Ralph Nader

American lawyer and activist

Ralph Nader (born 27 February 1934) is an American political activist, author, lecturer, and attorney, noted for his involvement in consumer protection, environmentalism and government reform causes.

We must strive to become good ancestors.
Half of democracy is about just showing up.


  • This administration is not sympathetic to corporations, it is indentured to corporations.
    • Quoted in a news conference (3 October 1972), speaking on the Nixon Administration; reported in The Washington Post (4 October 1972), p. A2.
  • The large organization is lord and manor, and most of its employees have been desensitized much as were medieval peasants who never knew they were serfs.
    • Ralph Nader, "The anatomy of whistleblowing" (1972), in Nader, Petkas, and Blackwell (eds.), WhistleBlowing: The Report of the Conference on Professional Responsibility, New York: Grossman Publishers, as quoted in Erik Mygind du Plessis, Speaking Truth through Power.
  • The 1963 Corvair, which has some remarkable characteristics. It's one of the few cars I know that can do the bossa nova on dry pavement and the watusi on wet.
    • Ralph Nader, An Unreasonable Man (2006) Documentary film
  • Khalil Bendib is an equal-opportunity skewer. The more a subject or victim is ignored by the mass media, the more he infuriates, informs, and intensifies the reader's attention. Cartoons need to jolt. Bendib obliges page after page.
    • Mission Accomplished by Khalil Bendib (2007)
  • The hardest thing in life is to face reality when you grow up being educated by myths
  • Hillary Clinton has completed her four-year tenure as Secretary of State to the accolades of both Democratic and Republican Congressional champions of the budget-busting “military-industrial complex,” that President Eisenhower warned about in his farewell address. Behind the public relations sheen, the photo-opportunities with groups of poor people in the developing world, an ever more militarized State Department operated under Clinton’s leadership.
    A militarized State Department is more than a repudiation of the Department’s basic charter of 1789, for the then-named Department of Foreign Affairs, which envisioned diplomacy as its mission. Secretary Clinton reveled in tough, belligerent talk and action on her many trips to more than a hundred countries. She would warn or threaten “consequences” on a regular basis...
    As reported in the Wall Street Journal on December 10, 2011, “In place of the military, the State Department will assume a new role of unprecedented scale, overseeing a massive diplomatic mission through a network of fortified, self-sufficient installations.” To call this a diplomatic mission is a stretch. The State Department has hired thousands of private security contractors for armed details and transportation of personnel. Simply guarding the huge U.S. embassy in Iraq and its personnel costs more than $650 million a year – larger than the entire budget of the Occupational Health and Safety Agency (OSHA), which is responsible for reducing the yearly loss of about 58,000 lives in workplace-related traumas and sickness.
  • ... the only difference between Al Gore and George W. Bush is the velocity with which their knees hit the floor when corporations knock on their door.
  • quoted in American Character: A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good (2015)[1]
  • This could be the most serious event in American political history. Because you're no longer dealing with a rural government where most of the the workers were postmen, like in the nineteenth century. You're dealing with an unstable personality who takes everything personally in terms of a bruised ego, has stated again and again that he'll lash back even if he has to get up at 3 A.M. and twitter about an overweight former Miss Universe ... and he's got his finger on the nuclear trigger, or on drones, or on, you know, aircraft carriers.
  • Many Senate Democrats are throwing in the towel on the nomination of William Barr for Trump’s attorney general. One would think that Senate Democrats would be appalled at Barr’s long-time unyielding conduct and writings asserting that the President can start any wars he wants even if Congress votes against it! An example of this is the constitutionally undeclared criminal invasion of Iraq by George W. Bush. Barr was also George H.W. Bush’s Attorney General and has been a long-time defender of executive branch lawlessness. One would think that Barr’s insupportable drive for more corporate prisons and more mass incarceration would upset these Senators... Expect the further decay of a Department of Injustice, shielding a chronically lawless President and turning the rule of law on its head.
  • “This is clearly the most dangerous political movement since the Civil War, the GOP under the corporate fascist Trump’s thumb. He spread a whole breed of mini-Trumpsters who are getting far too much publicity compared to their opponents. Everything we fought for, for over 50 years, is at stake here...This is an order of magnitude we have never seen before. We have never seen a party literally trying to repress the vote, miscount the vote, purge the vote, intimidate precinct worker volunteers and steal elections. They have actually basically said, ‘Any election we lose is because it has been stolen from us.’ That is the word of a dictatorship party.”
  • [These leaders]... chose higher ethical behavior, declining to avail themselves of the routine excuses about duty to shareholders, competitive riskiness, government regulation or other pretexts most executives employ (...) Each of the CEOs profiled here displayed forthright candor, competence, and a recognition of the complexities of society that shape the bottom line. Most of the CEOs I’ve met ... are afraid to share their views candidly. These twelve spoke out. They endorsed politicians. They spoke out against injustice in a variety of ways, sometimes to their own detriment. They held controversial views. They were not going to leave their conscience at home when they went to work. Part of their vision was to be complete human beings. These CEOs were willing to admit their mistakes in public. They provided a climate of self-correction. This is something most big CEOs never do, under advice of their corporate law firms.(...) The more you look into them, the more they reveal what successful CEOs should be about within the norms and standards of a civilized society.
    • Ralph Nader Profiles 12 Leaders Who Did It Right In The Rebellious CEO, Alain Hunkins, Forbes, (14 November 2023)

