Ralph Nader on Principles & Values

2008 Independent for for President; 2004 Reform nominee; 2000 Green nominee


Organize to give the president some backbone

Q: would you prefer, as an American citizen, to have Barack Obama or John McCain as president?

A: What I prefer as an American citizen?

Q: Yes.

A: You’re asking me? I’m running for president, for heaven’s sake.

Q: But as a citizen.

A: I would prefer that the American people organize, that whoever is president, they give that person backbone.

Source: Meet the Press: 2008 “Meet the Candidates” series , Feb 24, 2008

The two parties steal elections & can’t even count the votes

When it comes to 2000 election, [my candidacy was] just one variable. Some scholars have shown that by pushing Gore to take more progressive stands, he got more votes than the votes allegedly withdrawn for the Green party. 25% of my vote, according to a Democratic pollster’s exit poll, would’ve gone to Bush. 39% would’ve gone to Gore and the rest would’ve stayed home. Every third party in Florida got more votes than the 537 vote gap. So let’s get over it and try to have a diverse multiple choice, multiple party democracy the way they have in Western Europe and Canada. This bit of “spoiler” is really very astonishing. These are the two parties who’ve spoiled our electoral system [with] money; they can’t even count the votes; the Republicans steal the votes; and the Democrats knock third party candidates off the ballot. That’s their specialty these days.
Source: Meet the Press: 2008 “Meet the Candidates” series , Feb 24, 2008

The only true aging is the erosion of one’s ideals

Q: On Wednesday it’s your birthday. You’ll be 74 years old. You would be the oldest man ever elected president. You’re older than John McCain.

A: Thank you very much. I really like that.

Q: It’s an issue that has been discussed about John McCain, and I’m presenting it to you.

A: Someone once said the only true aging is the erosion of one’s ideals, and I want the people out there just to look at our Web site and see how exciting it’s going to be. I’ve been assured by my computer/Internet literate associates--I grew up in the Underwood typewriter age, you know--that this is going to be the most exciting, informative, participatory Web site of any presidential campaign, votenader.org. We’re millions of people out there, and we simply have to, for the sake of our children and grandchildren, and the state of our nation in the world, we have to mobilize in that manner, and that’s what that Web site is all about. It’s not just a Web site. It’s a gathering center, votenader.org.

Source: Meet the Press: 2008 “Meet the Candidates” series , Feb 24, 2008

Hillary is a panderer; Obama is too abstract & general

Q: On the day that John Edwards announced he was dropping out of this contest, you announced you’re creating the presidential exploratory committee to see if there’s enough money, enough interest in your running as an independent candidate. You had praised him on and off as having a “glimmer of hope.” Give us the correlation between Edwards dropping out and your new ambition to run for the White House once again.

A: The voters lost a critic of corporate control in the form of John Edwards, also i the departure of Dennis Kucinich. And corporate control is a major issue in any political campaign.

Q: I know you don’t like the Republican candidates, and you’ve told me on several occasions that you consider Hillary Clinton a panderer. That’s the wor you’ve used. But what about Barack Obama? What don’t you like about him?

A: He’s too abstract and too general. He comes on as a constitutional law specialist, but he offers nothing to hold this outlaw presidency accountable. And he’s not speaking out.

Source: CNN Late Edition: 2008 presidential series with Wolf Blitzer , Feb 3, 2008

Bloomberg run would add to debate, but not stop a Nader run

Q: In November, this is what you said about the possibility of a third-party run by the New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg:

NADER: I would like the idea of a no-nonsense mayor, who doesn’t have to dial for dollars and who can go right in and turn it into a multiparty or multicandidate race.

Q: What do you think about a potential Bloomberg run? Would that stop you from running?

A: No, because although he will address certain issues the other two parties will not address, he doesn’t address the civil liberties issues. He’s not good on civil liberties. He’s not good on stopping taxpayer subsidies to corporate welfare recipients, big corporations on the dole. So, I don’t know why we are rationing candidate choice in this country. We certainly don’t ration entertainment. We don’t ration sports. We shouldn’t ration candidate choice, we shouldn’t ration debates, we shouldn’t ration the full, vibrant, robust process of democracy so that taboo issues are untaboo.

Source: CNN Late Edition: 2008 presidential series with Wolf Blitzer , Feb 3, 2008

The “money horse race” is unhealthy, rancid politics

We have got a money horse race now. The press and the polls are gravitating on cash register politics as if there’s a bar graph, you know, to see who’s going to raise the $100 million or $200 million, McCain or Obama or Hillary. That’s very unhealthy. That’s rancid politics.
Source: CNN Late Edition: 2007 presidential series with Wolf Blitzer , Feb 4, 2007

Hillary is a panderer, flatterer, & corporate Democrat

Q: Here’s what you wrote about Hillary Clinton on VoteNader.org: If Hillary Clinton is nominated in 2008 by the Democrats to run for president, they will support her. They will support her even though she is a corporate Democrat who opposes us on the war in Iraq, on real universal health insurance, on the swollen, wasteful military and corporate welfare budget, on a national living wage -- on many of the issues we care about.“ I take it you’re not going to vote for Hillary Clinton.

A: No. I don’t think she has the fortitude. Actually, she’s really a panderer and a flatterer as she goes around the country. You’ll see more of that.

Q: If Hillary Clinton gets the Democratic nomination, would that encourage you to go forward and put your name on the ballot?

A: It would make it more important that that be the case.

Source: CNN Late Edition: 2007 presidential series with Wolf Blitzer , Feb 4, 2007

For 2008, likes Bloomberg, Gravel, Kucinich, & Bill Moyers

Q: You like Bloomberg?

