A few weeks ago, I finished Ralph Nader’s book Crashing the Party, along with a biography by Justin Martin entitled Nader: Crusader, Spoiler, Icon. Since Hedda is working for Ralph’s campaign, I thought it might be a good idea to learn a little bit about the guy.
His own book, Crashing the Party, is a chronical of Ralph’s journey through the 2000 presidental election. It is unfortunate that the book is so poorly written. With Ralph’s unique perspectives and insights, the topic is ripe with lessons to be learned for this current election. However, the book continually alternates between a credit-role of the campaign and Nader’s personal opinions about the current political system and how elections are won and lost. While the latter is interesting, fighting through the tidal wave of other material is difficult. There are a few highlights, though, such as the descriptions of the Super Rallies held near the end of the campaign; and his point is well made that even though he filled Madison Square Garden (and a dozen other similar venues) to the brim with supporters, they were hardly mentioned at all by any major media outlets. Overall, however, you could learn almost as much from Martin’s biography.
And that biography is quite a different read. It is well organized and written, and the tales are quite amazing. Nader’s personal crusade against the corrupting power of money from enormous corporations has lead to some very interesting stories. At one time, he was considered by many to be the single most powerful man in Washington, even compared to the President. In fact, his endorsement of Jimmy Carter is seen as one of the reasons a strange peanut farmer was ever elected in the first place!
The on-the-record and very public disclosure of GM’s underhanded dealings in trying to discredit him as he fought for automobile safety in this nation are anecdotal proof enough of the dangerous hubris of our souless money-making machines. It is fortunate for Nader that his life has been one of almost ridiculous ascetism, for they could find nothing at all to pin on him.
At the end of the book, I was simply astounded by the sheer number of Good Things that this man has virtually single-handedly done for this country. Did you know that Ralph Nader was responsible for OSHA, Citizens Utility Boards, and the mandatory three-point seatbelt? Or how about getting complimentary travel when you are bumped from an intentionally overbooked airplane? And when you’re eating off-the-grill burgers on the Fourth of July this year, thank Ralph Nader for closing all the loopholes and making federal meat inspection standards apply everywhere. The list simply goes on and on…
No matter who you’re voting for, you should read his biography. His life is an example of how to change this nation for the better from the outside. If you only think of Ralph Nader as a spoiler of elections, learning about his life might very well change your mind.