Ralph Nader, now eighty-seven years old, has been a public figure for more than half a century. Many people know him as a long-shot left-wing Presidential candidate in four successive elections, from 1996 to 2008, and as the possible spoiler of a Democratic victory in 2000, when he got almost a hundred thousand votes in Florida and Al Gore lost the state by five hundred and thirty-seven. “Ralph Nader is not going to be welcome anywhere near the corridors,” Joe Biden told the Times back then. “Nader cost us the election.”

But his real heyday was in the nineteen-sixties and seventies. In 1966, he was the star witness at sensational hearings about automobile safety conducted by Senator Abraham Ribicoff, of Connecticut. Nader, a young lawyer who had just published a book titled “Unsafe at Any Speed: The Designed-In Dangers of the American Automobile,” seemed to know everything about auto safety, and to be motivated by a pure…

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