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Nader speaking at BYU's Alternate Commencement
|Born||February 27, 1934
|Green (affiliated non-member)
Reform (affiliated non-member)
Peace & Freedom (affiliated non-member)
Natural Law (affiliated non-member)
Populist Party of Maryland (created to support him in 2004)
Vermont Progressive Party (affiliated non-member)
|Alma mater||Princeton University,
|Occupation||Attorney, consumer advocate, and political activist|
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||1959|
Ralph Nader (pronounced /ΛneÉͺdÉr/; born February 27, 1934)  is an American attorney, author, lecturer, political activist, and four-time candidate for President of the United States, having run as a Green Party candidate in 1996 and 2000, and as an independent candidate in 2004 and 2008.
Areas of particular concern to Nader include consumer protection, humanitarianism, environmentalism, and democratic government. With grassroots democracy civic actions, green politics and left-wing politics, he is a reputed populist, harking to 19th century American populists and movements like Henry George's georgism, which he referred to in his 2004 presidential election platform.
Nader was born in Winsted, Connecticut. His parents, Nathra and Rose Nader, were immigrants from Lebanon, of Maronite Christian descent. His family's native language is Arabic, and he has spoken it along with English since childhood. His sister, Laura Nader, is an anthropologist.
Nathra Nader was employed in a textile mill and at one point owned a bakery and restaurant where he engaged customers in political discourse.
Ralph Nader graduated from The Gilbert School in 1951, Princeton University in 1955 and Harvard Law School in 1958. He served in the United States Army for six months in 1959, then began work as a lawyer in Hartford, Connecticut. Between 1961 and 1963, he was a Professor of History and Government at the University of Hartford. In 1964, Nader moved to Washington, D.C., where he worked for Assistant Secretary of Labor Daniel Patrick Moynihan. He also advised a United States Senate subcommittee on car safety. Nader has served on the faculty at the American University Washington College of Law.
Nader's first consumer safety articles appeared in the Harvard Law Record, a student publication of Harvard Law School, but he first criticized the automobile industry in an article he wrote for The Nation in 1959 called "The Safe Car You Can't Buy."
In 1965, Nader wrote Unsafe at Any Speed, a study that revealed that many American automobiles were unsafe. The first chapter, "The Sporty Corvair - The One-Car Accident," pertained to the Corvair manufactured by the Chevrolet division of General Motors, which had been involved in accidents involving spins and rollovers. There were over 100 lawsuits pending against GM in connection with accidents involving the popular compact car. These lawsuits provided the initial material for Nader's investigations into the safety of the car.
A 1972 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration safety commission report conducted by Texas A&M University concluded that the 1960-1963 Corvairs possessed no greater potential for loss of control than its contemporaries in extreme situations. GM executive John DeLorean, asserts in On a Clear Day You Can See General Motors (1979) that Nader's criticisms were valid.
In early March 1966, several media outlets, including The New Republic and the New York Times, reported that GM had tried to discredit Nader, hiring private detectives to tap his phones and investigate his past and hiring prostitutes to trap him in compromising situations. Nader sued the company for invasion of privacy and settled the case for $284,000. Nader's lawsuit against GM was ultimately decided by the New York Court of Appeals, whose opinion in the case expanded tort law to cover "overzealous surveillance."
Nader's advocacy of automobile safety and the publicity generated by the publication of Unsafe at Any Speed, along with concern over escalating nationwide traffic fatalities, contributed to the unanimous passage of the 1966 National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act. The act established the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and marked a historic shift in responsibility for automobile safety from the consumer to the manufacturer. The legislation mandated a series of safety features for automobiles, beginning with safety belts and stronger windshields.
Hundreds of young activists, inspired by Nader's work, came to DC to help him with other projects. They came to be known as "Nader's Raiders" and, under Nader, investigated government corruption, publishing dozens of books with their results:
In 1971, Nader co-founded the nongovernmental organization (NGO) Public Citizen with fellow public interest lawyer Alan Morrison as an umbrella organization for these projects. Today, Public Citizen has over 140,000 members and investigates congressional, health, environmental, economic and other issues. Nader wrote, "The consumer must be protected at times from his own indiscretion and vanity."
In the 1970s and 1980s Nader was a key leader in the antinuclear power movement. "By 1976, consumer advocate Ralph Nader, who later became allied with the environmental movement, 'stood as the titular head of opposition to nuclear energy'" He advocates the complete elimination of nuclear energy in favor of solar, tidal, wind and geothermal, citing environmental, worker safety, migrant labor, national security, disaster preparedness, foreign policy, government accountability and democratic governance issues to bolster his position.
Nader spent much of 1970 on his campaign to educate the public about ecology. Nader said that the rivers and lakes in America were extremely contaminated. He said that "Lake Erie is now so contaminated you're advised to have a typhoid inoculation before you set sail on some parts of the lake."
