Ralph Nader on Government Reform

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

Government become unresponsive to citizen groups in 1979

Q: You were first on MEET THE PRESS in 1966, you said that you would never run for elective office back then. This is your third run for the presidency. Are you concerned now, when people look back at Ralph Nader, they'll consider him the Wendell Willkie of his generation, someone who kept running and running for president with no chance of winning, which will diminish the legacy that you tried to carve out as a consumer advocate.

A: No. My concern doesn't proceed from that. I came to Washington over 40 years ago to help improve my country and, and started a lot of citizen groups who did that. That was a time you had a hearing in Congress, regulatory agencies would be more responsive. Around 1979, the doors started closing on the citizen groups. So my concern comes from, to give you statistics quickly, 58,000 workers who die every year from work-related diseases & traume; 65,000 people who die from air pollution; and all the fraud, waste and abuse that's eating at the heart of the family budget

Source: Meet the Press: 2008 "Meet the Candidates" series Feb 24, 2008

Civic engagement fights corporate-government fascism

Our lack of civic motivation is the greatest problem facing the country today. Our beloved country is being taken apart by large multinational commercial powers.

In our country there is a gap that needs to be closed: the democracy gap. It is often said that "power abhors a vacuum. " When people do not claim power, the greedy step in to fill the void. Every day that capable citizens abstain from civic engagement allows our society and world to tolerate harm and to decay incrementally. The converse is also true. Our efforts, small and large, daily and cumulatively, spread the more noble sentiments of our humanity toward one another. But it isn't happening nearly enough to stem the downward slide of justice in our society.

That in its essence is fascism: ownership of the government by an individual, by a group or any controlling private power. We would do well to heed this age-old wisdom as we ponder why our corporate and political leaders assume more and more control over our lives and futures.

Source: In the Public Interest, Ralph Nader's weekly column Oct 15, 2004

$13M for "educational" party conventions wastes tax dollars

The Democratic Party-Party Convention is over and its singular memory will be its predictable banality and the commercialism that mostly financed it. For this business bacchanalia the taxpayers were required to pay the Democratic party $13 million (and later the same amount for the Republican Party Convention). A few years ago Congress-namely the two Parties-decided that these political Conventions were "educational" in nature and worthy of your tax dollars.

Thwarting a possible terrorist attack was one reason for over tens of millions of dollars spent-the other objective was to keep the people from protesting anywhere near the Fleet Center Convention. The people-voters, taxpayers, workers-were detained in a "free speech zone" (catch the irony) that looked like an ad hoc concentration camp encirclement. The Democratic Party did what it does so regularly in Washington-it shut out the people who resigned themselves to social justice gatherings elsewhere in Boston.

Source: "In the Public Interest" newspaper column Jul 30, 2004

The two parties are proxies for corporate government

NADER [to Dean]: The issue here is the corporate government. Let's not be distracted by the two parties that are simply proxies. We don't want to settle for the lesser of two evils in our country. We don't want to have another special interest clone in Washington. We don't want to have another Washington insider who shifts back and forth with every poll. And we don't want to have insensitivity for the plight of workers, American workers in this country, who have lost their manufacturing jobs. All those quotes come from Howard Dean I against John Kerry in the primaries. What you're hearing now is Howard Dean II, in a desperate attempt to smear our campaign, which is struggling to get on the ballot against the massive anti-civil-liberties obstruction of the Democratic Party that's really interfering with our campaign.
Source: NPR, "Justice Talking" Dean-Nader Debate Jul 9, 2004

Democracy gap: people must claim power, or the greedy will

Democracy brings out the best in people because it gives them more freedom, more voice, more lawful order, and more opportunity to advance their visions of a just society. In our country, however, there is a gap that needs to be closed-the democracy gap. It is often said that power abhors a vacuum. When people do not claim power, the greedy step in to fill the void. Every day that capable citizens abstain from civic engagement allows our society and the world to tolerate harm and to decay incrementally.
Source: The Good Fight, by Ralph Nader, p. 1 Jul 6, 2004

Giving information to people overcomes propaganda

Powerless people often aggravate their situation by giving up on themselves. This makes them all the more susceptible to manipulation and flattery by unscrupulous power-brokers and their political proxies. This vulnerability results from the absence of an absorbed information base to provide a shield against artful propaganda and deception.
Source: The Good Fight, by Ralph Nader, p. 4-5 Jul 6, 2004

