Ralph Nader was famous for public service long before George W. Bush or Al Gore appeared on the scene. Running for political office is another matter entirely.
In fact, for most of his three-and-a-half decades in the public eye, the Green Party's candidate for president has appeared as the anti-politician. The hard-driving leader of Nader's Raiders and founder of the watchdog group Public Citizen seemed designed -- and utterly content -- to confront the powers that be.
He grew up in Winsted, Connecticut, the child of Lebanese immigrants who ran a local restaurant. He credits his father with sparking an early interest in public affairs. In his early teens he devoured books written by "muckraking" authors such as Ida Tarbell and Upton Sinclair. He came to see the vast inequities in the distribution of power in America.
Advocacy issues have dominated Nader's life. At 66, he has never married. He lives nearly as frugally today as he did at 29, when he packed one suitcase, gave up a law practice in Hartford, Connecticut and hitchhiked to Washington, D.C. to take up residence in a YMCA and launch his career as "full time citizen."
At 21, Nader graduated magna cum laude from Princeton, and he went on to earn a law degree from Harvard. While at Harvard he wrote a piece for The Nation that questioned the safety of American-built cars. The magazine article foreshadowed his earliest achievement on the national stage. The book "Unsafe at Any Speed," published in 1965, took on General Motors and prompted a series of auto safety laws. Nader also sued GM for hiring private detectives in a bid to discredit him, and used settlement money to further his consumer advocacy goals.
Nader founded Public Citizen in 1971 and built it into a consumer advocacy machine with wide-reaching influence in politics, health regulation, legal affairs, trade and environmental issues.
For the past 20 years Nader has focused on other projects while allowing proteges to run the six major arms of Public Citizen. He has remained a prominent figure on the lecture circuit. As for the self-described job of "full time citizen," he says it's "the most important office in America."
But in 1996, Nader turned his attention to the Oval Office, frustrated in part by what he sees as the growing similarities between Republicans and Democrats and the overarching influence of corporations on American goverment.
His 1996 campaign was poorly organized and made little headway. But in the 2000 elections, Nader started earlier and drew a consistent four percent in national polls -- far more than the other well-known third party candidate, Patrick Buchanan.
As a candidate, Nader has demonstrated a sharp tongue in assessing his rivals and a willingness to poke fun at his own eccentricities. He's made several appearances on Saturday Night Live to offset his dour image.
Though he remains frustrated at being shut out of the presidental debates, his showing in a few key states is strong enough to make supporters of Democratic Vice President Al Gore wary that Nader's presence will tip the election to Republican George W. Bush.
Full Name: Ralph Nader
Born: February 27, 1934, in Winstead, Connecticut
Candidate for the president on the Green Party ticket, 1996
Write-in presidential candidate, 1992
Consumer advocate, lawyer and author, 1970s-present
Founder of the Center for the Study of Responsive Law, the Center for Auto Safety, the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) and Public Citizen
Founder of Multinational Monitor
Academic lecturer at Princeton, 1967-1969
Academic lecturer at University of Hartford, 1961-1963
Law degree from Harvard University, 1958
A.B. from Princeton, 1955
Family: Single. Lives in Washington, D.C.
Contact campaign office:
Ralph Nader for President
P.O. Box 18002
Washington, DC 20036
Web site: www.votenader.com
Listen to excerpts of candidates' stump speeches.
The Nader Effect (14.4 | 28.8)
All Things Considered, November 8, 2000
Robert talks with Matthew Rothschild, editor of The Progressive magazine, about how Ralph Nader's run for President on the Green Party ticket affected the final outcome of the election. Rothschild was a strong Nader supporter.
Nader Today (14.4 | 28.8)
All Things Considered, November 8, 2000
In state after state that Vice President Gore struggled to win on Election Day, he found himself battling not only Republican nominee George W. Bush but Green Party nominee Ralph Nader as well. In the end, Nader's small vote in Florida appears to have been enough to tip that crucial state to Bush. If the recount of votes in that state confirms yesterday's outcome, Bush will be the next president. Today Nader was defiant in the face of criticism. NPR's Pam Fessler reports.
