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Nader and the Green Party - The Life and Thoughts of Zach

Jun. 28th, 2004

02:46 am - Nader and the Green Party

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I've spent all day writing various things to various people about the Green Party's nomination, yesterday, of David Cobb as its candidate for President. Here's some bits of text from those conversations.

Someone asked why the Greens "let" Camejo (who ran a very successful Green party campaign in California during the recall election) be Nader's running mate.

We don't have and wouldn't want that kind of control over our candidates. Camejo is a free agent. He isn't running with Ralph under the Green party banner. He's just running with Ralph.

There's been a major split in the Green party about whether we should:

a) Run David Cobb, an actual Green Party member who is devoted to building the Green Party as his primary goal.

b) Run no one and endorse Nader, who may get more votes but who as a candidate merely endorsed and not nominated would not serve to grow the party in the same way that Cobb would.

c) Run no one and endorse no one.

Green party members at every level have been debating these options for at least a year. Camejo has always be the spiritual leader of a large group of folks in the (b) camp. I think Nader's nomination was a recognition of the support Camejo has given Nader within the Greens for so long and an attempt to give some strength to Camejo's "movement" within the Greens to endorse Ralph.
Someone asked if this was a tacit admission by the Green Party that they spoiled the 2000 election and an attempt to atone for that.
Only choice (c) (nominate no one, endorse no one, stay out of the national race and focus on local races) would have represented a clear tacit admission of culpability and an apology for Gore's loss in 2000.

I think choice (a) represents a complex combination of internal anger at the way Nader's campaign related to the Green Party in 2000 (he had his people, the greens had their people, and the two didn't work together well, Nader's people often failed to share volunteer lists with the Greens people meaning that all the effort put into campaigning did not yield as much Green party building as it could have), internal anger at Nader abandoning the work he started by never even considering a Green party run this year, an internal feeling that we need to grow beyond relying on Ralph and his notoriety if we're to build a truly independent grassroots party, and a recognition that externally there are a lot of hard feelings about Ralph's relationship to Gore's loss.

Nader's got a lot of strikes against him within Green circles and they all came to a head at the convention (and in the state conventions leading up to it). At the end of the day, he dissed us by specifically rejecting a Green party nomination, and so we nominated the Green who really wanted to run as a Green. We nominated the guy who had a clear and well spoken VISION for how the Green party should use this presidential election to grow the green party by creating new locals, registering new voters, maintaining existing hard-won ballot lines (there are many states in which Nader earned us ballot access and we have to get 1% of the vote this time in order to keep those...if we weren't running a candidate we couldn't hope to do that), and supporting local elections.

David Cobb was the best choice for the Greens given a very complex set of internal pros and cons. But it's got nothing to do with feeling guilty about 2000. If we really felt guilty we wouldn't be running anyone.
More on Camejo.
No one knows Camejo outside of California. And Camejo didn't want the Green Party's nomination. He ran in the nomination process in order to get delegates who would not be bound to vote for him in the hopes that his delegates could launch the "no candidate" movement and then propose endorsing Nader. That was his stated goal all along. Many Greens thought he had a good idea, even more thought it was a bad idea. We play with the cards we've got.

In Texas, Cobb is the most credible candidate we've got. But then no one knows Cobb outside of Texas. (And definitely, not as many Texans know Cobb as Californians know Camejo).

There just aren't any nationwide superstars in the Green party who are willing to run for office. We have to nurture such folks by running campaigns ("the best way to get ready for something you aren't ready to do is by doing it anyway" - david cobb) and building the capability of the party to run campaigns.
Regarding the specter of a split green vote between Nader and Cobb.
You're probably kidding but it is actually a pretty big concern.

A split Green vote means we may lose ballot lines where we've earned them, we may lose establish party status where we've earned it, we may not have some chances where we otherwise would have to earn the votes neccessary to get some new ballot lines.

It already hurt us in the petitioning phase because people aren't allowed to sign Nader's petitions and sign ours.

We'll deal. It's the cards we were dealt. Not the end of the party or anything. But annoying.

In 2000, Ralph was running to build the Green party. And despite some inter-organizational problems and personality conflicts -- we did that. We increased the number of Green locals by an order of magnitude, we increased the number of elected Greens, we increased the number of states with a ballot line. At the end of the day, when he'd lost the election, the party had gained _tremendously_. You'd be hard pressed to find a Green activist who wouldn't do it all over again.

Now Ralph is running for some other reason. He isn't building anything. At the end of the day when he loses, there'll be nothing to show. No party. No access. No organization. My only hope is that he's got an ace in the hole angle on getting into the debates. He's gotta run in order to get into the debates, and Ralph Nader in the debates would be a beauty to behold. He did declare personal war on the corporate debate commission last time around, maybe he'll make good on that. But that's probably just wishful thinking.
In response to a question about the petition thing.
In Illinois at least, you can sign only one petition per unit of government. By signing the petition in a technical sense you are saying "for this election period I am declaring myself member of this party that I desire to come into existence and I authorize these candidates to run on behalf of the party that I am creating with this petition". It's the same as how when you vote in the primary (or sign a petition for a candidate running in the primary) you technically become (for the primary period, not extending into the general election cycle) a member of the party in whose primary you vote.

