The Democratic Party is at its lowest ebb in the memory of everyone now alive. It’s lost the White House and both houses of Congress. On the state level it’s weaker than at any time since 1920. And so far in 2017 Democrats have gone 0 for 4 in special elections to replace Republican members of Congress who joined the Trump administration.
How did it come to this? One person the Democratic Party is not going to ask, but perhaps should, is legendary consumer advocate and three-time presidential candidate Ralph Nader.
Nader, who’s now 83 and has been been based in Washington, D.C. for over fifty years, has had a front row seat to the Democrats’ slow collapse. After his bombshell exposé of the U.S. car industry, Unsafe at Any Speed, he and his organizations collaborated with congressional Democrats to pass a flurry of landmark laws protecting the environment, consumers and whistleblowers. Journalist William Greider described him as one of America’s three top models for small-d democratic activism, together with Saul Alinsky and Martin Luther King, Jr. Meanwhile, the 1971 “Powell Memo,” which laid the groundwork for the resurgence of the corporate right, named him as a key enemy of “the system,” calling him “the single most effective antagonist of American business.”
But of course Nader has been persona non grata with the Democratic Party since his 2000 Green Party candidacy for president. George W. Bush officially beat Al Gore in Florida by 537 votes, with the state’s electoral votes putting Bush in the White House even though he lost the national popular vote. (In reality, a comprehensive, little-noticed study released soon after 9/11 found that Gore would have won Florida if all disputed ballots had been recounted.)