In the wake of the 2000 presidential election disaster, Democrats got in line to take turns kicking Ralph Nader in the groin, blaming him for the victory of George W. Bush.
He was an easy target—and as the horrors of the Bush administration grew clearer, it became even easier for Dems to blame Nader rather than their propensity to pick really crappy candidates. Maybe that's the real tragedy of the 2000 and 2004 elections; instead of liberals learning from their idiotic mistakes and centrist pandering, they began projecting their failures onto a marginalized political figure.
That's not to say that Nader is any good as a politician; in fact, the very traits that make him one of the country's most effective activists— hard- headedness, inability to compromise his progressive beliefs—made him unelectable...and seemingly insufferable. Those are also the traits that shine in An Unreasonable Man, a new documentary about Nader and his conflicted relationship with politics, his colleagues, and reality.
Far from being the agitprop one might expect, Unreasonable is insightful, balanced, and fascinating. It begins by describing Nader's consumer advocate past, highlighting myriad ways he's made America a safer, better place. From there, it charts his rise as an activist superhero, and ultimately his stab at running for president. Along the way, he's lionized by adoring supporters, and villainized by people who consider him the most dangerous man in America.
The portrait that emerges is of a man who is as stubborn as he is passionate, and who won't hesitate to place ideological purity above his personal relationships. It's at once sad and inspirational, and made me fondly remember Nader's inspirational political speeches from seven years ago—when his candidacy still represented a sea of endless possibility, rather than the utter buzzkill it became.