Ralph Nader said Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 Clinton lawyer's indictment reveals 'bag of tricks' Attorney charged in Durham investigation pleads not guilty MORE is unfairly winning the Democratic nomination with unelected superdelegates and closed primaries that shut out independent voters who prefer Bernie SandersBernie SandersPelosi says House members would not vote on spending bill topline higher than Senate's Groups push lawmakers to use defense bill to end support for Saudis in Yemen civil war Congress must address the looming debt crisis MORE.

“If he had an open primary, he’d have beaten her,” Nader told The Hill in a Facebook Live interview on Monday. "It should be open to all voters. And that helped her; that gave her a big advantage."

"The Democrats years ago didn’t want an insurgency like Bernie Sanders, so they rigged it," he added. "They’re called superdelegates. They’re members of Congress, they’re Democratic governors, they’re party hacks. ... Hillary’s cronies, mostly."

Clinton leads Sanders among superdelegates, 524 to 40, according to The Associated Press. She's also leading him by nearly 300 pledged delegates and by more than 2 million votes.

Nader, a consumer advocate who ran one of the most successful third party candidacies in recent U.S. history, said he wishes that Sanders would mount a third-party bid against Clinton and presumptive Republican nominee Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump takes shot at new GOP candidate in Ohio over Cleveland nickname GOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default MORE to provide “more voices and choices on the ballot.”


But Nader said it’s probably too late for an independent Sanders candidacy and that “it’s not in him to do it.”

“He is a Democrat, let’s face it,” he said. “He has a committee chair in the Senate, he has a status in the Senate. He doesn’t want to jeopardize that.”

Sanders, who was elected in Vermont as an independent, is the ranking member of the Budget Committee, putting him in line to become chairman if Democrats win back the Senate in November.

Nader said he will be casting a protest vote in November and believes the Clinton forces will have a hard time winning over progressives who supported Sanders in the primaries — even if Sanders urges them to vote for her.

“[Hillary Clinton] has never met a war she didn’t like; Hillary’s never met a weapons system she didn’t like. Why should we support somebody like that?” 

In a wide-ranging interview with The Hill, Nader talked about the “dilemma” Sanders now faces. 

The Vermont senator has built a nationwide progressive movement but is now being pressured by Democrats to drop out of the race and rally behind their likely nominee, who Nader describes as "Hillary the hawk" and a "dyed-in-the-wool corporatist."  

Nader said he has known Sanders for more than a quarter-century but hasn’t spoken to him about an independent run as they have fallen out of touch. 

“He’s always been a lone ranger as a senator, and he’s come a long way without our advice,” Nader said. “He hasn’t returned my calls in 17 years.”

Sanders, he added, should expect the same “treatment” Nader received when he ran on the Green Party ticket in 2000 and was blamed by liberal Democrats for siphoning progressive votes away from Al GoreAlbert (Al) Arnold GoreTrump's election fraud claims pose risks for GOP in midterms Don't 'misunderestimate' George W. Bush Why the pro-choice movement must go on the offensive MORE, effectively handing the presidency to George W. Bush.   

Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyDemocrats revive filibuster fight over voting rights bill Senate backers of new voting rights bill push for swift passage Stacey Abrams backs Senate Democrats' voting rights compromise MORE (D-Ore.), who is the only sitting senator to have endorsed Sanders, used Nader as a cautionary tale for why Sanders should under no circumstances run as an independent — an idea Trump is mischievously pushing. 

“Bernie went into this and he said there’s no way I’m going to be Ralph Nader,” Merkley told CNN’s "New Day" on Monday morning.  

“We’re not going to split the party. We’re not going to empower the Republicans. He understands the damage that Bush did to this nation, and he’s not going to allow Trump to follow on and do even more damage.” 

Nader argued that American voters deserve better than a binary choice between Clinton and Trump, two candidates he finds so loathsome that he refuses to say who is worse. He said Trump is a bigot and a sexist and called Clinton “corrupt” and a “finger to the wind politician.”

But while he had nothing positive to say about Clinton, he acknowledged it was “a bit refreshing” that Trump had taken on the mainstream media and “churned things up” by putting into the mainstream opposition to international trade deals and Wall Street cronyism.

Nader also said it looks like Sanders is being set up to be manipulated by the Clinton forces, who he expects will give lip service to Sanders's progressive ideals but nothing concrete in return for his endorsement.  

It's “naive” for the Sanders campaign to think they’ll extract meaningful concessions from the Clinton team through platform changes at the convention, Nader said, saying that party platforms “aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.”

“If he becomes a mascot [for Hillary], a lot of hard-line Bernie voters stay home,” he said.