EAST LIVERPOOL: The
polls show Ralph Nader's presidential bid getting maybe 3 percent of
But in this postage-stamp city, hunkered down on the banks of the
Ohio River, Nader is a political force, thanks to the thick plume of
smoke that is a constant stain on the skyline.
There were as many anti-Al Gore signs as there were
pro-Nader ones in the crowd that gathered to greet Nader in front of
the East Liverpool school administration building yesterday morning.
This town of 13,000 was the first of the day's three scheduled
campaign stops in Ohio.
Typical of those gathered were Donna Danver and her neighbor
Margery McKinnon, both spry gray-haired women, their sweater pockets
stuffed with Nader stickers and buttons.
``I'm a registered Democrat. Been one all my life. But I'm voting
for Ralph Nader and that's why,'' said Danver, nodding over her
shoulder at the thick white smoke boiling from a lone stack less
than 300 yards away.
The stack is from the Waste Technologies Industries' hazardous
waste incinerator, which has been a burning issue in East Liverpool
for nearly a decade and has folks here hot with Al Gore.
``Gore is a liar, period. I have no use for liars,'' McKinnon
``Ditto,'' chimed in Danver.
The neighbors describe how this dates back to a 1992 promise by
Gore, then a candidate for vice president, to prevent the opening of
the WTI plant because of its proximity to an elementary school.
The plant was allowed to open by the outgoing Bush
administration, and the Clinton- Gore White House said it was unable
to close the incinerator, a position disputed by critics.
When Nader finally arrived just before 11 a.m., nearly an hour
late, he was greeted by thunderous applause from the crowd of nearly
Standing at center court in the gymnasium connected to the
administration building, a relaxed, hand-in-pocket Nader recited a
litany of complaints against the incinerator that those gathered had
long-ago committed to memory:
Dioxins, furans, chromium, lead and arsenic released into the air
. . . 60,000 tons of hazardous waste every year.
``Any incinerator that emits almost a pound of mercury into the
air every day can't be good for our children's ability to learn,''
Nader said. He referenced the elementary school being less than
1,500 feet downwind of the incinerator.
Nader told the crowd that Gore recently promised to take on large
``If Gore can't stand up for the people against this outrageously
dangerous polluter, should anyone believe he will ever fight for the
people and not the powerful?''
Texas Gov. George W. Bush wasn't given a free pass by Nader, who
said Republicans are no better than Democrats.
``Bush is a big corporation running for president disguised as a
candidate. . . . The Republicans and Democrats are just one big
But while a contingent of East Liverpool people have personally
heckled Gore from New Hampshire (before the primary) to California
(during the Democratic national convention), it would be incorrect
to paint them as anti-establishment environmental activists.
Fully more than half of the crowd was past retirement age. Nearly
all were working-class men and women, who no longer believe that
either of the established political parties will address their
``There is no distinction between Gore and Bush. I see Ralph
Nader as a viable option,'' said Richard K. Wolf, who stood against
the gym wall and took in Nader's speech.
But realistically how viable an option is the Green Party ticket
of Ralph Nader and Winona LaDuke?
Nader said to simply vote for the ``lesser of two evils'' is
``At the end of the day, you still end up with evil,'' Nader
said. Even if he loses, he said, the Green Party will make major
strides in narrowing the ``democracy gap -- where corporations have
become sovereign rather than the people.''
If he makes a strong showing, the Democrats and Republicans will
be put on notice that business as usual is no longer acceptable,
McKinnon echoed Nader's sentiments.
``My vote for Nader won't be wasted. I feel I might be one voter,
but I will be doing what I can for someone who can help us. At least
he came to hear our concerns.''
Wolf said a vote for Nader is just one more step on the road
toward real political change.
``Rome wasn't built in a day. We have to start somewhere. We have
to send a message.''
Carl Chancellor can be reached at 330-996-3725 or firstname.lastname@example.org