“Nader’s Raiders” 1968-1974

“Among notable activist ‘inventions’ of mid-twentieth century America, few were more effective in shaking up the federal establishment than Ralph Nader’s swat teams of bright young college and law school students. Loosed on official Washington in the 1960s and 1970s and dubbed ‘Nader’s Raiders’ by Washington Post journalist William Greider, these teams of Ralph Nader acolytes churned out all manner of books, reports and investigative probes aimed at improving the law, making government work better, and/or holding corporate powers to account. A small cottage industry of publisher-worthy paperbacks resulted, some becoming bestsellers, and all with messages that stirred the public policy pot. In the process, official Washington was challenged and changed, investigative journalism was re-ignited, and public interest advocacy became part of the culture. What follows in this piece is a look back at some of that history, how the Nader teams and Nader reports came about, and what effect they had. In the late 1960s, Ralph Nader was fresh from his own success with a best-selling book, Unsafe and Any Speed, which took the automobile industry and Congress to task about auto safety. In that fight, Nader also became embroiled in a battle with General Motors after the company hired private detectives to follow him and investigate his past, trying to discredit him as a Congressional witness and consumer spokesman.  That incident, covered in a separate story, backfired on GM, with the company’s CEO apologizing to Nader during highly publicized U.S. Senate hearings.  With his new national credential as a rising consumer advocate, Nader sought to expand the range of his activities beyond auto safety. He had a bigger vision of what might be possible and a long list of issues that needed attention – from food safety and environmental pollution, to anti-trust enforcement and energy policy. What he needed was more Ralph Naders – though he never put it in exactly those terms. In fact, the idea may have risen by way of students themselves who wrote to Nader after his auto safety notoriety. In January 1968, for example, Andrew Egendorf, a graduate of MIT who had entered Harvard Business School, wrote to Nader with a friend offering to work for him that summer if Nader would consider working with students. …”
The Pop History Dig
Seven Stories: The Ralph Nader Reader

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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