Change requires a critical mass of the involved

A lack of a critical mass of involved citizens on any issue, whatever the scale, contributes to the "see, you can't get anything done," "what's the use," syndrome which feeds on its own futility
Source: The Good Fight, by Ralph Nader, p. 6 Jul 6, 2004

Denying D.C. vote is colonial mentality by congress

The first twelve minutes of my address focused on continuing denial to residents of the District of Columbia of rights held by all other American in fifty states. I felt it was important to illuminate the colonial mentality of Congress, the affront to a largely African American population that faithfully gives over 90 percent of its vote to the Democratic presidential candidates.
Source: Crashing the Party, by Ralph Nader, p.288 Oct 14, 2002

Clean money means clean elections

The main way to shift power, if you had to have one reform, its public funding of public elections. Clean money, clean elections. Clean money and clean elections stop the nullification of your votes by special interest money.
Source: Crashing the Party, by Ralph Nader, p.289 Oct 14, 2002

Government obstacles to voting make our elections oppressive

Following the November 7 deadlock came a torrent of recriminations and what ifs. Amid all the arguments there emerged one consensus: The election machinery is a mess and not just in Florida. It is prone to confusion by the voters, mistakes by the counters, manipulation by the parties, and outright violations of civil rights of voters who just happen to be poor, minorities, or disabled.
Source: Crashing the Party, by Ralph Nader, p.296-297 Oct 14, 2002

National Youth Convention bypasses electoral fluff and bluff

As part of the National Youth Conventions, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group called Youth in Action [held a presidential forum]. As the presidential candidate for the Green Party, I was asked to listen to each youth panel summarize its points and then respond, which I did in some detail.

Our interaction was one of the most stimulating exchanges in the campaign. I was pleased to hear young people in their teens and early twenties articulating a political agenda separate from the tactics, fund-raisers and fluff and bluff surrounding the major-party candidates.

These Youth convocations were intricately planned and promoted. They were supported by major foundations, such as the Pew Charitable Trusts, and major nonprofits, including the League of Women Voters and the YMCA and YWCA. These conventions give young men and women a voice and involvement, when so often they are alienated from presidential campaigns that ignore their existence, except for the occasional scripted photo op.

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

Dems & GOP say they want campaign reform, but do nothing

Politics, as it is practiced, is the art of having it both ways. One party--the Democrats--regularly says all the right things about campaign finance reform but does nothing. The other party--the Republicans--rarely says the right thing about the corruption of our elections and does nothing. Both use the same ready cliche when asked why one party doesn't lead on reform by example: "We do not believe in unilateral disarmament."

There are two lessons to learn from these [Democratic and Republican] political conventions. One is that our nation's political leaders are chosen by one big entertainment extravaganza. Voters are left with only limp imagery, hackneyed slogans, and the omnipresent thirty-second propaganda advertisement. Dr. Pavlov soon becomes the patron saint of the political horse race.

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

Lack of election opponents let corrupt pols stay in office

When House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas) was subject to a devastating page-one expose in the Washington Post five years ago, nothing happened. The article cited instances of DeLay bordering on making extortionate demands for money from special interests, and the House Ethics Committee did not even open an investigation. At the August Republican convention, Congressman DeLay became a veritable talent agent reportedly offering lobbyists packages starting at $15,000 and rising to $100,000 in terms of how exclusive one's meetings could be with the elected bigwigs.

Like most congressional districts, DeLay's is one-party dominated, and he wins by large majorities with only nominal opposition. This is typical. In about 90 percent of the 435 congressional districts, there is one-party rule. So choice is effectively denied to a vast majority of voters.

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

Non-violent demonstrations are ignored by the press

Certainly the most interesting events at the [2000 Democratic and Republican conventions] took place in the streets, parks, and parking lots near the convention halls. But the story here incredibly became one not of protest but of crowd control & police preparation. Unlike in the 60s & 70s, peaceful mass demonstrations no longer receive much media coverage. Many a weekend march of 50,000 to 200,000 people for labor rights or the environment receives little more than a picture & a caption in the Washington Post.

