From Nader to the Nadir

2018, day 6. A year ago, it was January 20th when it became official here in the U.S. of A. that a new abnormal normal would be a kind of crazy quotidian surreal reality show to end all reality shows debuted. This turn of events was set off by its antecedent, the 2016 campaign for President. It was an ugly, absurd farce for some, a breath of fresh air for others. As the debate season droned on, with increasing dismay for some, delight for others, the former reality show guy became one choice for voters, a robo retread talking head another.

It was a classic case of the evil of two lessors. Again, depending on who one may talk to today among the public-at-large, the results were satisfying or shocking. Now, almost a year later, it’s likely the shock of who won still hasn’t worn off for some, and that the shine on the winner has dulled for some of those who chose to well, give the middle finger to politics-as-usual. Regardless, it should be apparent  for those winners and losers from election day that the national political landscape looks different. Different, as in the same as a landscape changes when a 8.3 magnitude earthquake rearranges things.

For myself, I am almost unable to look upon the wreck and ruin that continues to unfold from the aftershocks of the “earthquake”. It has become difficult to process the turmoil and tension the accompanies this abnormal new normal: the threat of nuclear war between two powerful sociopathic players; the cynical and sickening choices for the heads of government agencies, resulting in the gutting of the EPA’s power to protect the environment; likewise with the Departments of Energy, Education and Health and Human Services and more, put in place to seemingly destroy each agency as a viable part of striving to serve the people for a “common good”.  Profit over people. Profit and power trumps all, even the very lives of the those who need a helping hand the most.

How could this happen? Why the evil of two lessors, meaning it’s an inherent lose-lose proposition? Just two choices? In a country of over 300 million people? Well, it really, truly, honestly was NOT just two choices. Unfortunately any other possible choices–otherwise known as a 3rd party (or 4th or 5th…) are systematically suppressed by campaign rules and a compliant mainstream, corporate media, and thus one has to perform all the heavy lifting in order to learn much about any such additional options. But if a 3rd party candidate’s name is on the ballot, from President to precinct captain in local districts, one has every right to vote for that person.  And some of those alternative choices are candidates that have the common good in mind. And when I think of such a candidate, one name resonates more than any other: Ralph Nader.

Yes, Ralph Nader, who has run for President several times, most notably in 2000, when he garnered over 2.8 million votes. He was running as a Green Party candidate then, and did so again in 2004. He ran as an Independent in other campaigns. The fact that, in spite of there being virtually no coverage of his campaign in 2000 by major media, he collected nearly 3 million votes is at once a testament to his, dare I use the term brand?, and the apparent fear of Mr.Nader by the corporate print and electronic press, which colluded in not letting his message reach a wider audience. 

And yes, Ralph Nader has a “brand”. It’s called consumer activism, which he has been championing since he was a very young law student. In 1965, he wrote a now legendary book Unsafe at Any Speed that documented how recklessly dangerous American automobile manufactures were in the design of their cars. Mr.Nader formed his “Nader’s Raiders” in continuing his commitment to consumer safety and along the way his efforts resulted in getting legislation passed, including the Clean Air and Water Act; Consumer Product Safety Act; the Freedom of Information Act; Foreign Corrupt Practices Act; the Whistleblower Protection Act and the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act.

In 2006, a documentary film about Ralph Nader was made entitled An Unreasonable Man. The title is, of course, intentionally ironic, given his ability to use sound reasoning to perceive problems and seek to rectify them. See above, that list of “Acts” in which his reasoning won the day. Today, however, as also noted earlier in this installment, who is using sound logical reasoning? Look around the rubble and rabble that has manifested itself since January 20, 2017. It’s disheartening to think that someone as magnanimous, morally responsible, and intellectually inclined as Mr.Nader is barely known to the general public, and that for many who do recognize his name, regurgitate the same scapegoating idiocy about how he cost Al Gore the 2000 election (Gore managed to lose his home state of Tennessee!). These people who know nothing about this man but parrot the sinister official naysayers who, even as Nader is about to turn 84 years old, refuse to relent on their attacks upon him. These Nader-bashing voices are the product of a massive ignorance that has reached nauseating new heights, given the 61 million voters who thought a buffoon was the reasonable choice to be given the White House and then appoint the Department Assassins set on, in some cases, literally destroying the lives of countless Americans for the sake of serving their wealthy donors, rather than their constituents. Those “average” folk who parrot this Nader-as-spoiler narrative simply can’t think for themselves. They have no idea of what critical thinking/listening is about. They are devoid of honest historical context on matters in which they assert, but provide no verifiable evidence as backup. They are fools.