You can be a member of a different party for each different unit of government (for the same reason that if we get 5% of the vote in any given unit, our "established party status" only applies to that unit) so you can sign the socialists' state rep petition, Nader's federal petition, and the green's county board petition. But you couldn't sign Nader's federal and the Green's federal petitions.

Now, whether or not anyone would bother with the immense task of cross referencing signatures on the petitions and coordinating the challenges against the two petitions to get people who signed both knocked off is another question. It's probably too difficult.

Now what you CAN do, despite what local Democrats in our county have been telling everyone, is vote for one party in the primary and then sign a petition for another party in the general. Those are two completely different election seasons.
In response to someone who asserted that Cobb will not be running in any Battleground States.
David Cobb has promised to not run in any race where the two major parties are close UNLESS there is a significant gain (such as maintaining an existing ballot line or winning a winnable ballot line) to be made by Greens in doing so. He will not campaign in a state unless the state party invites him to do so and convinces him that campaigning there will serve the goal of building the green party.

His goal is not to win. His goal is to build the green party. His secondary goal is to keep Bush out of office. It is stated and serious but it is secondary.
In response to revjack who said he doesn't like Parties and we should just run independents.
"Running independents" doesn't just happen without organization. Either you create an independent one-time organization from scratch every single time you run an independent, you make the same mistakes every time, you face the same major hurdles every time, you waste time organizing from the ground up every time. Or else you build a party of folks with similar goals and work together to get people elected. You confront and change the barriers to entry for "independent" candidates, you create a community of people who know how the system works, you create a community of people who know how to campaign, and you create a community of people who are in office at every level who can coordinate their efforts. And you can build into the structure and the culture of the party a strong sense of decentralization and grassroots democracy so that the party can not be dominated by any small elite group.(*)

The party is just a means by which people get together to accomplish a certain collective task (getting progressive people elected). There's a hell of a lot more to progressive politics than getting people elected. There's all kinds of direct action that I think is far more effective. The Greens are not the end all and be all of progressive politics. Greens simply feel that getting people elected is one of the things we have to do to get true democracy in this country and that the existing political system does not allow that. Other progressives think they can get it done with the Dems (or even with the Republicans). Other progressives don't think there's any point in engaging the electoral process and that it's all a waste of resources that could be spent out teaching people things and building things.

I think it's pretty powerful that the Green party had this huge democratic grassroots process for choosing our nominee for President, we set up the process, we went through with it, and by going through with it we've created a united understanding of what we want to do as a party at the National level. No one was sure what we should do before and we didn't have a "leader" telling us what to do. We disagreed, we talked about it, we bubbled our local conversations up through our delegates, and now we've got a nominee. I think, the process more than the result has strengthened the party in terms of figuring out what we're about and why we're doing what we're doing.

(*) You may have heard me griping about all the "internal politics" of the green party during this whole fight over the nomination. Please keep in mind that these internal politics are kind of like what folks have among their friends. Everyone has to deal with the fact that different people have different opinions and that some people are really passionate about their opinions. I don't think you could create ANY organization that didn't have internal politics and I one really can't get much done without organization.

Organizations don't have to be heirarchical. They don't have to be domineering. They don't have to be corrupt. They do have to be organized.

Comments:

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From:soulsong
Date:June 28th, 2004 08:11 am (UTC)
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Someone sent me this interview with Nader in "The American Conservative" magazine today.

Odd juxtaposition of Nader and Pat Buchanan, but somehow kinda reassuring, since my own politics are a mixture of youthful conservatism and middle-aged environmentalism & social libertarianism. I appreciate the distinction between corporate and conservative republicanism made in the article as I still have strong strands of the latter in me (ie in UK terms I grew up a supporter of Margaret Thatcher of all people...)
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From:zarfmouse
Date:June 28th, 2004 08:19 am (UTC)
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It'll be interesting to see if Nader is able to build this coalition of conservative and progressive anti-corporate voters that he is striving for. I wish him luck in it.
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From:the_sween
Date:June 28th, 2004 02:06 pm (UTC)
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I'm glad the decision was made to run their own candidate rather than endorse Nader. If they had, I believe the Green Party would lose ground this time around. That, however, still would have been better than the "nominate no one, endorse no one" policy which I completely disagree with. I think the Green Party needs to maintain their own presidential candidate every time if for no other reason than to have exposure and make them have a viable presidential candidate (in the electable sense) sooner. It also raises awareness of the party and help Greens win local/state elections.
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From:lidora
Date:July 4th, 2004 04:44 am (UTC)
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hey, it's susan, fellow candidate for county board. i went ahead and friended you, is that ok?
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