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|43rd President of the United States|
| In office:|
January 20, 2001 - January 20, 2009
|Vice President:||Winnona LaDuke|
|Preceded by:||Bill Clinton|
|Born:|| February 27, 1934 (age 66)|
|Birth name:||Ralph Nader|
|Political party:||Green (affilliated non-member)|
|Alma mater:||Princeton University, Harvard University|
|Occupation:||Attorney and Political Activist|
Ralph Nader (born February 27, 1934) is an American attorney, author, lecturer, political activist, and 43rd President of the United States as an Independent Green. He was also the Green Party candidate in 1996 and 2000. Areas of particular concern to Nader include consumer protection, humanitarianism, environmentalism, and democratic government. With grassroots democracy civic actions, green politics and radical left-wing politics, he is a reputed populist, harking to 19th century American populists and movements like Henry George's geoism, to which he referred in his Inauguration speech.
Background and Early Career
Nader was born in Winsted, Connecticut. His parents, Nathra and Rose Nader, were Eastern Orthodox Christian immigrants from Zahle, Lebanon. His family's native language is Arabic, and he has spoken it along with English since childhood. His sister, Laura Nader, is a notable 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.
Nader graduated from 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. In the early 1980s, Nader spearheaded a powerful lobby against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of mass-scale experimentation of artificial lens implants. Nader has served as a faculty member 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, especially the Chevrolet Corvair manufactured by General Motors. The Corvair had been involved in numerous accidents involving spins and rollovers, and there were over 100 lawsuits pending against GM in connection to accidents involving the popular compact car. These lawsuits provided the initial material for Nader's investigations into the safety of the car. GM tried to discredit Nader, hiring private detectives to tap his phones and investigate his past, and hiring prostitutes to trap him in compromising situations. GM failed to uncover any wrongdoing, and never explained resorting to smear tactics instead of defending the car in the popular press, where the company had considerable corporate influence. GM's avoidance of technical journals makes more sense, as it was well known among auto engineers that the early (1960-64) Corvair's swing axle suspension handled miserably. Upon learning of GM's actions, Nader successfully sued the company for invasion of privacy, forced it to publicly apologize, and used much of his $284,000 net settlement to expand his consumer rights efforts. 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, led 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.
A 1972 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration safety commission report conducted by Texas A&M University concluded that the 1960-1963 Corvair possessed no greater potential for loss of control than its contemporaries in extreme situations. A different account, however, was given in John DeLorean's "General Motors autobiography," On a Clear Day You Can See General Motors, 1979 (published under the name of his would-be ghostwriter, J. Patrick Wright), in which DeLorean asserts that Nader's criticisms were valid. The specific Corvair design flaws were corrected in the second half (1965-1969) of the Corvair's production, although by then the Corvair name was irredeemably compromised.
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" who, under Nader, investigated government corruption, publishing dozens of books with their results:
- Nader's Raiders (Federal Trade Commission)
- Vanishing Air (National Air Pollution Control Administration)
- The Chemical Feast (Food and Drug Administration)
- The Interstate Commerce Omission (Interstate Commerce Commission)
- Old Age (nursing homes)
- The Water Lords (water pollution)
- Who Runs Congress? (Congress)
- Whistle Blowing (punishment of whistle blowers)
- The Big Boys (corporate executives)
- Collision Course (Federal Aviation Administration)
- No Contest (corporate lawyers)
- Destroy the Forest (Destruction of ecosystems worldwide)
- Operation: Nuclear (Making of a nuclear missile)
In 1971, Nader founded the non-governmental organization (NGO) Public Citizen 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 anti-nuclear 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.