Consequently, demonstrators began to figure that nonviolent civil disobedience or, in some frustrated instances, controlled violence against property, would mesh with the television media's mantra, "If it bleeds, it leads." Studious, well-prepared news conferences, absent these demonstrations, don't make the grade with the eyes and ears of the press. The reaction of course is for the police to organize massive counterforce against what is perceived as a giant safety problem

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

Primary architect of Freedom of Information Act

Through Nader's efforts, dozens of safety laws have passed, and at times he has shown himself to be as skilled a legislator as any senator. Whenever a door has been closed on him, he has simply pushed open another-constantly adapting-gathering support at the grass roots when necessary, or getting his message out by running for president-three times now. He is a fierce proponent of openness on the part of government and corporations-in fact, he is the primary architect of Freedom of Information Act
Source: Nader: Crusader, Spoiler, Icon, by Justin Martin, p. xiv Sep 1, 2002

Supreme Court nominees should have a sense of justice

Q: If you were president, how would you determine your nominees for the Supreme Court?

A: Well, a certain level of intellectual power, a sense of justice, as demonstrated by the record of the potential nominee. How has the person used his or her time as an attorney in advancing justice in society? And a sense of judicial impartiality.

My litmus paper test is: Does the judge allow a fair hearing for all sides to the litigation? That’s the key because impartiality means you keep an open mind.

Source: CNN: “Burden of Proof” Aug 9, 2000

Justices need sense of justice & sense of history

Q: What are your criteria for Supreme Court Justice appointments?
Source: National Press Club interview (aired on NPR) Jul 23, 2000

Empower citizens via accurate information from govt

Democracy must empower and enable citizens to obtain timely and accurate information from their government, enable citizens to band together in civic associations in pursuit of a just society, and communicate their judgments through modern technology.
Source: The Concord Principles, An Agenda for a New Democracy, # 1 Feb 21, 2000

Reinvent democracy via new tools for citizen empowerment

Reinventing democracy requires that we create new tools of empowerment: new mechanisms of civic communication, political organization, government assistance, and legal rights that can advance the distinct interests of citizens, taxpayers, consumers, workers and shareholders. These structural and procedural reforms will help to foster a new “fifth estate” of individual Americans, capable of acting independently from entrenched institutional-that is, chiefly corporate and governmental-power.
Source: VoteNader.com, “Citizen Action” Feb 21, 2000

Concentrated party power weakens democracy

In a January 17 column, Nader accused the major parties of purposely keeping small political parties off the ballot. In a subsequent column, he took on the media for failing to ask tough questions of candidates. “Every 4 years, a half-dozen campaigns issues are drably questioned and drearily answered,” he wrote. “Too much power in the hands of the few has weakened our democracy. People need stronger civic tools to band together, learn together and act together to make the Big Boys behave,” he wrote.
Source: CNN.com Feb 17, 2000

Focus on anti-trust enforcement to help small business

Q: How would you run the Department of Justice differently?

A: I’d emphasize the word justice. Special influences distort the mission of the department. Its priorities are not in the area of corporate crime, fraud and abuse. I would emphasize anti-trust enforcement. Pro-competitive policies are essential for small business innovators and entrepreneurs to have a fair shake at becoming significant factors of production in our country.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday Interview, p. 3/Z1 Oct 13, 1996

Government delivers more service than people realize

Q: Was it you that told me that if the federal government shut down for a year it would be the most popular institution in the country?

A: Yes, because people would realize how much flows in terms of economic activity, technological research, health care research, health care delivery, management of the parks and the forests, construction. They would realize just how much they were getting from the government. Not to mention a lot of these new technologies, like telecommunications, satellites, all came out of the Defense Department and the space program in terms of the basic research, development and engineering stages. When the government isn’t perceived as delivering, the demand is to cut back and strip government of its capability to deliver, instead of rising up and making government deliver.

Source: Alternative Radio, interview by David Barsamian Dec 9, 1995

Give voters more voices and choices

Q: Do you have any plans to run for president in 2008?

A: It's really too early to say. I don't like long campaigns. But I'm committed to trying to give more voices and choices to the American people on the ballot. That means more third parties, independent candidates and to break up this two-party elected dictatorship that is becoming more and more like a dial for the same corporate dollars.

Q: As you know, by leaving the door open as you just did, a lot of Democrats are going to get very, very nervous, given what happened in 2000. But you are potentially open to running for president again?