Ralph Nader (14.4 | 28.8)
Morning Edition, November 8, 2000
NPR's Pam Fessler takes a look at Ralph Nader and the Green Party's influence on the elections.
Green Party (14.4 | 28.8)
Weekend Edition - Sunday, November 5, 2000
Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader has an admittedly remote chance of taking the White House this year. His influence, however, is expected to push the Green Party to greater prominence in state and local elections. Tamara Keith reports on the impact Nader is having in California.
Commentary (14.4 | 28.8)
Morning Edition, October 30, 2000
Commentator Jeff Biggers explains why he plans to vote for Green Party Presidential candidate Ralph Nader. He says his parents and siblings are going to vote for Al Gore, and they're trying to persuade him to do the same.
Nader Trader (14.4 | 28.8)
Weekend All Things Considered, October 29, 2000
Host Lisa Simeone talks with Jeff Cardille, founder of www.nadertrader.org, a Web site that encourages voters to swap their vote. Cardille says this idea will help Al Gore win the White House and secure the more than 5 percent of the national vote needed by Ralph Nader to qualify for federal election funds in 2004.
Music Cue: Ralph Nader (14.4 | 28.8)
Weekend Edition - Saturday, October 28, 2000
Scott with some thoughts about Ralph Nader's presidential candidacy.
Gore and Nader (14.4 | 28.8)
All Things Considered, October 27, 2000
NPR's Robert Siegel reports from Madison, Wisconsin on efforts by Al Gore and Ralph Nader to woo the same left-wing voters. Wisconsin has been solidly Democratic in the last three presidential races. But there, as in a handful of other states, the three-to-five-percent of the vote that polls show Nader may win could be enough to give George Bush a victory. Siegel talks to people in both the Gore and Nader camps, as well as Democratic voters who turned out to hear Al Gore yesterday and Nader supporters who turned out to protest Gore's appearance.
Ralph Nader Interview (14.4 | 28.8)
Morning Edition, October 16, 2000
As part of a series of interviews with the Presidential candidates, Host Bob Edwards talks to Green Party nominee Ralph Nader. Nader is highly critical of both Al Gore and George W. Bush and says he hopes to win at least five percent of the vote so the Green Party can qualify for federal matching funds in the next election.
Nader Stump Speech (14.4 | 28.8)
All Things Considered, September 27, 2000
Ralph Nader is the Green Party nominee for president. He's run before, but this time, the consumer advocate has stepped up his effort. He's raising money, traveling the country, and drawing crowds to hear his pitch that there's little difference between the two major parties and that he is the candidate who will stand up for workers. All Things Considered is airing excerpts from candidate's stump speeches every Wednesday. Today, we hear a portion of one of Nader's. (3:30)
Policy Differences (14.4 | 28.8)
All Things Considered, September 19, 2000
Ralph Nader talks about "Republicrats" who see the world through the same corporate prism. And for generations, Third Party candidates from both the left and the right have said the two major parties are two halves of the same power structure -- different mostly in name and tradition. This year, as the major parties try to appeal to the political center, they often sound alike. Yet it can be argued that the two parties stand for specific philosophies that are farther apart than they have been in half a century. A new poll by NPR, the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard has found that voting for one or the other means choosing between distinct outlooks on the issues. NPR's Don Gonyea reports.
Campaign Protests (14.4 | 28.8)
Morning Edition, August 31, 2000
NPR's Anthony Brooks reports from Seattle on the campaign trail,
where protests and counterprotests by supporters of Democrat Al Gore and
Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader are overshadowing Gore's
efforts to emphasize his health care policy.
Ralph Nader's Campaign (14.4 | 28.8)
Morning Edition, August 25, 2000
Colin Fogarty of Oregon Public Broadcasting reports on Ralph Nader's
campaign. The Green Party candidate is hoping to attract his largest number
of supporters in Portland tonight. His candidacy has many voters worried
that a vote for Nader will steal votes from vice president Al Gore.