Ralph Nader's Book 'Return to Sender' Showcases His Hundreds of Strange, Unanswered Letters To The White House
Remember the last time you wrote a handwritten letter that wasn't a thank you card for your wedding? Probably back in grade school when you had a pen pal from another country, and you both wrote back and forth for several months about school and soccer practice and your dance lessons. Well, Ralph Nader never ditched the art of letter writing, and Nader's new book Return to Sender shows his hundreds of mostly unanswered letters he has written to the White House since 2003. And yes, they are as bizarre as you are imagining.
In Return to Sender, the five-time presidental hopeful Nader states that he hopes his letter-writing would help in “inaugurating a new tradition of presidential replies [to] enrich deliberative democracy.” No such luck. He goes on to say that he "could not penetrate the multi-layered White House bubble" and that "with very few exceptions, I received no response from anyone on staff, nor even an acknowledgement of receipt."
I'm now desperate to know which letters warranted a reply.
Nader began writing letters to President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, and even at times to Michelle Obama, back in 2003 on the eve of the Iraq War. He discusses everything from minimum wage to FEMA to torture to the Crimean annexation to much, much, stranger topics. Here's an example of a letter he once sent to President George W. Bush:
I swear he once he wrote a letter to Obama from the perspective of e. coli bacteria.
I repeat: This is not a drill.
Sometimes Nader takes on the voices of the presidents themselves. For example, there's this letter where Nader imagines a conversation between former President Bill Clinton and Bush in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and FEMA's handling of the disaster, particularly in Hope, Arkansas.
When Nader's letters go unanswered by Obama, he reaches out to the First Lady instead.
While many of the letters are definitely strange and arguably quite rude, it doesn't mean that Nader sometimes doesn't have a point. For example, before the Iraq War, Nader wrote to Bush slamming his reasoning for going to war. And back in that FEMA stage play? Sure, there's a point there, too. But, yes, OK, they're kind of hilarious.
If you want to read all of the unanswered letters (and the few that do get a reply!) Return to Sender was published April 14 by Seven Stories Press.