A: As I say, I'll consider it later in the year. But I think they ought to look at the agenda of some of these third parties like the Green Party, like our independent run in '04. Maybe if they take some of these issues, as they should have, in '00 and '04, they might win in a bigger way over the Republican Party.

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

Ralph Nader on Campaign Finance Reform

No PAC money, no commercial donations; only individuals

On my website, votenader.org, is a declaration that we will receive no money from commercial interests, no money from political action committees, only from individuals. And I'll take it from any individuals--Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, independent, Green party. And we are very frugal. They've labeled me Mr. Frugal, my associates. We know how to use it. None of this huge waste on political consultants who have really messed up Hillary Clinton's campaign.
Source: Meet the Press: 2008 "Meet the Candidates" series Feb 24, 2008

Public funding of campaigns would fight corporate control

Replacing corporate Republicans with corporate Democrats doesn't solve a thing. We have to have public funding of campaigns, we have to open up the judiciary for people who have been wrongfully injured or ripped off. The fraud in the marketplace has been documented by mainstream press.

Great solutions do not move into the electoral, political and governmental arenas. That's the problem of two indentured parties to corporate control.

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

Green Party does not take PAC, soft, or corporate cash

We’re trying to do it right by not taking PAC money, not taking corporate cash money, not taking dirty soft money, just individual money, and that kind of response to our Web site, votenader.com, is convincing us that people want-no matter who they are-Perot voters, McCain voters, Bradley voters-they want dirty money out of campaigns, and we’re moving toward full public funding of public elections.
Source: Nader-Buchanan debate on ‘Meet the Press’ Oct 1, 2000

No private money in public campaigns

Q: Who should be allowed in the debates?

A: If you get over 5% of the vote, and you get funds for the next four years, you should be qualified to get on the debate. So we believe in a 5% threshold.

Q: Even if it was a hate-mongering organization?

A: Yes of course. I don’t think that kind of organization would ever get 5% or higher.

Q: Why does it help you?

A: It doesn’t. It pushes the whole movement toward public financing for public campaigns. We want no private money in public campaigns.

Source: CNN: “Burden of Proof” Aug 9, 2000

Spending campaign money is not free speech

Q: What about money as free speech? Would you be keen to challenge the Supreme Court decision Buckley v. Veleo, which defined money as free speech?
A: Yes. It allows public financing if you don’t take private financing. It permits soft money which can be constitutionally prohibited by legislation, which is what John McCain wants to do. It allows independent expenditures and billionaires funding their own campaigns, and that has to either be subject to a reversal by the Supreme Court of Buckley v. Veleo or a constitutional amendment. However, legislation can say that if someone raises $20 million of his or her money and spends it on TV, that the TV can be required to give equal time to less affluent candidates. There are ways to dull the effects of Buckley v. Veleo, and I think we’re going to see more Supreme Court decisions chipping away at it.
Source: Alternative Radio interview with David Barsamian Feb 23, 2000

Public campaign finance; 12-year term limits

Citizens should have measures to ensure that their voting powers are not diluted, over-run, or nullified. Such measures include easier voter registration, state-level binding initiatives and referendums , public financing of campaigns, and term limits not to exceed 12 years.
Source: The Concord Principles, An Agenda for a New Democracy, # 4 Feb 21, 2000

Public election financing, with free TV & radio time

Up against the corporate government, voters find themselves asked to choose between look-a-like candidates from two parties vying to see who takes the marching orders from their campaign paymasters. The money of vested interests nullifies genuine voter choice and trust. Our elections have been put out for auction to the highest bidder. Public elections must be publicly financed and it can be done with well-promoted voluntary checkoffs and free TV and Radio time for ballot-qualified candidates.
Source: Green Party Announcement Speech Feb 21, 2000

100% publicly funded campaigns, by $100 tax checkoff

Q: President Nader does what?

A: A major strengthening of our democracy. Getting private money out of public campaigns, by well-promoted, voluntary checkoff on the 1040 tax return, up to 100 dollars per person.

Q: No contributions?

A: If you go and use that as a candidate, you can’t take private money.

Q: You have to go to the Supreme Court to do that.

A: Yes, you have to change the Constitution.

Source: Interview on “Larry King Live” Oct 6, 1996

Ralph Nader on Voting Reform

For fair ballot access and fair debate access

Q: Briefly describe Nader's position on the following issue: Election Reform.

