While addressing a crowd of community college students in Pleasant Hill on Tuesday, former presidential candidate Ralph Nader lambasted Donald Trump, calling the Republican presidential nominee a “thin-skinned megalomaniac” who cheats employees and even his own ex-wives.
The comments came after Nader delivered a rousing 45-minute speech to students and supporters at Diablo Valley College. For the most part, his speech catered to his audience, detailing the extra burdens and life experiences students at a junior college accrue compared to their four-year counterparts.
Nader advised them to become “experts” on their local politicians as a way to hold the powerful accountable, and discussed his own history taking on Big Tobacco as a notoriously ferocious consumer advocate.
“It all starts with one,” he said, stressing that community colleges could become powerhouses for social change, if classes merge civic engagement with course curriculum. He opined, however, that most community colleges are falling short of that benchmark.
His comments on Donald Trump – and a few remarks on Hillary Clinton – came during the question-and-answer segment and added levity to what was otherwise a sobering lecture.
“Nobody really knows what Trump will do,” he said when answering a question on the platforms of the major party candidates. “He’s a thin-skinned megalomaniac, a failed gambling czar … he’s cheated workers, consumers, creditors, suppliers, tax payers and his own matrimony, and he brags about it!”
Nader said that Clinton carries a lot of “baggage” and acknowledged that hers is a candidacy with which many people feel conflicted, as if they are being forced into voting for the “lesser of two evils.” It seems as if she’s been held to a different set of standards than her opponent, he said.
“See the double standard? Imagine if Hillary did and talked the way Trump (did.) She wouldn’t get 10 percent of the vote, because she’s a woman. Imagine if she bragged about her infidelities, calling good-looking men pieces of a**. It’s unbelievable what he gets away with," Nader said.
Leaving no stone unturned, the eternal critic of the two-party system also dealt Gary Johnson a few blows, likely referencing the flubs in which the Libertarian candidate couldn’t name a respectable foreign leader and asked a newscaster “What is Aleppo?” when discussing the Syrian refugee crisis.
“I don’t really think he knows what he’s going to do, except protect his bruised ego every two minutes,” Nader said.
The room erupted with laughter, reveling in the moment of candor. Student Andrew Jacobs said he was grateful to Diablo Valley College Professor Mickey Huff for organizing the event, which was part of DVC’s Equity Speaker Series.
Like many voters, Jacobs said he’s fatigued by the election rhetoric surrounding both Trump and Clinton. Nader's speech, he said, was refreshing.
"He's somebody who really represents what is best for Americans as a whole and how to start from the bottom and get these movements going,” Jacobs said.
During his appearance, Nader reiterated that he would not be endorsing a presidential candidate, not even Jill Stein from the Green Party, which he ran with during the 2000 election that saw President George W. Bush win in a historically close race against former Vice President Al Gore. Although Nader did not broach the subject at Diablo Valley College, his participation in that election damaged his reputation and labeled him a “spoiler,” a blemish that still remains more than 15 years later.
The 82-year-old, who continues to author books and tour the country delivering speeches, offered up some final words of wisdom to Californians struggling to make up their minds about this election:
“I believe in voting your conscience,” he said. “Because if you don’t vote your conscience, you’re voting for the least worse, and you lose all bargaining power … and they don’t respect you. So why not vote for what you believe in?”
Gillian Edevane covers Contra Costa County for NBC Bay Area. Contact her at Gillian.Edevane@NBCuni.com.