What Ralph Nader Is Thinking About the 2012 Election
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In 2008, when a first-term Senator from Illinois with a gold tongue and an exotic back story inspired millions of citizens--young and old, black and white, rich and poor, progressive and moderate—to feel hopeful about the country for the first time in generations, Ralph Nader wasn’t buying it.
Nader, who has investigated and exposed governmental and corporate wrongdoing for nearly 50 years, was on his third consecutive Presidential run, traipsing around the country discussing the two-party stranglehold on the political system, the need for an increase in the minimum wage, an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, campaign finance, tax and health insurance reform, the end of the big-money influence in Washington, a reexamination of trade agreements that sent jobs overseas, increased environmental protections … the list went on and on.
Of Obamamania, Nader said, “People are going to be disappointed.”
Four years later, Nader’s 2008 predictions about Barack Obama sound prescient. There are millions of former Obamamaniacs, especially among the Democratic Party base, who no longer see the struggling President as the embodiment of their ideals. This Presidential election, as most, is about making sure The Candidate of the Other Party loses.
Nader, who was named by The Atlantic as one of the 100 most influential figures in American history (and by Time and Life magazines as one of 100 most influential Americans of the twentieth century), is also still fighting off claims that he cost Vice-President Al Gore the election in 2000. The consumer advocate garnered over 97,000 votes in Florida, a state George W. Bush won by 543 votes, but Nader points out that 250,000 Democrats in Florida also voted for George W. Bush—and that had Gore not lost his own state, Tennessee, he would’ve won the election. And there is the little matter of the Supreme Court, which voted 5-4 along party lines to grant Bush the win.
This time around, Nader may not be running, but he is watching the White House and the Presidential campaigns as assiduously as ever. One of his most recent blogs, on his site Nader.org, urges Congressional leaders to increase the minimum wage (which Obama had promised to do by 2010). The letter is signed by a host of leading progressive activists, including Barbara Ehrenreich, Noam Chomsky, Cornel West, Nader and others.
What does Nader have to say about the Presidential contest this time around? See below that he is no fan of voting for “the least worst.”
Q: You’re not running this time but you have said that you wish someone would run on the progressive agenda. Well, there is a Green Party candidate. But unless something changes between now and November, she’ll languish in obscurity. There is no visible progressive third party candidate – no Ralph Nader -- who is likely to receive any influential endorsements, media attention or money to even register on the public consciousness.
So is there no way for progressives to hold Obama accountable to the base given that he’s more worried about attracting fence sitters in a handful of purple states?
A: Well, there is a candidate, Jill Stein. She knows a lot about health, she’s an M.D. practicing out of Harvard. She’s smart, she’s very good on the Green Party agenda. You know most of their issues, if they were poll-tested, would be majoritarian. The majority of Americans want the things like a living wage and full Medicare. They’re all for cracking down on corporate crime—all the things that are on my website.
The problem with the small parties is they have candidates but they’re up against a lot of obstacles, the same obstacles that we had including ballot access—each states has their own rules—and harassing and intimidation by the major parties, lack of money and lack of media attention. Then they’ll be excluded from the debates. There’s a vicious circle: No press, no polls, no polls, no press.