A: Ralph Nader supports Instant Runoff Voting and Public Financing. He also calls for these electoral reforms:

Source: Green Party 2008 Presidential Candidate Questionnaire Feb 3, 2008

Instant Runoff Voting makes all votes count

Q: What are your views about Instant Runoff Voting and proportional representation?

A: That's what are needed to make the votes count. We have a winner-take-all system where if you're part of the 49% your votes doesn't count. Western Europe and others have come up proportional rep & IRV, and that's something we have to discuss. Could you imagine any of the major party candidates being asked, "What do you think about IRV?" You can't explain IRV in a sound byte, so it won't even get on the air.

Source: 2008 Green Presidential Debate moderated by Cindy Sheehan Jan 13, 2008

Taking away votes from Democrats gains leverage

DEAN [to Nader]: We need complete electoral reform. We wouldn't be having this debate today if we had a system of instant runoff voting in this country. Then Ralph Nader would pose no threat to the election of John Kerry. If we had instant runoff voting, we could have the kind of debates that Ralph wants, open debates, because minor parties, third parties wouldn't cause those problems.

NADER: I would abolish the Electoral College. For the US government to lecture people overseas about democracy and then turn around and say the man who got the lesser number of votes becomes president in 2000, and the person, Gore, who got more votes, is a rather difficult position to uphold. It's also important to recognize, it's the only way third parties have had leverage over the major party candidates is to deny them votes, is to say to them that for too long, they have ignored the needs of the American people. They've had their chance.

Source: NPR, "Justice Talking" Dean-Nader Debate Jul 9, 2004

Advocate to allow people to vote "no confidence"

NADER: In America, you can only vote "yes" when you go to the polls. You have no opportunity to vote "no confidence" in all the candidates. If you have binding "none of the above" on every ballot line, if you don't like the candidates and you don't want to write anyone in, you can vote binding "none of the above."

DEAN: That is exactly the difference between the two of us. We live in a real world. We have to make real choices. Binding "none of the above" means we don't have to make real choices.

Source: NPR, "Justice Talking" Dean-Nader Debate Jul 9, 2004

Increase voting by weekend and holiday Election Days

Nader continued to tout his none-of-the-above ballot option, the centerpiece of his New Hampshire primary run in 1992. To increase turnout at the polls, Nader also believed that the US should institute voting on weekends or maybe designate a national voters holiday.

Going back to the days of the Congress Project, Nader had been an advocate of campaign finance reform. He favored public financing of elections by means of a nominal checkoff ($3 or so) on individual tax returns.

Source: Nader: Crusader, Spoiler, Icon, by Justin Martin, p.251 Sep 1, 2002

Allow voting for “None of the Above”

[I think people] are overwhelmingly supportive of a binding none-of-the-above law. So if you don’t like who’s on the ballot, you can go down and vote for None of the Above in your voting precinct. If None of the Above wins more votes than any of the other candidates, it cancels that particular election, sends the candidates packing and orders, within thirty or forty-five days, a new election and new candidates.
Source: Alternative Radio interview with David Barsamian Feb 23, 2000

Other candidates on Government Reform: Ralph Nader on other issues:
GOP: Sen.John McCain
Democrat: Sen.Barack Obama
Dem.V.P.: Sen.Joe Biden

GOP V.P. Possibilities:
Gov.Haley Barbour(MS)
Gov.Charlie Crist(FL)
Mayor Rudy Giuliani(NYC)
Gov.Mike Huckabee(AR)
Sen.Joe Lieberman(CT)
Gov.Tim Pawlenty(MN)
Gov.Mitt Romney(MA)
Gov.Mark Sanford(SC)

Third Parties:
Constitution: Chuck Baldwin
Libertarian: Rep.Bob Barr
Libertarian: Sen.Mike Gravel
Constitution: Amb.Alan Keyes
Liberation: Gloria La Riva
Green: Rep.Cynthia McKinney
Socialist: Brian Moore
Independent: Ralph Nader
Libertarian: Rep.Ron Paul
Civil Rights
Foreign Policy
Free Trade
Govt. Reform
Gun Control
Health Care
Homeland Security
Social Security
Tax Reform

Page last updated: Oct 01, 2008