What in the world is Ralph Nader doing in bed with the ultrasectarian cult-racket formerly known as the New Alliance Party?

That’s the question raised by Nader’s January 11 appearance as the featured speaker at a conference in Bedford, New Hampshire, of so-called “independents” that is nothing more than a front for the New Alliance crazies. The conference was arranged by something called the Choosing an Independent President 2004 Campaign (“ChIP”). ChIP’s organizers–or “convenors,” as they style themselves–are none other than Dr. Fred Newman, the cult’s guru, a master manipulator and former associate of mad Lyndon LaRouche; and Dr. Lenora Fulani, the Afro-American former presidential candidate of the New Alliance Party, whom Newman describes as his “greatest creation.”

Newman controls his followers through a brainwashing scheme–which he baptized “Social Therapy”–that has been described by one deprogrammed former member of his group as a “sophisticated indoctrination methodology which impairs critical thinking skills and which uses repression, dependency and guilt-inducing techniques to control and lure patients into political activity and, ultimately, into blind allegiance to Newman.”

There’s nothing at all “independent” about Newman and Fulani’s latest creation, ChIP. It’s just the latest in a skein of more than two dozen front groups and rackets Newman has created, all of which have as their ultimate goal nothing more than enlarging the cult and subsidizing Newman’s and Fulani’s lavish lifestyles.

When the Newmanites and Fulani took over New York’s Independence Party, they turned it into their most recent cash cow, renting themselves out to billionaire Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg in his first campaign (Bloomberg wanted an additional ballot line as a hedge in case he lost the GOP primary). Before that, the Newmanites had helped Pat Buchanan in his putsch that took over the remnants of the Reform Party for Pat’s last presidential run. And they hired themselves out to help perennial candidate and multimillionaire real estate developer Abe Hirschfeld, the meshuganeh who was jailed for trying to murder a former business associate and who then tried to hire a hitman to off the judge who sentenced him.

The long and sorry history of the Newmanites and their lucrative political con-jobs has been well chronicled (see, for example, two probing Nation articles by Bruce Shapiro: “Buchanan-Fulani: New Team?” Nov. 1, 1999, and “Dr. Fulani’s Traveling Snake-Oil Show,” May 4, 1992; and a report by Political Research Associates’ excellent senior analyst, Chip Berlet, “Clouds Blur the Rainbow–How Fred Newman & Lenora Fulani Use Totalitarian Deception to Manipulate Social and Political Activists. Historical Background on the New Alliance Party,” available on PRA’s website, “The Public Eye,” at www.thepubliceye.org, along with a ton of other material on the Newmanites; there are also reports available by the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith).

Now, I’m no knee-jerk Nader-basher. Indeed, I wrote columns in support of Nader’s 2000 presidential candidacy, and I was even one of some two dozen hardy souls who signed a 1996 New York Times ad supporting Nader’s campaign that year, as my protest against the endless corruptions of Bill Clinton. But a Nader presidential candidacy this year makes no sense to me, for a host of reasons. It wouldn’t have been justifiable even if Ralph had decided once again to become the Green Party’s candidate, a course he has now rejected; it will have even less of a rationale if he decides to run as an independent.

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, it’s a mistake. And a mind-bogglingly dumb one at that. The only press coverage I could find of the Bedford meeting was some cub reporter’s article in the January 12 Manchester Union-Leader, which completely ignored that the conclave was a New Alliance operation. But one cannot believe that a politically sophisticated chap like Ralph doesn’t know exactly who Newman and Fulani are, and why they are so despicable. For Ralph to grace a Newman front group with his presence is the equivalent of cuddling up to Scientology, another cult-racket. I wanted to ask him why he is so desperate for applause that he has to turn to these dangerous loonies, but he didn’t return my calls. It’s a pathetic way for Nader to begin a last, counterproductive campaign.

And despite Ralph’s important, decades-long contributions to citizen activism, it’s a sign that in his eerie isolation he may be losing his political judgment. I find that sad–and I pray that he will in the end decide against another run that would be immensely damaging to his image and his legacy.