See “An Unreasonable Man”

I’ve just seen the 2-disc DVD of “An Unreasonable Man“, the documentary about Ralph Nader, and it’s well worth seeing. One of the reasons this documentary is so important is because Nader’s work is highlighted and his adversaries get so much screen time yet pose such poor arguments to explain why Nader is simultaneously not important enough to be in political debates and the scapegoat for Democratic Party electoral failure; you hear their arguments in their own words and you can see their points destroyed (if you couldn’t immediately spot the holes in the arguments). It is genuinely difficult for some people to acknowledge that Nader’s ego is not the issue and that his work is what progressive politics should resemble.

Also eviscerated is the Democratic Party; unless the progressives and the Left stop voting for Democrats, the Democrats will continue to believe that they’ll have “nowhere to go” (as Lawrence O’Donnell, who worked in the Democratic Party, said) and behave accordingly. The scene (edited out of the movie but included in the extras on the first DVD) about the Congressional Black Caucus was particularly illuminating in that nobody from the CBC challenges what Nader and Nader campaign leader Theresa Amato say about their meeting with the CBC, so we can see how much the CBC colludes with the Democrats in keeping the voters around 50%. Joshua Frank has more on “The Demise of the Congressional Black Caucus”.

Nader takes the power of public discussion on TV seriously—on the second DVD there is a clip where he says candidates for public elective office who get their money exclusively from public funding will get free TV time. If you have never worked on a campaign, you should know that media buys are the top expenditure. Making this policy a matter of license acquisition will essentially force TV stations to do this. As Robert McChesney has said, a TV broadcast license in the US is virtually a license to print money. American TV airwaves are publicly owned. We should be charging them rent. Telling them to give ballot-qualified candidates free, uninterrupted, prime-time TV time is perfectly going easy on them.

The movie also gives considerable time to people who supported his work in the past and disagree with his runs for president in recent years. The interesting thing about them are the rationales they use to explain away the distance between their claimed political beliefs (which all match Nader’s) and how they behave. They recognize that nobody else talks about these issues at all (no challenge to the established parties, “weak beer” as Phil Donahue says in a clip on the second disc), yet they are compelled to distance themselves from Nader (including Public Citizen, the organization Nader founded, in a particularly shameful display where Public Citizen tries to convince us that merely saying “Ralph Nader, founder” is supporting his candidacy). I take away from this how intolerant some are of losing a race, how much they demand predictability and orderliness in elections (no matter how much this conflicts with Democracy), and how many people buy into what Barry Commoner, a third party candidate in 1980, was asked by a reporter: “Dr. Commoner, are you a serious candidate or are you just interested in the issues?”.

One wonders how much more worse the two corporate parties and their supporters believe things can become.

2 thoughts on “See “An Unreasonable Man”

  1. I have just viewed “An Unreasonable Man” and must say the title of the film is a misnomer.

    Indeed, Ralph Nader seems to be eminently reasonable, with a laser-like focus on issues and ideas.

    His detractors appear to be ideologues (and angry ones at that) who are primarily interested in ad hominem attacks.

    The vitriol of people like Eric Alterman and Todd Gitlin just amazes me. No amount of rational argumentation seems to touch them and they fairly spit out their anger.

    I am thankful that Theresa Amato and Ralph Nader have the internal fortitude to stand for very basic and fundamental principles upon which democracy is founded.

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