A: He’ll give more diversity for sure, and he’ll focus on urban problems. And I might say, he has got the money to do it, doesn’t he?

Q: Are there any Democrats or Republicans out there?

A: Well, there are, but they don’t have a lot of money. Mike Gravel made a great speech before the Democratic National Convention on the war, on the corporate domination of our economy, on the need for a national referendum to give more power to the people.

Q: I think it’s fair to say he’s a long shot. You like Congressman Kucinich, too.

A: [Yes], these people have records, not just rhetoric, going back in their own elected careers.

Q: You wrote, “Bill Moyers is unusually articulate and authentic in evaluating the unmet necessities and framing the ignored solutions in our country.” You’d like him to run for president?

A: Very much. I got a great response to that column.

Q: What about response did you get from Bill Moyers?

A: We haven’t heard from Bill Moyers.

Source: CNN Late Edition: 2007 presidential series with Wolf Blitzer , Feb 4, 2007

New book, “The 17 Traditions”, about his upbringing

Q: I want to talk a little bit about “The Seventeen Traditions”, your new book, a little one, but it’s got some really deep significance for you and I assume a lot of people who read it. Tell us what you mean by these 17 traditions.

A: Well, there are 17 ways my mother and father raised four children, two girls and two boys, in a little factory town in northwest Connecticut. And their traditions, I think they’ll resonate with a lot of people, especially young parents who think everything’s out of control for them, including their children. So the first tradition is learning how to listen. My mother would say, learn how to listen so you’ll listen to learn, something I wish George W. Bush grew up learning. There’s a tradition of history, a tradition of the family food table, where a lot of discussion was conducted. Tradition of work: Father had a restaurant where they said for a nickel, you got a cup of coffee and ten minutes of politics. So it was a lot of town meeting activity.

Source: CNN Late Edition: 2007 presidential series with Wolf Blitzer , Feb 4, 2007

Hillary is a corporate Democrat, a panderer and a flatterer

Q: You wrote about Hillary Clinton on VoteNader.org: “Hillary Clinton is a corporate Democrat who opposes us on the war in Iraq, on real universal health insurance, on the swollen, wasteful military and corporate welfare budget, on a national living wage--on many of the issues we care about.” I take it you’re not going to vote for Hillary Clinton.

A: No. I don’t think she has the fortitude. Actually, she’s really a panderer and a flatterer as she goes around the country. You’ll see more of that.

A: It would make it more important that that be the case.

Q: Are there any Democrats out there that you like right now?

A: Well, there are, but they don’t have a lot of money. Mike Gravel made a great speech before the DNC, on the war, on the corporate domination of our economy, on the need for a national referendum to give more power to the people.

Source: CNN Late Edition: 2007 presidential series with Wolf Blitzer , Feb 4, 2007

Listening is the first of the “Seventeen Traditions”

Q: I want to talk a little bit about “The Seventeen Traditions” by Ralph Nader. This is a little book, but it’s got some really deep significance for you and I assume a lot of people who read it. Tell us what you mean by these 17 traditions.

A: Well, there are 17 ways my mother and father raised four children, two girls and two boys, in a little factory town in northwest Connecticut. And their traditions, I think they’ll resonate with a lot of people, especially young parents who think everything’s out of control for them, including their children. So the first tradition is learning how to listen. My mother would say, learn how to listen so you’ll listen to learn, something I wish George W. Bush grew up learning. There’s a tradition of history, a tradition of the family food table, where a lot of discussion was conducted. The tradition of history, it was very important for us. Tradition of work.

Source: CNN Late Edition: 2007 presidential series with Wolf Blitzer , Feb 4, 2007

Bush is turning the U.S. into a police state

The Constitution’s great phrase of restraint, “probable cause,” has been swept away. Without “ probable cause,” government agents can covertly attend and monitor public meetings, including places of worship. Wantonly brandishing the word “terror,” the Bush White House is becoming a law unto itself--chilling Congress, intimidating Democrats, diminishing legal review, distracting the nation from domestic necessities, and draining the federal budget into a swamp of deficits to pay for a garrison state and its foreign adventures. And most important for Bush, attempting to frighten the public into his re-election.
Source: The Good Fight, by Ralph Nader, p. 57 , Jul 6, 2004

OpEd: Liberal trap: perfect is the enemy of the good

[In 1990], the AFL-CIO refused to endorse me [but] 18 local unions defied [the national office] and endorsed me anyway. They didn't fall into the classic liberal trap of making the perfect the enemy of the good. If the people who voted for Ralph Nader in 2000 hadn't made the same mistake, Al Gore would have been elected President.

Al was going to win big states by large margins, but Bush was going to win more small rural states, and they had an advantage in the electoral college.

Gore did win [the popular vote], but the electoral college was in doubt. The race came down to Florida, after Gore won a narrow victory in New Mexico, one of several states that were closer than they would have been had Ralph Nader not been on the ballot.

New Hampshire went for Bush by a margin of just over 7,000 because Nader got 22,198 votes. Even worse, Nader received more than 90,000 votes in Florida, where Bush was hanging by a thread in an election contest that would drag on for more than a month.

Source: My Life, by Bill Clinton, p.357-8&928-9 , Jun 21, 2004

Saw anti-Bork campaign as constituency-building opportunity

[Supreme Court nominee] Bork was a distinguished academic but an ideological bomb-thrower; an argument could be made that he was not merely a conservative but a radical reactionary. The leaders of the anti-Bork coalition decided to have that argument made substantively, by constitutional scholars, rather than emotionally; activists like Ralph Nader and Molly Yard, of the National Organization for Women, were persuaded not to testify. Nader did meet with Joseph Biden, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, before the hearings began and said that the Bork nomination, if handled correctly, could be a "constituency-building exercise" for the liberal activists--that is, a major direct mail fund-raising opportunity. Biden was disgusted. "I told him no," he recalled, "and I'm proud of the way those hearings were run."

