Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader on Trigger Warnings: 'Young Men Now Are Far Too Sensitive Because They've Never Been in a Draft'

"Do you know, Lydia, there are no ethnic-joke books in bookstores anymore?"

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Newsweek

Ask Ralph Nader about political correctness, and apparently you might unleash a little rant about sensitive kids who never went through basic training.

Lydia DePillis just interviewed the consumer advocate for Pacific Standard, and one question she posed was: "Do you think Trump has a point about political correctness? That we've gotten too uptight?" Nader's response: "Oh, yeah. You see it on campuses—what is it called, trigger warnings? It's gotten absurd. I mean, you repress people, you engage in anger, and what you do is turn people into skins that are blistered by moonbeams. Young men now are far too sensitive because they've never been in a draft. They've never had a sergeant say, 'Hit the ground and do 50 push-ups and I don't care if there's mud there.'"

But the really interesting part of the interview came right before that, when DePillio asked what Trump's popularity suggests to Nader about the electorate:

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NADER: [Y]ou see this when you walk past construction sites and you talk with white male workers, they feel they have been verbally repressed. It's hard for someone your age to understand what I'm about to say. They like to stand on a corner and whistle at a pretty lady. They like to flirt. But they can't do that anymore. Multiply that across the continuum. You can't say this about that, and you can't say that about this. And the employer tells you to hush. And perhaps your spouse tells you to hush, and your kids tell you to hush. So they have a whole language that they inherited—ethnic words like Polack. A lot of these people grew up on ethnic jokes, which are totally taboo now. Do you know, Lydia, there are no ethnic-joke books in bookstores anymore?

DEPILLIS: There used to be?

NADER: All the time. There were Negro-joke books, Jewish-joke books, Polish-joke books, Italian-joke books. They used ethnic jokes to reduce tension in the 1930s, '40s, '50s. And they'd laugh at each other's jokes and hurl another one. But it still flows through ethnic America, you know. There are hundreds of things that people would like to say. So here's this guy—he doubles down on them, he blows their minds. So that's the first way he got their attention.

Now, Nader's never been focused on so-called "identity" issues—he takes the usual liberal positions on social issues most of the time, but he's also the man who once responded to a question about same-sex marriage by saying he wasn't "interested in gonadal politics." And he's always had a populist streak and an interest in reaching out to people in other parts of the political spectrum. So on one level, I'm not surprised to see him saying things like this. But on another level…well, if you asked me this morning what Ralph Nader might have to say about catcalling or the Jackie Mason school of comedy, this isn't what I would have guessed.

Bonus Naderiana: For more from Nader on Trump, go here. For Reason's interview with Nader, watch the video: