I have recently seen An Unreasonable Man, the documentary about Ralph Nader. What I came away with was that this is a film about far more than Ralph Nader. The review I read before seeing the film missed the point, saying:
“It’s a biographical epic about a public servant who became more and more rigid as the country changed around him, ?”
The most important part of the film for me was its depiction of Nader’s experience in the `70’s through the `90’s. At one point he says he was unable to get hearings on important consumer issues even when there was a Democratic majority controlling Congress in the late `80’s and early `90’s. The refusal of Clinton and Gore even to meet with Nader over automobile pollution issues provided another telling scene. The fact that Nader did not change along with our country should not call him in for criticism.
In short, this film provides a synopsis of our country’s slide rightward over the last 3 ½ decades. Those of us over 50 know the stories; supposed right-winger Richard Nixon held and supported domestic policy positions (negative income tax, creating the EPA) that would not even be up for discussion in the Democratic caucus today. I want to make two points that are hopefully relevant to this blog:
1. Any members or viewers with contacts in the educational system should push for having this film viewed at local colleges and high schools. Professors and teachers of civics and political science should consider developing curricula around some of the points made by An Unreasonable Man.
2. Locally, because we are so hopeful based on Gov. Patrick’s election, we need to stay true to the statement, made in the film, that it is loyalty to principles, not to individuals, that should be paramount. Of course, this is heresy in both political parties. Personal loyalty is the gear oil that lubricates our legislature and, at least in the past, much of the executive branch. I have faith that Gov. Patrick gets this. As someone who “broke open” Massachusetts’ Democratic politics, he is in a position to lead substantive and procedural changes that open our political system and can counter the cynicism and manipulation that drove Nader to decide a presidential campaign was his only option if his issues were to have any chance of being heard.