Last fall, the third most powerful figure in the U.S. government, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, had a phone call with a man who is undoubtedly one of the most hated people among her base of Democratic Party supporters: the famed consumer advocate and former independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader.
Their phone call took place as the Democrats were preparing to launch a narrowly focused impeachment case against Donald Trump. On the call, Nader laid out a strategy for attacking Trump that he believed could have resulted in his actual removal from office. Nader, who has spent his life working to implement a wide range of consumer and environmental protections, argued that it would be a mistake to focus solely on the Ukraine phone call. Instead, Nader suggested that Pelosi orchestrate a public prosecution of Trump’s crimes against ordinary Americans — what he called “kitchen table issues.” Nader beseeched Pelosi to go after Trump on issues far more pressing than Ukraine to millions of Americans, regardless of their political affiliation. He suggested subpoenaing witnesses who could testify to Trump’s “destruction of life-saving consumer protections, environmental protections, workplace safety protections, in his destruction of social safety net protections for children.” Pelosi, Nader says, did not take any of his advice.
Trump’s popularity has risen in the aftermath of his “acquittal,” as he continues his victory tour and purges dissidents from his administration. As the Democratic presidential primary process intensifies, the institutional Democratic Party appears once again to be doing everything in its power to hurt the effort to unseat Trump. The attempt to purchase the Democratic nomination by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg is being aided by a Democratic National Committee that ran a dirty operation against Sen. Bernie Sanders in 2016. Nader also believes that the Bloomberg candidacy has at its core an effort to block Sanders from winning the nomination, perhaps by forcing a brokered convention. “It’s Armageddon time for the Democratic Party,” Nader said. “If Bernie wins the election against Trump, should he get the nomination, it has to be a massive surge of voter turnout which will sweep out a lot of the Republicans in the Congress. So he will have a much more receptive Congress. It will sweep out the corporate Democrats in the Democratic National Committee, and it will reorient the Democratic Party to where it should be which is a party of, by, and for the people. That’s why they want to fight him.”
Nader joined Intercepted to discuss the failed impeachment move against Trump and the state of the Democratic primary. Nader ran for president in 2000, 2004, and 2008, and throughout his career has been one of the most important voices for justice, as well as environment and consumer protections, in U.S. history. His latest book, written with the consumer advocate Mark Green, is called “Fake President: Decoding Trump’s Gaslighting, Corruption, and General Bullsh*t.” What follows is the extended transcript of the excerpt of the conversation broadcast on Intercepted.
Jeremy Scahill: Ralph Nader, welcome back to Intercepted.
Ralph Nader: Thank you, Jeremy.
JS: So I want to begin with the big picture of this impeachment fiasco that we’ve just gone through, and while we have Trump on his victory tour talking about his acquittal, we also have this other phenomenon which is that the corporate elite Democratic Party is trying to crush Bernie Sanders’s candidacy. Let’s begin with the impeachment and your assessment of the strategy that Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats employed in going after Trump.
RN: Well, I and others beseeched her months ago to go with a strong full hand of impeachable offenses and send it to McConnell and have them reflect kitchen table issues because she always used to say we need kitchen table issues to increase the polls from 50 or 52 percent for impeachment and removal up higher. Well, that didn’t happen. We did see that major committee chairs wanted to put a bribery provision in. She turned that down. They wanted to expand the obstruction in defiance of subpoenas, a critical impeachable offense beyond the Ukraine matter. She turned that down. We had congressman John Larson put in the congressional record on December 18, 12 impeachable offenses of which Ukraine was one.
And the Democrats were basically subjected to one person’s decision, Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker. Well, she gambled and lost badly. Not only, obviously, he was acquitted, but polls went up for Trump, which was astounding. Nobody’s really explained that yet. So now the question is, will the committee chairs whose expanded recommendation to her was rejected, will they now come back to her and say round two? Now round two is quite explicit and quite effective. She has stated repeatedly that she thinks Trump “is a liar, a crook, a thief, and he should be in prison.” It’s a pretty good start. She also stated she wants the five committee chairs to continue their investigations into the corruption and wrongdoing and refusal to enforce the laws on behalf of the health safety and economic well being of the people. That’s the Banking Committee, the Oversight Committee, Judiciary Committee, etc. And if they do that, they are going to run up against a Trump stonewall for further information witnesses, which means they’re going to be obligated to issue subpoenas, which will be defied. That is a per se impeachable offense.
