Progressives, Moderates in Presidential Primary Battle for the Soul of the Democratic Party

Interview with Ralph Nader, America’s leading public interest lawyer & four-time independent presidential candidate, conducted by Scott Harris

After the U.S. Senate impeachment trial, which acquitted Donald Trump without the benefit of documents or witnesses – the nation’s attention has turned to the volatile Democratic party presidential primary campaign. In the Iowa Caucuses, where tabulating candidate votes was a chaotic affair, two candidates emerged in a virtual tie: Sen. Bernie Sanders,
I-Vermont, and Pete Buttigieg, former South Bend, Indiana mayor. One-time frontrunner former Vice President Joe Biden lagged in fourth place after Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts.

Going into the nation’s first primary election in New Hampshire, the leading candidates were engaged in a pitched battle between Sanders and Warren in the progressive camp, and Buttigieg, Biden and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, of the party’s moderate wing.

National polls on the eve of the New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary found Sanders in the lead, followed by Biden, Buttigieg, Warren and billionaire former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Some press reports maintain that establishment Democrats are in panic mode, fearing that should self-declared democratic socialist Bernie Sanders win their party’s nomination he would lose badly to Trump, who has signaled that he’d red-bait the Vermont senator at every turn, backed by hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate cash.  Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Ralph Nader, America’s leading public interest lawyer and consumer advocate. Nader, a four-time independent presidential candidate is co-author with Mark Green of the new book titled, “Fake President: Decoding Trump’s Gaslighting, Corruption, and General Bullsh*t.”  Here, Nader assesses the Democratic primary candidates and addresses the concern some corporate Democrats have expressed about a Bernie Sanders nomination.

RALPH NADER: The Republicans never win, Scott. It’s the Democrats who lose. They’ve been losing and losing other than 2018. Nancy Pelosi’s cautious approach has lost her four of the last five congressional races starting in 2010. They’re always playing catch up with the Republicans. Republicans beat them to the punch on gerrymandering. They beat them to the punch in so many areas. Lying.They get away with lying. They support programs supported by a minority of the people and they still win. They’re not up to the shenanigans, the brute determination of the Republicans illustrated by the liar-in-chief Donald Trump, the relentless savage sexual predator, the bigot. The racist and he follows it up with programs – of course, he even can’t, can’t even face up to helping little kids in the country. Takes away food stamps, takes away nutritious school lunches, replaces them with junk food. That’s the problem.

We know what the Republicans are – the worst Republicans in history since 1854. It would appall Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Sen. Robert Taft. It’s the Democrats allowing all this to happen. So the Democrats refuse to look at themselves in the mirror. And the big struggle now that’s going on between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren on the progressive side and extremist corporate Democrats – they are the extremists supporting all the positions that are not supported by a majority of the people.

They are determined to crush Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and come up with Pete Buttigieg or Joe Biden or even a former mayor of New York, anybody about progressive. That’s the struggle going on inside the Democratic National Committee in Washington and the fooling around already in Iowa and they’re going to count votes in Nevada in casinos. That’s a nice place to count. Well, they actually have voting precincts in casinos and that’s what did in Bernie.

So that’s just part of what’s going on here. It’s really a very Titanic struggle between the forces of progressivism, which also get a lot of left-right support, like for a living wage. Left-right support for universal health insurance. Left-right support, cracking down on corporate crime; breaking up the big banks et cetera. That’s what the struggle is. And if they lose to Trump – the worst candidate – I mean, you can’t imagine even for evangelicals, he violates habitually 7 out of the 10 Commandments. If they lose to Trump, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a new move for a major third party starting up just like the Republicans emerged in the 1850s to replace the Whigs.

SCOTT HARRIS: Well, I wanted to ask you about the New Hampshire primary and what’s more important is the clearly pitched battle we have going on now for the soul of the Democratic party between the party’s progressive wing and centrist corporate Democrats, as you said before, Ralph, between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. And Mike Bloomberg, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar. Where do you think this fight is headed? It’s important because people around the country believe this election in November, if it goes the way of a second Trump term as an existential threat to democracy itself.

RALPH NADER: I think that the best ticket is either a Sanders-Warren or Warren-Sanders ticket. And I think they’re going to have to seriously consider combining their delegates at the Democratic National Convention. The attack on Sanders is going to be: “A democratic socialist. You know, look, do you want him?” And it’s so easy to rebut that. I mean, you start out with, “Oh, how about the corporate socialist? You can’t just select them, they own Washington and Washington bails out Wall Street and look what they’ve done to you. You think they’ve delivered for you, working people in America. You’ve got the lowest wages in the Western world. You got the fewest, solid pensions in the Western world. You don’t have paid maternity leave for everyone. You don’t have full insurance for everyone. You don’t have paid sick leave. You don’t have paid daycare. Why does Western Europe have all these? Why don’t we have?”

Because the Republican party is the corporate state party and they know how to fight. The Democrats have got to learn how to fight. And that’s what Bernie and Elizabeth are trying to do.

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