Ralph Nader's personal asceticism and low-key style masked a sour and unrelenting demagogue--and he clearly understood the new political terrain better than Biden did.

Source: The Natural, by Joe Klein, p. 97-98 , Feb 11, 2003

Gore & Bush both ignore youth issues in favor of fat cats

The seat next to me on the stage was reserved for George W. Bush, but on that afternoon of Aug. 2, 2000, it remained empty.

For months, a nonpartisan group called Youth in Action tried to have that seat filled in Philadelphia’s Drexel University auditorium. The event was part of the National Youth Conventions, which involved thousands of high school students and other young people contributing to a National Youth Platform.

By demonstrating a serious engagement with the presidential campaign of 2000, as well as their deep stake in America’s future, Youth in Action was hoping that it could lay claim to some personal attention by George W. Bush and Al Gore, just as large campaign donors had done throughout the year. Its schedulers made sure that there were no conflicts with the big events at the two conventions.

It was not to be. Gore matched Bush in declining to appear. The two candidates had more important events to attend--lavish parties with corporate lobbyists and fat cats.

Source: Crashing the Party, by Ralph Nader, Chapter One , Oct 9, 2002

“Priceless” ad caused lawsuit but got priceless attention

Nader’s “priceless” ad starts off with assorted photos of Bush & Gore, accompanied by the song “Hail to the Chief.” This is followed by a montage of images of Nader over the years. A voice-over intones: “Grilled tenderloin for fund-raiser: $1,000 a plate. Campaign ads filled with half-truths: $10 million. Promises to special interest groups: over $10 billion. Finding out the truth: priceless. Without Ralph Nader in the presidential debates, the truth will come in last.”

The 30-second spot caught the attention of MasterCard CEO Robert Selander, who called Nader directly while vacationing in the tropics. Back came MasterCard with a lawsuit, claiming trademark and copyright infringement. The company demanded $15 million in damages. The Nader campaign pulled the ad, pending the outcome of the lawsuit. But it was remarkable how much mileage Nader got out of a single ad. Countless articles about the debacle appeared. Nader campaign headquarters received hundreds of cut-up MasterCards.

Source: Nader: Crusader, Spoiler, Icon, by Justin Martin, p. 244 , Oct 1, 2002

Nader “stood” for president in 1996 (didn’t “run”)

Ever the lawyer, Nader attempted in 1996 to run and not run at the same time. He approached this latest political flirtation with a whole set of hesitations, qualifications, and disclaimers. He did not register as a Green, nor did he adopt the party’s platform. His campaign purchased no ads and took no contributions. He promised not to spend more than $5,000 of his own money, thereby avoiding federal regulations regarding disclosure of his personal finances. And he traveled virtually nowhere. In Nader’s parlance, he “stood for president” in 1996 as opposed to actually running.

Nader received 580,627 votes in 1996, good for 0.6% of the electorate. He came in fourth behind Reform Party candidate Ross Perot (8.5%) and just ahead of Harry Browne of the Libertarian Party (0.5%). Considering that Nader had merely “stood” for president, it was an impressive outcome. He began to wonder what would happen if he ever ran in earnest. So, too, did the Green Party. The stage was set for 2000.

Source: Nader: Crusader, Spoiler, Icon, by Justin Martin, p. 229-230 , Oct 1, 2002

Political systems benefit from outside competition

Nader points out that competition is a venerated business principle. No one would expect a high-tech startup to back down, he argues, simply because it is taking profits from a larger established corporation. So why are presidential candidates held to a different standard? “No political system can regenerate without outside competition,” he said. “Agendas throughout history have been pushed by third parties. Yet somehow the two political parties have expected to reform themselves without external jolts.
Source: Nader: Crusader, Spoiler, Icon, by Justin Martin, p.270-1 , Sep 1, 2002

Dems will lose until they become more progressive

Nader says he has no problem with Greens picking off a Democrat here or there. In fact, he appears to savor the prospect of Dems facing the wrath of the “Green hammer,” as he terms it. “You can’t pick and choose. Once you do, you perform like a fusion party. And whenever there’s a good Democrat you find yourself saying, ‘We’re not going to grow our party in this district for this office, because he’s okay.’ Certainly they would never show us that kind of solicitude.”
Source: Nader: Crusader, Spoiler, Icon, by Justin Martin, p.281 , Sep 1, 2002

Bush intensifies contradictions and galvanizes progressives

Nader indicates that he relishes the fact that Bush is now in office. His reason: a so-called intensify-the-contradictions theory. Remember, Nader had some of his most conspicuous successes with Nixon in office, and by contrast he felt stymied under Carter and Clinton. Often he has benefited from the stark relief provided by Republican politics. Unquestionably, a Bush presidency threatens Nader’s agenda on everything from antitrust to torts. But Nader has actually suggested that the threat might help galvanize progressives. “ Both parties do the same thing, one covertly, one overtly,” he said in 2001. “Which one is going to get more people mad? Which one is going to get more people organized?”
Source: Nader: Crusader, Spoiler, Icon, by Justin Martin, p.271 , Sep 1, 2002

Ran because unable to get hearing with president or Congress

What made Ralph run? For the first time in his experience, Nader found himself ignored thoroughly by a Democratic administration. Nader and Clinton did not meet a single time in the course of eight years. Al Gore also turned a cold shoulder.