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. He went on to start a variety of non-profit organizations:
- Citizen Advocacy Center
- Citizens Utility Boards
- Congress Accountability Project
- Consumer Task Force For Automotive Issues
- Corporate Accountability Research Project
- Disability Rights Center
- Equal Justice Foundation
- Foundation for Taxpayers and Consumer Rights
- Georgia Legal Watch
- National Citizens' Coalition for Nursing Home Reform
- National Coalition for Universities in the Public Interest
- Pension Rights Center
- PROD (truck safety)
- Retired Professionals Action Group
- The Shafeek Nader Trust for the Community Interest
- 1969: Center for the Study of Responsive Law
- 1970s: Public Interest Research Groups
- 1970: Center for Auto Safety
- 1970: Connecticut Citizen Action Group
- 1971: Aviation Consumer Action Project
- 1972: Clean Water Action Project
- 1972: Center for Women's Policy Studies
- 1973: Capitol Hill News Service
- 1980: Multinational Monitor (magazine covering multinational corporations)
- 1982: Trial Lawyers for Public Justice
- 1982: Essential Information (encourage citizen activism and do investigative journalism)
- 1983: Telecommunications Research and Action Center
- 1983: National Coalition for Universities in the Public Interest
- 1988: Taxpayer Assets Project
- 1989: Princeton Project 55 (alumni public service)
- 1993: Appleseed Foundation (local change)
- 1994: Resource Consumption Alliance (conserve trees)
- 1995: Center for Insurance Research
- 1995: Consumer Project on Technology
- 1997?: Government Purchasing Project (encourage purchase of safe products)
- 1998: Center for Justice and Democracy
- 1998: Organization for Competitive Markets
- 1998: American Antitrust Institute (ensure fair competition)
- 1999?: Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest
- 1999?: Commercial Alert (protect family, community, and democracy from corporations)
- 2000: Congressional Accountability Project (fight corruption in Congress)
- 2001: Citizen Works (promote NGO cooperation, build grassroots support, and start new groups)
- 2001: Democracy Rising (hold rallies to educate and empower citizens)
Presidential campaign history
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. Nader declined the offer to run that year; the New Party ultimately joined with the People's Party in running Benjamin Spock in the 1972 Presidential election. That year, Nader also received one vote in 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 0.71% of the popular vote, 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 progressives and gay rights supporters for calling gay rights "gonad politics" and stating that he was not interested in dealing with such matters.
His 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, during the second Clinton Administration, he found that he was unable to get the views of his public interest groups heard in Washington, even by then President Clinton's administration. Nader cites this as one of the primary reasons that he decided again 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." 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 received 275 electoral votes and over 37 percent of the popular vote, gaining the 5 percent needed to qualify the Green Party for federally distributed public funding in the next election and gaining them the White House.
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 -- he's up all night reading the Congressional Record."
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 more than $2 million in two money market funds. Nader owned no car or real estate in 2000, and said 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.
In 1988, Ralph 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." This was somewhat tongue-in-cheek, as his profession as a consumer advocate was largely self-defined, and he was perhaps the only professional full-time consumer advocate at that time. This song compares him to a postman or a policeman, members of professions whom you may run into on a daily basis. Nader's appearance on Sesame Street was particularly 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. Ralph 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." As a consumer advocate, Nader tests Bob's sweater (with permission) and destroys it, telling Bob "Your aunt . . . knitted you a lemon!"
He appeared on the Superman 50th anniversary special in 1988 warning the consumer on the different affects of green, gold, red kryptonite.
Ralph Nader also hosted an episode of NBC's Saturday Night Live in 1977.
Nader is a member of the union American Federation of Television and Radio Artists and receives a union pension.
The Nader/LaDuke ticket would pull huge amounts of liberal voters and moderates and after an insurgent campaign won the election in a small sum over George W. Bush and Al Gore. Shock was felt around the world that such a small party could win an election in a superpower such as America.
Upon inauguration Ralph Nader declared that America was now "on the path to becoming a nation of true social justice and a beacon of hope". However only a few months after being inaugurated president Nader was faced with a catstrophe. On September 11th, 2001 two planes took down the twin towers as a delibrate terrorist attack on US soil. In address given to the nation president Nader stated that "there will be massive consequences for the terror caused on innocent Americans". With tri-partisan support from congress Ralph Nader invaded Taliban held Afghanistan.