Monday, November 22, 2010

Ralph Nader - Marcello (2004)

Marcello, Patricia Cronin. 2004. Ralph Nader : a biography. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press.

To be honest, this book is not for a scholar, but the general republic. However, a reader like me (an international student from authoritarian political regime) might get much information from this kind of easily written book. Before reading this book, Ralph Nader is a person who has been running many presidential campaigns (that does not seem possible under the duopoly system in American politics), and a person who was a consumer activist who was also known as public spoiler.

Obviously, this book is very positive toward Ralph Nader (with only a few negative comments of critics on Nader’s achievements). Thus, a naïve reader like me should be more careful to say who Ralph Nader is (and was).

Chapter 1 is mainly about childhood and lives in Princeton and Harvard. Most of information does not seem attractive.

Chapter 2 is about his activity about consumer’s auto-safety. The first work seems very impressive to me because his initial political works start with legal works, rather than orthodox political ones or grass-rooted movements. Probably his previous careers as a muckraking journalist might be the seed for his entire career.

Chapter 3 is that his legal work became enlarged and was turned into a conventional political work, i.e., moving the congress by advising politicians.

Chapter 4 describes the enlarged human network of Nader, and how to extend his cause with other good men’s works. Chapter 5 is about the climax of Nader’s Raiders’ work and their influence in 1960-1970’s.

Chapter 6-7 describe the weakening influence or performance of Nader-like movements in American society, and his personal loss and his stepping back from the front of the movements.

Chapter 8 and Chapter 9 are about the rebounding of his causes and justice in 1980’s conservative period in American society. As known, the resignation of Nixon and the election of President Carter is the short time rebound of so-called Democratic spirit, but it suddenly turns to conservative minds symbolized as Ronald Reagan.

Chapter 10 and Chapter 11 are about his challenge (probably hopeless) for American presidency for disseminating his cause in American Society. Partly, this period is the new-Democrat period symbolized as William Clinton. Actually, he is not an orthodox Democrat (probably, that’s the reason why he succeeded with many and many obstacles and misfortunes). While not clearly noted, Nader’s challenges are an expression of despair over the weakly represented progressive idea in Democratic Party. In the system of duopoly, it is near impossible to be elected as President (and even Senator, less but still difficult for Congressman), whether a politician is Green party, Reform party, or Socialism party. Probably, the trial was to keep the fire of alternative progressive idea (e.g., environmentalism) being firing.

The last chapter is the close chapter that portrays Nader’s activities after the defeat of 2000 Election until 2003.

Good introduction to who Nader is, I believe.

As an international student who has very very ambivalent feelings toward American politics, I have to confess that the existence of Nader is the evidence showing American society is healthy and can be a light for other worlds (even if it is not the perfect light-rod). His action and causes, without no doubt, are for the social weak or weak things (like birds, wild lives) rather than the socially powerful or wealthy ones. In my belief, the good society (democratic society, if you want) is the society where any person can fight for voices of the weak without feeling to be hurt by governmental forces. My home country, in this respect, is still inferior to the U.S. Although the U.S. is not the ideal nation-state in my mind, she, in some sense, can give hope.

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