As for the Clinton-era Congress, Nader found that he was a pariah, even among the most liberal members. In 1997 Nader was invited to speak before the House Progressive Caucus, but only 5 of the 50 caucus members even bothered to show up.

From Nader’s standpoint. the icy reception in Washington was proof of a serious drift among Democrats. They had pilfered the Republican agenda and called it their own--a process he termed “protective imitation.”

The doors were shut, tighter than ever. As he did during the Reagan years, Nader went to the grassroots, but there were limits to what could be accomplished. Nader wanted to have a say on weighty national issues. But more than ever before, he found it hard to get any political traction.

Source: Nader: Crusader, Spoiler, Icon, by Justin Martin, p.226-7 , Sep 1, 2002

Suffers from Bell’s Palsy

In 1986, Nader developed a condition called Bell’s Palsy. It affects the nerves in a person’s face. Common symptoms include various ticks and twitches, and even partial paralysis of facial muscles. The condition is often unilateral, affecting only one side of a person’s face. The cause is still unknown, although it is suspected to be a virus. Nader was sure he contracted the condition from recirculated air while traveling on a plane.

In Nader’s case, Bell’s Palsy initially froze the left side of his face, although that gradually abated. But he had continued difficulty controlling the muscles on that side. His left eyelid also began to droop. For some, Bell’s Palsy lasts only a few weeks, but in Nader’s case it would linger. He took to wearing dark sunglasses and began to joke with audiences that he could no longer be accused of talking out of both sides of his mouth.

Source: Nader: Crusader, Spoiler, Icon, by Justin Martin, p. 214 , Sep 1, 2002

1960s participatory citizens shut out by 1990s corporations

In the 60s and 70s, not a year went by without dozens of new citizen action groups opening their doors in the nation's capital and around the country. There was a heady atmosphere that abuses could be remedied, that power could be more widely shared, that democracy could be, in the word of the day, "participatory." Newspapers, magazines, and television stations, along with new community media, covered events as if "the whole world was watching."

Yet somehow that spirit, little by little, slipped away, and big business stepped in again to seize more influence on our government. Over the course of my work in Washington, both Democrats and Republicans have drawn so close to the monied, corporate interests that the citizens are shut out.

That is why I ran for president.

Source: Crashing the Party, by Ralph Nader, p. 20 , Jan 17, 2002

Experience to run government comes from suing most agencies

Bush and Gore were asked about experience and leadership qualities.

NADER: ‘Well, I’ve been a full-time citizen for 40 years. I think the auto industry knows what I can do in terms of safer cars. We’re almost experts at how to make government and corporations accountable.“

Q: Do you have the experience to run the vast agencies of the US government?

NADER: I don’t know anybody who has sued more of them. I don’t know anybody who has participated for over three decades in the process.

Source: Scot Lehigh, Boston Globe on 2000 race, page D1 , Oct 8, 2000

Focus on broader distribution of power

The focus on fundamentals of broader distribution of power is the touchstone of this campaign. As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis declared for the ages, and I quote: “We can have a democratic society, or we can have great concentration of wealth in the hands of a few. We cannot have both.”
Source: CNN: “Burden of Proof” , Aug 9, 2000

Spoiled political system spawns spoiled candidates

“I don’t think you can spoil a political system that’s spoiled to the core. Nobody’s entitled to votes. We all have to earn our votes. George W. Bush is basically a conglomerate political corporation running for president. He has a terrible record when it comes to children, consumers, pollution control in Texas, poor people’s access to the courts, and I think all that’s going to come out.”
Source: John Mintz in Washington Post on 2000 election , Jul 17, 2000

Uses personal income as societal change agent

Aside from modest personal expenses, I have always treated my income [estimated at over $300,000 per year] as a de facto philanthropic fund for many projects and institutions that serve the interests of consumers, the environment, labor and more accountable business and government. In short, the monies I earn are for strengthening civil society.
Source: Mike Allen, Washington Post, page A01 on 2000 election , Jun 18, 2000

Opposes concentration of power & monied interests

The progressive Green Party, founded in 1996, shares Thomas Jefferson’s and James Madison’s view of government as “a public check against the excesses of monied interests,” Nader said. The abolitionist, trade union, environmental and consumer movements all have targeted the same evil -- “excessive concentration of power and wealth,” he said. Nader said too many working Americans have been left behind in the booming economy.
Source: Associated Press on 2000 presidential race , Mar 13, 2000

Counter “democracy gap”: raise expectations in politics

Source: Green Party Announcement Speech , Feb 21, 2000

New populism: citizen participation over commercialism

As befits its name, the Green Party, whose nomination I seek, stands for the regeneration of American politics. The new populism which the Green Party represents, involves motivated, informed voters. When citizen participation flourishes, as this campaign will encourage it to do, human values can tame runaway commercial imperatives. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis declared, “We can have a democratic society or we can have great concentrated wealth in the hands of a few. We cannot have both.”
Source: Green Party Announcement Speech , Feb 21, 2000

Expand agenda to voter, worker, consumer, shareholder

Q: How much pressure has been brought to you to drop out of the race?

A: I’ve heard from emissaries from the Democrats, from some members of Congress, and their question is always, why are you doing this? And I’ve given them the answer:

This is a broad political effort to enlist young people, broaden the agenda, and focus relentlessly on expanding the tools of democracy -- for the five roles we play in our country: voter, worker, taxpayer, consumer and shareholder.
Source: National Public Radio, interview by Diane Rehm , Apr 3, 1996

Struggle against commercialism based on priceless things

Q: What’s the most important childhood memory you have?

