Back in mid-January, when the possibility of a Ralph Nader independent candidacy of the type that he has since developed began to emerge, I wrote a column, “Don’t Run Like This, Ralph.” I critiqued an article written by his nephew, Tarek Milleron. One of the concerns I raised was that the type of campaign being projected “will without question aggravate internal tensions within the Green Party.” I asked, “How does this help build a stronger and more effective, progressive political vehicle?”
In late June in Milwaukee I was very encouraged when the Green Party chose the Presidential candidate who I thought was the best available option for 2004, David Cobb. But I was also impressed that it was able to do so in a healthy and mature way, democratically, with much debate and occasional sparks, but with relatively little overt rancor between the pro-Cobb and the pro-Nader delegates.
Now, however, the Nader/Camejo campaign, having failed in their efforts in California either to get the Presidential nomination of the Peace and Freedom Party or to collect enough signatures to get on the ballot as an independent, has launched an effort to take away the ballot line of the Green Party’s nominee, David Cobb, and put Nader on instead. They are doing this even though it has been national Green Party policy for years that in order to be affiliated with the national Green Party a state party has to agree to support whoever is chosen as the Presidential nominee by the national party.
In other words, the Nader/Camejo campaign is willing to risk disaffiliation, at least, if not a seriously divided Green Party nationally, for the short-term purpose of getting Nader on the California ballot. And there are a few other states where something similar is occurring.
I happened to spend yesterday at the New Jersey shore. All day, on the way down, on the beach, and coming back up I kept thinking about why they would be doing this.
It can’t be because they believe Ralph Nader has any chance of either winning on November 2 or getting the 5% of the vote needed to get federal matching funds. Nader is currently polling at 3 or 4% in national polls; in California a Field poll released this week had him at 2%. His national percentage is about one half what it was in mid-March, a few weeks after he announced on February 22. And remember that in 2000 Nader was polling at 5% the weekend before the election and ended up getting about 2.8% of the vote on election day because of voters’ concerns about Bush being elected, concerns that are much stronger this year.
On the other hand, Carl Mayer, Treasurer for the Nader campaign, wrote an article a few months ago putting forward a scenario whereby George Bush would drop precipitously in the polls, Nader would rise and it would become a race between Kerry and Nader. Such a wildly off-base projection does not inspire confidence that the Nader/Camejo campaign has a solid grasp of political reality.
A second possibility, and I fervently hope this is the reason, is that they are under so much pressure, the campaign is so intense, what with the demands of raising money and getting on the ballot, the attacks from the Democrats and everything else, that they have temporarily lost sight of the bigger picture and are doing whatever they can to get state ballot lines wherever they can, however they can. Although that doesn’t make what they are doing right, it’s easier to take than the other reasons.
The third reason is the most problematic.
I really hope that what is happening is not an opening salvo in a less-than-principled campaign on the part of **some
of** the pro-Nader forces within the Green Party to confuse and disrupt the efforts of the Cobb/LaMarche campaign, a kind-of “rule or ruin” approach to politics. The purpose of this destructive campaign would be to either lay the basis for a move to “take over” the Green Party after November 2 or, if that can’t happen, to split away as many individual Greens as possible and establish a “Ralph Nader party.” If this is what is really going on, they may find that their tactics will backfire on them. There are many Greens who support Nader who do not and will not support such an effort.
For example, the organization Solidarity just recently passed a resolution at its national convention endorsing Nader/Camejo, but while doing so they also included this
“While we think a combined Green-Nader candidacy would have done more to build the Green Party, and while we disagree with a ‘safe-states strategy,’ we respect the opinions of those Greens and progressives who express their opposition to the war and two party system, and seek to build the Green Party as an alternative, by supporting the Cobb/LaMarche campaign. We see a vote for Nader/Camejo and a vote for Cobb/LaMarche as expressions of opposition to the war and occupation. We are for the two campaigns developing friendly relations and centering their fire on the Democrat and Republican parties which are both controlled by the enemies of working people.”
This is a healthy and mature approach to political and tactical differences.
No matter what happens on November 2, no matter who is elected, there is a tremendous amount of work to do for all of us who understand the bankruptcy of the two-party, corporate-dominated, winner-take-all system. We need to come together to build a strong, independent and forthright movement to end the war, enact a clean energy revolution, address persistent racism, win universal health care, generate movement for instant runoff voting and public financing and advance many other progressive issues.
The Green Party is a critical, leading part of this independent movement. Its members and supporters should speak up loudly and clearly, now, against what is currently taking place in California.