In the 2000 election, the high priest of anti-consumerism turned politics into the very thing he hated most. On Oct. 13, 2000, 15,000 zealous progressives packed Madison Square Garden for one of Ralph Nader’s super rallies. They paid $20 each for admission, evidence of their passion, since political rallies are almost always free.
For decades, there has been an argument on the left over whether it makes more sense to work inside the Democratic Party or outside it.
Nader’s movement never constituted a real cross section of the left; even sympathetic observers noted that it was overwhelmingly white.
Not until Barack Obama’s presidency ushered in an era of rising progressive expectations did we see a new wave of left-wing militancy.
Ultimately, though, Nader’s most powerful example was negative, providing Bernie Sanders with a template of what not to do. Sanders, Nader said, is “obsessed by the way I was shunned. He hasn’t returned a call in 17 years. He’s told people 100 times he didn’t want to run a Nader campaign.” Determined not to be marginalized as Nader was, Sanders worked within the Democratic Party instead of going to war with it.