Don’t Hate Ralph Nader. He’s Still a Hero.

Scrutinizing culture.
June 26 2012 5:09 PM

Don’t Hate This Man

Ralph Nader is still a hero.

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It’s a great compression of our economic situation and I also like the linguistic touches, like “in today’s mad world.” The phrase reminds me of a 17th-century play by Thomas Middleton, sometime Shakespeare collaborator: A Mad World, My Masters.

Back to the litany of horrors: “76 million annual cases of foodborne illnesses” from corporate agriculture. People still being poisoned by asbestos! By lead! (My old colleague the late Jack Newfield devoted his reportorial life to an anti-lead poisoning crusade, but Nader reports that new toxic metals are poisoning kids every day.) Usurious credit card rates permitted by special deals secured by lobbyists. The Exxon Valdez payout still not finalized!

Another artfully written outrage: “Nestles’ very popular refrigerated Toll House cookie dough” leads to an E. coli outbreak. “It’s like being poisoned by someone you love.”

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War contractors profiteering off war crimes. Industrial water pollution. The list goes on and on, and it’s all documented.

It would take a book to give the specifics, so I really recommend you get a copy of Steamed, because it will change the way you think about America. It’s just that maddening, even in this mad world. At the very least, check out Progressive Populist, the lively, angry publication Nader contributes to.

And that’s the thing, that’s why Nader wouldn’t listen to pleas to back out in Florida at the last minute. He genuinely believes both parties are in the pocket of profiteering corporate interests and their lobbyists. The Democrats do little more than impotent whimpering, which merely serves as bipartisan window dressing for Republican corporate puppets. Nader didn’t owe the Democrats any special favors back then. Still, it is one of the tragedies of history that he is painted as the villain of 2000 by some. If only it were just Al Gore who suffered. But it wasn’t.

It’s one of those hopelessly complex moral questions that seems simple in hindsight. But not when you’re in the middle of them. Like the famous Trolley Problem in “consequentialist ethics.” One example: Should a trolley swerve off the tracks to avoid running down five men if it risks killing one on the side of the roadbed as a consequence? There’s no good answer. But Ralph Nader’s a good man. He doesn’t deserve the hostility he gets from some.

Don’t hate him. He’s still a hero.

Oh, and one more thing, Ralph. Let's not tempt fate again. Please don't run this time.