In 1965, Ralph Nader came to prominence by way of his best-selling book"Unsafe At Any Speed," a seminal work which shook up the auto industry and led to a whole host of new safety requirements designed to protect the lives of drivers all across the country. (If you've ever worn a seatbelt, for example, you have Ralph Nader to thank.)
Today, 50 years on, his latest book shakes up the animal kingdom by giving voice to alligators, flamingos, earthworms and more. It’s a work of fiction entitled "Animal Envy: A Fable"—and it even has a blurb from Patti Smith, who calls it a clarion call. Of course, Nader is not just an author, he’s a leading consumer advocate and Green Party presidential candidate, and he joined Jim Braude and Margery Eagan live at NPR's headquarters in Washington, D.C. to discuss all that and more.
MARGERY EAGAN: I wonder, Ralph Nader, you've been watching the political scene for a while and were a candidate yourself. Anything you've learned about the United States of America on November 8th that surprised you that you didn't know?
RALPH NADER: When you only have 2 choices and they’re Trump and Clinton, you get a lot of impulsive behavior by voters who are fed up with government turning their backs on the people and selling out to wealthy donors and not solving problems. So they attached that syndrome to Hillary Clinton, yesterday’s candidate. And enough of them for the electoral college—she won the popular vote—enough of them in the electoral college voted for Trump simply because they didn’t like her and they didn’t like the establishment she represented. If we had a multiparty system, I think we would have had a greater mix of agendas and redirections to give people more choice.
EAGAN: Do you think the Democrats messed up by not going with Bernie sanders?
NADER: Well, I happen to think Bernie Sanders probably would have defeated Trump. He was scandal free, compared to Trump’s baggage. He could talk to white male workers in the Midwest which is, of course, a critical pivot in the election that threw it to Trump. And he’s got a record to be proud of. You could say, 'well, he’s a Democratic Socialist and that’s a negative,' but he came from the most rock-ribbed Republican state in the Northeast, Vermont, and he they kept reelecting him with larger majorities. I think he would have been a better choice. I think actually a lot of people could have defeated Trump: Elizabeth Warren, senator from Massachusetts, Vice President Biden is probably kicking himself why he dropped out.
JIM BRAUDE: When the 'unfavorables' for both candidates were in the low 60s, any sane person was saying if there was ever a year for a third party candidate, it was this one. Both performed abysmally. Is that because people can’t accept the third party thing, or because [Gary Johnson and Jill Stein] were abysmal candidate?
NADER: Ever since they’re in middle school, they’re taught only one of the two major party candidates can ever win. So they start out saying ‘these people can’t win.’ Because Stein and Johnson didn’t have big money, they didn’t give them the benefit of the doubt. Whereas if Bloomberg—the former mayor of New York City—came in, it would have been an instant 3-way race, instant polling and instant recognition by the press. The press has some responsibility in marginalizing third party candidates—I speak from considerable experience.
BRAUDE: Speaking of your experience, we’re proud to say I believe this is the first interview you’ve done in 16 years where we’re not going to ask you if you cost Al Gore the 2000 election. You want to thank us for that?
NADER: I do. Even Al Gore knows I didn’t cost him the election. He has other sine qua nons that he knows about.
To hear more from Ralph Nader, tune in to Boston Public Radio above. This transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.