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Ralph Nader Throws Support to Democrats Ahead of Midterms But Warns the Party’s Message Is Failing

StoryOctober 25, 2022
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With U.S. midterm elections less than two weeks away, Democrats hoping to keep control of Congress and make gains in state governments are facing significant political headwinds — even in supposedly safe blue states like New York, where the race for governor has tightened ahead of the November 8 vote. For more, we speak with political organizer Mark Green and four-time presidential candidate Ralph Nader, co-authors of a new report titled “Crushing the GOP, 2022.” They argue Democrats have the better policies but are not conveying them to a public that is eager to vote for a party that will protect democracy and their pocketbooks. ​​”This party doesn’t know how to win,” Nader says of Democrats.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!. I’m Amy Goodman.

With midterm elections in the United States two weeks away, Democrats are facing tight races even in places like New York state, where they’ve been the dominant party for two decades. New York’s Democratic Governor Kathy Hochul has a single-digit lead over her Republican challenger, Lee Zeldin, a Trump acolyte. The two have their first and only debate tonight. Meanwhile, Democratic Congressmember Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and a five-term incumbent, is facing a stiff challenge, his race now considered a toss-up by analysts.

Nationwide, 35 Senate races are up for grabs. Republican-held Senate seats targeted by Democrats are extremely close in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, where Democratic Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman faces Republican Mehmet Oz in their first and only debate tonight.

For more, we’re joined by two guests who write about this and so much more in their new report titled “Crushing the GOP, 2022”: Mark Green, political organizer, author; Ralph Nader, legendary consumer advocate, corporate critic, four-time presidential candidate, Ralph Nader. Together, they formed a project called Winning America. As The Washington Post noted in a recent profile of Ralph Nader, “For first time in his 88 years, Ralph Nader is campaigning for the Democrats, not against them.” Ralph Nader is the author of many books, including Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think. And Mark Green just wrote an op-ed for the New York Daily News headlined “Democrats’ closing pitch: The party needs to sharpen its message now.”

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Ralph Nader, let’s begin with you as you join us on the phone from your home in Connecticut. Talk about what you feel the Democrats are doing wrong right now.

RALPH NADER: Well, what they’ve got to do is authenticate their message and their rhetoric where people live, work and raise their families, often called kitchen table issues. And they’ve got to compare and contrast life under the authoritarian, bigoted, corporate-indentured GOP with life under the Democrats. For example, 20, 25 million people will get a raise to $15 minimum wage under the Democrats. The GOP is against that. The assault on children by the GOP is absolutely stunning, from not using available Medicaid funds to insure them, to exposing them to hazardous pesticides and denying paid family leave and sick leave. The GOP is against that. The $300-a-month child tax credit to 58 million children in our country, cutting poverty — child poverty by a third, was suspended because of GOP opposition in January.

And it continues. Voters will be more repressed under the GOP. Precinct workers will be more intimidated under the GOP. They’re trying to steal the election while they accuse the Democrats of stealing the 2020 election. In area after area, the Democrats are not rebutting and taking the offensive, which is what politics is all about in an electoral campaign. The GOP is the party of anxiety, fear and dread — you can document that from A to Z — and they’re not being adequately rebutted.

Midnight campaigning. Over 25 million workers work the midnight shift; they’re ignored by candidates. What the candidates now in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Texas have got to do is campaign all night for all the workers who keep the country going while we’re asleep, and recognize them, respect them. They’re hospital workers, nursing home, police, fire, emergency people, people working the midnight shift in factories.

So, this report —, you can get the whole report — is full of the best presentations by 24 civic leaders and advocates who know how to talk to people. They don’t stratify people left, right, conservative, liberal when they advance their causes. All of this is presented to the Democratic candidates and the Democratic Party free. The question is whether they will break through their political media consultant force field which keeps them from having input from civic groups and find all the ways — that are very poll-tested, by the way — that will grab the attention of liberal and conservative voters alike.

A lot of the issues are boiled down in this report under a two-page card, in effect. Your choice in 2022, compare the Democrats and GOP, and the GOP is against every one of these, whether it’s minimum wage, strengthening gun safety laws, taxing the wealthiest firms and the super-rich, guaranteeing freedom and equality for women, ending the dark money in campaigns, providing Medicare for All, raising frozen Social Security benefits, restoring voter rights, funding child care and sick leave, fighting climate violence with renewable energy, reducing skyrocketing drug prices and increasing funding to prosecute corporate crooks. All of those are opposed by the GOP.

