Make You Ralph

Chait, Jonathan
March 2004
New Republic;3/8/2004, Vol. 230 Issue 8, p10
The author argues that independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader has always been an extremist whose paranoia and unwillingness to compromise frequently sabotaged the causes he promoted. As Ralph Nader prepares for another spoiler run at the presidency, liberals are again wringing their hands at the damage he may do not only to Democrats' chances of retaking the White House but to his own reputation as well. The good-man-who-went-wrong assessment of Nader is virtually unchallenged among liberals. But, if you think about it for a moment, it's awfully strange. The qualities that liberals have observed in him of late--the monomania, the vindictiveness, the rage against pragmatic liberalism--have been present all along. Indeed, an un-blinkered look at Nader's public life shows that his presidential campaigns represent not a betrayal of his earlier career but its apotheosis. Nader made his name with the 1965 publication of "Unsafe at Any Speed," an expose of the Chevy Corvair. Few realize that Nader's campaign against the Corvair was only the most visible edge of an uncompromising, conspiratorial worldview. Nader believed not only that the Corvair was dangerous but that General Motors (GM) knew it was. Nader's friends recalled that often he would act furtively, speaking in code, always convinced he was being monitored or phone-tapped. Nader rightly wins credit for spurring progress during the era. And yet, even during his heyday, Nader habitually denounced liberals and their work, sabotaging the very causes he claimed to believe in. For Nader, it was almost axiomatic that anybody who disagreed with him was a corporate lackey.


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