Ralph Nader's entry into the U.S. Presidential elections for the third time has drawn attention to in-built defects of the two-party system. RANDOR GUY profiles the celebrated American consumer-activist.
THE one-man crusader has once again taken up cudgels for the exploited consumer of the U.S. The founding father of the movement he had initiated, which came to be known as "Naderism", is again in the fray for the U.S. Presidential elections 2004. Four years ago, he garnered three per cent of votes, which many thought had upset the winning prospects of Al Gore. This socially conscious activist who created history in his own way by fighting erring corporate giants is Ralph Nader best-selling writer, articulate orator and the one-man army against consumer exploitation.
Possibly aware that he stands no real chance of making it to the White House, why does he then do so? In a recent television interview he said: "I want to show that the U.S. does not belong to the two parties, the Democrats and Republicans, but to the people." Interestingly one journalist recently called him "Kerry's Nightmare!"
What made him don the mantle of the crusader, a task recalling the cleaning of the Aegean stables of corporate greed and malpractice? Nader said, "Well, it's a thirst for justice. If you know what's going on and know how society can be improved and happiness advanced, you tend to focus on how to get things done that will help health, safety, opportunity, justice, accountability of powerful institutions to the people they are supposed to serve."
He splashed on the American horizon way back in 1965 with his best-selling book, Unsafe At Any Speed. Deeply upset and angered by the indifference of American corporate giants, he began to look into the manufacturing methods of the automobile industry, which did not bother about the safety and security of the ultimate consumer, the car owner. He crossed swords with the powerful automobile giant General Motors Corporation over the "Corvair". Despite harassment from the corporation, he forged ahead and the resultant book, besides being a bestseller, raised disturbing questions about why thousands of Americans were being killed or seriously injured in car accidents when the technology was readily available to make cars safer.
He sued General Motors for the invasion of privacy and the landmark case ended in GMC making a substantial financial settlement. With that money, he founded his consumer activist movement in the U.S. Many like-minded Americans joined him and they came to be collectively known as "Nader's Raiders".
Unsafe at Any Speed created a sensation and an avalanche of public protest forced the government and automobile czars to introduce new user safety measures like air bags and shoulder harnesses in cars. These are now compulsory features.
Later GMC publicly apologised to Nader for its pressure-tactics before a nationally televised Senate Committee Hearing. This significant success bestowed on Nader the status of a folk hero of the America and cult figure.
Ralph Nader is the U.S.'s most celebrated and effective crusader for consumer rights and privileges a "big brother" role that repeatedly brought him into conflict with both the corporate sector and the Government.
Ralph Nader was born on February 27, 1934 in Winsted, Connecticut to Nadra and Rose Nader, Lebanese immigrants who ran a restaurant and bakery. Nader's dream of becoming a "people's lawyer" was instilled in him by his parents, who held regular family seminars on the duties of citizenship in a democracy. In 1951, Nader went to Princeton University and graduated magna cum laude in 1955, with a major in Government and Economics. Then he joined the famed Harvard Law School. He became an editor of the Harvard Law Review, and graduated with honours.
Even as a young lawyer, he was upset by the indifference of American corporations to the consequences of their actions. He began to lecture widely against the arrogant abuse of corporate power. And then he hit big time in 1965 with Unsafe at Any Speed.
Inspired by his success, Nader expanded the activities of "Nader's Raiders" and exposed industrial hazards, pollution, commercial products unfit for human consumption and also charged the American government with neglect of the laws on the statue book for consumer safety and protection. He played a major role in the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Freedom of Information Act and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Nader also criticised the Republican and Democratic Parties, the key players in Presidential elections, for depending on the funds from big business and rich Americans which leave them obligated to the power of money and businesses, which are normally unmindful of the interests of the consumer. It was with such objectives that he jumped into the ring of presidential elections in 1996 and again in 2000 mainly to make the average American aware of the in-built defects of the two-party system.
For the third time in 2004, Nader, a bachelor, has jumped into the ring to expand the area of awareness that for too long one or the other of the two parties has ruled the U.S., and such a system has not helped the common man and the minorities of the country.
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