- Nader, Ralph
born Feb. 27, 1934, Winsted, Conn., U.S.U.S. lawyer and consumer advocate.The son of Lebanese immigrants, he attended Princeton University and Harvard Law School. In 1963 he left his private law practice in Hartford, Conn., to hitchhike to Washington, D.C., where he began public interest work. His concern about unsafe car designs resulted in the best-selling book Unsafe at Any Speed (1965), which led directly to the passage of national auto-safety standards. Since then he and his associates, known as "Nader's Raiders," have performed numerous studies on consumer health, safety, and financial issues and have lobbied for greater government regulation of business and industry in a variety of areas. He was instrumental in the passage of the Freedom of Information Act (1966) and in establishing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the Environmental Protection Agency. He also founded the consumer organization Public Citizen and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, an umbrella organization for other public interest research groups. As the Green Party candidate in the 2000 U.S. presidential election, he won 3% of the national vote. His work has had major and lasting effects on many aspects of American life.
* * *▪ 2001Running as the candidate of the Green Party, American consumer advocate Ralph Nader won fewer than 3% of the votes cast in the U.S. presidential election held on Nov. 7, 2000, but as it turned out, he was crucial to the outcome. He took far more votes from the Democratic candidate, Vice Pres. Al Gore, than from the Republican, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, and in two states, Florida and New Hampshire, Nader's total votes far exceeded Bush's winning margins. Without Nader on the ballot, it was argued, Gore might well have carried the two states, either one of which would have given him a majority in the electoral college.Nader was born on Feb. 27, 1934, to Lebanese immigrants in Winsted, Conn. He graduated with honours from Princeton University in 1955 and from Harvard Law School in 1958. After a short period in private practice, he moved to Washington, D.C., in 1963 and in 1964 began a brief stint in the U.S. Department of Labor, during which he worked on automobile safety. His 1965 best-selling book, Unsafe at Any Speed, helped lead to passage of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966. It was only the first of a long series of issues Nader took up, including food processing, the use of pesticides, pension reform, and global trade. Earning a living largely from royalties from his writing and from speaking fees, he was assisted by a staff known as Nader's Raiders. In 1971 he founded Public Citizen, which coordinated his activities, and over the years he was credited with having influenced the establishment of a number of government agencies, including the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency. His advocacy also was important in passage of the Freedom of Information Act of 1974. Perhaps more than any other single person, he became identified with the consumer protection movement of the late 20th century, and many safeguards that came to be taken for granted—such as manufacturers' recalls of defective products and standards for food safety—originated with or were influenced by his work.In the campaign, along with denouncing what he called “corporate welfare,” Nader advocated public financing of elections, universal health care, large cuts in military spending, better mass transit, and increases in the minimum wage. He justified his campaign, his second as the Green Party candidate, by arguing that both Gore and Bush were beholden to corporate interests and that the differences between them were insignificant. Dismissing those who warned that he was helping to elect a president opposed to the principles for which he stood, he said that people should vote their consciences, but many of the Democrats who over the years had supported his reforms felt betrayed by a spoiler.Robert Rauch
* * *▪ American lawyer and politicianborn February 27, 1934, Winsted, Connecticut, U.S.American lawyer and consumer advocate (consumer advocacy) who was a four-time candidate for U.S. president (1996, 2000, 2004, and 2008). For coverage of the 2008 election, see United States Presidential Election of 2008.The son of Lebanese immigrants, Nader graduated from Princeton University in 1955 and received a law degree from Harvard in 1958. Nader soon became interested in unsafe vehicle designs that led to high rates of automobile accidents and fatalities. He became a consultant to the U.S. Department of Labor in 1964, and in 1965 he published Unsafe at Any Speed, which criticized the American auto industry in general for its unsafe products and attacked General Motors (General Motors Corporation)' (GM's) Corvair automobile in particular. The book became a best-seller and led directly to the passage of the 1966 National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, which gave the government the power to enact safety standards for all automobiles sold in the United States.GM went to exceptional lengths to discredit Nader, including hiring a private detective to follow him. Nader sued for invasion of privacy, and the case was settled after GM admitted wrongdoing before a Senate committee. With the funds he received from the lawsuit and aided by impassioned activists, who became known as Nader's Raiders, he helped establish a number of advocacy organizations, most notably Public Citizen. Nader's Raiders became involved in such issues as nuclear safety, international trade, regulation of insecticides, meat processing, pension reform, land use, and banking.Although Nader and his associates did not invent the idea of consumer advocacy, they did radically transform its meaning, focusing on fact-finding research, analysis, and governmental lobbying for new laws on key consumer issues. Nader was also instrumental in the passage in 1988 of California's Proposition 103, which provided for a rollback of auto insurance rates.Nader ran for president of the United States in 1996 but collected less than 1 percent of the vote. In 2000 he was nominated by the Green Party as its U.S. presidential candidate. His campaign focused on universal health care, environmental and consumer protections, campaign finance reform, and strengthened labour rights. Realizing that he had little hope of winning the election, Nader concentrated on obtaining 5 percent of the national vote, the minimum necessary to secure federal matching funds for the Green Party for future presidential campaigns. Nader eventually fell well short of this goal, receiving only 2.7 percent of the national vote, but he may have aided Republican candidate George W. Bush (Bush, George W.)—who narrowly won the presidency over Democrat Al Gore (Gore, Al)—by attracting votes that otherwise might have gone to Gore, especially in the key state of Florida. In 2004, despite pleas by many Democrats that he not run, Nader campaigned for the presidency as an independent. Although he received only 0.3 percent of the vote in that election, he again ran for president in 2008 and won about 0.5 percent of the popular vote.
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