Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate who has spent much of his adult life working to expand protection of the environment, and pursuing companies that he feels have endangered the safety of their workers or of consumers with their products. He has been most effective in spurring on the development of some of the United States' governmental agencies, like the Environmental Protection Agency and least effective in some of his other endeavors, like his running for the US Presidency three times.
Nader has a degree in law from Harvard Law School. He had a brief stint in the military in 1959. In the early 1960s, he taught government and history at the University of Hartford, Connecticut.
His political career began in 1964 when Nader began work for Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the Assistant Secretary of Labor. He also began a writing career that continues to this date. He has contributed to the Christian Science Monitor, The Nation and Progressive Populist.
In the mid 1960s, Nader went on his first “consumer safety” mission, attacking General Motors for producing the Corvair, a car he felt was unsafe. General Motors responded poorly by attempting to entrap him into compromising situations. They were never successful, and Nader sued and won against General Motors for invading his privacy.
Nader’s highly public attack of General Motors led many younger US citizens to join him in his crusade for the consumer. This group of activists, called Nader’s Raiders became known for their progressive stance on consumer rights. Numerous books and studies were published by the group, which expanded on various issues.
In the 1980s, Nader turned toward fighting against large corporations. During this ongoing battle, he has founded many nonprofit organizations. Some are watchdog organizations aimed at fighting the expansion of corporations to the detriment of the environment. Others promote the rights of women in the workplace, and try to provide greater protection for children using the Internet.
Nader received national and critical attention in his second attempt to run for the presidency as a representative of the Green Party. His first attempt in 1996 garnered less than 1% of the public vote. However, many in the Democratic Party feel that in 2000, he made a critical difference in former Vice President Al Gore’s campaign.
Though Nader and Gore had similar environmental policies, Nader’s straight talk and avid criticism of the government earned him over 2 million votes. In an election that was very close, many Democrats feel that he stole votes from Gore and ultimately cost him the election. It is true that in the most hotly contested state totals, if the votes for Nader had gone to Gore, Gore would have won the election.
Nader ran again in 2004, but not as a representative of the Green Party. He was not even on the ballot in some states and received far fewer votes. Though the Kerry/Bush election was very close, his votes would not have been enough to change the outcome of the election.
Nader continues to work as a critic of large corporations and advocate for consumer’s rights. He has authored over 20 books and been responsible for many laws authored in the 1970s and 1980s protecting consumers’ rights. He has, as well, been a constant critic of the current US/Iraq war. As a child of Lebanese parents, he has been particularly critical of the 2006 Israel/Lebanon war.