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    2-party system has sold out, Nader says

    In front of a large St. Petersburg audience, the Green Party presidential candidate criticizes corporate influence in politics.

    [Times photo: Fred Victorin]
    Consumer-activist-turned-presidential-candidate Ralph Nader addresses more than 1,000 people Thursday night at Mahaffey Theater in downtown St. Petersburg.

    By BRYAN GILMER

    © St. Petersburg Times, published October 13, 2000


    ST. PETERSBURG -- The major American political parties are the servants of corporations that prosper on the backs of average Americans, Ralph Nader told more than 1,000 supporters in St. Petersburg Thursday night.

    "The two parties have morphed into one corporate party with two different heads wearing different makeup," Nader said during a lengthy speech reminiscent of a professor's college lecture. "Both are nourished by corporate dollars."

    The consumer activist who crusaded for car seat belts and air bags has himself morphed -- into a candidate for president of the United States. But he still attacks the establishment: Now, it's the cozy political-corporate system that is a danger to Americans.

    He called on the raucous crowd to take back their government by supporting his Green Party campaign.

    Nader arrived at the Mahaffey Theater rally midway through the program. He squeezed the Tampa Bay rally into a day in Florida that included Jacksonville and Gainesville stops earlier in the day.

    Nader is scheduled to hold a 9:15 a.m. press conference in Tampa today.

    Nader has the support of about 2 percent of likely voters, according to the Gallup organization, but the Green Party is running with boundless optimism.

    Nader relished the receptive young audience as he took the stage Thursday to a minute-long standing ovation.

    The Green Party's stances on issues are generally to the left of the Democratic Party's: the platform supports civil gay marriage, nuclear disarmament, universal health care and a "living" minimum wage of at least $10 an hour.

    "This whole campaign is about building a modern political progressive movement," Nader said. Corporations have gained disproportionate influence by controlling media, Nader said.

    "Young people today are being raised more and more by corporations," he said. "They grow up looking at screens. They grow up not connecting with real people or real neighborhoods or a real family."

    Nader also took the opportunity, one night after the second presidential debate between Democrat Al Gore and Republican George W. Bush, to decry that he was again excluded.

    "Did you see Bush and Gore straining to agree with each other? I think they set a record for "I agrees,' " Nader said. "Two prize fighters totally weakened, clinching in the center of the ring. The drab debating the dreary. No wonder they kept me out of those debates."

    Bush talks of rebuilding the U.S. military. Nader says it is overgrown.

    "Every (college) student could get free tuition, for less than half what we pay to keep our troops in Europe and Asia to defend our prosperous allies who are more than able to defend themselves against nonexistent enemies," Nader said.

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