In a recent interview with Fusion’s Jorge Ramos, Ralph Nader, consumer advocate and former Green Party presidential candidate, both praised Bernie Sanders for using the leverage he has accumulated to place pressure on the Democratic establishment, and criticized Hillary Clinton, calling her a “deeply-rooted corporatist” and a “militarist.”
And while many supporters of Bernie Sanders were disappointed by his decision to formally endorse Hillary Clinton, Nader views the move in a different light, despite his strong feelings that Clinton is a representative of a corrupt establishment.
Nader told Ramos that he thinks Sanders’s endorsement speech was “brilliant.”
“He set her up for political betrayal,” Nader added, “which would allow him to enlarge his civic mobilization movement after the election and after she takes office. So I think it’s a very astute endorsement.”
In saying “political betrayal,” Nader is referring to Sanders’s efforts to pressure Clinton into supporting the ambitious programs he has pushed for throughout his insurgent and unpredictably successful campaign.
By listing these goals in his endorsement speech — from establishing a living wage, to moving toward universal health care and free public college — Sanders effectively laid out Clinton’s promises on a national stage, for all to see. If she fails to hold to these promises, Nader suggests, the sense of “betrayal” that will be felt by progressives will actually strengthen their resolve, leading to a more powerful progressive coalition in the future.
But while Nader may express support, as a political maneuver, for Sanders’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton, it is close to certain that Nader, himself, will not be voting for Clinton in November.
Nader told Ramos that he believes that people should vote in ways that align with their ideals, and that they should not embrace the “lesser of two evils.”
“Not tactical votes, not least-worst votes,” Nader said. “If you do tactical, least-worst votes, you lost your bargaining power over the candidates. They never look back when you basically say to them, ‘Well I don’t like either candidate but you’re not as bad as the other one.'”
Throughout his political and activist career, Nader has been a forceful critic of what he calls the “two-party tyranny.” He feels that, by cutting off alternatives to status quo Democrats and Republicans, the political establishment has set limits on political discourse that are, in principle, at odds with the free and democratic society American politicians claim to support.
Despite this, however, Nader has expressed support for Sanders’s decision to run as a Democrat rather than as a third party candidate.
“By running as a Democrat, Sanders declined to become a complete political masochist, and he avoided exposing his campaign to immediate annihilation by partisan hacks,” Nader wrote in an op-ed for the Washington Post.
“Because if he had run as an independent, he would have faced only one question daily in the media, as I did: ‘Do you see yourself as a spoiler?’ The implication being, of course, that he had no chance of winning. His popular agenda would have been totally ignored by a horse-race-obsessed mass media, which would have latched on instead to a narrative in which Sanders was unfairly hurting Hillary Clinton’s chances against whichever Republican wound up with the other major-party nomination, as if any Democrat is automatically entitled to the votes of progressives.”
Sanders himself has been critical of the two-party system, arguing, like Nader, that it limits political debate and restricts free choice. But Sanders, despite the common perception that he is a wild-eyed idealist, understands the limits of American politics, and he took the path that best allowed him to get his message to the largest number of people. The strategy has been remarkably effective.
Nader’s prediction of the American political scene to come, even in the face of the successes of the Sanders campaign, remains as careful as ever.
“I believe that should Clinton overcome Sanders and claim the Democratic nomination, the party will continue to be the champion of war and Wall Street, little changed by the primary competition,” Nader has written. “But perhaps after the comparative success of Sanders’s campaign, this state of affairs will invigorate more courageous candidates to follow his lead in challenging establishment, commercialized politics.”
And Sanders is doing everything he can to make this happen.
As USA Today reported on Friday, by helping launch the Sanders Institute and a new organization titled Our Revolution, Sanders is holding to his promise to take his campaign beyond this year’s presidential election.
“Sanders plans to support at least 100 candidates running for a wide range of public offices — from local school boards to Congress — at least through the 2016 elections,” USA Today notes.
“If we are successful, what it will mean is that the progressive message and the issues that I campaigned on will be increasingly spread throughout this country,” Sanders said.
“The goal here is to do what I think the Democratic establishment has not been very effective in doing. And that is at the grass-roots level, encourage people to get involved, give them the tools they need to win, help them financially.”
[Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images]