is making progress. Marylanders donated more than $30,000 to Nader’s presidential campaign this year. And the Green Party is the state’s fourth largest in terms of registration, with more than 150 Greens registered in Anne Arundel, Montgomery and Baltimore combined as of Sept. 30.
Nader is the kind of candidate who inspires people to vote for him, said Opalinsky, rather than one who is selected as the lesser of two evils. He’s the kind of guy with a car part named after him.
Opalinsky said Nader is the only candidate with this claim to fame; the Nader bolt keeps a car door closed in a side-impact collision. Nader, Opalinsky said, is effective, idealistic and committed to change, and the Nader bolt illustrates that. Opalinsky said voters have to decide what they want in their candidate: faith or . . . “When it comes to politics, I think it has a lot to do with deeds.”