He may not be running for president this year, but he certainly has a lot to say about elections. Ralph Nader joins us to talk about his new book, “The Seventeen Solutions: Bold Ideas for Our American Future.” The former presidential candidate shares his thoughts on civic engagement, reforming the tax code and how to involve the everyday citizen — and the occasional billionaire — in rebuilding America. Do you have questions for Ralph Nader?

Interview Highlights

On Diminishing Corporate Influence in Politics

It's so easy to turn it around. I mean, when you say to yourself, "Where should our country be going? Where should our community be going? How should workers be treated? How should consumers be treated? How should we get clean elections?" You don't think you have a majority of people [supporting that]? You may have liberals and conservatives on that. And so the key issue is like, it's a principle of physics. Where do you have the greatest leverage to turn the government around and put Wall Street in an accountable position and make these corporations our servants, not our masters? Congress. 535 men and women. And they all want your votes. But there is nothing organized out there, except a few single-interest groups.

On How Bird Watchers Can Save Government

Look, there are 15 million bird watchers. Some of them are incredibly intense and dedicated. Up in the morning in the marshes, regardless of the weather, with all the equipment. You know, connecting with one another. And they do connect with one another in terms of how many birds they watch. And, why can't we have "Congress watchers?" It's such a simple idea. There are people who work overtime on hobbies, complex hobbies, not just stamp collecting, coin collecting, matchbox collecting. There are people who every day do things far more difficult than organizing Congress watchdog groups in every congressional district, like raising children.

On Why You Shouldn't Dismiss the Wealthy and How They Can Be Part of the Solution

The danger of a stereotype is 100 percent. You never want to stereotype. Even if you have an unfair stereotype. Do not stereotype 100 percent. There's always the 1 or 2 percent. And justice needs money. A lot of these solutions could be accomplished very rapidly if thousands of organizers were fielded to work every day in congressional districts mobilizing people with a laser beam focus on their senators and representatives. You'd be surprised how fast the legislature and Congress will turn around.

On Military Force

Defense. An attack on our country or an imminent attack on our country. That is the only legitimate international law support for going to war.

On Inequality in America

Every empire in the history of the world has devoured its own people. Every empire when it's fallen, has devoured itself. And we have so impoverished our country with the diversion of money for the empire, that we've got half of the people in this country who are really poor. Half of the people in this country. We are an advanced third world country. We've got modern computers. Modern military. Science. But the livelihood of more and more people is disgracefully shameful. And that's what the 99 percent people were talking about.

On the Source of His Passion for Justice

I had a good choice of parents. As a child, you know, Michael, I couldn't stand bullies. I actually got red and flushed in the face when a fourth grader would beat up a second grader. So, you grow up that way. And, I wanted to be a lawyer. To me a lawyer meant fighting for justice. It didn't mean working in the Wall Street canyons for corporate behemoths like Goldman Sachs or Citigroup.

On Civic Engagement

You know the question I ask people? It's a little facetious. You know, Congress affects you in every way. Good or bad. It can send your children off to war. It can allow companies to rip you off. It can raise your taxes. It can lower your taxes. It spends 22 percent of your income. I say, "Do you spend more time looking at the mirror in a period of a year? Or do you spend more time looking at your congress?"


Ralph Nader, former Green Party presidential candidate and author of "The Seventeen Solutions: Bold Ideas for Our American Future"

  • JohnC

    The man who helped give us 8 years of George W. Bush. I am not going to bother listening to the program.

    • Guest

      I’m sorry, third party votes stand on their own just like whoever your vote goes to stands on its own merits. George W. Bush was elected because his opponents failed, not because a third party candidate provided a much needed alternative. I’m sick of hearing this childish claim. Your duty is to vote for whoever best represents your interests, not whoever you think is going to defeat whoever you wish to vote against. This strategy of negative discourse in American elections is precisely what has led to the partisan gridlock we see today. I may write Mr. Nader in this election even if he isn’t running and it will NOT be a voted “wasted”. The American people get what they deserve by voting strategically instead of authentically. Thank you for your courage and convictions, Mr. Nader!

      • theymightbegiants

        The problem is that the system isn’t set up for multiple party run-offs…not someone with the gonads to syand up against the Republicrat monopoly/dictatorship (you idiot)…

        • Guest

          Spoken like someone who can neither think (or spell) for themselves. Reminder: “the system” is our Constitution.

