Ralph Nader’s Getting the Band Back Together

Whatever you might think about Ralph Nader as a presidential candidate, you should acknowledge his enormous contributions to consumer rights and safety, ecology, and good government. He spawned a generation of organizers that became known as Nader’s Raiders. It all really got started fifty years ago when Nader published Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile, a scathing critique of the auto industry’s indifference to driver safety, pollution, and even pedestrians.

To commemorate the book and to celebrate all the work that has been since, Nader is holding a conference May 23rd-May 26th in Washington DC at the DAR Constitution Hall. Dubbed the Breaking Through Power conference, it will have a large roster of speakers, many of whom you probably know nothing about. You might know some of them, however. Phil Donahue will be there. So will Jim Hightower. Bush administration critics Lawrence Wilkerson and Paul Pillar will make appearances, and you’ll be able to see presentations by folks like Bruce Fein, Obama-critic Jonathan Turley, and the famous whistleblower John Kiriakou.

The conference is organized with a theme for each day. The first day is general, but Day Two is about the media, Day Three is about militarism, and Day Four is about Congress. If you’re interested, you’ll be able to see filmmaker Michael Moore on the media day, prominent Bernie supporter Rep. Raul Grijalva on the day dedicated to war, and Fein and Turley discuss the legislative process on the 26th.

Nader is characterizing the gathering as a “citizen mobilization.”

The theme of this citizen mobilization will be elaborating ways to break through power to secure long-overdue democratic solutions made possible by a new muscular civic nexus between local communities and Washington, D.C.

On these four days, speakers will present innovative ideas and strategies designed to take existing civic groups to higher levels of effectiveness. The participants will be asked to support the creation of several new organizations. One such group will work to open up the commercial media, which use the public airwaves free of charge, to serious content. Another will facilitate action by retired military, national security and diplomatic officials who want to deter unconstitutional and unlawful plunges into wars that lead to calamitous and costly blowbacks.

This “Civic Mobilization” will involve thousands of people at Constitution Hall and around the country and connect long-available knowledge to long-neglected action for the necessities and aspirations of people from all backgrounds. Many of the presentations will feature reforms and redirections for the common good enjoy Left/Right support.

Nader is obviously hoping to use the anniversary of Unsafe at Any Speed as a catalyst to organize for significant new pressure points, and he’s trying to muster as much progressive support as he can get.

If you’re going to be around and you’re interested, you can register here.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.