While Ralph Nader soldiers on in his campaign to win the presidency--or to secure the lesser crown of the most reviled American in progressive history--his two-time ticket-mate Winona LaDuke is finally willing to confess the regret she feels over the 2000 election. "I wish we got more votes," she says. "A good portion of the Greens who indicated they'd vote for us voted for Al Gore."
LaDuke, an Indian activist and writer from the White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota, will not be the next vice president of the United States. After running with Nader on the Green ticket in 1996 and 2000, she informed Nader a year and a half ago that she wouldn't be joining him on the stump this time around. On June 21, Nader announced that veteran California Green Peter Camejo would be his Sancho Panza in the 2004 race. (A few days later, Nader, who never joined the Green Party or endorsed its platform, failed to gain the group's endorsement.)
LaDuke wasn't immediately available to comment on those political developments. She was in South Dakota on business, she explained over the phone a week later, and then led five teenage boys on a horseback trip. (Debating alternative fuels with Dick Cheney surely would be less difficult than this.)
"I've got a lot of work to do here protecting wild rice from genetic modification," LaDuke says of her decision not to run, "I'm working on wind energy. I'm busy." While one of Dylan's country tunes twanged in the background, LaDuke spoke in a nasal honk of her own. "You'll have to excuse me," she says. "I've got a really bad head cold here. I sort of sound like a transvestite."
LaDuke has considered a future run for Minnesota office, and remains passionate about keeping malevolent men out of power. "I'm very thankful that Chip Wadena didn't win," LaDuke says of the former head of White Earth, a felon who recently failed in his electoral comeback bid. And though the prospect of another Bush coronation makes her "nauseated," she stands by her previous campaigns and Nader's 2004 run.
"The Democrats shouldn't whine about Ralph and the Greens," LaDuke says. "The Democrats should find their own fold and their own message." She touts the Green Party's 2000 work in helping to vault six native candidates into the Montana statehouse, and in defeating Washington Republican Senator Slade Gorton.
"You need to get people out to vote," she continues. "I intend to drive everyone in my family who's not a felon out to vote."
That said, LaDuke isn't ready to commit to which bubble she'll be filling in come November. "Right now I'm inclined toward Ralph. Other than that, my children are eating a lot of Heinz ketchup--our small way of helping finance the Kerry campaign."