He also added that river contaminations affect humans because many residents get their water supply from these contaminated rivers and lakes. "Cleveland takes its water supply from deep in the center of Lake Erie. How much longer is it going to get away with that?"
Nader told how some rivers are contanimated so badly that they can be lit on fire. "The Buffalo River is so full of petroleum residuals, it's been classified an official fire hazard by the City of Buffalo. We have the phenomenon now known as flammable water. The Cuyahoga River outside of Cleveland did catch fire last June, burning a base and some bridges. I often wonder what was in the minds of the firemen as they rushed to the scene of the action and pondered how to put this fire out. But we're heading in river after river: Connecticut River, Hudson River, Mississippi River, you name it. There's some rivers right outside of Boston, New Hampshire and Maine where if a person fell into 'em, I think he would dissolve before he drowned."
Throughout his career, Nader has started or inspired a variety of nonprofit organizations, most of which he has maintained close associations with:
In 1980, Nader resigned as director of Public Citizen to work on other projects, forcefully campaigning against what he believed to be the dangers of large multinational corporations.
Ralph Nader has been a frequent contender in U.S. presidential elections, always as an independent candidate or a third party nominee. His activism on behalf of third parties goes back to 1958, when he wrote an article for the Harvard Law Record critiquing U.S. electoral law's systemic discrimination against them.
Ralph Nader's name appeared in the press as a potential candidate for president for the first time in 1971, when he was offered the opportunity to run as the presidential candidate for the New Party, a progressive split-off from the Democratic Party in 1972. Chief among his advocates was author Gore Vidal, who touted a 1972 Nader presidential campaign in a front-page article in Esquire magazine in 1971. Psychologist Alan Rockway organized a "draft Ralph Nader for President" campaign in Florida on the New Party's behalf. Nader declined their offer to run that year; the New Party ultimately joined with the People's Party in running Benjamin Spock in the 1972 Presidential election. Spock had hoped Nader in particular would run, getting "some of the loudest applause of the evening" when mentioning him at the University of Alabama. Spock went on to try to recruit Nader for the party among over 100 others, and indicated he would be "delighted" to be replaced by any of them even after he accepted the nomination himself. Nader received one vote for the vice-presidential nomination at the 1972 Democratic National Convention.
Nader considered launching a third party around issues of citizen empowerment and consumer rights. He suggested a serious third party could address needs such as campaign-finance reform, worker and whistle-blower rights, government-sanctioned watchdog groups to oversee banks and insurance agencies, and class-action lawsuit reforms.
Nader stood in as a write-in for "none of the above" in both the 1992 New Hampshire Democratic and Republican Primaries and received 3,054 of the 170,333 Democratic votes and 3,258 of the 177,970 Republican votes cast. He was also a candidate in the 1992 Massachusetts Democratic Primary, where he appeared at the top of the ballot (in some areas, he appeared on the ballot as an independent).
Nader was drafted as a candidate for President of the United States on the Green Party ticket during the 1996 presidential election. He was not formally nominated by the Green Party USA, which was, at the time, the largest national Green group; instead he was nominated independently by various state Green parties (in some states, he appeared on the ballot as an independent). However, many activists in the Green Party USA worked actively to campaign for Nader that year. Nader qualified for ballot status in 22 states, garnering 685,297 votes or 0.71% of the popular vote (fourth place overall), although the effort did make significant organizational gains for the party. He refused to raise or spend more than $5,000 on his campaign, presumably to avoid meeting the threshold for Federal Elections Commission reporting requirements; the unofficial Draft Nader committee could (and did) spend more than that, but the committee was legally prevented from coordinating in any way with Nader himself.
Nader received some criticism from gay rights supporters for calling gay rights "gonad politics" and stating that he was not interested in dealing with such matters. However, more recently, Nader has come out in support of same-sex marriage.
His 1996 running mates included: Anne Goeke (nine states), Deborah Howes (Oregon), Muriel Tillinghast (New York), Krista Paradise (Colorado), Madelyn Hoffman (New Jersey), Bill Boteler (Washington, D.C.), and Winona LaDuke (California and Texas).
In the 2006 documentary An Unreasonable Man, Nader describes how he was unable to get the views of his public interest groups heard in Washington, even by the Clinton Administration. Nader cites this as one of the primary reasons that he decided to actively run in the 2000 election as candidate of the Green Party, which had been formed in the wake of his 1996 campaign.
