It just feels right that Ralph Nader, the 71-year-old godfather of consumer activists, is once again paying close attention to automotive safety issues. In August, he pressured Ford to recall millions of vehicles with faulty cruise control switches.
It's almost like Homecoming Weekend at college, isn't it?
Forty years ago, Nader's book Unsafe at Any Speed torpedoed the Chevrolet Corvair and launched the modern era of consumer activism.
When GM admitted to Congress that it had hired a private eye to tail Nader, his reputation was made. And he collected a bundle from GM, which he used as seed money for several consumer watchdog organizations.
Other young activists, who came to be known as Nader's Raiders, flocked to join him.
Eventually Nader moved on to bigger and better things, probing and challenging anything that to him smacked of big business or big government exploiting the common man.
Today, Nader is not the populist hero he once was.
Many liberals resent him because they believe his presidential candidacy in 2000 drained votes from Democrat Al Gore, allowing George W. Bush to win the White House. Then, as if to rub their noses in it, Nader came back and ran again in 2004.
Many conservatives who might not ordinarily be Nader fans at least appreciate his political fervor.
For Nader, coming back to autos is like going home and putting on a comfortable pair of shoes.
But it also is a reminder that if the consumer movement is to remain relevant, it must develop and nurture the next high-profile leaders.
Many of Nader's Raiders have moved on. Most are approaching retirement age, just like other baby boomers. Clarence Ditlow still leads the Center for Auto Safety and Joan Claybrook heads Public Citizen, but they won't be around forever either.
Just like big business, the consumer movement needs a succession plan.
You may e-mail Edward Lapham at