Green Party presidential candidacy speech (2000)

February 21, 2000
  • ...the Democratic and Republican parties, two apparently distinct political entities feeding at the same corporate trough.
  • Up against the corporate government, voters find themselves asked to choose between look-alike candidates from two parties vying to see who takes the marching orders from their campaign paymasters and their future employers. The money of vested interest nullifies genuine voter choice and trust.
  • The "democracy gap" in our politics and elections spells a deep sense of powerlessness by people who drop out, do not vote, or listlessly vote for the “least worst” every four years and then wonder why after every cycle the “least worst” gets worse.

Crashing the Party (2002)

  • Like knowing hostages, the AFL-CIO and its unions march in tandem to endorse the Democratic presidential nominees early in the primary season. They have given up their capacity for negotiation, so frightened are they of the Republicans. Meanwhile, the rank-and-file workers suffer their dwindling status in silence.
  • ...organized labor...rushes to support the party without demanding a turn away from corporatism toward workers’ needs. This is the logic of the lesser of two evils. It tethers labor to a relentless slide deeper into the corporate power pits year after year.
  • ...the Democrats know that no matter how many GATTs, NAFTAs, empty OSHAs, and other betrayals...they heap on those labor leaders, they can be had because, once again, the Republicans are deemed worse.
  • The tired whine of 'But the Republicans are worse' will fall flat as more young Americans take charge of their future and move, with their reenergized elders, toward the Green Party and parallel civic and political movements.

The Good Fight (2004)

  • We must strive to become good ancestors.
  • The shortcomings of America's political leaders do not stop at our borders.
  • Unlike members of Congress, Big Business knew what the WTO agreements contained. That's because corporate lobbyists helped draft them.
  • Half of democracy is about just showing up.

Breaking Through Power (2016)

