By Patrick B. McGuigan
Ralph Nader, famed consumer activist and frequent independent candidate for president of the United States, is coming to Oklahoma City to address ballot access reform issues. Nader will speak September 8, at 7 p.m., at the Oklahoma City Marriott, 3233 Northwest Expressway, in the Grand Ballroom.
Edward A. Shadid, an independent candidate in state House District 85, is promoting Nader’s appearance. Shadid, who says is carrying the banner of the Green Party in his independent bid, is challenging state Rep. David Dank, a Republican, in the November election. The Democratic party nominee is city school board member Gail Vines.
In promoting the event, Shadid has distributed information declaring Oklahomans “are growing increasingly uneasy about the Republican/Democratic Party duopoly, which acts to commercialize elections, gerrymander districts to repress competition, and preclude third party candidates from ballot access.” Shadid decried the fact that 53 of this year’s 125 legislative “races” are not elections at all, as incumbents or new legislators gained election without competition.
Shadid noted that Nader has written about a lack of political competition since 1958, when an essay he penned appeared in the Harvard Law Review. Some analysts believe Oklahoma’s ballot access laws are the nation’s most restrictive.
In April 2010, a Sooner Poll found 66.2% of Oklahomans said “yes” in response to the question: “Do you think it should be easier for political parties other than Democrat or Republican to get on the ballot in Oklahoma?”
Nader’s appearance on September 8 is free and open to the public.
At the recent Global Forum on Direct Democracy in San Francisco, Nader participated via telephone, delivering one of the conference’s major addresses and answering questions from participants.
Nader was the Green Party’s presidential candidate in 1996 and 2000, and ran as an independent in both 2004 and 2008.
In his speech for the forum, Nader responded to questions from the crowd, representative of the diverse attendees holding conservative, liberal, libertarian and environmentalist views.
Among other comments, Nader reflected, “I am fearful for the future of direct democracy, as the initiative has become a tool for the right in many cases. The initiative however, should not be a last resort but a first resort to build up our participatory democracy.”
Nader also said, “I believe the initiative is a way to subordinate commercial values to civic values. There is currently a participatory void in our country. We have to relearn, as Americans, how to practice democracy.”