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Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader signs an autograph for a supporter. (Lucia Leone/The Daily Pennsylvanian)

It wasn't your typical presidential campaign rally. The politicians and business leaders were conspicuously absent. The marching band stayed at home. And there wasn't so much as a touch of red, white or blue in sight. But when Green Party candidate and long-time consumer advocate Ralph Nader spoke to a group of local supporters Saturday afternoon at a Center City church, the tone quickly took the abrasive form typically displayed by the other contenders in the race for the White House. "If you're happy with politics as usual, you'll have no problem going down and voting Democrat or Republican," Nader told the vocal crowd of about 400 backers who paid $10 each to attend. "If you think politics is broken, then you'll have no problem going down on November 7 and helping the Green Party take a new stand in American politics." Nader, a famed consumer-rights advocate who first gained notoriety in the 1960s for his assault on unsafe automobiles and other products, was in Philadelphia this weekend to drum up local support for his presidential campaign. As the nominee for the left-wing Green Party, Nader's campaign is built upon a left-wing platform of environmental action, government reform and expansion of federal services such as health care. Though no one expects him to win much of the popular vote or any electoral votes, Nader is seeking to win 5 percent of the vote and thus make the Green Party eligible for federal funding in 2004. But even if he doesn't reach that plateau, he could swing several key states to the Republican column by taking votes away from Democrat Al Gore. For more than an hour, Nader discussed his philosophy on governance -- which centers heavily on the control of corporate campaign spending -- and offered a heavy dose of criticism for the two major party candidates. "Our agenda is one which challenges most corporations and special interests. Politics are for real human beings, not artificial entities called corporations," Nader said. "We need to live in a country where the government supports the workers and peasants for a change, instead of the oligarchy and corporations," he added. On several occasions, Nader related his beliefs to issues that have gained tremendous area attention in recent months, such as the push to find public funding for a pair of new sports stadiums. "Here in Philadelphia, I'm aware of two things," he said. "One is that the Phillies and Eagles are loaded with money and have plenty to build their own stadiums. And the second is that there is a great need but no money being applied to your crumbling public schools." Nader's speech was preceded by presentations from a variety of local Green Party candidates and supporters. One of the most popular speakers was Emily Quesada, a College sophomore and campus campaign coordinator, who discussed her own experiences as an activist and her disdain for the two major candidates. "I'm a student activist, and I've found over the past couple of years that students who are for social change will always keep running into a brick wall," Quesada said. "Just look at [George W] Bush. He's this idiot. He can't pronounce words right," she added. "And Gore had this election and now he can't do it. He abandoned you." While Nader's appearance in Philadelphia did not create the media and security stir that would come along with an appearance by either Gore or Bush, it did draw the attention of several protesters. Throughout the appearance, small groups of Gore supporters stood outside of the church urging Green Party voters not to cast ballots for Nader. Such a vote, they say, could only help the Republican candidate capture Pennsylvania's critical 23 electoral votes. Inside the church, though, Nader quickly dismissed such notions that a vote for him was akin to supporting the Bush candidacy. "Gore is running around the country saying a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush," he said. "Can you imagine the conceit in that statement?"

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