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Ralph Nader: The Sanders And Trump Insurgencies And What’s Next? – OpEd


It is not often that Democratic and Republican insurgent candidates for President achieve such prominence and maintain staying power against the establishment “pols” of the two party duopoly that manages elections for the plutocracy that finances campaigns. The media are taking the insurgents seriously, which means that the polls are being done regularly on candidate positions and candidate match ups with other primary candidates.


Both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump start out with the first signal of viability the mass media demands – money to spend on campaigning. Sanders is surprising the pundits with his ability to attract small contributions, putting him on the road to raising a remarkable $70 million or more. He is not dependent on the fancy fat cat fundraisers that cater exclusively to the very wealthy in New York City, Los Angeles or other watering holes for the rich partisans.

Billionaire Trump, on the other hand, actually exaggerates his wealth as a campaign tactic, bragging that he can finance his entire presidential run if necessary. His “nobody owns me” image has resonated with more than a few voters, who may not realize that “The Donald” is a card-carrying member of the New York plutocracy.

The loud and raging Trump campaign tells us what can happen when voters follow their impulses without doing their homework. The burst of headline-grabbing, braggadocious phrases from Mr. Trump leaves his dubious business dealings, mistreatment of workers, acceptance of corporate welfare and his various tax escapes in the shadows (See David Cay Johnston’s piece, “21 Questions for Donald Trump”). Words over deeds so far.

Up to now, Trump, the current Republican front runner, holds or raises his poll numbers with each outrageous remark that appeals to the hardcore right – not all of them voters by the way – who love his bashing of minorities, his sexism and his ripping into other candidates. This is the latest Trump reality show.

The Republican establishment – that went for the Bushes, Mitt Romney, Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon –  is beginning to fear the continued success of his provocations.


Karl Rove, the arch-strategist for George W. Bush, just wrote a column in the Wall Street Journal titled “Trump is the Democrats’ Dream Nominee.” Rove noted poll after poll to support his thesis –low overall favorability ratings, low trustworthiness rankings. Hillary Clinton trumps Trump on “three important characteristics,” by the Quinnipiac poll. She has sizable leads on questions such as “the right kind of experience to be president” (never mind what kind of judgement), “cares about the needs and problems of someone like you,” and “shares your values.”

Rove goes on to imagine the kinds of television ads the Democrats would release should Trump get the Republican nomination. During the Cleveland debate, Trump asserted that he took his companies to bankruptcy four times having, he brazenly asserted, “taken advantage of the laws of our country.” Rove writes that the “footage might be followed by compelling testimony from contractors, small-business people and bondholders whom he stiffed.” Other Republican strategists worry that, should he head the ticket, Trump could bring down candidates from Congress to state legislatures, all the way down to mayors.

Outsiders wonder when the establishment Republicans are going to make their move.  The plethora of well-funded primary candidates is complicating any quest to back a single challenger. But simply publicizing Trump’s business record and hoping and waiting for Trump to increase the self-destructive severity of his outrageous statements may be all they can do.

Bernie Sanders has a different kind of challenge. Polling a solid second to Hillary Clinton nationwide and running very close in Iowa and New Hampshire, he has to freshen and broaden his message. During the past six months, he has demonstrated, with a tiny campaign staff, and a swelling campaign treasury, that he can attract larger audiences than Hillary has been able to do thus far and that his campaign has plenty of money in reserve.

In the coming weeks, Bernie has to increase the number of full-time people on the ground to organize and get-out-the-vote to win Iowa and New Hampshire before Hillary’s advantage in the southern state primaries registers on March 1, 2016. More pressingly, he must educate the public about the vast differences between his voting and policy record and that of Clinton when she was a Senator and Secretary of State. Some of his supporters believe that he has not been doing this strenuously or sharply enough.

Finally, Senator Sanders, who has come a long way without anyone else’s advice, now needs to start diversifying his strategy by becoming more receptive to the opinions of those outside of his team. His campaign seems repetitive and unimaginative. Needless to say, he has enormous material to work into his daily stump speeches and special subject addresses. Sanders also has to make more news, especially because Democratic  Party operatives are not allowing more than six debates where he can contrast with Hillary Clinton before very large television viewing audiences.

