As Al Gore hits the campaign trail for Hillary Clinton, there’s another figure from 2000 seeking a voice in this election.
Remember Ralph Nader?
The 82-year-old consumer advocate says he’s working “harder than ever” to bring a liberal third-party sensibility to the political debate. Lately, it seems a big part of that effort is attacking the idea he was spoiler for Gore in 2000, mostly in letters to the editor. (Some things never change.)
In early September, he made his case in a letter to The Post defending Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein; just on Wednesday, he criticized the New York Times editorial board for urging readers not to vote for Stein or Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.
“Since neither Ms. Stein nor Mr. Johnson has a prayer of winning, a vote for either of them could put Mr. Trump one tiny step closer to victory,” the editorial stated.
And here’s Nader: “Didn’t more than 300,000 registered Democratic voters in Florida who voted for George W. Bush drain votes away from Mr. Gore?”
That’s not a case he’s letting go of. In a brief phone interview on the heels of his “Breaking Through Power” conference, we spoke with Nader about his vote (he just says he won’t support Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton), the “circus carnival” of 2016 and how he hopes to influence a Hillary Clinton administration.
PowerPost: Are you hoping to play a role in the presidential transition?
Nader: I don’t think you can influence any Trump transition unless you are a Martian or can provide him with casinos.
With Hillary, we always try to do that, especially on regulatory appointments. Sometimes they’re not familiar with the good résumés. . . . They have to do a lot of homework, and often, they don’t. They don’t look at the résumés; they look at the politics. Are they going to be embarrassed by this person? Who is not going to be a dissenter? Who is going to be the most loyal? If they look at the seriousness of the policy challenges, they’re likely to make better choices.
How should they change their approach?
[Liberal author and politician] Mark Green, he’s put out two or three giant volumes. The latest one from 2008 was on all the policy areas that Democrats should be paying attention to: transportation, Social Security, health care. They would be well advised to look at those volumes, because so little has changed . . . Hillary herself phoned up Mark Green and encouraged him to do it in 2007. They are all contributions from prominent Democrats. It’s not just all academics. It’s very important because Obama made a mess out of his appointments.
What’s your prediction for the future of the country if Trump wins the White House?
The fastest impeachment and conviction in congressional history, because he’s totally lacking in self-control. He’s up at night going after a beauty queen on Twitter. What’s he going to do if a dictatorial regime provokes him? He cannot control his impulses. In his public persona, he is a seriously unstable person who is vigorously ignorant. He’s proud of it. He’s ignorant of the facts, ignorant of what it takes to be in that office. . . . [He] lives in an unreality of fabrications, wild exaggerations, false statements and prevarications. They’re the four horsemen of Donald Trump.
How have American elections changed since you entered politics?
We have commercialized, corporatized elections, and the press have gone along with it. Citizen groups, who have actually built justice in America for 200 years — they are the people who have changed things, changed laws, changed conditions on the ground — they’re never asked to participate as observers or commentators. As a result, the civil society is blocked from injecting new issues into the debate, issues that are ignored like the crisis in pensions, corporate crime, empire, the bloated military budget. These issues are never discussed by the two parties . . . Instead, we have a circus carnival for an electoral process, with all the reporters diddling each other all the time and a chief circus barker on top of it all.
You defended Jill Stein in a recent letter to The Post, saying it was unfair to call her a potential spoiler. Explain that argument.
The only remaining civil rights and civil liberty bigotry by liberals and progressives is against third parties. They use that word “spoiler,” which is fortified by obstructive ballot access laws and harassment of our petitioners, creating an atmosphere of degradation. As if these parties don’t have an equal right under the constitution to use their speech and to assemble and petition. They are treated like second-class citizens. I feel so strongly about this. In 2008, I wrote Hillary a letter in June. People were telling her to drop out. I said: “Don’t drop out. You have every right to stay.”
How’s your attitude toward the media these days?
I’m doing Anderson Cooper tomorrow. I don’t know how that happened. It’s always four minutes in which the interviewer takes a minute. The whole thing is absurd in terms of a rational society. It’s a mockery. We’ve never had more communications systems and less opportunity to use them for substantive purposes. These elections have become a profit center for CNN and others.