Here comes the Green Party

Even most leftists probably don't know the Greens are holding their presidential nominating convention in Milwaukee right now. The candidate will be announced on Saturday. Ralph Nader, who's running as an independent, has taken himself out of the process but said he would accept the Greens' "endorsement".

This seems like a bad idea. Electoral politics is a losing proposition for the left in the first place. It doesn't make sense to put any effort or thought into it unless it's part of what our real focus should be, building grassroots social movements, community organizations, and democratic businesses.

A lot of people thought Ralph Nader's 2000 run for president as a Green could do just that. And the broad similarities between Bush and Gore did bring a lot of people into independent organizing as they sought out an alternative. But Nader — unforgivably — followed up that momentum with nothing. He let that energy dissipate, and let those people demobilize.

Ah well, maybe it's for the best. A good left electoral party can't depend on the charismatic appeal of one (rather authoritarian) leader anyway. Nader served his purpose by publicizing the Green Party, and now he's left it, hopefully allowing it to prosper on its own. And hopefully the Greens don't make the mistake of going back to him.

Unfortunately Nader is determined to run again, this time explicitly forsaking party organizing. This is only going to distract from the task at hand, building a strong grassroots party that can thrive if the movement behind it ever starts expanding. Progressives would be wise to repudiate the great-man Nader approach and seriously consider whoever the Greens choose.

The leading non-Nader candidate for the Green nomination is David Cobb, a lawyer and Green activist from Texas. Salon inteviewed him, sadly/predictably concentrating on Nader and the Democrats rather than the Greens or actual issues, but at least you get a feel for the guy. He seems committed to building the party, and the issues he singles out are key:
we're going to articulate the need to end the occupation of Iraq and bring the troops home, we're going to make the case for universal healthcare, raising the minimum wage to a living wage, the need to publicly fund elections, to end the racist war on drugs, and to provide a fair tax policy that provides tax relief to the poor and working classes in this country.
For those of you who care about such things, he wants to run a "safe-states" strategy concentrating resources on uncompetitive states and leaving the swing states for Kerry to win.

People in swing states will actually have to consider voting for Kerry. But for people in states like California, Illinois, or New York, the question should only be whether to pick Nader or whoever the Greens nominate. Hopefully the convention gives us that choice by denying Nader the endorsement, and hopefully we choose the party over the man.


naureen said...

i believe illinois is a "leaner" state, as in it seems likely it will go kerry but folks aren't sure.

it's interesting to question what nader's actual strategy is this time around - is he trying to bring notoriety to himself? this seems unlikely. he is obviously not working on behalf of third parties in general, or else he would actually work within one. he entered this race arguing that he wants to bring another perspective to the table, and we can at least be happy that he will be a reasonably non-bullshit debater during the wonderful 'forums' on presidential candidates to which we will be treated.

ultimately, it seems like nader is just like michael moore: beautifully attention-rousing, but questionably effective. oh wait, that's most everything...

Jake said...

This poll (June 9) shows Kerry beating Bush 52-39 in Illinois. As this post points out, the link you cited doesn't say exactly why Illinois is a "leaner" when the margin in 2000 was bigger there (55-43) than even California (53-42). With the Republicans self-destructing in the Illinois Senate campaign, it seems more and more that Illinois is safe for Kerry.

But if things are going so badly for Kerry that Illinois is in play, I think we can count on a Bush victory, so an Illinois vote doesn't matter anyway.

I'm not really sure what Nader's thinking either. He's going to be excluded from the debates so he can't raise issues that way. The media hate democracy so they won't cover his issues either (they'll only cover him on the "spoiler" issue).

The Greens did pick Cobb, so at least we have that alternative.