© 2007 By Farrell Winter
I first dug Ralph Nader in 1968, the last year of my teens. He was on television at my parents’ house (where I lived at the time), talking about cars being unsafe and how they could be made safer. I had a budding anti-corporate bent then and was immediately sympathetic to his message. Nader himself looked like a geek. And sort of acted like one. Despite this, I remember being impressed by his calm demeanor and seemingly vast store of knowledge.
Nader was in and out of the news through the years. I considered him someone to be admired for his many efforts, with otherwise liberal politics (i.e. centrist to near-right). When he ran for president in 2000 in the Green Party, the year Albert Gore won that office, I was prepared to sit the election out. Then I found out that Winona LaDuke had agreed to run as Nader’s vice-president (or was asked and accepted). I love this woman. If you don’t already know, she is a feminist and long-time environmental activist from the White Earth Reservation in Northern Minnesota. She's great!
This is how I became a Nader fan. I voted for him because of LaDuke. He grew so much during that campaign. He was wise enough, and humble enough, to look at the implications of what he was learning. He made the connections. He understood. He spoke. I’m not saying I have him on a pedestal – that’s reserved for my wife – but that I genuinely admire his honesty and courage. And, I suppose, his geeky manner.
Nader turned himself into a socialist. Without a tangential digression into socialism I will just say that this is my interpretation. Nader understood this: the ultimate purpose of government, the reason government was created in the first place, is to provide for the welfare of the citizens. Not to oppress them and kill them and make them pay taxes for the privilege of being oppressed and killed. Not to grease the palms and bank accounts of criminal corporations that manufacture junk, such as is happening with U.S. equipment in Iraq today. The Iraqi resistance kills Americans, and the American military kills Americans. Almost 5000 American service members and more than one million Iraqis as I write. Uh-oh, this is a digression of another sort.
Anyway, that’s one definition of socialism: when the government does what needs doing for the people, because the people are the ones who established the government. A shorter definition of socialism is “economic democracy” (and of democracy, “political socialism”). I remember Nader repeatedly citing Western European countries’ low poverty rates and low illiteracy rates. Wait, isn't that more properly “social democracy” than socialism? Yes, because professional politicians run the government and not the people themselves, through a system of, say, urban and rural workers councils.
Bottom line: Nader went from being a Democrat to being a democrat. He’s cool. I have even forgiven his denunciation of rock-n-roll, back in the day. On a television talk show in the late Sixties, he complained angrily about "hard rock music."