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Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Party N+1 

Well, at least he bothered to come to this convention:
Ralph Nader lost the presidential nomination from the California Peace and Freedom Party on Sunday when its members opted instead to nominate jailed American Indian activist Leonard Peltier.

Nader, who is running for president as an independent candidate, addressed delegates who represent about 80,000 Peace and Freedom Party members as they attended the party's weekend convention in Los Angeles, said party chairman and co-founder Kevin Akin.

"Ralph Nader personally appeared and discussed matters with us for an hour and answered many questions," said Akin, 53, of Riverside. "But we're pretty committed to Peltier and (vice presidential running mate) Janice Jordan."

Peltier is serving a life sentence in a federal prison at Leavenworth, Kan., for the June 1975 slayings of FBI agents Ron Williams and Jack Coler on the Pine Ridge reservation. He was convicted in 1977 of two counts of first-degree murder.
A little more background: The Peace & Freedom Party is only on the ballot in California (and, in fact, does not exist in any other state at all). Leonard Peltier is a 1970s-era Native American activist and perennial cause quasi-celebre of the left fringe in the US. You can read more about Janice Jordan and her collection of causes here.

I'd like to point out that this story shows why even countries with proportional representation, full public funding of election campaigns, and highly-inclusive debate rules still almost universally resort to "anti-democratic" measures like minimum vote thresholds and party-registration requirements. It's not necessarily that Peltier and Jordan or their supporters are total wackos (although they may well be). It's that not even a nod in the direction of realism is required for this kind of posturing. In countries with easier ballot access laws, single-issue parties proliferate. If ballot access were a truly trivial matter, then we'd probably see a lot of single-person (or single person's issues) parties as well, and Presidential debates would have to be held in Madison Square Garden, with all the seats taken by candidates instead of spectators.

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