The House, went against Nixon, the third article of impeachment was he defied one subpoena. So when Trump defies these subpoenas for witnesses and documents, Speaker Pelosi will have to face up to the Constitution. The Constitution does not require her to go to court. That’s a tutorial that a lot of Democrats need to be taught. Congress’s power is plenary. They can enforce their own subpoenas, even by use of an antiquated tradition of a sheriff and a prison. They can enforce their own subpoenas. So they can go to the floor, no witnesses are needed, clean cut. Trump, you defied the subpoenas. You defied the essential power of Congress without which all other authorities are debilitated.
If they cannot get information under the Constitution from the executive branch, how debilitated will be the war power, the appropriations power, the tax power, the confirmation power? You defied it. You’re going to be impeached. These subpoenas would be associated with all kinds of kitchen table issues where people have a stake in these impeachments, didn’t have a stake much in Ukraine important as that is. It’s too remote. But they do have a stake in, for example, his destruction of life-saving consumer protections, environmental protections, workplace safety protections, in his destruction of social safety net protections for children.
JS: But are those impeachable offenses?
RN: Yes, they are when they’re associated with corruption, and treading. In other words, this isn’t just normal deregulation, what they’re doing now to the EPA is stripping it of its capacity to enforce the law. They’re pushing out scientists. They’re downgrading other professionals. They’re cutting budgets without congressional authority, and they’re run by people who have conflicts of interest and are corrupt, some of them have already left like Scott Pruitt. It’s the failure to execute the laws. That’s one of the impeachable offenses in the Constitution. Now, if Nancy Pelosi doesn’t do that, Trump will go all over the country, all over his tweets, all over the obsequious media with his disparaging nicknames and taunting and gloating. I told her in a conversation I had with her three months ago. I said, “Nancy, you know what he’s gonna do? He’s gonna say, ‘Nancy Pelosi had the majority in the House and she had all these crazy charges and she didn’t want to get them through. You know why she couldn’t get them through? Because they’re all lies. They’re all fake. I did nothing wrong.’”
JS: What did she say to you when you said that?
RN: When you have the president of the United States doing this with essentially no rebuttal. The reason why Trump stays where he is in the polls is he’s a soliloquist. He’s a slanderist soliloquist with no rebuttal. Look at the nicknames he gives all these people and they never give many nicknames back. The only way you deal with a bully who gives you nicknames like Crazy Bernie and Low IQ Maxine Waters is to give him his own medicine: Decadent Donald, Draft-Dodging Donald, Dangerous Donald, Dumb Donald, Low IQ Donald, Illiterate Donald. That’s the only way. Some say, well, we don’t want to get in the mud with him. Well, that’s an interesting comment. But not when the New York Times, Washington Post, and all the main media repeat verbatim his nicknames without giving the target of the nicknames any right of reply? That’s unethical journalism.
JS: Ralph, what did Pelosi say to you when you were laying all of this out?
RN: She said several things. She said that “I want an airtight case,” and she thinks Ukraine is an airtight case. Number two, she thought the public attention span couldn’t endure multiple impeachment charges. And number three, I think she cut a deal with her 12 Blue Dog Democrats who are in swing districts that that was the only thing she was going to bring forward. They could have had a national security, military sheen about it that insulated them.
JS: Why did Nancy Pelosi meet with you, given the way that you’re, to this day, vilified by the establishment Democratic Party for daring to run for president multiple times?
RN: Well, it wasn’t a meeting. It was a telephone conversation. I think because they’re interested in what I have to say. I mean, I could give them all kinds of strategies to landslide, Donald Trump, if they would listen. I could show them how to argue their case. I’m just giving you an example, Jeremy: You’ve got some currency in the Democratic Party now for universal basic income. I mean Andrew Yang, most prominently, and it’s viewed as a giveaway and simply, pandering to the people. How do you argue universal basic income in addition to alleviating dire poverty, in addition to increasing consumer demand for goods and services which stimulates the economy far better than a corporate tax cut? Well, one way is you say, hey, these corporations have already had universal basic income. What do you mean? Yeah, what do you think massive corporate subsidies, handouts, giveaways and bailouts are? They’re massive universal basic income giveaways. They are not only getting all these taxpayer freebies, but they also get trillions of dollars in the last decade of free government research and development which built Silicon Valley and built the biotech, nanotech, a lot of the aerospace and pharmaceutical industries. That’s pretty good, universal basic income.
