Attorney and consumer advocate Ralph Nader is best known for his third-party and independent presidential bids. Nader ran in 1996 and 2000 as the Green Party nominee, then as an independent in 2004 and 2008. At 82 years old, he has stepped off the campaign trail, but he's definitely not out of the politics game. What is Ralph Nader doing now?
On May 23-26, Nader is holding a civic mobilization event in Washington, D.C. called "Breaking Through Power." The aim is to work toward big political goals on the grassroots level. The two primary goals put forth for the four-day event are to reform the media and to avoid future wars. Nader hopes to accomplish these goals by getting attendees to support the development of new organizations that will work toward them.
Regarding the current state of media, Nader has some strong words, asserting that instead of featuring "serious content," it prefers to "wallow in incessant advertising, hedonistic entertainment, sports and mind-numbing redundancy. The result is what many observers see as the stupefaction of human intelligence." Nader wants to organize around beefing up the Communications Act of 1934 to make media coverage more substantive. Media reform was the highlight of Tuesday's events, following an initial day of inspiration featuring advocacy groups that have accomplished big goals with little money.
Day Three is focused on foreign policy reform. Military and national security experts, along with veterans groups and peace advocates, will share their insights for avoiding and resisting reckless military decisions in the future. The big goal of the day is to create a group which Nader calls the "Secretariat" ― people who are currently or have been top-level military leaders, diplomats, and national security experts. Their task would be to jointly respond to foreign policy issues, attempting to wield their influence to steer policy in the direction of peace.
The final day of Breaking Through Power is where citizens enter the equation. Advocates of the goals mentioned above, and others the event organizers feel Congress has inadequately dealt with, will go forward to organize "Citizens Summons," messages to members of Congress from citizens within each congressional district. People in the D.C. area can still purchase tickets for Thursday's Breaking Through Power at $20 a pop. The event can also be livestreamed here.
Nader has also been keeping busy on the political scene in other ways during the 2016 election season. He's probably gotten as much air time (if not more) than he got as a presidential candidate, commenting on Sen. Bernie Sanders' presidential run. Nader's insights here have been sought out, as Sanders, an independent, chose to run as a Democrat, while Nader himself always chose third-party or unaffiliated bids.
As early as May 2015, Nader was interviewed by Democracy Now! about his opinion on Sanders' choice. He expressed sympathy for the "dilemma" before the senator, saying, "If he runs as an independent, he can go to November. If he runs as a registered Democrat, he’s done in April or May [if he didn't get the nomination]." Nader also acknowledged the advantages of debate access, and the perceived viability which comes with running as a major-party candidate, but noted a caveat: "He will be asked — if not very soon, he will be asked, 'Will you endorse the nominee of the Democratic Party if it’s Hillary Clinton?'" If Sanders refused, it could have hurt him.
And of course, Sanders was asked, and he did not refuse. In March of 2016, Nader wrote in The Washington Post that running as a Democrat made sense for Sanders, but not in his own case. "However [Sanders has] appeared on Vermont ballots in the past, he’s really a progressive Democrat. He has caucused with the party in Congress for decades, even if its corporatist core has abandoned his New Deal priorities." Nader could not have promised to endorse the Democratic nominee.
Nader has spent the better part of the past six decades working for a country he sees as better for the average citizen. At 82, he's still sharp as a tack and applying his seemingly tireless supply of hope, energy, and intelligence toward that goal.