: It's Easier Than We Think
  • [T]he concentration of power in the hands of the few is common to all cultures... When a small group of people rules a society the political system is considered an oligarchy; when only money and wealth determine how a society is controlled, the political system is a plutocracy. From the standpoint of a democratic society, both oligarchy and plutocracy are inherently unjust and corrupt. ...In many ways, the majority of Americans live in a democracy of minimums, while the privileged few enjoy a plutocracy of maximums. ...[T]he dominating influence of the One Percent...
  • [F]amily functions have been outsourced to business... everything is for sale, and money is power... Our elections and our governments should be... commercial-free zones; our environment, air, and water should never fall under the control of corporations or private owners. Children should not be programmed by a huckstering economy...
  • [W]henever there have been periods when enough of the country organizes and resists, we see movements of people and communities breaking through power. Progress is made. Rights are won. Education and literacy increase. Oppression is diminished.
  • Concentrated power in the hands of the few really... matter[s]... if you are denied full-time employment or paid poverty wages and there are no unions to defend your interests... if you are denied affordable health care... if you are gouged by the drug industry... lack of public transit or packed highways... if you or your children... breath dirtier air and drink polluted water... if your children are receiving substandard education... are being taught to obey rather than question, think and imagine, especially when it comes to the nature of power.
  • In addition to stimulating the economy, creating more jobs, and establishing less need for public welfare assistance, the movement for a... living wage... teaches how little it... takes to change the balance of power... especially when there is overwhelming public opinion... These lessons... should be, applied to winning the myriad of public interest, ecological, and civil rights struggles that the ultra-rich and their commercial interests obstruct... increasing wages... decreasing militarism and crushing... military spending... decent and affordable housing and healthcare, reducing... carbon emissions... to prevent catastrophic climate change... enabling democracy at all levels.
  • America's Founding Fathers wrote a Constitution that never once uses the words "corporation," "company," or "political parties." Their use of language reflected their antipathy toward the domineering influence of empire and big business... If "We the People" are the sole subjects of the Constitution, why is it that we are ruled by large corporations and their largely indentured servants—the Republican and Democratic Parties... "We the People" have allowed these plutocratic forces to slowly siphon away our power.
  • Before and after the American Revolution, there has been a continuing daily tension between contending private commercial pursuits and common civic values. ...[T]he obsessive drive for gold, money, and profit is a formidable deviation from other more important spiritual practices that strive to center community on non-market values... love, generosity, kindness, cooperation, and non-violence.
  • America's business leaders said NO to the idea of revolting against the British monarchy. ...In later decades, commercialists... consistently said NO to efforts to end child labor... to starting labor unions... to the regulation of railroad and banking abuses... to the 40-hour work week and progressive taxation... to antitrust laws and the regulatory agencies... to a woman's right to vote (they feared the women's vote against exploiting child labor and cheating consumers), and NO to the minimum wage, Social Security, universal healthcare, and to... protect the environment, empower consumers, reduce government secrecy, protect ethical whistleblowers, and... to reduce commercial fraud on the government as with Medicare and military contracts.
  • [P]ublic interest groups, consumer protection organizations, and... social networks have worked relentlessly to break through the battalions of lobbyists paid by corporate interests...
  • Exxon/Mobile, Pfizer, Citigroup, General Motors, Lockheed/Martin, Proctor & Gamble, United Health Care, Comcast/NBC Universal, Apple, and many other giants garner revenues as large as numerous nation states... Most are global... but there is no public global government holding them accountable... [T]here are dictatorial trade agreements that corporatists conjure up to subordinate the general population's labor, consumer, and environmental protections—a stunning end-run around our courts and legislatures. These protections are seen as "non-tariff trade barriers"... [T]hese... entities have a clear and obsessive unity of purpose—money for bosses... for shareholders, money to buy lawyers and politicians to take down laws and whatever else slows the pace of hoarding wealth.
  • Paradoxically, we are in a golden age of books, documentaries, and films that... expose the abuses, crimes and authoritarian essence of corporate commercialism. ...[N]ever ...have they had less impact for change.
  • One of my all-time favorite "shake 'em up books," which is almost impossible to describe briefly, is Sam Smith's Great American Political Repair Manual.