In October 2000, at the largest Super Rally of his campaign, held in New York City's Madison Square Garden, 15,000 people paid $20 each to hear Mr. Nader speak. Nader's campaign rejected both parties as institutions dominated by corporate interests, stating that Al Gore and George W. Bush were "Tweedledee and Tweedledum". A long list of notable celebs spoke and performed at the event including Susan Sarandon, Ani DiFranco, Ben Harper, Tim Robbins, Michael Moore, Eddie Vedder and Patti Smith. The campaign also had some prominent union help: The California Nurses Association and the United Electrical Workers endorsed his candidacy and campaigned for him.
In 2000, Nader and his running mate Winona LaDuke received 2,883,105 votes, for 2.74 percent of the popular vote (third place overall), missing the 5 percent needed to qualify the Green Party for federally distributed public funding in the next election, yet qualifying the Greens for ballot status in many states.
Nader's votes in New Hampshire and Florida vastly exceeded the difference in votes between Gore and Bush, as did the votes of all alternative candidates. Exit polls showed New Hampshire staying close, and within the margin of error without Nader as national exit polls showed Nader's supporters choosing Gore over Bush by a large margin, well outside the margin of error. Winning either state would have given Gore the presidency, and while critics claim this shows Nader tipped the election to Bush, Nader has called that claim "a mantra â an assumption without data." Michael Moore at first argued that Florida was so close that votes for any of seven other candidates could also have switched the results, but in 2004 joined the view that Nader had helped make Bush president. Other Nader supporters argued that Gore was primarily responsible for his own loss. But Eric Alterman, perhaps Nader's most persistent critic, has regarded such arguments as beside the point: "One person in the world could have prevented Bush's election with his own words on the Election Day 2000." Nation columnist Alexander Cockburn cited Gore's failure to win over progressive voters in Florida who chose Nader, and congratulated those voters: "Who would have thought the Sunshine State had that many progressives in it, with steel in their spine and the spunk to throw Eric Alterman's columns into the trash can?" Nader's actual influence on the 2000 election is the subject of considerable discussion, and there is no consensus on Nader's impact on the outcome. Still others argued that even if Nader's constituents could have made the swing difference between Gore and Bush, the votes Nader garnered were not from the Democrats, but from Democrats, Republicans, and discouraged voters who would not have voted otherwise.
In the 2000 presidential election in Florida, George W. Bush defeated Al Gore by 537 votes. Nader received 97,421 votes, which led to claims that he was responsible for Gore's defeat. Nader, both in his book Crashing the Party and on his website, states: "In the year 2000, exit polls reported that 25% of my voters would have voted for Bush, 38% would have voted for Gore and the rest would not have voted at all", which would net a 13% (12,665 votes) advantage for Gore over Bush. When asked about claims of being a spoiler, Nader typically points to the controversial Supreme Court ruling that halted a Florida recount, Gore's loss in his home state of Tennessee, and the "quarter million Democrats who voted for Bush in Florida." A study in 2002 by the Progressive Review found no correlation between votes for Nader and votes for Gore (i.e., more votes for Nader did not correlate to fewer votes for Gore and vice versa). An analysis conducted by Harvard Professor B.C. Burden in 2005 showed Nader did affect Gore's chances, but that
"Contrary to Democratsâ complaints, Nader was not intentionally trying to throw the election. A spoiler strategy would have caused him to focus disproportionately on the most competitive states and markets with the hopes of being a key player in the outcome. There is no evidence that his appearances responded to closeness. He did, apparently, pursue voter support, however, in a quest to receive 5% of the popular vote."
When asked by MSNBC's Tim Russert about the possibility of preventing a Democratic victory in 2008, Nader responded, "Not a chance. If the Democrats canât landslide the Republicans this year, they ought to just wrap up, close down, and emerge in a different form." In an interview on Midweek Politics he stated that while Bush and Gore have very similar positions on a plurality of issues, "no one would have mangled the situation [war] in Iraq the way that George W. Bush did as President".
Nader announced on December 24, 2003, that he would not seek the Green Party's nomination for president in 2004; however, he did not rule out running as an independent candidate.
Ralph Nader and Democratic candidate John Kerry held a widely publicized meeting early in the 2004 Presidential campaign, which Nader described in An Unreasonable Man. Nader said that John Kerry wanted to work to win Nader's support and the support of Nader's voters. Nader then provided more than 20 pages of issues that he felt were important and he "put them on the table" for John Kerry. According to Nader the issues covered topics ranging from environmental, labor, healthcare, tax reform, corporate crime, campaign finance reform and various consumer protection issues.
Nader reported that he asked John Kerry to choose any three of the issues and highlight them in his campaign and if Kerry would do this, he would refrain from the race. For example, Nader recommended taking up corporate welfare, corporate crimeâwhich could attract many Republican voters, and labor law reformâwhich was felt Bush could never support given the corporate funding of his campaign. Several days passed and Kerry failed to adopt any of Nader's issues as benchmarks of his campaign, so on February 22, 2004, Nader announced on NBC that he would indeed run for president as an independent, saying, "There's too much power and wealth in too few hands."
