Ralph Nader is one of the most famously incorruptible characters in modern American history. Born of Lebanese immigrant parents, Nader obtained an exceptionally good education, and then single-mindedly took on the entire automotive industry's dangerous automobile designs. After Nader's initial victory and fame from Unsafe at any Speed, he was certainly not a "one-hit wonder," prolifically writing more than ten books dedicated to enhancing the public good, and founding several key organizations that doggedly fight for that same public good. Unfortunately, famous people are often subject to forces that tear them down; Nader's popularity was damaged by his Presidential campaign of 2000. As a result of the Republican election to the White House, Nader is alienated from the very people who would normally support him. His explanation of the 2000 Presidential bid dovetails with the personality and dedication that was once widely admired.
Ralph Nader was born on February 27, 1934 in Winsted, CT to Lebanese immigrants Nathra Nader (Restaurateur, d. 1991) and Rose Bouziane Nader (b. 7-Feb-1907, d. 20-Jan-2006). Nader was raised in Winsted, CT along with 2 sisters and a brother: Claire Nader, Ph.D., Chair, Council for Responsible Genetics; Laura Nader, Ph.D., Professor of Anthropology, University of California at Berkeley; and Shafeek Nader, Founder, Northwestern Connecticut Community College, (d. 1986). He received his AB degree in Politics from Princeton University in 1955 and his LLB degree from Harvard Law School in 1958 (Soylent Communications, 2012). Though he was a practicing lawyer in Hartford Connecticut commencing 1959, and a lecturer at the University of Hartford from 1961 -- 1963, Nader's true claim to fame dramatically expanded his horizons beyond those two occupations by the mid-1960's (Nader.org, 2009).
While practicing law and lecturing at the University of Hartford, Nader was writing a book about the car industry entitled Unsafe at any Speed, which was published in 1965. Nader's book was a bombshell for the automotive industry, decrying the "designed-in" dangers of American automobiles. Many of the safety measures we expect in cars today were nonexistent in 1965, primarily because car makers did not wish to spend money for safety features. Though Nader's book concentrated on the Chevrolet Corvair, many of his research results applied to the typical 1965 American-made automobile, which had: a metal dashboard; no seatbelts; "safety glass" windshields that could severely injure an occupant's face in even a 20-mile-per-hour accident; and car doors that were not attached to the frame. The public uproar caused by Nader's book compelled Congress to pass the "Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act" of 1966. Furthermore, every ensuing automotive "safety" measure, including but not limited to seat belts, air bags, recalls and crash tests, are reportedly traced back to Unsafe at Any Speed and the Act of 1966 (Soylent Communications, 2012).
Unsafe at Any Speed made Nader famous as one of the most trusted and incorruptible people in America. Not content to merely examine the automotive industry, Nader also authored or co-authored more than ten books and founded: a non-profit consumer protection group called Public Citizen, which exists to this day and whose members eventually became known as "Nader's Raiders"; the U.S. Public Interest Group (PIRG), which fights corporations and politicians on public health issues; the Center for Study of Responsive Law, the Center for Auto Safety, the Disability Rights Center, the Pension Rights Center, the Project for Corporate Responsibility, and the Clean Water Action Project. Nader and his followers are credited with compelling passage and/or establishment of: the Safe Drinking Water Act; the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA); the Environment Protection Agency (EPA); the Consumer Product Safety Administration; and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) of 1974 (Soylent Communications, 2012). Nader has never softened his approach, bluntly claiming regarding the Freedom of Information Act, "Government officials at all levels . . . have systematically and routinely violated both the purpose and specific provisions of the law" (Clark, 1975, p. 747), and that agencies required to enforce the Act "gave favored treatment to their friends while turning ordinary citizens away at the door" (Clark, 1975, p. 751). As a result of his fame and relentless incorruptibility, Nader was often awarded, consulted and cited (Nader.org, 2009).
Nader's American popularity was significantly harmed by his 2000 Presidential bid. Though Nader ran for President in 1996, he was only on 22 states' ballots, received relatively few votes and there was little anger over his candidacy. However, when Nader ran in the close Presidential race of 2000, he used the Green Party, was on the ballot in 44 states, and captured approximately 3% of the votes, which left Al Gore with 48.4%, Bush with 47.9% and reportedly helped Bush gain the vital State of Florida. Nader's 2000 Presidential run angered many liberals who otherwise admired him because they believe he "handed the Presidency" to the Republican Party (Soylent Communications, 2012). Scholars have studied the effects of Nader's Presidential run, some believing that his true goal was to earn 5% of the popular vote in order to obtain Federal Matching Funds for the Green Party in the next Presidential election (Burden, 2004, p. 675), others stating that his Presidential bid was a cynical, failed attempt at vote-swapping between the Democratic and Green Parties (Randazza, 2004, p. 147). Nader also ran for the Presidency in 2004 and 2008, but with little effect.
January 20, 2012
Laura Nader, Ph.D.
Professor of Anthropology
I am writing to finally mend the wounds between us caused by my 2000 Presidential campaign. In the first place, you know me too well to be expect anything other than my 2000 candidacy. From my serious, toyless childhood, through my education at Princeton and Harvard, I was a very serious young man who was devoted to public interest causes. (Soylent Communications, 2012). After my education and from the many books and organizations I've written and founded throughout my career, you know that my pursuit of the common good is relentless and that nothing can dissuade me from fighting for the good of all Americans.
Knowing me as well as you do, you cannot possibly believe that I wanted George Bush to become President. You know that I publicly called him "a giant corporation disguised as a human being" (Soylent Communications, 2012) because he is a pawn and instrument of giant corporations, which I have relentlessly fought for more than 50 years. At the same time, I did not trust Al Gore and have publicly said that he "changes his clothes three times a day, and he has absolutely no idea who he is" (Soylent Communications, 2012). Given those two unfortunate choices for the 2000 Presidential election, I believed that the American people deserved more and I would have been a better choice than either of them.
The claims that I am an egomaniac and that I engaged in vote-swapping are untrue, as you should know. I ran for only two reasons. The first reason was to give Americans a famous and reasonably popular third choice, so they would not be forced to vote for Al Gore or George Bush. Being stuck with only two parties powerful enough to actually get a President elected, Americans are often forced to vote for the lesser of two evils; I decided to counteract that terribly limited choice in 2000 (Soylent Communications, 2012). Secondly, I had hoped to gain 5% of the vote in order to help the Green Party, which offered me as its candidate, obtain Federal Matching Funds for the next (2004) Presidential election (Burden, 2004, p. 675). The Green Party is a voice for reform and environmentalism, two causes that I have always held dear; in addition, the Green Party was and is a reasonably well-known third option for voters who are unhappy with the limited choices offered by the Democratic…