    • Bob Fry

      The useless Dems gave us Dumbya. I’m proud I voted for Ralph Nader and I’d do so again. Ralph is right, the Dems and Reps are just Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

      • Steve

        Good on you sir. I voted for him also.

    • Fred

      Nyet, comrade. What gave us Bush was Jeb Bush’s rigging of the Florida elections by illegally removing over 50,000 Democrats from the voting rolls.
      If a Democrat (like you?) wants to ignore this fact (proven beyond a doubt and repeated by the current Florida gov.) that suggests you are a corporatist and in favor of election rigging yourself.

      • DeeedaDeeee

        Thank you Vlad, for setting the record straight, MS bush represents the great slow masses that allow high crimes and misdemeanors to be swept under the rug.

  • Angus

    Does Ralph truly believe that the existing corporate-occupied Federal government can be reformed? It seems to me that the general public is impervious to rational arguments offered by third parties, and will always support one of the two corporatist parties, giving those parties a mandate for even worse behavior each time until we ultimately have no democracy at all. The corporatist parties from here on out will always let the big banks get away with criminal behavior and reward them for it, and let other big corporations get away with massive pollution and outsourcing of jobs. It seems that now is the time for not a more rational solution in the form of a parallel government, one that resists infiltration by corporate lackeys or COINTELPRO provocateurs, one that gets to work immediately on building a system to deliver what people need.

    • JohnC

      Unlike what Darth Nader and yourself say, there are differences between the two parties: Ruth Bader Ginsberg/Sonia Sotomayor and Clarence Thomas/Samuel Alito.

      • Guest

        If you aren’t going to bother listening to this program, then stay out of this thread.

        • indiegirl

          Why exclude now? Isn’t that part of the issue?

  • Lisa

    Does Nader really think McCain would have made better choices? Nader should stick with his ideas and shut-up about foreign policy, something he obviously has no experience with.

    • Bob Fry

      Obama had no foreign policy experience either…and that lack of experience is evident. Not that the Reps are better.

  • guest

    How about supporting a “delta” party that promotes the effort to vote out ALL incumbents due to non performance. In six years we could have a completely new set of politicians and the lobby groups would be in disarray. The politicians and lobbyists would also see that we are finally staring to pay attention.

  • Eamonn

    Sports stadiums create jobs, generate growth and if positioned properly, like AT&T Park, they can contribute to urban regeneration. Surely there is value in this. In addition, professional athletes, when they behave appropriately, can act as role models that inspire the next generation to participate in healthy sports. The British embraced that doctrine to great effect in their recent hosting of the Olympics. Surely it’s okay to have public investment in elite sports if there is a benefit to wider society.

  • guest

    According to the Commonwealth Club website, Nader’s at Cubberley in Palo Alto tonight, not in SF as MK has said at least twice. Thanks!

    • Forum Producer

      Michael read a correction — thank you for bringing this to our attention.

  • Jonathan

    Does Mr. Nader believe there is a difference between Obama and Romney? Who is he going to vote for?

  • National Petroleum Radio- NPR

    Nader brings up Eisenhowers’ important words “beware the military industrial complex” Please ask him about what he think of their Whistleblower group The Disclosure Project and their claim of unconstitutional funding of Alternative Energy systems that could end Emmisions and create energy abundance. Supporting their efforts go a long way to ending this cabal that runs our country.

  • Conrad

    In Nader’s opening defense of his
    effect on the 2000 election result, he blamed the Florida count, the Supreme
    Court decision, etc. But he does not mention the facts of the state by state
    vote counts. In several states he had several times as many votes as the
    difference between Gore and Bush. Thus, if slightly more than half of those
    Nader voters would have voted for Gore, then he would have won.

    Would Gore have invaded
    Afghanistan (assuming 9/11 would have happened)? Yes. Would he have invaded
    Iraq? No. Would Gore have done more than
    Bush about climate change? Yes. Thus, there is a difference!

    If Nader’s supporters continue to
    not support Democrats, it will just push the Democratic party to the right.

    And if Nader’s supporters
    continue to fail to see that logic, then they will just make themselves
    irrelevant with their self-professed idealism.