Mr.Nader, seemingly tireless in spite of his age, continues to speak truth to power. He has recited so many times what are the glaring and galling dysfunctions of our current politics that he can lucidly deliver an hour-long lecture without barely a speaker’s note, pointing out the alarming aspect of the humanitarian vs military superpower imbalance in our country (do I have to explain which is on the short end of that imbalance?). He will explain how paying taxes in a system that “recycles” those tax dollars into programs that benefit our health, education, environment and the general welfare is a sound economic policy. He will explain how congress, the most powerful branch of our government, is rigged by “gerrymandering” of so many districts that, for both the Republican and Democratic parties, candidates are essentially choosing their voters rather than the other way around, as it was meant to be. Mr.Nader will explain what emotional intelligence is by alluding to Rosa Parks refusing to take a seat on the back of that bus during the viciously racist Jim Crow era in the South, calling her refusal to obey an example of having “a fire in the belly”.  A fire in the belly= not just feeling the injustices, but doing something about it. Mr.Nader will explain how even as he was studying law at Harvard 60 years ago, he sensed there being a lack of empathy in the teaching of the law, as in the manufacturing of  corporate, rather than people’s lawyers. He will invoke recent statistics documenting that 58,000 employees died owing to workplace diseases (OSHA); how 65,000 people died from preventable pollution (EPA); 100,000 cases of hospital malpractice (Harvard School of Medicine); and 100,000 cases of preventable induced infections occurred (Centers for Disease Control). Mr.Nader will tell you that more people die from air pollution every month than died from the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. He’ll explain that the public owns the broadcast airwaves as part of the “commons” but have no control over its content, which is dictated by those corporations that are technically tenants, to the public being their landlords. Those commons and their implied public control thereof  also, he will reveal, include timberlands, the oil beneath our feet, and natural gas. Own them we may, but who even knows that is the case? He will explain that most of the technologies we take for granted and the pharmaceuticals that are marketed were created by research and development funded by our tax dollars, then essentially “given away” to corporations to exploit financially, R&D from the National Institutes of Health, NASA and the Department of Defense, among others.

Today’s absurdist, inane, reckless political reality comes flying in our faces from myriad media outlets. No heavy lifting needed to see this sickening freak show. Ralph Nader and his clear and matter-of-fact speaking manner is still buried under the thick layers of psychobabble, prevarication and posturing that consumes most of those citizen-owned airwaves. You must go to Mr.Nader, media-wise, because he is not permitted easy access to a public that mostly doesn’t see much reality other than that which comes to them via screens ever larger and ever smaller, screens that possess the eyeballs of pre-teens for 6 to 7 hours a day, game-playing, indoors, mastering a kill count or more innocent virtual realities that serve little or no redeeming value. In the meantime grown adults take pictures of their Potbelly lunch and post it on Facebook or Instagram. Let’s not even start on Twitter, okay?

Not a pretty word picture that I paint here, yes. Then again, my sincere hope is that, as a result of the debacle of the 2016 campaign, where vapid, trite, vulgar, platitude-laden rhetoric replaced thoughtful debate, hope there may be. Look what Bernie Sanders, an Independent disguised as Social Democrat who garnered 13 million votes, did. He demonstrated that the time is nearing when a 3rd party candidate CAN win. After all, Sanders, like Nader, got those votes in spite of virtually initial zero serious press coverage, and refusing any corporate money. He was channeling Ralph Nader. Sanders voice was thereby heard in spite of the same attempts at dismissing him as irrelevant, with the anti-democratic dogma of third-party candidates cannot win a national election mobilized by the mainstream media. 

So, maybe that’s my sincere hope. But there’s that cynic in me, for sure. Collective memories of one bad turn of events after another emanating from the voting booth. As I said way up there, I’m hardly able to contemplate the daily reminder of how dumbed down is the general public and what calamity that has wrought.

For all the “resist” and “fight back” and “indivisible” movements that I hear a little about via non-mainstream media, I can’t help but wonder where was all this electoral energy and righteousness years ago when it should have been alarmingly apparent to anyone who works for a living that things were getting worse and worse. So many bad choices made. Cause and effect. This could have and should have been so easily avoided, methinks. As Phaedrus famously asks: and what is good, and what is not good, need anyone tell us these things? But there is very little being done to right the wrongs. Just look around, okay? No not at those screens. Look beyond the end of the nose. Politically, I  feel about as despairing as I do about our environment and whether there is a future for a better reality–for either of those critical components of our daily lives. Have we reached a point to no return on either front? It’s particularly despairing knowing that, back in 2000, technically, there was a great candidate whose name was on the ballot for President: Mr.Ralph Nader. And anyone eligible to vote could have voted for him and he would have been President. He was the only rational choice, actually, for anyone who did hear his well reasoned, insightful ideas. But he was forbidden to be allowed on the debate stage, owing to the rigged set-up that requires a candidate to be polling at least 15%. But when he is given no coverage, no easily heard voice, how could he register on the radar of the broader electorate? Instead of Nader, we got, well, we got what we deserved. And so then as now, its political business as usual, though now we have reached the nadir of national politics. Can the bar be set any lower?

But, as Ralph himself can still tell you here in early 2018,: to know and not DO, is to Not Know. We are a country in decline, infested with those easily distracted, short attention spans, seemingly unable to identify personal opinion from an inference from a stone, cold fact. A confederacy of fools and dunces.

They know very little to nothing in the bigger picture. Not that they know that.







About jharrin4

mass communication/speech instructor at College of DuPage and Triton College in suburban Chicago. Army veteran of the Viet Nam era.
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3 Responses to From Nader to the Nadir

  1. Thank you for illuminating Ralph Nader’s unparalleled accomplishments and continued relevance…a man of reason in an age of fallacy.


  2. Julie Samuels says:

    Yes, the ignorance of the millions is the problem – even those who appear to be “informed” in order to add yet one more organization to the field of silos. It’s talk and not action. And they will not act because they will have to confront the political machine and they are unwilling to do that. Thank you for this comprehensive analysis. It’s moving and could be inspiring to those who dare to read it.


    • Joseph Harrington says:

      Thanks for the approval, Julie. As I am sometimes compelled to do, I have added a bit more bile and bite to it. Also, I changed its title.

      Let’s do West Gate soon. Remember, I’m a Green at heart, waiting for the second coming of Ralph within its ranks.




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