Are Nader-Like Reforms Still Possible?

Ralph Nader says the reforms of the 1960’s and 70’s are no longer possible as Congress is bought and sold by a small number of very rich people and commercial interests.

Also see Part 1: Ralph Nader: McCarthyism Made Us Veer Away From a Systemic Doctrine for Change

Consumer advocate and author Ralph Nader says that the anti-communist “reign of terror” inaugurated in the 1950’s by Senator Joe McCarthy intimidated activists from advocating for “any kind of systemic public philosophy to change things for the better.”

“So they just became very empirical,” says Nader. “They’ll try to get a labor union organized or try to get better working conditions or something like that because they didn’t want to be accused of ‘isms’, you know, like ‘socialism’ or ‘communism’. And the other side was, of course, they were all about capitalism.”

“We went after the auto companies’ unsafe cars. No ‘ism’ there,” he says.

Paul Jay asked Nader why his run of legislative accomplishments – including the Clean Air Act, Occupational Safety and Health Act, Freedom of Information Act in 1974, and the Clear Water Act, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the Mine Safety and Health Act – culminated in the 70’s.

Nader said this was because the Democratic Party had then started to accept corporate funding, making it “harder and harder to get congressional hearings, harder and harder to get decent judges to hear your case, harder and harder to get regulatory agencies to issue safety standards or even to make investigations.”

“The Constitution starts ‘We the People’, not We the Corporation,” says Nader. “They don’t even mention the corporation or a company in the Constitution. So why do they rule us?”

“Because we have disempowered ourselves by making excuses for ourselves. Oh, it doesn’t pay to vote, because it doesn’t mean anything to us. Oh, why go to a city council meeting? It doesn’t matter. That’s exactly what the big boys want you to do. They’ll pay you to be cynical if you don’t do it free,” says Nader.