So, politics is a practice in contrasts, and the Democrats have got to get with it and learn how to communicate, especially with millions of blue-collar workers who have deserted the Democratic Party and broken the FDR coalition that won so many elections., that’s the key.

AMY GOODMAN: It seems, Ralph, that Democrats are, in some cases, more afraid of being called socialist than they are afraid of Republicans. Can you respond to that?

RALPH NADER: Yeah, well, that’s why they’ve got to learn how to rebut, and it’s not too late in the next two weeks to do that. When they’re accused of being socialist, there are three rebuttals. One: Oh, you Republicans are against socialism? I know why you’re saying that: because you hate Medicare. You hate the Post Office. You hate Medicaid. You hate public drinking water departments. You hate public schools. You hate Social Security. That’s why you’re talking socialism. But you are really corporate socialists. You want to bail out every corporation of any size. You want to subsidize, hand out all kinds of stuff to corporations in a mockery of your so-called free market philosophy. The same with defunding the police. The Republicans are defunding the corporate crime police.

And let me tell you, when you’re talking about death, injury and disease, corporate crime towers over street crime. Just think of the opiates and the almost 1 million Americans who have died from the criminal promotion of the opiates throughout the country, and these corporate crooks got away with it. You get a 90% poll on prosecuting corporate crooks and increasing the corporate crime enforcement budget. And the same at the street level. The Democrats are for community policing. They want safer guns. They don’t want that many guns on the streets. The Republicans are on the other side on that.

This report,, is full of the best thoughts of these civic leaders who have helped change America but have been excluded by the political media consultants surrounding these Democratic candidates because they want the 15% commission on TV ads, and they don’t know a ground game from anything. They’re not interested in a ground game to get the vote out and to get more voter registration, because they don’t get a commission on that.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Mark Green, you have run for office. You’re a keen observer of all these races around the country right now as one after another is now being called, you know, a toss-up. What do you think the Democrats are failing to do? And particularly talk about the focus on Donald Trump.

MARK GREEN: Well, thank you, Amy, and thank you, Ralph. Ralph just, as he has throughout his entire public life, been comprehensive about how the Republicans are blocking Democrats from delivering on their wallets and their rights. That would be a great starting point at the beginning of a midterm election that ultimately is about democracy versus fascism. But now in the last two weeks, you’ve got to know how to be rhetorically muscular against the party, the Republicans, who don’t hesitate to call Democrats not only socialists but communists and murderers. And so, at this point, Democrats can’t flinch at being blunt and reducing their campaigns to one, two or three major phrases and concepts. Because like it or not, five-second voters, regrettably, have responded to these loaded phrases — “woke,” “cancel,” “grooming.” Democrats have better policies. How the hell are they losing to a party with apparently better messages?

And so, Biden began — Biden, who’s been a very good president and wanted to be and has been a uniter, has to rise to the occasion, not only the civic and public interest groups that Ralph is talking about in our report, but the public hears, because the White House has a big decibel count. When the president says it, then others follow.

So there are three topic sentences, basically. The overall is that the GOP are dangerous extremists who are stealing our freedoms and our wallets. What does that mean? One, Social Security. Public understands that. You don’t have to spend a lot of money and time. They want to have annual budgets rather than mandatory funding for Social Security, which means they’re going to cut Social Security to you, who have been paying in for your entire work life.

Second, they’re the party of violence and corruption. It’s not just January 6th, which they explain away, but their refusal to have adequate gun laws, so we have far more gun murders, leading to higher crime. And their assaults, the MAGA mobs hounding local officials. And so they deploy violence. And while they talk about the language of liberty, they want to ban books and abortion and many voters and trans and marriage equality. So, it’s Social Security, and they talk liberty, but they really are for violence and lawlessness

And third, democracy. Democracy Now!, I think that’s a good phrase. Amy, you’ve been doing this your whole life; Ralph and I, as well. The issue is not merely they want to reduce voting, because that’s the only way they can win, being a minority party with bad ideas. Connect democracy and economy. Bob Kuttner, an economic writer, in his American Prospect and now in our volume, explains, you know, if you reduce the number of minority voters, then and only then can the majority win when it comes to, gee, why don’t we have secure Social Security? Why don’t we have a higher minimum wage? Why don’t we have more child tax credits, which halves poverty among children?