    • Bob Fry

      Grow up. I started voting Green when Ralph Nader ran for President and I’ll continue to do so as a protest vote. It makes perfect sense in California.

    • Al Wright

      You have it all wrong, Gore stole that election from Nader. Gore should have backed out, realizing that Nader was the better candidate.

  • Forum Producer

    Here’s a link to Project Vote Smart that an earlier-caller referenced: http://votesmart.org/

  • Guest

    Nader seems to believe general public has a common goal and value…

  • Barbra

    I voted for Ralph Nader, and I wish he were president now. Please ask Mr. Nader for a few action items for us busy stay at home moms, and thank you so much for having him on the program.

  • Forum Producer

    Here’s a link to OpenDebates.org that Mr. Nader just referenced: http://www.opendebates.org/

  • theymightbegiants

    *TERRIFIC* guest and program… addressing the REAL issues that are destroying the USA, the rest of the world…and the entire planetary environment! Thank you to the people at Forum and their efforts. More like this please!

  • Chemist150

    Rank voting now on a national level!

    The two party system is what is wrong with this country. I can’t believe that caller blaming Nader on the outcome of an election. Lesser of two evils is not a proper democracy.

  • Angus

    Mr Nader, are you aware of voter suppression in Florida, in which voters who have the right to vote have been removed from the voting rolls illegally? This happened in 2000: Over 50,000 Dems were prevented from voting.

  • Tony G. Rocco

    Thanks so much for having Ralph Nader on Forum. I voted for him as a write-in candidate in 2004 because I couldn’t stomach the two major parties. He was the only choice for an independent voter to make, in my opinion. It is so good to hear him sound as passionate about social and economic justice as he ever has been. Long live Ralph Nader.

  • Bob Fry

    Wow, another whiner about the 2000 election. Astonishing…or not.

  • chrisco

    Regarding the caller who insists that Ralph Nader is to blame for Bush’s election: I just want to say “Amen” to Ralph Nader’s rebuttal. Blaming Nader is a very simplistic, even silly analysis.

  • Al Wright

    I would vote for Mr. Nader for President again in a heartbeat! I don’t agree with all his positions, but he knows what’s wrong with our country and how to fix it. Problem is, he’d step on both Rep and Dem’s toes in congress, and would never be able to get any legislation passed. Too bad for us.

  • dave

    Ralph is continually trying to justify his stuborn refusal to throw his support behing Gore in his most recent tragic run for the Presidency. There is no excuse for his egotistical decsion. He has set back the third party process decades, in his fumbling of this matter. He has no business in US politics because he in unable to gain progress through compromise. He is just as bad as the hard line right wing conservitives who are unwilling to compromise for benifit the contry.

  • Steve

    I think the best way to think about the 2000 election is that Mr. Nader’s intentions may have been good, but his strategy was faulty. He complained about not being allowed in the debates, etc.. But if he had run in the PRIMARIES as a Democrat, he could have taken part in a large number of debates, reached a much bigger audience, and influenced the Democratic Party in a more positive direction. Look at the publicity people like Herman Cain got in the Republican primaries this year. It is useless to run as a third-party for president until one of the following happens: either the presidential rules change (electoral college, etc.), or third party builds up a much bigger critical mass first.

    • Steve

      update to my comment: It would also have been clear, if Mr. Nader was unable to win a Democratic Primary, there would have been no way to win a general election. If his goal was just to promote his ideas, the primary process would have been just as good if not better as a vehicle to do so.

  • Wendy

    Ralph Nader is lives in a fantasy USA. We have to vote within the governmental system we have, not the governmental system we wished we had. We don’t have a prime minister and a parliament and minority candidates like him need to join coalitions before elections rather than after elections as in parliamentary systems. His type of government exists in Italy and Israel but not here and he knows it. He lied to his followers by telling them Gore and Bush were equivalent. He should have endorsed Gore. Voting for Nader for president in our governmental system is a wasted vote that leads to no coalition, no power and no influence after the election is over. He is a selfish egomaniac who indirectly contributed to a million deaths and worldwide upheaval that has not yet seen an end. Nonetheless some, but not all, of the domestic ideas he discusses today are interesting. Unfortunately his understanding of his role in history and our governmental system is based on his delusional rationalization.

