Nader: A different kind of Green
Ralph Nader might have run for president twice as a Green Party candidate. He might have played a vital role in the passing of the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act and the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency. But he is not your typical progressively-minded environmentalist.
In 2000, Nader declared that Al Gore and George W. Bush were both dominated by corporate interests, as similar as “Tweedledee and Tweedledum.” Not many environmentalists would equate the political godfather of the climate movement with a Texas cowboy who led his state towards the bottom of national environmental rankings while governor. Even when it became apparent that his place on the ballot was taking desperately needed votes from Gore in key states like Florida and New Hampshire, Nader refused to drop out of the race.
Throughout his career, Nader has shown his inability to settle for the ‘lesser of two evils.’ Whereas many progressive individuals and organizations focus on working within the system by supporting the least-worst candidate and donating small amounts of money in hopes of countering corporate power, Nader is repeatedly in conflict with both business and government for his relentless consumer advocacy.
In 1965, after Nader wrote “Unsafe at Any Speed,” a book detailing resistance of car manufacturers to spend money on basic safety features like seat belts, he was harassed by private detectives hired by General Motors. His four presidential runs were widely criticized by the Democratic party and yet he persevered. He started the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (US PIRG), a now widespread organization that seeks to protect consumer rights. More recently, he wrote “Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us,” a novel that suggests that if the very wealthy harnessed their power for good, they could fix the world’s problems.
In a sense, Nader is still an idealistic college student. While the trend among environmentalists seems to be partnerships with business: take the recent move of the President of the Sierra Club to consulting for Wal-Mart: Nader continues to hold out for a more radical reformation of the system.
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