So, if you focus voters on three issues where the Republicans are blocking progress and are engaged in violent acts and are undermining democracy, well, extremism is not patriotism. And they have to mobilize all these issues that Ralph listed in ways that the public, the swing public, those who pay little attention to campaigns until now, to get them to turn out and vote.

AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader —


AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask Ralph about the role of the media in this campaign. Your assessment?

RALPH NADER: Well, you know, if you talk about the main newspapers, The New York Times, Washington Post, etc., they’re giving huge play to these crazed right-wing groups that nobody ever heard of. They put them on page one. They make them into a big act. And these groups love it. They use it for fundraising. Who ever heard of the Claremont Institute, for example? They give huge publicity to J.D. Vance. Why take a chance with Vance? He’s a flip-flopper; he’s a zig-zagger. But they only recently give attention to Tim Ryan, his opponent for the U.S. Senate in Ohio.

They’re constantly publicizing the right-wing people and groups and giving the impression there’s nothing going on on the progressive side, that there isn’t voter registration drives by citizen groups and student groups on campuses. And this is very damaging, because they’re giving publicity to the very groups and political forces, the GOP, the authoritarian, dictatorial, corporatist GOP, that’s going to go after freedom of press, not just criticize them the way Trump does. They’re going after freedom of press. So, it’s extremely shortsighted. should be page one in The New York Times and Washington Post and not be ignored. It’s 24 groups all over the country who know what they’re talking about, and they’re not getting any coverage. This is really the first national program, on People, it’s 80 pages long, chock full of ways to landslide this Republican Party. Imagine what FDR and Truman and Lyndon Johnson would have done to this GOP. Instead, they’re slightly ahead in some of the polls in the congressional races.

And their positions are routinely against workers, all workers. They don’t want workplace safety rules enforced. They don’t want worker pensions protected from corporate looting. They don’t want workers to have a living wage. They don’t want all workers to have health insurance. Why are workers voting for them? It’s the default, the Democratic Party. This party doesn’t know how to win. And these civic groups —

AMY GOODMAN: Ralph, do you think — do you think —

RALPH NADER: — are saying, “You’re the only ones standing, defending our republic, so we’re going to show you how to win.”

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think President Biden should run again?, Ralph?

RALPH NADER: Well, now you’re getting into the presidential races here. It’s far too speculative to say one way or another. I don’t believe he would be too old to run, but we need a whole new generation of political and civic leaders who understand what the Constitution is all about, how to end empire, how to put corporations as our servants, not our masters, and how to develop access to justice and fight corporate judges. Biden has done a good job on trying to fight corporate judges in the nominations that he’s put to the U.S. Senate.

AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader, you are 88 years old. You have campaigned as an independent and a Green for your — throughout your political life. You ran for president four times. Why now throw in your lot with the Democrats?

RALPH NADER: Well, this is clearly the most dangerous political movement since the Civil War. The GOP is under the corporate fascist Trump’s thumb. He’s bred a whole breed of mini Trumpsters who are getting far too much publicity compared to their opponents. And everything we’ve fought for, Amy, for over 50 years is at stake here. They’re ready to do everything but tear seat belts out of cars. They want to let Wall Street lie, cheat and steal with impunity. They want to make sure the corporate crime wave continues to roll across America against workers and consumers and the elderly and children. So, this is an order of magnitude we’ve never seen before. We’ve never seen a party so —

AMY GOODMAN: We have 15 seconds, Ralph.

RALPH NADER: — deliberately trying to repress the vote.

AMY GOODMAN: We have 10 seconds.


AMY GOODMAN: We have 10 seconds.

RALPH NADER: Yeah. We’ve never seen a party literally trying to repress the vote, miscount the vote, purge the vote, intimidate precinct worker volunteers and steal elections. They’ve actually basically said, “Any election we lose is because it’s been stolen from us.” That’s the word of a dictatorship party. And it’s got to be landslided.

AMY GOODMAN: We have to leave it there, Ralph. We want to thank you so much for being with us, legendary consumer advocate. And Mark Green, political organizer and activist. I’m Amy Goodman. Stay safe.

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