"American Mythology and the Loss of Democracy" (2018)

Interview with with Chris Hedges, from RT America (June 23, 2018); source
  • Here we are in corporate occupied territory, otherwise known as Washington D.C. ...I've seen it ...become a very sophisticated expression of the plutocracy ...[Y]ou have the plutocracy ruled by a few wealthy, developing an ever more penetrating oligarchy ruled by a few politicos, indentured to the super-wealthy. ...With their corporate attorneys they have developed one of the most sophisticated controls of a formerly democratic society... turning the very institutions, Congress, the courts, the executive branch, against the people... What they do is simply keep the myths alive, like "We have Democratic elections." We do not.
  • Democratic elections require that votes are supreme, not big-money. They require contested candidacies, not a two-party duopoly that increasingly reflects the same commercial interests.
  • They say we have a free press, but we do not. We have a press that is indentured to advertising revenue, and they themselves are now conglomerate corporations... and five big ones control most of the circulation and viewership...
  • They say we have a free... independent judiciary, but... on the big questions of abuses of power, like going to war without congressional declaration... which is a requirement under out Constitution (and we have not had a declaration of war since 1941...) The courts have a very convenient doctrine. It's called, "This is a political question, invading Iraq, and we don't deal with political questions. This is to be decided between the Congress, which abdicates its duty, and the Presidency"... When citizens say "We don't believe in that. We're going to go to court," and go all the way to the Supreme Court to challenge this illegal war of criminal aggression against Iraq, they have another convenient doctrine... "You have no standing to sue." So all the American People have no standing to sue..? Well, who has a standing to sue... dealing with a criminal war of aggression... with all... who have died? Well, who has standing to sue? Only one person. The Attorney General, and guess who his boss is, the President.
  • [W]e have all these myths... about a Democratic society... [W]e have been disintegrating our Democratic institutions for over 40 years.
  • [A] phony standard... from Medieval England... says that you are thrown out of court if you don't have a specific interest... that usually now means an economic interest... a corporation that might lose sales, for example.
  • It only takes one percent or less of The People... mobilized in every Congressional District... say three or four thousand [out of an average Congressional District population]... [A]s long as they represent a majority opinion... they can control the Congress against any vested interest. We used to do it on far less... regulating the auto industry, getting through the Freedom of Information Act, which was opposed by... almost every corporate trade association, because they didn't want government information on them available to the public.
  • We don't need huge numbers of people. We need about one percent... spending three to five hundred hours a year, connecting with each other, opening full-time offices in every Congressional District, and focusing on just five-hundred and... thirty-five people... in the U.S. Congress... the branch that has the most power under our Constitution.
  • We have 206 law schools in the country. You would think they are the first responders to challenge the criminal injustice system, conditions in the prison, violation of civil rights, crushing consumer rights, and the government being taken over by corporations. It's not happening. It's like they're training technicians... lawyers to serve the powerful interests.
  • Mike Pompeo is Secretary of State, a total warmonger, and... bigot against Arabs and Muslims, based on his own assertions when he was a member of Congress, and after that.
  • Lawlessness by the rich and powerful is the norm... Either they violate the law with impunity, or they make sure the law provides loopholes for them with their influence in Congress. ...They are extremists... [T]hey... have no conscience, no soul. The corporate entity is an artificial being driven maniacally by profit...
  • You really have to educate your [law] students about lawlessness, otherwise they're going to graduate and just tinker with the law... The law students are so clueless, in fact, deprived about what's going on in this country in terms of the concentration and the abuse of power... [W]e have a real crisis in the legal educational institutions that breed the next generation of lawyers.
  • [T]he lawyers are the architects of corporate power. They're the architects of grinding responsible government into the ground and turning it into an accounts receivable, corporate welfare, crony capitalism... giving these corporations immunities and privileges which we would never have as real individuals. ...They are artificial... they cannot be morally accountable like real individuals... unshielded by the corporate structure.
  • A judicial coup in 1886... determined that corporations were persons, for the purpose of the Constitution. ...[T]he Constitution doesn't even have the word company, corporate, or political party in it. So why are we ruled by them? You see the distortion? The only persons recognized in the Constitution are real people. It starts... with "We the People" not "we the corporations."

