AllPolitics - Interviews

Ralph Nader Says America Needs to Build Democracy Again

[Ralph Nader]

Aired April 9, 1996

BERNARD SHAW, Anchor: Most political observers say Bill Clinton needs California's 54 electoral votes to beat Bob Dole on November 5th. While nearly all polls in the Golden State show the president with a sizable lead, there is a wild card - Ralph Nader. He's a candidate for the Green Party, and the polls show he siphons support from Mr. Clinton causing concern he could tilt the state and perhaps the election toward Bob Dole.

Joining us now consumer activist and Green Party presidential candidate, Ralph Nader.

[interviewing] You're running to do what?

RALPH NADER, Green Party Presidential Candidate: To build a progressive political movement for the future way beyond November, broaden the agenda to include the critical issues of corporate power over our political institutions, the economy and culture, and to bring young people into the political process. They're very turned-off by what they consider a decaying, dirty system where two parties are basically representing the same corporate interests.

SHAW: You say to help open up the process. Can Ralph Nader really do that between April and November in 1996?

NADER: Well, you know, half the people stay home, Bernie, and don't even vote. A lot of people are alienated from the Rep-Dem Party, which is essentially a corporate party with two heads wearing different makeup, and President Clinton has gotten very good lately in electing very bad Republicans. And when the president and the Democrats can't stop the election in 1994 of some of the worst political rogues who ever crawled up Capitol Hill, those 75, or most of those 75, Republicans, that means they've lost their identity, they've lost their message, they've lost their principles as a Democratic Party.

SHAW: You say 75 rogues, but what are you saying about the people who elected them and sent them to Washington?

NADER: That they weren't really given a choice, that this was a Democratic Party, had no message, it was on the defensive, it didn't raise the great issues of consumer, worker, environmental and other protections, and the need to clean up politics, like campaign finance reform; and, therefore, the slogans of those Republicans and the push-button issues that they had carried the day.

SHAW: What kind of impact do you think you will have? You know what the polls are saying out in California. You siphon votes from President Clinton.

NADER: Not necessarily. When I ran as a non-candidate write-in in New Hampshire primary in '92 on a New Democracy agenda called the Concord Principles, I got 52 percent of the write-ins were Republican, 48 percent were Democrats. And I think that reflects the feeling among millions of Americans. They've lost control over politics, workplace, marketplace, their kids, the streets. And we've got to build Democracy again, and none of these candidates, Dole or Clinton, are focusing on rebuilding our Democracy, which is being dismantled heavily by corporate power on the installment plan.

SHAW: What issues are not being discussed by either candidate for president?

NADER: The concentration of corporate power, all those mergers and acquisitions in telecommunications and the health industry. The corruption of money in politics. They give it a little rhetoric, Dole and Clinton, but they haven't done anything about it. The problem of expanding access to justice. People are injured by defective products, toxic wastes. The problem of health insurance is no longer front-burner issue. The problem of energy - the energy situation - where we're importing over half of our oil and we've got nuclear power waste problems, et cetera, and greenhouse effects. The big issues are not just the substantive issues that we're ignoring as a country, we're ignoring the building of Democracy and bringing millions of people into the process because Democracy is a great problem-solver.

SHAW: You're talking about another revolution in American politics.

NADER: I'm talking about bringing back and expanding Democracy so that we are not ruled by oligarchy plutocracy, or put it more clearly, a government of the Exxons by the General Motors or the Dupont's, using GATT and NAFTA to strip people of jobs and subordinate our Democratic processes to the commercial imperatives of the world trade organization and it's autocratic procedures.


SHAW: Personal question, in round dollars how much are you worth?

NADER: I'm not worth every much.

SHAW: Will you disclose?

NADER: No, let me tell you why. The tax returns I have fought for privacy for all Americans. The proper law is the government ethics law for candidates. I don't like to go against my principles and violate a position of privacy on the tax return, which would, of course, put the others in a very bad light by comparison. And I will comply with the government ethics laws if I'm going to spend money. But I'm not going to spend money. I'm not going to raise or accept any money. I'm going to try to make a stand on a no-money campaign in order to punctuate the need for fundamental campaign finance reform.

SHAW: Is not one of the reasons, aside from what you just obviously stated - and I understood what you just said - is not one of your reasons for not disclosing the fact that you don't want, whatever your worth financially, personally to become an issue in your campaign?

NADER: That's part of it. And I don't want to violate a critical right of privacy between the American people and the U.S. Treasury Department which needs to be preserved.

SHAW: This document, The Concord Principles- and you make a point of saying that you really are not running on the Green Party platform, but rather on this, which you authored in 1992. There are many interesting proposals in here. One of them you say on page three, that the American public deserves its own audience network. What is that?

NADER: The public legally owns the public airwaves, and the broadcast companies, radio and TV lease them through the Federal Communications Commission. We're the landlords; the radio and TV stations are the tenants. They pay us no rent and they decide who says what 24-hours a day. I think we've got to become electronically literate and get Congress to pass a chartered audience network that's open to viewers and listeners to join with their dues, and take control of one hour a day prime time drive time, so that we can communicate with one another without the restraint of advertisers or executives in New York or in Los Angeles deciding what we talk about.

SHAW: We have 15 seconds. I count two, four, six, seven months between now and the time the American people go to the polls. Given the breadth of what you want to accomplish, are you a candidate before your time?

NADER: No, because the purpose of this campaign is to build a progressive movement and broaden the agenda, not any numerical vote count.

SHAW: Ralph Nader, thanks for joining us on Inside Politics.

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