Apart from the tax credits they get for doing the research that companies should be doing anyway in a so-called capitalist society. So, they don’t know how to argue full Medicare for All. I put out 25 ways life in Canada — because they have single payer full health care — compared to life in the United States. It isn’t just you know, a matter of un-affordable health insurance. It’s the removal of anxiety, dread and fear. It’s the situation in Canada where you’re not afraid to change your jobs because you might lose your health insurance. It’s a situation where you’re not ripped off by inscrutable sheets of computerized billing which total about 350 billion dollars according to Professor Malcolm Sparrow, an applied mathematician at Harvard. Imagine one-tenth of the entire health expenditure is corporate crime, it’s crime on Medicare, crime on Medicaid, crime on insurance companies because of the billing frauds that they’re paying for, crime on individual patients and payers. They don’t know how to argue it. That’s why once in a while I get through on a phone call.
JS: You know, you’re laying out a much broader strategy for what charges should have been brought against Trump and of course, criticizing the strategy that they ended up employing, but at the same time, Mitch McConnell, runs that Senate with an iron fist. It seemed clear from the jump that only Romney and maybe one or two others would have jumped ship. And in the end, it was just Romney. So, is the strategy you’re advocating putting forth those charges, getting an impeachment on those charges, sending it to the Senate for trial as a way of educating the public or revealing these crimes? Because it seems very unlikely in this day and age that more than one or two Republicans, no matter how much evidence was out there would have jumped ship on Trump over the issues you’re describing. They love that form of deregulation and they seem to not really care at all about the overt corruption that we’re witnessing.
RN: Not when they’re preceded by dozens of highly televised House committee hearings on the misuse of presidential power that is harming in kitchen table manners where people live, work, and raise their families, the American people.
JS: But these people aren’t watching MSNBC, C-SPAN, or CNN. I mean, Fox News is the single most powerful news entity as well as social media. And as Trump has said, he’s his own media outlet. I mean, I see it, Ralph, as part of the problem is there is such low trust in media, such low approval ratings of the Democrats in Congress, that it doesn’t matter if you hold those hearings, given the media landscape today. This is not like the 70s where it’s every single night on the news. It’s people are seeking out information they want, not seeking out the truth.
RN: Wrong analysis.
JS: All right. Correct me.
RN: When you see the kind of witnesses that the House could have brought, the kind of empathy, that kind of resonance, just the way they did when they brought some of those civil servants. You have to admit their testimony reached a lot of people. Fox has its own constituency. So the other networks, the other cable, the social media, the newspapers, the word of mouth. These are very easy abuses by Trump to understand unlike the more arcane diplomatic situation with Ukraine.
RN: And what’s really important here is she wanted to tie up the Republicans in knots in the Senate and she only used one knot. She used one finger out of ten that could have been curled into a tough fist with very perceived abuses of the Constitution, of protective statutes, of income preservation and of turning over by Trump, turning over the U.S. government to Wall Street. You know how Wall Street polls, Jeremy? 90 percent of the people when they were asked two, three years ago, wanted to break up the big banks. That’s a lot of conservatives. Wall Street over Main Street. It’s an unbeatable presentation to get to the American people. You get left-right combination here. Let’s not subsume our factual imaginations to this polarization. It’s exaggerated because it’s a divide and rule strategy with any broader rebuttal where people work, live and raise their families where they all bleed alike from rip offs, from being denied health care, from usurious interest rates, payday loan rackets, installment, loan rackets, rental abuses, all that will come out because they’re not enforcing the law.
Now remember, the committee hearings do not have to be impeachment hearings at all. They’re just regular investigations so they can range broad far and deep and to watch what Trump is doing to make America fail. And then when the subpoenas are defied, that’s when it turns into an impeachable offense after the hearings. Also, they won’t be able to in the Senate, block witnesses. They blocked witnesses because people like Dershowitz gave them the plausible argument. Well, everything that the Democrats say is true about what Trump did. If it was all true, it didn’t reach an impeachable offense status. So that gave them an out. They can’t get an out when it deals with all these other impeachable offenses which are violations of different clauses of the U.S. Constitution.