A: I think of little homilies by my parents. One day, I came home and my parents were in the back yard and my mother said, “How much is a dozen oranges?” I knew. “How much is a dozen eggs?” And I knew. Because my father had a restaurant, so I knew the prices. And then they said, “How much is that breeze that’s caressing our faces? What do you think that sun is worth right now? And you hear those birds? What’s the price of those birds?“ And they were trying to teach me that there are things that are priceless. You don’t always measure things by the dollar. And I remembered that as I embarked in my struggle against commercialism and the overwhelming spread of commercial dictates into universities, into government, even into religion, into areas far removed from traditional market place venues.

Source: David Frost interview , Oct 21, 1994

Sacrificed personal life because civic work is a joy

Q: Wouldn’t you like to have sons to pass on your thoughts to the way your father inspired you?

A: [Not having] sons and daughters was a sacrifice. It’s [a choice] I have to bear [because] I don’t believe in being an absentee father.

Q: When was the last time you had a whole day off?

A: Sometimes when I’m traveling I take a day off simply because there’s nothing to do. And I do take about a week off during the summer.

Q: What’s your idea of a good time?

A: Reading is a good time. Conversing with friends. Seeing new things and new experiences. When traveling, I like to go see plants and factories, like a meat processing plant. Or a coal mine.

Q: Your work schedule is what? 80 hours a week?

A: It’s pretty much all the time except eight hours to eat and sleep. But I enjoy it. The definition of work implies something you’d rather not be doing. [Civic work] is a joy. If more people would involve themselves in civic action, they’d discover an important formula for personal human happiness.

Source: David Frost interview , Oct 21, 1994

Power corrupts, unless it fears loss of power

Q: Do you think power inevitably corrupts?

A: Power that is not afraid of losing its power will inevitably corrupt. And that’s why a dictatorship is so dangerous, that’s why monopolies in the corporate area are so dangerous. Power is necessary, but power has to fear losing its power to be responsible in its exercise. I don’t like concentration of power. Whether it’s in Wall Street or whether it’s government ownership of the means of production which is the definition of Socialism.

Source: David Frost interview , Oct 21, 1994

Pushed consumer protection in “Nader’s Raiders”

Consumer advocate Ralph Nader will announce his third campaign for the White House. He ran as a write-in presidential candidate in 1992, and as the 1996 nominee of the Green Party. Nader won 684,902 votes in the 1996 presidential election and 2% of the vote in California.

Born to Lebanese immigrant parents in Connecticut, Nader is a Harvard-trained lawyer who has taken on a vast range of issues, ranging from an unsafe General Motors car, the Corvair, later withdrawn from the market, to banning smoking on airline flights. He was named by the LA Times as one of the 50 people who most influenced business this century.

He and his team of investigators, popularly dubbed “Nader’s Raiders,” have pushed for legislative change and raised public awareness. Nader works out of the Center for Responsive Law in Washington and lives nearby in a studio apartment. A bachelor, he does not own a television or car and has few interests outside his work.

Source: CNN.com coverage , Feb 17, 2000

Ralph Nader on Green Party

Both major parties don’t like competition

The candidates criticized the two-party system that dominates American politics & expressed outrage at being shut out of televised presidential debates. “Both major parties are very clever,” Nader said. “They don’t like competition. If they were businesses in the marketplace, they would be indicted for violation of the antitrust laws.”
Source: 2008 third-party presidential debate; Cleveland Plain Dealer , Oct 31, 2008

Running because 61% think both major parties are failing

Q: Will you run for president in 2008?

A: Let me put it in context, to make it a little more palatable to people who have closed minds. 24% of the American people are satisfied with the state of the country. That’s about the lowest ranking ever. 61% think both major parties are failing. 80% would consider voting for a independent this year. Now, you take that framework of people feeling locked out, shut out, marginalized, disrespected; and you have to ask yourself, as a citizen, should we elaborate the issues that the two are not talking about? To try to open the doorways, to try to get better ballot access, to respect dissent in America in the terms of third parties and, and independent candidates; to recognize historically that great issues have come in our history against slavery and women rights to vote and worker and farmer progressives, through little parties that never won any national election. Dissent is the mother of ascent. And in that context, I have decided to run for president.

Source: Meet the Press: 2008 “Meet the Candidates” series , Feb 24, 2008

Two parties have been converging; both flunk for the future

Q: Does it make any difference to you if a Democrat or Republican is in the White House?

A: Of course it does, but the question is, do both flunk? Do both undermine the future potential of our country, curtailing that bloated military budget and cracking down on corporate crime fraud and abuse. These two parties have been converging, unfortunately, on too many issues to avoid addressing these issues. And they’ve been converging because they’ve been dialing for the same corporate dollars.

Source: CNN Late Edition: 2008 presidential series with Wolf Blitzer , Feb 3, 2008

Ready for Democratic lawsuits against ballot access

Q: You got 2.74% of the popular vote in 2000, and only 0.38% in 2004. The numbers went down from 2000 to 2004. What makes you think you would do any better this time?

A: The Democrats filed 23 lawsuits in 12 weeks to get us off the ballot in state after state like Pennsylvania and Ohio. They did it, in their own words, to distract us and to drain our resources. They’re not going to get away with that this time. We’re ready for them. We’re developing a pro bono network of lawyers. We’ve already sued the Democratic National Committee for what they did in abuse of legal process in 2004. We are now being flooded with volunteers. Donations are coming in, in the testing-the-water period. The forces of injustice work 24 hours a day. The forces for justice and redirection in this country that’s desired by so many Americans who are dissatisfied with the two parties, the forces for justice must also work 24 hours a day.

