Broken, but not beyond repair
Special to The Recorder
“Unstoppable” by Ralph Nader (Nation Books, 240 pages, $25.99)
Americans often feel powerless. The federal government appears to be broken, and no one seems to know how to fix it.
Ralph Nader agrees that the government is broken — but he is more optimistic than most of us about the possibility of fixing it. The longtime consumer advocate and sometime presidential candidate lays out his plan for rescuing Congress and the Presidency from gridlock and corporate control in his new book “Unstoppable.”
The book’s subtitle, “The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State,” sums up Nader’s argument. He believes that Americans and their government can be saved if individuals on the left and right converge and agree on core principles and strategies.
He outlines a number of historical examples in which Republicans and Democrats have come together to support policies that have benefited both parties as well as the American people.
He underscores the importance of pragmatism, noting that the further party leaders stray from the experience of ordinary Americans —and the more those leaders embrace absolute principles — the less likely they are to find ways in which to cross party lines and find solutions.
He lists 25 “redirections and reforms” that he hopes convergent liberal-conservative groups can accomplish. These relate to reworking the justice system, halting government surveillance of citizens, making all government agencies accountable and limiting the power of large banks, among other projects.
Nader’s book isn’t perfect. Its structure, and the book’s argument, could have used further polishing.
He frequently uses language that could alienate some of the politicians (particularly conservative politicians) he hopes to court for his project. Calling government actions criminal is hardly a diplomatic way in which to woo government officials. Nevertheless, the book’s basic points are both sound and creative.
Its potential to convince liberals and conservatives to work together is demonstrated by the blurbs on the back cover, which come from figures as disparate as Robert Reich, the left-leaning former Secretary of Labor, and Grover Norquist, the right-leaning crusader against all new taxes.
Nader is not a blind idealist. He spends an entire chapter in his book listing obstacles (mostly political ones) to the convergence of left and right he seeks. Nevertheless, he offers many sound strategies — and he appears to hold a genuine belief that liberals and conservatives can come together and reform government.
One can only hope that he will inspire the rest of us to share his belief and to begin the work of reform.
Ralph Nader will speak at the Buckland-Shelburne Community Center in Shelburne Falls on Wednesday, June 4, at 7 p.m. As of Thursday, this reading was sold out. For further information, call Ken Eisenstein at 413-325-6680
Tinky Weisblat is the author of “The Pudding Hollow Cookbook” and “Pulling Taffy.” She is always looking for new books from Franklin County-related authors to review. If you have a book suggestion, email her at Tinky@TinkyCooks.com. For more information about Tinky, visit her website, www.TinkyCooks.com.