Ralph Nader said Democratic leaders are so angry about the 2000 election that they have since deprived him from giving congressional testimony, preventing him from speaking on issues he's championed for decades. He suggests that they stop scapegoating him and face their own failings.
Mr. Nader, embarking on another third-party bid for the White House, gave several examples of his attempts to testify on President Bush's nominees, civil liberties and auto safety, the issue that began his career as a consumer advocate.
"I used to be the most frequent person there," he told The Washington Times on Monday in an extensive interview from his office in Georgetown.
"They are so small-minded that to keep the myth up that it wasn't them that got Bush in the White House, it was Nader/LaDuke - to keep that myth and sustain it in the public's mind, they can't possibly associate with me or have me testify. Even though they knew they blew it in 1,000 ways in '00 and '04."
Mr. Nader said some Democrats, such as Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Henry A. Waxman, still see him, but that a "spite mentality" prevents them from asking him to testify.
He blamed a Democratic "cult" that has sprouted around the charge that he cost Vice President Al Gore the 2000 presidential election and said that, as a result, Democrats deprive their voters of a voice they would want to hear.
"If somebody that strong is worried about that peer group pressure, it tells you something," he said.
Mr. Nader said he repeatedly asked Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas to testify at a hearing earlier this month on car-roof safety in rollover crashes ("I know a little bit about this subject") but was turned down and offered the opportunity to submit a statement instead. He said it's been at least seven years since he testified - which coincides with the aftermath of his 2000 presidential run.
Pryor spokesman Michael Teague denied the account, saying: "We have no information or knowledge that he ever contacted anybody in our office or Senator Pryor to testify."
Mr. Nader also said he wanted to testify against Mr. Bush's nomination of John Ashcroft as attorney general and the Supreme Court nominees Samuel A. Alito Jr. and John G. Roberts Jr.
"On the Roberts thing, I called everybody," he said, adding that the list included longtime colleagues such as Ralph G. Neas, who was president of People for the American Way and helped spearhead opposition to Mr. Roberts' confirmation as chief justice. Mr. Nader said that despite 45 calls to Mr. Neas and other chief opponents, he didn't get a single call back.
Mr. Nader said the Democratic grudge has become so strong that he has established better relationships with congressional Republicans who agree with him about preventing waste and fraud in government contracts and fighting corporate subsidies. He quickly added, "It's not my choice."
"I almost never connected with Republicans. Things have gotten so bad that I now sign letters with Grover Norquist," he said, referring to the Republican anti-tax icon.
He also has been reaching out to supporters of Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, the antiwar libertarian who recently ended his bid for the Republican presidential nomination after attracting money, attention and young voters.
Mr. Nader, 74, charged that Democratic voters have allowed their party to sell itself to corporate interests and deserve some of the blame for creating a party that is the "least worst."
"The liberals and progressives have lost their guts. They fight the one candidacy that has a chance of slightly shoehorning their recommendations inside the electoral arena," he said. "I don't know any country in the world where you have to fight your traditional economic adversaries and your ideological allies."
"That's what this 220-year-old system of two-party, winner-take-all Electoral College duopoly does excluding third parties. It's insane," he said. "I understand the prison, but I don't understand why you don't break out of it. There are millions of you.
"Whatever you do in the voting booth tactically you can do, but why don't you play hard to get with the Democrats? You know, shake them up a bit and say, 'We're not going to support you unless you pick up these issues.'"
He said voters have allowed government to become overrun by corporate interests with no competing force to pull it in the other direction.
"If you don't have a breaking point, you have no moral imperative in your attitude and that's the one question they hate to be asked," he said. "They have eternity working for them because forever there will be a least-worst party between the Democrats and the Republicans."
Mr. Nader called presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama a "waffler" who has abandoned principle to try to win. He added that the senator from Illinois offers little different from his Republican rival, Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
Prodded by The Times as to whether things would improve under a Democratic president, Mr. Nader stood firm.
"There would be a slowdown of the disintegration in certain areas. Not in defense, not in foreign policy," he said, adding the Democrats would not harm Social Security or push a social agenda. "Corporate crime, forget it. They are not going to be different from the Republicans. ... Strengthening democracy, no. Electoral reform, no."
Mr. Obama in February took a swipe at Mr. Nader before he wrapped up the Democratic nomination, saying that anyone has the "right to run for president" and that the party's job is to "be so compelling that a few percentage of the vote going to another candidate is not going to make any difference."
He lauded Mr. Nader's consumer advocacy but said, "Mr. Nader is somebody who, if you don't listen and adopt all of his policies, thinks you're not substantive. He seems to have a pretty high opinion of his own work."
Mr. Nader criticized the press for covering the daily political horse race and ignoring third-party candidates like him. He said it's a negative cycle in which candidates who aren't covered by the networks or newspapers have a tough time getting their names in opinion polls, and they aren't covered if they don't poll well.
Worse still, he said, the candidates without poll standing aren't allowed into the debates.
Mr. Nader - still working to secure his place on each state's ballot - declared that he would try to crash both parties' nominating conventions, duplicating his efforts from 2004 and 2000.
"We'll be at both," he said.
He said the broken two-party system drives away good politicians and speculated that there is no clear next generation of third-party candidates to groom because "they don't want to get their hands dirty."
He said a billionaire such as New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg mounting a third-party bid might be able to move the needle in a way similar to how Ross Perot did in 1992, but even that would be a difficult feat.
Mr. Perot's 19 percent showing that year helped Bill Clinton defeat President George H.W. Bush.
Mr. Nader won 2.7 percent of the national vote as the Green Party candidate in 2000, but he won 0.3 percent as an independent in 2004 when he appeared on the ballot in only 34 states.
© 2008 The Washington Times