JS: Ralph, how has this strategy that you’ve been describing that Nancy Pelosi did end up implementing in just going very narrowly over the Ukraine issue, and then Trump now on his victory lap, how does this impact the broader move at the ballot box to try to defeat Donald Trump?
RN: It produces slippage by the Democrats. They’ve already acknowledged it in the last two weeks. You see, the Democrats cannot defeat Donald Trump by themselves because they don’t use all the arguments and all the issues. There has to be a parallel get out the vote civic initiative in every precinct, in every place in those key six or seven swing states. Now there’s a group in Kentucky which you may know about called Ditch Mitch and it started about six months ago. It’s a PAC. It is not affiliated with the Democratic Party. Its sole purpose is to elaborate Mitch McConnell’s horrific record against Kentucky interests and Kentuckians and get out the vote. Get out the vote, OK. So that’s the formula. There has to be a parallel movement to get out the vote against Trump because the Democrats are not listening.
It’s almost impossible to get through to Tom Perez, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. I’ve had people who’ve run for major office, they can’t even get his ear, much less sit in his office to give them advice. When Mark Green and I just came out with this book, “Fake President” which is more than a book to be read. It’s a book to be used like a resource book by field organizers, by activists and Mark who you know, who’s [an] upstanding Democrat went to try to see him. He couldn’t see him, couldn’t even get an appointment, couldn’t even get him on the phone. I mean, you know, Mark is, you know, was almost mayor of New York. Bloomberg beat him with huge money in the last few weeks. He’s written the two major policy tracks two giant volumes for the Democratic party in prior elections. And he can’t even get through. Congressman John Larson tells me he can’t even get through to Perez.
It’s very hard to get through to any of these people. They think they know it all and what kind of know-it-all? The caution of Nancy Pelosi has brought her defeat in four out of the five congressional elections 2010, ’12, ’14, ’16, squeezed through in 2018 with the help of progressive candidates, but it’s not exactly confirmation that her cautious approach is winning for her. It illustrated itself in the Senate debate recently over the Ukraine impeachment articles.
JS: You know, we have this, and it’s ongoing, this debacle in Iowa. And it does seem like there was some dirty pool at play there. You just talked about Tom Perez. At the same time, you have the sort of establishment Democratic Party and figures like you know, he’s not so significant in many ways right now, but his history is worth reminding people of James Carville, who was one of the brains behind Clinton’s ascent to the presidency, basically having an aneurysm over the notion that Bernie Sanders could be the Democratic nominee. Your current assessment of how Tom Perez, the establishment elite of the Democratic Party, are mobilizing against Bernie Sanders in particular but also against anyone with a truly progressive policy platform.
RN: Well, the Democratic corporate establishment deep in the Democratic National Committee and the super delegate fiasco, imagine, nobody elects them, but they can tip the balance, undermined Bernie in 2016. There are strong arguments to say that he did really win Iowa and Nevada before he landslided Hillary in New Hampshire, but that’s the past, but they’re at it again. They have to stop Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren because their hegemony is over if one of those people gets elected, and they want to continue dialing for corporate dollars. They want to continue Obama’s record setting fundraising from Wall Street which exceeded his Republican opponents. Imagine, he got more money from Wall Street than John McCain in 2008. He even got more money from Romney’s venture capital firm. So, that’s the internal struggle. This business about socialism, that’s just a cover but they’re willing to immolate themselves this year, and let Trump win by basically stereotyping any kind of progressive legislation as socialism.
Now, for example, the argument should be by the progressive Democrats, “Look, here’s what we mean by socialism. It’s what led the Western European countries and Canada to a higher standard of living, higher equality. It means full health insurance. It means a living wage. It means retirement security. It means protecting people from serious erosions of their rights as workers. It means the ability to repeal the Taft Hartley Act and reflect majority desires in the retail trades like Walmart to join unions and so on.” But if you want more examples, people, well, let’s see the post office. That’s socialism. Public drinking water departments all over the country, I guess that’s social and public libraries. I guess that’s socialism, public electric utilities, over 1,000 of them around the country, including Jacksonville, Florida. How about the Tennessee Valley Authority deep in red state territory? You think you can repeal that? By conservative voters in Tennessee and Alabama, they’d run you out of town. So they don’t know how to argue this.