Source: CNN Late Edition: 2008 presidential series with Wolf Blitzer , Feb 3, 2008

Greens focus on substance; day-&-night vs. major parties

It’s nice to see important subjects being discussed and important questions being asked. You can contrast the subject matter and the questions--it’s like day and night compared to the interviews and debates of the major party candidates.
Source: 2008 Green Presidential Debate moderated by Cindy Sheehan , Jan 13, 2008

Green nominee, but declined rival Green Party USA

A philosophical schism developed between Greens who wanted to stick to local activism and those who wanted to delve into presidential politics. By 2000 these two schools had formally split.

The Denver convention [which nominated Nader] was held by the group that coveted national elective office, known as the Association of State Green Parties. The rival faction-known as Green Party USA-remained focused on grassroots activism. To confuse matters, it held a convention anyway, in Chicago, where it endorsed Nader. The issues on its platform included abolition of the US Senate and 100% taxation of income above $100,000. Nader refused to accept the rival Green party’s endorsement. But throughout his campaign, many voters and journalists were justifiably confused.

To clarify the record: Nader ran in 2000 as the candidate for the Association of State Green Parties. He did not support abolition of the Senate, nor did he adopt a number of other positions advocated by Green Party USA.

Source: Nader: Crusader, Spoiler, Icon, by Justin Martin, p. 236 , Oct 1, 2002

Suffered from "media gap"--little coverage of 3rd parties

Throughout the primary campaign, the media obsessed over the tactics of the candidates and other horse-race aspects such as the polls, endorsements, staff turnover, and the like. This has become a professional addiction providing mind-numbing renditions.

We scheduled the announcement of my candidacy for Presidents' Day, Feb. 21, 2000. Because it was a national holiday, the day was almost guaranteed to have little news competition for the announcement. There was not a single sentence about my announcement on any of the three major networks. Was I surprised by this uniform blackout on four networks? Of course. It could be expected that a candidate with a visible 35-year record of consumer, environmental, and worker advocacy would merit at least 15 seconds on the nightly news.

Although there was good coverage throughout the independent media and talk radio, we quickly realized that our "democracy gap" campaign had fallen into a big-time "media gap."

Source: Crashing the Party, by Ralph Nader, p. 62-64 , Jan 17, 2002

Base campaigns on issues, not on ego

I am a "Brandeis brief" type of person who believes that factual reality counts, that candidates' records matter greatly, that agreements need to be rooted in evidence, and that robust debates with challenging reporters provide the most level playing fields.

A campaign should not be a vehicle for an ego. Rather, it is an opportunity for other articulate voices to be heard. When the Green Party conventioneers in 1996 started chanting "Go, Ralph, go," I immediately changed the phrase to, "Go, we go," and it caught on to a surprised but delighted audience. Social change occurs when "we" come together to create a just and democratic society. It's as simple as that. If you want a society that embraces both visions and revisions, then the motto must be "Together we can make a difference." That leaves little room for "ego tripping" or people who are so egotistically fragile that they can be blistered by moonbeams.

Source: Crashing the Party, by Ralph Nader, p.100-101 , Jan 17, 2002

News media doesn't cover 3rd parties; only the horse race

The major media consistently viewed our campaign as an occasional feature story--a colorful narrative dispatch from the trail--rather than a news story about our agenda. During the months when I was traveling, the national print and electronic media was capricious: A reporter would travel with us for a day and file a profile that focused on the so-called spoiler issue. We were never a news beat.

I asked the political editor whether the LA Times had any overall newsworthiness criteria for covering significant third-party candidates. He allowed that there were no specific standards, but, "If you do anything with Pat Buchanan, or when you campaign in California, I'd be interested."

I often asked newspaper editorial boards across the country what I had to do to be more newsworthy. The responses were either noncommittal or related to our effect on the Gore-Bush competition. One would think that merely to escape the tedium, the press would declare itself some holidays from the horse-race question.

Source: Crashing the Party, by Ralph Nader, p.163-164 , Jan 17, 2002

Waited 16 years; Dems no different than GOP about power

Many accuse Nader of basing his entire campaign on a much more substantial whopper than Gore’s story about his arthritic dog or Bush’s claim that he pushed for a patients’ bill of rights in Texas. They question Nader’s insistence that there is no real difference between the two major-party candidates. “It’s what do they stand for versus what do they fight for-I discount the rest as linguistic differences,” Nader said. “Anyway, my phrase is that there are few major differences.”

Nader said he was not impressed by pressure warning that he could hurt his reputation as well as his causes if he was seen as having helped elect Bush. “I waited in 84, 88, 92, 96,” he said bitterly. “It’s as if the Democrats are telling us, ‘Wait another four years, then ask our permission.’” Then he said the way the two parties cozied up to special interests and encouraged a concentration of power made all other distinctions meaningless. “I don’t care if they’re different on everything else,” he said.

Source: Melinda Henneberger, NY Times on 2000 election , Nov 1, 2000

Attract new voters to build future party

Q: How do you explain polls that say you have very little support?

NADER: In recent days I’ve been 7 percent, 6 percent, 17 percent in Alaska. We’re going to draw from a lot of young voters for the first time. We’re going to get millions of votes in November to build for the future a strong party.

