We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
Growing up, the Nader children didn’t eat many sandwiches. “Mother thought that was just too much bread,” says Ralph’s sister Claire, as quoted in Justin Martin’s new biography, Nader: Crusader, Spoiler, Icon. Perhaps this detail is as good as any other in explaining how Nader’s work as a self-denying crusader was set in motion. Other than the tip on childhood sandwich-consumption levels, the book’s most interesting tidbit is the reason why Nader declined to run for president in 1972: He feared he’d steal votes from a Democrat and get Nixon elected. Martin’s narrative explains how Nader’s disappointments with Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Al Gore contributed to his evolution into the man who claims there is no substantive difference between the two major political parties. But Martin focuses more on Nader’s manifold crusades than on his personal beefs. As Crusader, Spoiler, Icon spells out the litany of acronyms—PIRGs, CUBs, etc.—that Nader has left in his wake, as well as the substantive gains reaped by consumers because of his relentless hectoring, it’s clear that his legacy is bigger than that of just some fly in the ointment. Martin appears at 7 p.m. at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919. (Josh Levin)