And here’s the umbrella argument, Jeremy. Look, it’s a choice between Trump’s corporate socialism which you cannot dis-elect and throw the rascals out because it’s Wall Street controlling Washington, or democratic socialism where if you don’t like it, if you don’t like law and order to corporate domination of your lives, and the corporate state, which Franklin Delano Roosevelt called fascism in a message to Congress in 1938, you can always throw the rascals out. That’s the difference. And what is corporate socialism? It’s seizing your tax money and bailing out the crooks in Wall Street in 2008 with trillions of dollars. Corporate socialism is shoveling out your hard earned dollars to company subsidies, handouts, giveaways, etc, anti-market quotas. And above all, it’s taking your money away by giving it to tax breaks for the rich and powerful which creates huge deficits that are going to be paid by your children and your grandchildren instead of putting the trillion and a half dollars of Trump’s tax cut, including cutting his own family’s taxes into rebuilding America, into rebuilding schools and public transit and water and sewage systems and bridges and highway and airports and ports. That’s the way you argue it, Jeremy.
JS: What is, given your history in electoral politics and the way that you’ve been treated by the Democratic party establishment, if you take that history that you’ve lived, and then you look at Hillary Clinton’s interventions in this current electoral cycle where they, you know, the hagiography on Hulu just premiered at Sundance and she you know, this line gets floated that “nobody likes Bernie,” you take that and then you look at Pete Buttigieg coming out of the McKinsey world, the sort of consiglieres of capitalism and then you have Michael Bloomberg just pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into ads. I was just recently in Puerto Rico and watched ad after ad after ad of Bloomberg saying he’s already rebuilding Puerto Rico. But what is the emerging elite Democratic corporate wing of the Democratic Party strategy in this primary? What are they trying to do? Who are they going to get behind in your assessment?
RN: They have to block as I said, Bernie Sanders. They have to block Elizabeth Warren. They have to block universal basic income proposals like Andrew Yang. And basically, they like people like Joe Biden, you know, he comes out of the corporate state, out of the Obama world, out of the Clarence Thomas, enabler chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, mistreating Anita Hill and, and he comes out of that. They like him and if he falters, they’ll go for Bloomberg, because they know he’s got a lot of money to go up against the Republicans. It’s just redux. It’s corporate state Democrat redux. That is they’re almost identical in military and foreign policy with the Republicans. They’re almost identical and booming, bigger military budgets and lathering the military industrial complex with whatever they want. They’re almost identical with avoiding applying law enforcement to Wall Street.
Their rhetoric is a little different, but we talk about the rhetoric in realistic terms, rhetoric doesn’t really matter politically. So what their record is they have never introduced into Congress any comprehensive corporate crime enforcement. The corporate crime laws are absurd. They’re obsolete. Their fines are, you know, nickels and dimes, and they cut the enforcement budgets of all these agencies to begin with. So, they can’t even enforce against fraud on Medicare, for example, $60 billion a year, billion with a B. They bring back about two, three billion. That’s all. They don’t have enough prosecutors.
All that is deliberate. All that is part of the Rep/Dem consensus, the two party duopoly that stereotypes third parties, and when they start seeing an insurgence in their own party, they go to work on it behind the scenes, tipping close primary elections. They go to work on them, by slandering them, by stereotyping them. And the most interesting person emerging here is Pete Buttigieg because he’s coming on almost like a new Obama or a new Clinton, this kind of smooth moderation. He’s signaling with his fundraising parties with billionaires and millionaires that he’s going to be acceptable to them.
JS: Oh, that’s my favorite line is when Pete Buttigieg says “Hey, we have to include the billionaires. Let’s not exclude people. Let’s include people.” He has the audacity to make that argument and very, I don’t recall any pushback against that particular line that he keeps deploying when people ask him about the 40 odd billionaires who are financing his campaign?
RN: Well, Bernie, obviously pushed back in the recent debates. I don’t mind billionaires, if they support universal basic income, or I don’t mind billionaires who support the stronger enforcement of corporate crime. But his billionaires are basically Clinton-type billionaires, Wall Street billionaires. Remember he came out of McKinsey and Company. That’s the essence of the Wall Street establishment. This giant consulting firm.
