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The Big Mo'

Ralph Nader picks up steam and wins the backing of Lenora Fulani.

11:00 PM, Feb 24, 2004 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
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DR. LENORA FULANI, the New York-based radical activist, supports Ralph Nader's independent run for the White House in 2004. On Tuesday, Fulani told me she is "excited" about Nader's run, which he first announced on Sunday's "Meet the Press." "I think it's pretty cool," she said. "I think Nader is a distinguished independent and he needs to be supported."

Fulani's no stranger to presidential politics. A disciple of Fred Newman, the Marxist psychotherapist and former ally of Lyndon LaRouche, who has been accused of "deprogramming" and brainwashing his followers, she ran for president twice as the nominee of the now-defunct New Alliance party--a group the FBI once described as "armed and dangerous." The New Alliance party's platform was mainly known for being so far left that the editors of the Nation dismissed it as the political fringe.

In 1999, Fulani made waves when she supported Patrick J. Buchanan's Reform party presidential campaign. But Fulani eventually disavowed her support for Buchanan and rejected the Reform party, which she now says has been taken over by "right-wing extremists." Still, Reform party members say that Fulani and Newman's support was crucial to getting on the ballot in several states.

These days Fulani is on the executive committee of the Independence Party of New York, the self-described "third-largest party in New York state." The party is under the control of Fulani and Newman and holds its presidential nominating convention in September. Fulani said she hopes the Independence party will nominate Nader as its candidate. "I'm looking forward to having a dialogue with him on what he would like me to do, if anything," she told me. "Because I am interested in helping the campaign. I find this all very interesting."

For some, Fulani's endorsement of Nader won't come as a surprise. Nader, who turns 70 this week, made overtures to Fulani last January, when he addressed a conference she chaired in Bedford, New Hampshire. Nader's appearance at the conference, organized by the Committee for a Unified Independent Party, a Newmanite front-group, sparked controversy among progressives. "Nader's flinging himself into the embrace of the Newmanites--the dregs of extremist political culture--is, to borrow Talleyrand's celebrated phrase, worse than a crime," wrote Doug Ireland in the Nation. "It's a mistake. And a mind-bogglingly dumb one at that."

Nader may disagree. Jacqueline Salit, a Fulani associate and the principal organizer of the New Hampshire conference, says that the audience was excited by Nader's appearance. Such a response may well have encouraged Nader to run for president. Nader also spoke with Fulani at the conference, and has kept in touch with Salit since.

What does Fulani's endorsement mean for Nader's candidacy? It's probably too early to say. I asked Fulani if she had considered running as Ralph Nader's vice presidential candidate. "I've given it no thought whatsoever," she said. But she recognizes that eventually Nader will have to choose a running mate. Would Fulani accept if she were Nader's choice? "We'll deal with that then," she said.

Matthew Continetti is an editorial assistant at The Weekly Standard.