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The announcement that Ralph Nader was running for president again in 2004 was met by many with a "Ugh! Not again," often followed by, "Who the hell is Ralph Nader anyway?" An Unreasonable Man, released simultaneously in theaters and on-demand to cable subscribers, attempts to remind us who Nader was before he became known primarily as the scapegoat for George W. Bush's presidential "victory" in 2000.
The first hour is so stuffed with the details of a lifetime of achievements and gushing accolades from a career of consumer advocacy that it could pass for a long-form political ad for a future campaign. Co-directed by one time Nader's Raider Henriette Mantel, the film is filled with former underlings exhorting on Nader's brilliant career as a "professional citizen." They describe his taking on the auto industry as a young man, ultimately leading to seatbelts and airbags becoming standard features in all automobiles.
Nader is painted as a modern-day saint. He is given credit for nearly every food, workplace, environmental, and regulatory advance of the second half of the 20th century. All the while, he's shown sidestepping calls from his followers to run for office. But that was so last century.
Once the 2000 and 2004 elections roll around, the very staffers who put Nader on a pedestal in hour one smash it to bits in hour two. Some merely call him an egomaniac. (Judging by their rage, they likely call him much worse things off camera.) Others go so far as to say he was dead-set on destroying the country and intentionally handed Bush the 2000 election.
Nader seems to have no intention of ever becoming president. He is painted as having realized that injustice in industry is inseparable from injustice in politics and as is his habit, insists on playing the independent David slinging stones at the two-headed, two-party Goliath.
It is common knowledge that he was deemed too inconsequential to the 2000 presidential election to be allowed a spot at a podium during the debates. A lesser known detail revealed in a piece of archival footage is the fact that the candidate was nearly arrested for merely standing outside of a theater showing a videocast of the event even though he had a ticket. The scenario is both absurd and dreadful. Nader calmly reminds the would-be arresting officer that state police should not be under the jurisdiction of the private interests calling for his arrest. In that moment, law and order is forced to face its identity as a corporate shill but Nader is ultimately disallowed from taking his seat. It may most aptly sum up the who the hell Ralph Nader is and why he insists on creating such a ruckus.