Q&A: Ralph Nader on Trump, Activism, and Third Party Candidates

 Political activist Ralph Nader talks at Garrison Theater on Tuesday. (Donovan New • The Student Life)

TSL: In a Washington Post article before the elections, you predicted that if Trump were to win the White House, our country would soon witness "the fastest impeachment and conviction in congressional history, because [Trump is] totally lacking in self-control.” After seeing the Trump administration for a month now, do you still believe in this prediction? If so, what specific events cause you to believe so?

Well, he seems to be on schedule. He’s already in the judgment of some criminal law. He’s already under some impeachable offense because of the emoluments clause. That is, he has business assets that he will not sell. He owns them, and his children are running them all over the world. And so, he is very vulnerable to being enriched by foreign or domestic interest who go to his hotels and support his other business interests in order to curry favor with him as president. And, the founding fathers are very clear about making that an impeachable offense. So, that’s number one. He’s very erratic. He doesn’t seem to respect rules of law. He slams judges in a very arbitrary manner. So, he is very susceptible to other articles of impeachment. I have never seen a new president generate so much talk about impeachment so early to begin with.

What are your thoughts on the recent election and its divisive effects within the American populace? Or more generally, what are your thoughts on the current political climate with the immigration ban and the recent executive orders from President Trump?

The immigration ban being an impeachable offense depends on how fine the line is that he treads. If he starts massive deportation without due process of law–violating the constitutional rights of the immigrants here–he could get into serious trouble. Now, he is protected by a Republican-controlled congress; however, they prefer Pence as president. And because [Pence] is so popular with Republicans in the congress, it will make whatever impeachment efforts considerably more likely because the number two choice is really [the Republicans’] number one choice. And really, the impeachment is only a charge on the house. The actual conviction has to occur in the senate.

The division of the nation is because divided rule is a controlling strategy of the two parties. They raise money by being on one side or another and exaggerating [the divide] and ignoring all the other areas of change in this country that are supported by both conservatives and liberals back home. The emerging left-right alliance, [on the other hand], dismantles the corporate state. There are 24 major areas of left-right alliance from minimum wage to full health insurance for all to breaking up the big banks to breaking down the corporate crime. These are all huge left-right support, but it is not focused on by the two parties who thrive and profit on dividing rule.

There are divisions amongst the people, but there are far more convergences. The divisions are on reproductive rights, immigration policies, school prayer, gun control, but you have huge areas of economic change like opposition to corporate bailout and subsidies and what they call corporate welfare according to capitalism. There are absolutely more things uniting the populace than dividing it. Once you mobilize left-right support, it is politically unstoppable. Nothing in congress can stop it. We have shown that with some bills in congress like the Whistleblower Protection Act, the Freedom of Information Act–those are left-right supported and are unstoppable. Even though the corporations bought them bitterly, they lost.

What are your thoughts on third party candidates, considering you were one? Do you think that people voting for Gary Johnson and Jill Stein could have potentially flipped the election had they voted for Clinton?

Last time I heard, the two parties don’t own the voters’ votes. Last I heard, that competition is good in a democracy. Last I heard, people want more voices and choices. Last I heard is that there is no way that a third party can politically spoil a politically rotten political system that has allowed corporations to drive our country into the ground in return for campaign contributions.

What are your views on the media and President Trump’s accusations of its inaccuracies and alleged undercovering of what he deems to be terrorist attacks?

The media is the enemy of the people, and it made Donald Trump president. [The media] is the ally of Donald Trump because he showed them by attacking [them] and covering his crazy attacks and exaggeration and lies, how they can get more readers and more ratings and make more money. The media isn’t doing its job covering the concerns and necessities of the people in the civil society–and that’s easy to document. And if they don’t cover [that], then the main source of building a democratic society is dried up because people can’t get heard, they can’t get voiced, and they can’t get an audience.

What are your thoughts on the effectiveness of the prolific protests that have occurred since President Trump’s presidency?

The prolific protests are very encouraging. They’ve gotta increase, take it a step further, and focus on senators and representatives personally. They’ve gotta fill the town meetings, and if there aren’t any town meetings scheduled by the members of congress, the people should summon the senators and representatives to their own town meetings and to their own agendas. A formal summon turns it right around and says, “You work for us, senators and representatives. We summon you to a town meeting on a certain date and a certain place where you will respond to our proposals and to our demands. So it’s a very encouraging first month–far exceeding my expectations. These protests foster a sense of unity, and unity is justice.