Senator Sanders will need more prominence if he really wants to overtake Clinton. Making good on his promise to endorse the eventual Democratic nominee would mean to his followers a ripe opportunity to get the winner of the Democratic Primary to specifically endorse much of the Sanders agenda beforehand.

Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader is a politician, activist and the author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!, a novel. In his career as consumer advocate he founded many organizations including the Center for Study of Responsive Law, the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), the Center for Auto Safety, Public Citizen, Clean Water Action Project, the Disability Rights Center, the Pension Rights Center, the Project for Corporate Responsibility and The Multinational Monitor (a monthly magazine).

4 thoughts on “Ralph Nader: The Sanders And Trump Insurgencies And What’s Next? – OpEd

  • December 14, 2015 at 9:18 am

    Ralph, this is a very sensitive and deep analysis of the two candidates. I admit that I like Trump’s campaign: not because he convinces with finesse! But because he is alive, never boring, never just reciting the endlessly purpose-invented stories to gain the vote of a group, specially concocted “to include all issues of all candidates” speeches in debates of the field of the GDP candidates that put one to sleep, or Hillary’s slick talk that has clearly no bearing in reality: she never acted or voted the way she talks unless she calls Putin Hitler and howls for Assad has to go. I fear though that Trump might recreate the jungle in the economy of the Reagan admin: that is massive corruption, free for all exploitation and grand words without much product. Trump’s views are mostly grounded in reality and common sense except when the issues are political – there he flounders. The racism is only a coverup of the not really knowing how you solve this. Walls are fashion now and nobody will hold the wall he wants to build against him except wild life, for whom it will be detrimental.

    As to Bernie- the candidate I endorse – I also have my doubts: did he set up a campaign centering around popular issues that he has no way of implementing were he president? He lacks detail, and as you said, he keeps repeating the same stuff without ever really relating the issues to current event issues. Not all problems can be solved with the issues he loves to repeat. Would he be able to survive in the intrigues of the State Department, the CIA and the hawks in Congress? Would he be able to push his agenda through? I have my doubts – well yes, because he appears to believe that one stump speech repeated endlessly is all it takes. But when asked what policies he would enact to eliminate racism against the blacks, he really didn’t have an answer and just repeated the stump speech issues and admitting that it couldn’t be done from one day to the next, that movements like MLK’s and Black lives matter are steps on the way. But: will the people have to go out in the street by the millions every time to get any change under his presidency?

    Somebody tell Bernie that his speeches need more substance of reality: how will he implement free tuition, universal health care, decrease in racism etc.? A Republican dominated Senate and House isn’t going to vote for these issues without compelling reasons. Unless he can show a bit more of how he intends to realize his agenda as president, I’m afraid, it will all be good intentions and beautiful promises and for the rest, the think tanks and the Congress will govern.

  • December 14, 2015 at 11:02 am

    I admire Ralph Nader, but when he criticizes Bernie for being repetitive & unimaginative ….. I have to wonder that maybe Ralph could have used a little more repetition in his message when he was running for president. Converting new people requires constant repetition because the new possible supporters have never heard those initial strong emotional arguments about the issues.

    The finer details are available for curious people to look into themselves online. You don’t try to traverse all ground during stump speeches especially when the mass corporate media is playing a game of “Bernie doesn’t exist”. You have to maximize your main message which exactly what Bernie does to evidently great effect.

  • December 14, 2015 at 12:15 pm

    Hiya Ralph.

    I know a little something that you have in common with both Trump and Sanders.

    : )

    Here you thought you were some kind of Marxist-Leninist revolutionary, and they flip-flopped and became fascists and organized criminals on you.

    But you STILL have to do what they want.

    Don’t you wish someone had warned you, way back when, that when you take their money, you’re a slave for life?

  • December 14, 2015 at 12:32 pm

    I didn’t bother reading the article, Ralph, purely based on your recent comments to Jane Yellen. Any credibility you might have had with me was lost in that moment. You once were a force for good, but you are now the past, and a past better left behind. Please feel free to yell at a cloud.


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