Source: Nader-Buchanan debate on ‘Meet the Press’ , Oct 1, 2000

Vote conscience rather than choosing between drab and dreary

Nader asked supporters whether the town had made any progress under eight years of Clinton. “One of the greatest disemployers of Flint, Michigan, is William Jefferson Clinton.” Urging supporters to “vote your conscience,” Nader warned residents against picking the lesser of two evils. “If you reward both parties, those parties will only get worse every four years. We’re not going to hear much about issues in the upcoming presidential debates between the drab and the dreary.”
Source: AP story in NY Times on 2000 election , Sep 21, 2000

One purpose of campaign is moving Democrats Left

Nader said a central purpose of his candidacy was to move the Democratic Party left on labor and other issues. To make it easier for unions to organize, Mr. Nader called for making it legal for a union to boycott not just the company it is striking against but other companies that do business with it. (Such boycotts were banned by the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947.) He also called for requiring employers to pay triple damages when they illegally fire workers for supporting a union. Asserting that he should be included in any presidential debates, Nader said he would seek to force Mr. Gore and Mr. Bush to address work-related issues, like occupational safety, that have been largely ignored during the campaign. “Gore will tell you, ‘I’m for you. I’m going to fight for you. I’m for a ban on using replacement workers in strikes.’ But what has he done in eight years? I don’t care what you’re for. I want to know what you’ve done. Talk is cheap.”
Source: Steven Greenhouse, New York Times, on 2000 election , Jul 23, 2000

The DemRep duopoly obstructs citizenship

The foundation of our campaign [is] to focus on active citizenship, to create fresh political movements that will displace the control of the Democratic & Republican Parties. They are simply the two heads of one political duopoly, the DemRep Party, feeding at the same corporate trough. This duopoly does everything it can to obstruct the beginnings of new parties including raising ballot access barriers, entrenching winner-take-all voting systems, and thwarting participation in debates.
Source: Green Party Announcement Speech , Feb 21, 2000

Ralph Nader on Seventeen Traditions

Raised to challenge preconceptions and reject conformity

I’ve often noticed how common it is for people to accept conventional, commercially-driven definitions of human beauty; indeed, to accept conventional ideas of all kinds. And I’ve always been grateful to my childhood for teaching me to challenge preconceptions and reject conformity or coercion, those influences that inflict so much pain, deprivation, and tragedy upon our communities and societies today. Despite all my years of higher education, I might never have learned to think this way without the guidance of my parents, my family, and the small-town community where I grew up.

In these times of widespread conformity and self-censorship, [I decided to write this book to share childhood] memories with others, in the hope that they might offer guidance and inspiration for the parents & children of today. And what I hope will be especially helpful, in this very different world we inhabit, are my memories of the traditions in which my childhood was immersed--traditions that guide me to this day.

Source: Seventeen Traditions, by Ralph Nader, chapter 1 , Jan 30, 2007

Had “a lucky choice of parents” who passed down traditions

I am often asked what forces shaped me. Rather than trying to give a full answer to that question which would take longer than a limited interview would allow, I often reply simply, “I had a lucky choice of parents.” My brother, two sisters, and I had a remarkable father and mother, who cared for us in both direct and subtle ways. The examples of their lives set us on the solid paths we have explored ever since.

Among other things, my parents were responsible for passing down the traditions they had learned from the generations before them traditions they refined and adapted to the unfamiliar country and culture to which they had emigrated early in the twentieth century. These traditions arose from the received wisdom and customs they had learned during their own childhoods in Lebanon, elaborated by their own judgments, sensibilities, and changing circumstances. In turn, they were nourished by regular feedback from their acculturating children, which they encouraged.

Source: Seventeen Traditions, by Ralph Nader, chapter 1 , Jan 30, 2007

Grew up in Winsted CT, a mill town where everyone walked

[My parents] created the strong family base from which my siblings and I sallied forth into the wider world. That base was, in part, a matter of locale. My parents made a conscious choice to move to Winsted, a small town nestled in the Litchfield Hills of northwestern Connecticut, where I was born in the middle of the Depression.

Winsted was, and wasn’t, a typical New England town. Connecticut is dotted with such mill towns, which depended on the rivers to power their factories. Most of these towns were small, dominated by one or two large factories. Winsted, on the other hand, had spawned a hundred factories and fabrication shops by 1900. When my father opened his restaurant-bakery along the town’s mile-long Main Street, the local population was ten thousand.

It was a walking town. In those days, youngsters didn’t have to rely on Mama or Papa to drive them around. Nor were there school buses, except for the really distant rural homes. You walked. I walked.

Source: Seventeen Traditions, by Ralph Nader, chapter 1 , Jan 30, 2007

Ralph Nader on Spoiler Issue

Gore responsible for 2000 election; Bush responsible since

Q: There’ll be Democrats all across the country who say to this day, if Ralph Nader had not been on that ballot, Al Gore would’ve carried Florida. Gore would’ve been president and not George Bush. That you are responsible for what has happened the last seven years.

A: Not George Bush? Not the Democrats in Congress? Not the voters who voted for George Bush? But the political bigotry that’s involved here is that we shouldn’t enter the electoral arena? All of us who think that the country needs an infusion of freedom, democracy, choice, dissent should just sit on the sidelines and watch the two parties own all the voters and turn the government over to big business? If you want to look at it analytically, Mr. Gore would tell you if he won Tennessee, anything else being equal, he would’ve been president. It’s his home state. So why do they blame the Greens? Why do they blame the people all over the country who are trying to have a progressive platform--what was their crime?

Source: Meet the Press: 2008 “Meet the Candidates” series , Feb 24, 2008

Democrats should landslide Republicans in 2008

Q: How would you feel if Ralph Nader’s presence on the ballot tilted Florida or Ohio to John McCain and McCain became president, and Barack Obama, the first African-American who had been nominated by the Democratic Party--this is hypothetical-- did not become a president and people turned to you and said, “Nader, you’ve done it again”?