"How The Rats Reformed The Congress" (2018)

(Sept 29, 2018) Interview & discussion with Ralph Nader on his book How the Rats Re-Formed the Congress (2018); source
  • It first starts with an intrepid rat... that goes up to the toilet bowl of the Speaker, just as he's sitting down to do his business... Some readers who couldn't get past the first few pages... called it disgusting and upsetting, and I said, "Well, you're describing the behavior of Congress..."
  • The rats then... follow each other. Ten rats signal to other rats, and there's a rat infestation in the House of Representatives, and then in the Senate... [T]here's an overreaction by the members, the leaders. They don't want this to get out, that they can't even control the rats, much less the Wall Street lobbyists.
  • [O]ne reporter... is intrepidly meticulous and he blows the story... [A]ll the cable shows, everybody goes wild with derision as the story unfolds... [T]he overreaction is massive slaughter of the rats. They keep coming. They keep breeding... working overtime... and that is what gets people's attention about Congress.
  • Congress comes in, in the poles, under 15% or 12%... or even 9% now... about the lowest of any category, even the proverbial used car dealer.
  • People have such a low opinion of Congress that they keep sending bad members... to Washington, but [the people] withdraw... they become cynical... instead of becoming angry and moving to take control of Congress. After all, it's the sovereign power of the people... that is misused and turned against the people on behalf of Wall Street and other corporate supremacists.
  • Because of the massive media, you have massive public attention, the comedians, the late night talk shows, have a field day... The activists say... "This is what we've been waiting for"... [politicians] fumbling and grumbling and tripping over themselves trying to deal with the rat infestation, asking for the national security people... on orders of the White House... like... a foreign invasion.
  • They would surround part of the Congress with bull horns and shout, "Resign! Resign! Resign!" ...Some of the incumbents ...just ran out of the Congress and joined the crowd.
  • One of the themes of the book is don't wait around... [with] steady mobilization. It doesn't work that way. It gives the corporation lobbies too much time to game the system. Look at the health care. It was proposed by Harry Truman in the 1940s, universal health care, and look where we're still at. ...Speed was of the essence.
  • In some... legislator's minds... like Mick Mulvaney... he really is mean, and he has no qualms of conscience. But I have met members of Congress... conservative Republicans, who do have qualms... John Boehner... the fictional character is Reginald Blamer, he came from a poor family of 11 children... so I have seen... people who have a public personae of ferocious oligarchy and plutocracy, but deep inside they know they're harming innocent people.
  • In the early 60s I wanted to get auto safety bills through the Congress, so I had to go to... Warren Magnuson... [people said he was] totally in the pocket of the business lobbyists... Because of the rumble from the people... out of Seattle and other parts of the country, Warren Magnuson put his finger to the wind. ...He became the greatest champion of consumer legislation in the Congress in American history.
  • When Reginald Blamer, in the book, went on "Meet the Press" and was questioned by Woodcock Toad, known as "Woody..." [Blamer] revealed his better self. He basically became a more humane person from this jolting experience, and he feared that the majority of Republicans were going to vote him out... some have a soft core... and their better angels [are] revealed under different kinds of stress and pressure.
  • In the book, the appeal is to their fear glands... the fear of not getting re-elected. The fear of being challenged in a primary inside their own party... The greed glands were approached by the lobbyists, who tried to turn this mass movement of the people of our country to take control of Congress... They poured campaign money into their stalwarts...
  • American politicians over the past 25 years have learned to quietly dismiss big rallies, demonstrations, and even temporary occupations, because they have gone nowhere.
    • A quote from the book
  • I've been part of these mass protests... almost invariably on a Saturday, when the members of Congress are gone. ...The [organizers] ...are so exhausted that they don't... have the energy left to pass the funding buckets around... where they could raise hundreds of thousands of dollars and on Monday morning open an office with full-time lobbyists... Members of Congress have very good antennae... [they can sense that] there's no stamina... not a lot of follow-through.
  • [I]n this book... the rallies... are different... they build from day to day... and... it's led by people who are full-time... and they open offices in Washington. ...Three enlightened billionaires come to town and they say... "Hey, let's fund this"... and a brain trust.
  • Democracy requires work. ...The more they feel they've got the members Congress on the run, the more energized they become.
  • On the back of the book, I have the indictment of Congress. People... have no idea the damage... that Congress has inflicted. Its abandonment of its Constitutional powers as the most powerful branch of government. Its selling of elections for money and campaigns. Its closing out, even the people... I've seen Congress degrade to levels I've never believed possible. It's impossible to get through to some members'... offices even now, unless you're a campaign contributor. You might get the switchboard, if it isn't on voice-mail. Can you imagine..?
  • To show you how much of a straight-arm the majorities in Congress are giving the people back home. They had a tax bill... for the rich, and the powerful, and the corporate, increasing the deficit, starving the public works investment and all the rest, and they didn't even have public hearings in the committee level, that's unheard of. Then they had five bills to destroy people's rights to have their day in court, if they're wrongfully injured. They got it through the House of Representatives, blocked in the Senate by the Democrats. They didn't even have public hearings in the House Judiciary. Then they tried to get rid of Obamacare, and they lost by one or two votes in the Senate, and they didn't even have public hearings.
  • Congress... has become a secret tyrannical bastion of Wall Street, and that outrages people...