JS: You know, at the same time you have — I mentioned Hillary Clinton earlier, but Hillary Clinton also really early on in Tulsi Gabbard’s candidacy for the Democratic nomination, smearing her as essentially a Russian agent. Tulsi Gabbard is of course, suing her for defamation. Now, I have a lot of problems with some aspects of Tulsi Gabbard’s history, her record, her relationship with some very frightening individuals in India, some of her positions on gay marriage, gay rights that have now shifted, and I think she has some questions to answer about some of her positions on Syria but it reminds me also of how you were treated and I’m wondering what your assessment is of that preemptive strike against Tulsi Gabbard by Hillary Clinton to say, “Hey, this is the new Jill Stein. This is who the Russians have chosen.”
RN: Well, you know, she’s not gonna do very well at all in the New Hampshire primary. I think, Hillary Clinton if she continues berating Tulsi Gabbard’s afraid that she’ll go independent and so-called, take away some votes in key states. I don’t think that’s going to happen.
JS: She says she won’t you know, she says she’s not going to do that. In fact, she even —
RN: The more serious attack is the use of the word electability. If they can’t use the word democratic socialism, they use the word electability to marginalize main progressive candidates in the Democratic primary. Now, this is basically a symptom of the defeatism of the Democratic Party. How can anybody running for president against this relentless savage sexual predator, this constant liar on matters of serious import to the American people, separating millions of people from reality into his commercialized fantasy, this person who’s a bigot and a racist and he follows up with actions reflecting that — how can the Democrats even raise the issue of trying to find a candidate who’s electable against this person?
That’s just a technique to marginalize progressive candidates, and they use the words moderate and centrist and leftist and extremist to pursue the same strategy, to mainstream their corporate Democratic primary candidates. For example, Joe Biden is called a moderate. Joe Biden, for example, has supported wars abroad that are unconstitutional. Why is that a moderate? Joe Biden has been to toady the big banks. Why is that a moderate? Joe Biden has supported corporate-type policies on consumer bankruptcy limiting them, and credit card insurance gouging. Why is that considered moderate or centrist? Why is it considered leftist to support universal health insurance and a living wage and cracking down on corporate crime? Those received enormous results in the polls. Left, right support, 65, 70, 75, 80, 90 percent. Why is that considered extreme or leftist? Because the progressive Democrats don’t know how to argue their case, Jeremy. They don’t know how to argue.
And now they’re so tired, going five events a day in the primary, flying in that they can’t think anymore. I’ve been through that kind of pressure. They can’t think anymore. Their wind up speeches are getting stale. They are repeated. They’re not infused with the kind of new facts and new ranges. To open it up, they’ve got to raise the issue of 300 billion dollars a year from a tiny less than 1 percent tax, sales tax on Wall Street transactions. They can say, look, people, you go into a store and you got to pay 6, 7 percent on necessities of life. How come someone buys 100 million dollars of Exxon options or stock and doesn’t have to pay a cent? See, and then you take that 300 billion and you put it back into dealing with student loans. Wall Street basically disenfranchised a whole generation of young Americans by collapsing the economy in 2008. And these people are owed that kind of transfer of sales tax for their technical training, their student loans. They don’t open it up.
As a result, the media which follows them, it gets jaded. They hear the same wind up. It’s a good wind up, but it’s too repetitive. And it excludes a whole range of factual conditions on the ground that will alert more and more millions of people to say to themselves, she’s on my side, he’s on my side and they don’t do that. Therefore, they don’t generate any news, even though they’re in the eye of the media during the primary season, day after day.
JS: We know that there were very dirty tricks played in the 2016 primary by Hillary Clinton and the DNC against Bernie Sanders. I think, Iowa, the Iowa Caucus, made a lot of Sanders supporters believe that that already is happening right now. Not just the overt kind of war against the Sanders and to a lesser extent, but still there Warren candidacy, but if you have a DNC that is willing to rig its own primary, what is Bernie Sanders’ path not just to winning that nomination, but then running a national campaign against a humongous war chest that Trump already is amassing?
RN: Well, he’s doing pretty well without our advice, huh, Jeremy? It’s really quite remarkable.
JS: He is but we’re only you know, we’re only at the very beginning of this and I’m referencing what they did in 2016. I mean, he basically has to fight the DNC and Trump simultaneously.
RN: Well, Bernie doesn’t like to appear like a sore loser. So he doesn’t complain in 2016 about what happened in the casinos where votes were counted, can you imagine? In Nevada, and in Iowa. First of all, he has to attack the caucus system. The caucus system is a form of voter suppression. Let’s face it. I mean, how many people can take out four or five hours, travel to a location, stay there at night, leave their kids? So it’s a form of voter suppression.