A: Not a chance. If the Democrats can’t landslide the Republicans this year, they ought to just wrap up, close down, emerge in a different form. You think the American people are going to vote for a pro-war John McCain who almost gives an indication that he’s the candidate of perpetual war, perpetual intervention overseas? You think they’re going to vote for a Republican like McCain, who allies himself with the criminal, recidivistic regime of George Bush and Dick Cheney, the most multipliable impeachable presidency in American history?

Source: Meet the Press: 2008 “Meet the Candidates” series , Feb 24, 2008

Joe Lieberman was unwise VP choice for Gore

Al Gore chose their nemesis, Senator Joseph Lieberman, as his vice presidential running mate over Senator John Edwards, who was a successful trial lawyer. Gore surrounded himself with an inner circle of longtime advisers and speechwriters right out of a tort deform nightmare. There were no environmental or consumer advocates anywhere near Gore’s inner circle.
Source: Crashing the Party, by Ralph Nader, p.263-264 , Oct 14, 2002

Dislikes “spoiler” label and “strategic voting”

On June 30, 2000, the New York Times labeled Nader a potential “spoiler” and sounded an alarm that he might tilt the balance in key states such as California. The piece urged him to step aside, deeming his campaign a “self-indulgent exercise that will distract voters from the clear-cut choice represented by the major-party candidates.”

Syndicated columnist Molly Ivins suggested that residents of safe states-where either Bush or Gore held a commanding lead-could afford to vote their “hearts.” But in swing states, she urged people to vote their “brains.” This came to be known as the “Ivins Rule.” The Times editorial and Ivins Rule set the standard for the way the media would cover Nader’s campaign.

Personally, Nader did not appreciate either approach. Certainly he did not relish being slapped with the “spoiler” tag. Neither did he approve of the Ivins Rule, with its suggestion that people vote strategically instead of “voting their conscience” as he frequently termed it.

Source: Nader: Crusader, Spoiler, Icon, by Justin Martin, p. 240 , Oct 1, 2002

Gore beat Gore -- look at TN, AR, and WV, not FL

Since the election Nader has gone on record with a number of different--often contradictory--statements. His most frequent assertion has been a simple but elegant Gore beat Gore. Sure, Nader took votes from Gore in Florida, but had the vice president made a better showing the outcome would have been different. “Let’s put it this way,” Nader says, “Al Gore slipped on 15 banana peel, and they’re picking one.” Nader has frequently pointed out that Gore lost his home state (Tennessee), Bill Clinton’s home state (Arkansas), and a long-time Democratic stronghold (West Virginia). Florida, he points out, is simply the crowning bumble in Gore’s poorly-run campaign.
Source: Nader: Crusader, Spoiler, Icon, by Justin Martin, p.270 , Sep 1, 2002

Wants credit for a Democratic Senate in 2000 election

When wearying of the spoiler issue, Nader takes another tack: If you are going to blame me for a Republican White House, you have to give me credit for the Democratic Senate. It requires a few somersaults to explain this one, but here goes: Nader received 103,000 votes in Washington state from registered Greens. Election Day also featured a senatorial race in Washington between Democrat Maria Cantwell and Republican Slade Gorton. Cantwell won by 1,900 votes. Because there was no Green Party challenger in the race, one can safely assume that many of the Greens who turned out to vote Nader for president also voted for Cantwell in the Senate. This helped produce a Senate 50-50 split between Democrats and Republicans. The switch of Vermont’s Jim Jeffords from Republican to Independent tipped the balance, giving the Democrats the majority. “I haven’t gotten one letter of thank-you,” quipped Nader.
Source: Nader: Crusader, Spoiler, Icon, by Justin Martin, p.271 , Sep 1, 2002

Ran in 2000 to address the "democracy gap"

In 2000 the decision to run a full campaign came in 5 principal reasons rooted in disturbing realities.
  1. The "democracy gap" had widened & deepened over the past 20 years. Citizen groups mattered less; both political parties were morphing into each other.
  2. Solutions to our nation's injustices & needs abounded. They were being applied in a few places but without any engines of diffusion.
  3. The major media repeatedly headlined investigative stories about the failings of big business & government, but nothing was happening. This was a telltale sign of a weakening democratic society unable to provide the linkages that bring serious misdeeds toward a more just resolution.
  4. Having to spend so much time raising money from interests you don't favor or like has turned away too many good people from running for office in America.
  5. People's expectation levels toward politics had reached perilously low levels. Why bother? These words become the mantra of withdrawal.
Source: Crashing the Party, by Ralph Nader, p. 56-57 , Jan 17, 2002

Other candidates on Principles & Values: Ralph Nader on other issues:
Former Presidents/Veeps:
George W. Bush (R,2001-2009)
V.P.Dick Cheney
Bill Clinton (D,1993-2001)
V.P.Al Gore
George Bush Sr. (R,1989-1993)
Ronald Reagan (R,1981-1989)
Jimmy Carter (D,1977-1981)
Gerald Ford (R,1974-1977)
Richard Nixon (R,1969-1974)
Lyndon Johnson (D,1963-1969)
John F. Kennedy (D,1961-1963)
Dwight Eisenhower (R,1953-1961)
Harry_S_TrumanHarry S Truman(D,1945-1953)

Religious Leaders:
New Testament
Old Testament
Pope Francis

Political Thinkers:
Noam Chomsky
Milton Friedman
Arianna Huffington
Rush Limbaugh
Tea Party
Ayn Rand
Secy.Robert Reich
Joe Scarborough
Gov.Jesse Ventura
Civil Rights
Foreign Policy
Free Trade
Govt. Reform
Gun Control
Health Care
Homeland Security
Social Security
Tax Reform

Page last updated: Oct 28, 2021