Former Green Party candidate and consumer advocate Ralph Nader says the two-party American political system creates “second class citizens” out of third-party candidates.
He speaks with Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson about the flaws he saw in the Democratic primary, and says those who still blame him for Al Gore’s presidential loss in 2000 are “fact deprived.”
Interview Highlights: Ralph Nader
On which candidate he’s supporting
“I don’t pick between two, I don’t like the Democratic Party or the Republican Party. I think they are indentured to big money super PACs with the exception of Bernie, of course. Now I believe in voting your conscience, which means there are small parties that offer up options too, the Green Party, that’s probably going to have Dr. Stein as the candidate, or the Libertarian Party that has already nominated the former governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson. There are other parties too, and you can always write in your vote. I believe in maximum choice for the voters.”
On third-party candidates participating in debates
“They’re not going to get to the 15 percent, that’s an incredibly high hurdle that historically has almost been off limits to third-party candidates, and so the debate commissions is going to have to be pressured by public opinion, by media reviews, by asking who’s on the board of this debate commission, so they lower their private barrier down to, say 5 percent, which is a more reasonable barrier.”
On voting for a Republican or a Democrat over a third-party candidate
“I think voters in a democracy should vote for anybody they want, including write in or even themselves. I don’t believe in any kind of reprimand of voters who stray from the two-party tyranny and from the commonality that these two parties have demonstrated in terms of allowing big money to corrupt politics, allowing Wall Street to override and take much control of Washington, and allow our foreign policy to be so militarized.
If you don’t deny major candidates your vote, you can’t possibly change it. That’s the only language they understand, is to deny them the vote. Having said that, I think Hillary Clinton will defeat Donald Trump, because she has the greatest ally, which is Donald Trump defeating Donald Trump. He is unself-controllable. Not just uncontrollable, he is unself-controllable.”
On whether or not his candidacy hurt Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election
“Well, I believe that’s inadvertently a politically bigoted comment. Because if we all have an equal right to run for election as we do, and we’re all trying to get votes from one another as we do, then we’re either all spoilers of one another or nobody is a spoiler. Because if they call third-party candidates spoilers but they don’t call their major opponent in the other party a spoiler, they are assigning a second-class citizenship to the third-party candidacy. Having said that, what about 250,000 Democratic voters voting for Bush in Florida in 2000? What about all the shenanigans that distorted honest vote counting in Florida? What about Mr. Gore not getting his home state of Tennessee? What about the political decision, 5-4 of the Supreme Court, which should never have made that decision, to block the Florida Supreme Court’s ongoing recount in Florida. In short, any one of those, everything else staying the same, would have won for Al Gore. And Al Gore knows this, which is why he does not blame the Green Party.”
On people who blame Al Gore’s defeat his third-party run
“I think they are fact deprived. They’re either fact deprived because they don’t go through the facts as I’ve just narrated them. Or, they’re looking for scapegoats. The Democratic Party felt a chagrin that they couldn’t defeat a bumbling governor from Texas with a very poor record on children and on pollution and other things. And so they are looking for a scapegoat as to why they didn’t landslide him, and the Green Party was a convenient scapegoat. That’s not the first time major parties have scapegoat third parties and tried to turn them into third-class citizens.”
On whether or not the two-party system will change in his lifetime
“Well actually I’m quite optimistic. Because first of all we’re going to get more billionaires and hopefully some more enlightened ones going into the presidential and senatorial elections in the future. That’s one benefit of the Ross Perot and Donald Trump candidacies. The second, the barriers to third parties are beginning to be reduced. There have been many lawsuits brought by the Green Party or the Libertarian Party or the Conservative Party that have cut back in state after state so that the barriers are becoming more surmountable to give the voters more choices and voices. And third, you look at the polls and they show about 60 percent of the American people want a viable third party. Well, maybe if we have instant-runoff voting, maybe they’ll start voting for a third political party and not simply say well, ‘We’re going to go for the least worst because we know only one, a Republican or Democrat candidate, can win.’”
On who he’s planning to vote for this election
“My vote is always private. I like the privacy of the vote, so I don’t say. I don’t say, but it’s hard to conclude who I’m not going to vote for… I never vote for a corporatist or a militarist, I never vote for Wall Street over Washington or wars of aggression by candidates who even scare our generals.”
Ralph Nader, former Green Party candidate for president and author of “Unstoppable: The Emerging Left/Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State.” He tweets @RalphNader. Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit NPR.