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In Greek tragedy, that which makes a hero great is often the same quality that ultimately destroys him. In the overlong and workmanlike but ultimately quite revealing new documentary An Unreasonable Man, consumer advocate turned hapless third-party presidential candidate Ralph Nader stands revealed as having more than a little of Icarus, Oedipus and Achilles about him, and his fall from "greatness," though of little interest to the man himself, feels like a comparable reversal.

A giant of the American left, and one of the few figures of '60s liberalism whose institutional achievements remain as pertinent today as they were during his period of greatest impact, Nader's enormous legacy as a champion of individual rights against corporate interests has been virtually blotted out by his doomed 2000 presidential run, largely but somewhat simplistically blamed by Democrats for George Bush's controversial victory over Al Gore in the contested election of that year. Always hated by the American right, which nonetheless adapted Nader's barnstorming grassroots organizing strategies to counter his many legislative victories of the '60s and early '70s, Nader finds himself, in his sunset years, even more despised by his longtime allies on the left, many of whom now shun him with the puritanical vehemence the inhabitants of Hawthorne's Massachusetts demonstrated toward the adulterous Hester Prynne.

 



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