To the Ramparts (2018)

: how Bush and Obama paved the way for the Trump Presidency, and why it isn't too late to reverse course
  • My hope is that... I will open Democrats' and other progressives' eyes to the many values shared by the Left and Right... like the desire to end corporate welfare and convert to a renewable energy (solar) economy. ...the way to defeat Trump... is to embrace (not marginalize) issues such as raising the minimum wage. ...It is a question of do or just further fade away.
  • If the minimum wage of fifty years ago—$1.60 per hour—were adjusted for inflation, today it would amount to about $11 per hour. A long-overdue minimum wage hike would... end a decades-long windfall for employers... while [they were also] receiving many tax breaks and subsidies.
  • People are being pushed around, disrespected, defrauded, injured, and given the runaround by arrogant corporate bureaucrats using nameless, robotic, and tyrannical "fine print" contract barricades.
  • [E]stablish a public national complaint-handling system using the Internet to help consumers, taxpayers, and workers... It will also be a good way for policy makers to detect patterns. Patterns lead to deterrence...

Quotes about Ralph Nader

  • Ralph Nader's Breaking Through Power is a brilliant analysis of corporate power and the popular mechanisms that can be used to wrest back our democracy
  • I agree with Ralph Nader that we need to repeal NAFTA and all of those so-called free trade agreements, but they are — they don’t constitute fair trade. And with respect to Colombia, I can say that not only have I been to Colombia, I have seen the devastation of the militarization of our policy, particularly with Colombia, and the displacement particularly of the Afro-Colombian communities across that country.
  • I'm voting for Ralph Nader -- even though I think he's an asshole on abortion and issues of sexual politics generally -- in the hope that the Green Party will get 5 percent of the vote...We have to break through the current end-of-history, "no real change can ever happen" mentality on every front, and the best way to do that on Tuesday is to vote for Ralph Nader.
  • Imagine how the last presidential campaign would have turned out if instead of the marketing circus that we were treated to, we were just given a weekly round table discussion between Bush, Gore, and Nader for a couple months running up to the election. No staged rallies, no TV images with flags flowing in the sunset, no pollsters. No marketing. Bush would have been luck to get two percent.
  • There was a third-party candidate, Ralph Nader, whose national reputation came from decades of persistent criticism of corporate control of the economy. His program was sharply different from the two major candidates, emphasizing health care, education, and the environment. But he was shut out of the nationally televised debates during the campaign, and, without the support of big business, he had to raise money from the small contributions of people who believed in his program.


  1. Woodard, Colin (1980). American Character: A History of the Epic Struggle Between Individual Liberty and the Common Good. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0698181719. 
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