    • chrisco

      If what you say is true – namely “We have to vote within the governmental system we have, not the governmental system we wished we had” – then we do not have freedom or democracy. I don’t believe you.

    • EID


  • Chuck

    Nader was not responsible for Gore’s loss in 2000. Gore won the vote in Florida but did not fight for it. Gore hired Warren Christopher to resolve the disputed votes in Florida and Bush hired James Baker. James Baker treated the dispute like a street fight while Warren Christopher acted like he was engaged in a gentlemanly disagreement. Gore need only blame himself.

    A vote for a third party candidate is a vote for changing the status quo. The Dems and Repubs are opposite sides of the same coin. Different face, but same result:
    • Government for the big Corporations and moneyed elite.
    • Endless war on Terror
    • Endless war on drugs
    • Police state to control the dispossessed
    • War on truth and endless secrecy

    So, if you like the status quo, go ahead and vote for the Dems or Repubs and you will get your just deserts. BUT if you think we need to turn this ship in another direction then vote DIFFERENTLY. There is libertarian Gary Johnson on the right, and on the left we have Jill Stein (Green Party), Roseanne Bar (Peace and Freedom), Rocky Anderson (Justice Party). All of these candidates are honorable people, unlike Romney and Obama who will tell you anything to get elected. If we elect a third party President then at a minimum we will disrupt the status quo and hear the truth.

  • Andygoldberg

    Mr Nader makes the perfect the enemy of the good. In the week prior to the 2000 vote, the margin in Florida was razor thin. Democrats pleaded with him to compromise. He stood on his principles, which unquestionably influenced the final outcome. Certainly it was not the only factor, still it proved decisive. Had Mr Gore been elected, would he have nominated individuals to the Supreme Court with the orientation of Mr Roberts and Mr Alito? Had Mr Gore picked the replacements for Mr Reinquist and Ms O’Connor, would Citizens United be the law of the land today? What of the outcome of yesterday’s arguments on affirmative action in education? Actions have consequences. Citizens United can be seen as a consequence of Mr Nader’s decisions in October of 2000. Mr Nader’s lack of pragmatisim has led many thoughtful progressives to turn away from him. I used to admire him. Now, I ignore him.

  • Andy

    I like Nader’s ideas and appreciate his focus on corporate power run amok. But I don’t think I can vote for HIM because of how he handles people. Example: a caller explains angrily but respectfully that he has resented Ralph for not, at the appropriate time, given his votes to Gore when he saw that he (Nader) had no chance to win and that the alternative would be the Bush nightmare of 8 years. Nader made the point, again, that Gore should not have been in that position and that voters made the ultimate decision. But he ends his response with a personal attack on the caller: “You are a bigot!” That moment tells me all I want to know about Mr. Nader the person. I continue to agree with his ideas, but I won’t vote for him as a “leader” of people. He has to realize that the margins give him a certain power and angle that would change if he were to become the official choice.

    • Adrian

      Yes, you nailed it. Nader’s tragic flaws are there. There’s a kind of fundamentalism, a kind of hubris, a kind of deafness. And it cost him his potential to be great, and it cost us the election in 2000.

      I met him twice in the 80’s as a college student working for a PIRG. He was motivational and committed, and brought that out in all of us. It was the best job I’ve ever had! But I could sense in him then those unfortunate qualities that did as much damage as he did good in the overall scheme of things.

    • indiegirl

      why would you let one moment override years of organizing on the behalf of people and putting himself in front of attacks on behalf of what he believes will benefit all of america? that smacks of looking for perfection, rather than a regular guy who’s willing to put his neck out for folks.

    • Mehul

      Nader specifically called him a “political bigot”, “with an emphasis on political”.

  • EID


    • Abe

      Grow a brain, please.

    • Steve

      You sir are a fool.

  • EID


    • chrisco

      This is the kind of emotional, shallow commentary that Ralph Nader has had to put up for 12 years now. This is why he got riled up when the callers raised this. Surely, he is sick of it. It is a broken record not susceptible to reason. That is why he called the caller a bigot. Reason can not get through to these people.

  • BNelson

    Please run again. I think people need a third choice now.

  • EID


    • chrisco

      Please stop screaming. I can’t hear you.

  • Pandu

    Excellent interview and great interview by Ralph Nader. I enjoyed listening to this (all the way from Hyderabad, India!)

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