JS: We can barely get people to just go and vote in a poll, you know, in a normal one person, one vote.
RN: Just a normal primary, like New Hampshire. So, he lost an opportunity after 2016 to go after them. Although he did change some rules. He reduced the number of super delegates which is a way the corporate Democrats jab in at the end to tip the close race between their candidates and progressive candidates. And now the super delegates only kick in at the Democratic National Convention on the second round, but still, they can be decisive. And you know, the super delegates are members of Congress who are Democrats and former Democratic governors, etc. They haven’t been elected to anything as far as this election is concerned, but they can decide the outcome.
JS: If Sanders does get the nomination, what will that mean for the Democratic Party? I mean, would it be akin to, you know, to sort of what the Tea Party and ultimately Trump did to the Republican Party? I’m not drawing a comparison between their individual policies or their morality in terms of Bernie and Trump. But in terms of what it does to the party, it seems to me like Bernie winning would effectively shatter parts of the Democratic Party for the better, like get rid of some of these toxic elements that dominate that party.
RN: I think you’re right. If Bernie wins the election against Trump, should he get the nomination, it has to be a massive surge of voter turnout which will sweep out a lot of the Republicans in the Congress. So he will have a much more receptive Congress. It will sweep out the corporate Democrats in the Democratic National Committee, and it will reorient the Democratic Party to where it should be which is a party of, by and for the people. That’s why they want to fight him.
JS: Finally, Ralph, what about the state of third-party organizing in this country. I mean, the last truly successful runs were your runs. I mean, I think that the, you know, the Green Party has been just decimated and I think has made some strategically very unwise decisions in recent campaigns. But is there a future for third party organizing in this country given what is happening right now with the ascent of Donald Trump and the threat of an even more authoritarian second term if the Democrats lose?
RN: Well, two responses and by the way, your listeners, if they want more of what they’ve been hearing and my background, they can go to my website nader.org. If they want to see how a progressive campaign on issues that both parties take off the table, they can go to my still-open votenader.org from the 2008 campaign to see what issues we espoused to have majority support that were taken off the table for even discussion by the Democrats and Republicans. I see two scenarios here for third parties: One, they proceed as they are proceeding, maybe get some more votes to nudge the major party that’s closest to their views in the right direction. That happened in the 19th century when some of the smaller parties never won a national election, but they push the two parties on things like anti-slavery, the 1840 run by the Liberty party and women’s suffrage, industrial labor, farmer parties, People’s Party. So that’s one scenario.
A second scenario if the Democrats lose to the worst president in history, the crudest, the most overt disgusting, foul-mouthed corporate toady who’s destroyed the rule of law and constitutional observance, if they lose to him, I can see the Republican Party breaking open. I can see some reminiscence of the Republican Party being created in 1850s, splitting and replacing the Whig Party. In an era of billionaires who are willing to fund new parties, that is not out of range. They will call it a new centrist party something the way Bloomberg has been talking about. And then the third and this is the one the Democrats got to be really afraid of — a progressive third party with hundreds of millions of dollars in their war chest, enough to get five to 10, 12, 15 percent. So this is really Armageddon time for the Democratic Party. They’ve been losing and losing to the worst Republican Party in history. I mean, Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Senator Robert Taft would have been aghast at the extreme nature of this Republican Party, the stupidity, the ignorance, the bigotry, the corporatism, the self-serving enrichments, etc. They’re a mirror of Trump which is why they clap for him in the White House. And I can see, if the Democrats lose this one, there’s going to be a lot of fissure and a lot of splits.
The civic community in this country, environmental, consumer workers, civil rights, civil liberties, housing, tenant groups are excluded from the electoral arena. All you gotta do is look at Judy Woodruff on PBS, the News Hour. She interviews reporters. She doesn’t interview leaders who know what you’re talking about of civic groups. The civic community has got to stop being passive and demand that they have a role in the deliberations and in the media coverage of these campaigns, because they know a lot that the candidates don’t know. They know even a lot more that the reporters don’t know. And they are the seed corn for American democracy since day one in the 18th century.
JS: Ralph Nader, thank you very much for being with us.
RN: Thank you, Jeremy.