A Surprisingly Reasonable Unreasonable Man
An Unreasonable Man is a documentary about one of the most criticized, and hated, men in America today: warrior for justice Ralph Nader. It brings us the highlights and lowlights of one of the most remarkable men – whether you agree with his views or not – of the last 40 years.
The directors, Henriette Mantel and Steve Skrovan, did a wonderful job telling Nader’s story: from the start of his career (fighting for seatbelts) to the elections of 2000 and 2004. They interviewed, among others, Ralph Nader himself, his campaign manager, Pat Buchanan, Howard Zinn, and many others who all spoke openly and honestly.
The directors of An Unreasonable Man do most certainly not worship Nader, but they do sympathize with him. They let critics explain why they detest him as much as they do, and they let supporters and Nader himself respond. When a critic says something negative about Nader, for instance that he should have withdrawn from the race in ’00, Nader himself or one of his supporters explain why they did not consider giving up to be an option.
One could say that Naderites constantly have the last word.
The question is whether this is a good or bad thing – in my opinion it is more good than bad. An Unreasonable Man is not meant as a defense of Nader, nor as a piece of propaganda, it is – as I see it – meant to make the audience understand Nader. After watching the documentary one might still believe that Nader should have withdrawn, but one at least understands why he decided to persevere and one might even respect him for it (if one did not do so beforehand).
Critics often say that there is one thing that truly drives Nader: his ego. Ambition. I do not believe that to be true: he is a man, sure, and as such he most likely greatly enjoys positive attention / media coverage, but fame, ego or ambition is not what drives him, it is not what made him dedicate himself to fight – what he perceives to be – injustice. In the end, there is only one thing Nader wants to do: he wants to help his country. He wants to let, as he describes it, America be the democracy she can be and was meant to be.
One of Nader’s main themes is that both the Democratic and Republican Party are owned by K-Street lobbyists, or Big Business. Big Business influences American politics, according to Nader too much, and he believes that, although the Republican Party was the party of Big Business, the Democratic Party has come under their influence as well and lets it agenda be determined by organizations that do not care about the good of the American people, but only about the profit they make.
This belief – or better, observation – made Nader say that there is no difference between the Republican Party and the Democrats, between Gore and Bush. Today, many people are angry at Nader for saying this. What these people fail to understand, however, is not that Gore and Bush would be exactly the same once they were President – obviously, the Democrats are ‘less bad’ in Nader’s view – according to Nader, no, his point was (and is) that both are influenced too much by Big Business and ignore what is truly in the best interest of the average American.
His reasoning, then, is: “if you vote for the ‘less bad’ party, you allow that party to become worse and worse. After all, they do not have to change their behavior to get your vote. You’ll vote for them anyway.”
It makes sense, doesn’t it?
Besides this aspect of Nader’s career, An Unreasonable Man also tells the story of Nader’s early days. He started out as an advocate for safety in traffic, after he won a heroic battle against General Motors (which tried to destroy him), he won many more political battles; legislation was accepted because of his work in many, many areas; he created a team of people that reviewed just about every department and wrote books / essays about how to improve them, how to improve America, etc. His early career was one of many battles, but especially many victories. He truly became a hero of the left.
All of that changed when Ronald Reagan became president of the US. Suddenly, all the reforms, initiated by Nader’s work, were repealed. Suddenly, laws that limited businesses in what they could and couldn’t do were abolished… Nader saw his entire career made irrelevant.
That is why he changed his approach which in the end resulted in two runs for president.
As you all know, I am a conservative. As such, I often disagree with Nader. That does not, however, mean that I cannot respect him. He does what he considers to be the right thing; he is convinced that he is doing something important; and, yes, sometimes he is right. Without Nader cars wouldn’t, for instance, have safety belts in them. If it wasn’t for Nader, 200,000 more individuals would have been killed in traffic accidents by now.
I disagree quite strongly with Nader on a lot of issues – he believes that government is the answer to America’s problems – but I agree with him when he says that the BB has too much power and influence over American politics. Lobbyists have far too much power over America’s politicians, be they either Congressmen, Senators, or, yes, the President.
The An Unreasonable Man DVD consists out of two disks: one with the documentary (and a few features) and one with many, many featurettes. For instance:
– What Happened to the Democratic Party?
– Why is the Right Better Organized than the Left?
– Debating the Role of Third Parties in the U.S.
All these featurettes are short documentaries themselves and… disk two is reason enough to buy the entire DVD. Normally, most featurettes add little to nothing, in this case they make the reader think even more, and they provide fascinating debate material.
No criticism then? Well… no. Sure, I do not always agree with Nader, I think he’s somewhat of a conspiracy theorist, I think that he believes too much in the power of the government to change society, etc. etc., but that does not make the documentary any less good. The documentary and the extra features are, quite simply, of a tremendously high quality. I looked at Amazon and saw that the documentary was rated with 5 (out of 5) stars.
That seems about right to me.
I encourage all of you to buy and watch An Unreasonable Man.
And yes, this is coming from a conservative. The documentary truly is that good.
The DVD will be sold in the shops June 12. You can also pre-order the 2-disk DVD set.