Nader's 2004 campaign ran on a platform consistent with the Green Party's positions on major issues, such as opposition to the war in Iraq. Due to concerns about a possible spoiler effect as in 2000, many Democrats urged Nader to abandon his 2004 candidacy. The Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Terry McAuliffe, stated that Nader had a "distinguished career, fighting for working families," and that McAuliffe "would hate to see part of his legacy being that he got us eight years of George Bush." Nader replied to this, in filmed interviews for An Unreasonable Man, by arguing that, "Voting for a candidate of one's choice is a Constitutional right, and the Democrats who are asking me not to run are, without question, seeking to deny the Constitutional rights of voters who are, by law, otherwise free to choose to vote for me." Nader's 2004 campaign theme song was "If You Gotta Ask" by Liquid Blue.
In May 2009, in a new book, Grand Illusion: The Myth of Voter Choice in a Two-Party Tyranny, Theresa Amato, who was Nader's national campaign manager in 2000 and 2004, alleged that McAuliffe offered to pay off Nader to stop campaigning in certain states in 2004. This was confirmed by Nader, and neither McAuliffe nor his spokeswoman disputed the claim.
In the 2004 campaign, Democrats such as Howard Dean and Terry McAuliffe asked that Nader return money donated to his campaign by Republicans who were well-known Bush supporters, such as billionaire Richard Egan. Nader's reaction to the request was to refuse to return any donations and he charged that the Democrats were attempting to smear him. Nader's vice-presidential running mate, Peter Camejo, supported the return of the money if it could be proved that "the aim of the wealthy GOP donors was to peel votes from Kerry." According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Nader defended his keeping of the donations by saying that wealthy contributors "are human beings too."
Nader received 463,655 votes, for 0.38 percent of the popular vote, placing him in third place overall.
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In February 2007, Nader criticized Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton as "a panderer and a flatterer." Asked on CNN Late Edition news program if he would run in 2008, Nader replied, "It's really too early to say...." Asked during a radio appearance to describe the former First Lady, Nader said, "Flatters, panders, coasting, front-runner, looking for a coronation ... She has no political fortitude." Some Greens started a campaign to draft Nader as their party's 2008 presidential candidate.
Nader received 738,475 votes, for 0.56 percent of the popular vote, placing him in third place overall.
Nader has never married. Karen Croft, a writer who worked for Nader in the late 1970s at the Center for Study of Responsive Law, once asked him if he had ever considered getting married. "He said that at a certain point he had to decide whether to have a family or to have a career, that he couldn't have both," Croft recalled. "That's the kind of person he is. He couldn't have a wife â he's up all night reading the Congressional Record."
He has been described as a Christian by a leading American newspaper, though, as with most aspects of his personal life, Nader doesn't discuss his own religion.
According to the mandatory fiscal disclosure report that he filed with the Federal Election Commission in 2000, he then owned more than $3 million worth of stocks and mutual fund shares; his single largest holding was more than $1 million worth of stock in Cisco Systems, Inc. He also held between $100,000 and $250,000 worth of shares in the Magellan Fund. Nader owned no car or real estate directly in 2000, and said that he lived on US$25,000 a year, giving most of his stock earnings to many of the over four dozen non-profit organizations he had founded.
In 1999, an NYU panel of eminent journalists ranked Nader's book Unsafe At Any Speed 38th among the top 100 pieces of journalism of the 20th century. In 1990, Life magazine named Nader one of the 100 most influential Americans of the 20th century. The Atlantic Monthly, calling Nader one of the hundred most influential Americans in history, said, "He made the cars we drive safer; thirty years later, he made George W. Bush the president."
In 1988, Nader appeared on Sesame Street as "a person in your neighborhood." The verse of the song began "A consumer advocate is a person in your neighborhood." Nader's appearance on the show was memorable because it was the only time that the grammar of the last line of the song--"A person who you meet each day"--was questioned and corrected in the show. Nader refused to sing the grammatically incorrect line, and so a compromise was reached, resulting in Ralph Nader singing the last line as a solo with the modified words: "A person whom you meet each day." In the same episode, Nader tests "Bob"'s sweater (with permission) and destroys it, telling Bob "Your aunt . . . knitted you a lemon!"
During his 2008 presidential campaign, Nader appeared on, NBC's Meet The Press, CNBC with John Harwood, CNN with Rick Sanchez, PBS's The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, and Fox News Channel with Shepard Smith. He was interviewed by Triumph the Insult Comic Dog on Late Night with Conan O'Brien in 2008. Also that year he appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher.
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|Party political offices|
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1996 (4th), 2000 (3rd)
|Reform Party Presidential candidate
2004 (1) (3rd)
|Peace and Freedom Party Presidential candidate
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