April 1, 2007
By Ken Krayeske • Hartford • 10:30 AM EST
If just 5,000 committed people in each one of the 535 Congressional districts nationwide mobilized behind universal health care, America could have a single payer system, consumer advocate Ralph Nader said Friday night.
Nader appeared at Real Art Ways Friday night, March 30, in support of the Connecticut Premiere of An Unreasonable Man, the new documentary about his life. (Disclosure - the Nader folks paid me to promote the movie.) Click here to hear Colin McEnroe interview Ralph Thursday, which has similar talking points to what he said Friday night.
About 400 people showed up at Real Art Ways to see the movie - from former gubernatorial candidate Bill Curry to CCAG executive director Tom Swann to Manchester Journal-Inquirer managing editor Chris Powell.
It was a record-breaking crowd according to RAW staff, as no film in RAW history had ever drawn that many people for an opening.
The RAW theatre only seats 153 people (not including standing room). So while 50 people went away, 175 stayed in the main gallery to listen to Nader speak while the two hour, two minute long documentary rolled. An Unreasonable Man shows at RAW through April 5.
The critically-acclaimed documentary, while labeled hagiography by some, certainly has moments where it beats up Nader. Made by Henriette Mantel, formerly Ralph's assistant in the late 1970s in Washington, DC, the movie gives time to critics Eric Alterman, James Carville, President Jimmy Carter and Todd Gitlin.
Mantel and co-director Steve Skrovan are both Hollywood comedians. Mantel served as a producer for the Osbornes, the MTV reality show, for a time.
But the movie offers a new perspective on the life and times of Ralph Nader, from his time as anti-Corvair activist to his presidential bids (another disclosure - I served as National Youth Coordinator for the Nader 2004 presidential run).
The most chilling part of the film for me is when Ralph gets shut out of the 2000 presidential debates at UMass-Boston. The footage shows him talking to a state police officer, trying to explain that state law enforcement resources should not be used for partisan political purposes.
Rather than take arrest - Ralph said he prefers to be on the offensive side of the law, rather than the defensive, and I can't say that I blame him - Nader sued. Although I have imagined about what could have been had Nader engaged in civil disobedience that evening, Nader walked off the grounds without incident.
In the discovery phase of the trial, the Commission on Presidential Debates, the private, non-profit entity that controls the presidential television shows, turned over a facebook that it distributed to law enforcement the day of the debates.
The facebook featured photos of every minor party presidential candidate, including Pat Buchanan. Police were told not to allow any of those people onto the grounds of UMass-Boston, even if they had tickets or interviews with major news organizations, like Nader did.
As I watched the facebook revealed, my jaw dropped, because that is pretty much what happened to me on Jan. 3, 2007 at the inaugural parade of one Gov. M. Jodi Rell. The police were issued a two page color flier of persons who "don't belong" and, trained in the art of over-reaction, they did exactly that.
No matter, you should go out and see the movie if you haven't already because it will get your civic juices flowing.