Stakes are raised as conservatives back Nader

In a paradoxical display of partisan weirdness, activist and former Green Party candidate Ralph Nader’s bid to sit on the 2004 Oregon presidential ballot has found an unlikely ally: several state conservative groups. The organizations — including the Oregon Family Council and Citizens for a Sound Economy — phoned members, asking them to attend the Nader’s June 26 convention to help the perennial third-party candidate find a space on the ballot.

The motive for this seemingly counterintuitive gambit? Some Republican planners believe (rightly, if 2000 presidential election figures are any indication) that having Nader on the ballot would draw more votes from would-be John Kerry voters than President Bush supporters. And in a year when many states — Oregon included — might see narrow margins of victory in November’s presidential election, a rogue factor like Nader might swing states from the blue column to the red. (In 2000, former Vice President Al Gore won Oregon’s seven electoral votes by a margin of 6,765 votes — a pittance compared to the 77,357 voters that turned out for Nader.)

The OFC isn’t shy about its efforts to draft conservatives to secure Nader a place on the ballot.

“We’d like to take a few votes away from John Kerry if it would be possible,” OFC’s Tim Nashif said.

Democrats are understandably displeased: Kerry spokeswoman Laura Capps blasted the efforts in an interview with The Oregonian, saying that it is a “shame the Bush camp has to resort to such tactics to lure their base to support a third-party candidate.”

But what shouldn’t be lost in all this is that voters are ultimately responsible for their own fate: Simply because another check box or tab is available on a ballot, voters aren’t excused from the responsibility of decision.

No matter who your political inclination, educate yourself about the issues and vote — election day is less than five months away.