For a Green-Nader Candidacy
Why a Nader endorsement with a Green VP candidate is our best option for a strong and united Green Party in 2004.
By Robert Caldwell
Despite John Kerry being the Democratic Party nominee, "Anybody But Bush" (ABB) has a growing hold on many liberals and progressives. Ralph Nader has faced an uphill battle for ballot access in a number of states. Gripped by Democratic Party hysteria, many who supported Nader in 2000 are lining up behind Kerry.
At the same time polls show Ralph Nader gaining some support among the broader population in the U.S., polling as high as 8% in nationwide polls.
Greens and ABB
Much of David Cobb's candidacy for the Green Party's presidential nomination has reflected the ABB sentiment. Cobb argued that Greens can run a Presidential campaign without helping Bush. "Cobb and many in the Green Party have a message for Nader: Don't be a spoiler" (http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/opinion/151740_russell10.html), echoed in Newsweek. He originally pushed the "safe states" strategy: If a Democratic Party "moderate" like Dean or Kerry (!) wins the nomination, he would only campaign in those states where the Democrats or Republicans are likely to win.
The Cobb plan came out at a time that many had false hoped based on Sharpton or Kucinich getting a decent hearing, or on Dean getting the Democratic nomination. Cobb's strategy initially garnered support by many ABBers and those within the Green Party unsure about "spoiling" 2004.
When Nader first inquired about 2004, Party leaders told him "we're not sure if we will run a Presidential candidate" and later, "the candidate may be bound to the party's strategy," effectively pushing Nader away. Nader, unsure about Green participation in the presidential election in 2004, decided to gear up on his own. Since that time, most Green Party leaders are busy with their state level and national conventions, Peter Camejo drafted the Avocado Declaration, and Nader is busy on his campaign. The people whom Nader calls the "liberal intelligentsia" and Democratic pundits are steadily beating the ABB drums.
But many supporters of a Green Party Nader run in 2000 now embrace ABB while attacking Nader. Jim Hightower said he will vote Kerry because it will "stop the pain." Similarly, in its April issue the Progressive magazine (http://www.progressive.org/) claims that Democrats and Republicans are more different than four years ago and Nader shouldn't run. The Nation has argued along the same lines.
The article — like Al Sharpton and Kucinich — directs progressives back to the Democratic Party deathbed. It suggests that Democrats heard the message that they should not take progressives for granted. That's why they're running their next-to-most rightwing candidate. The article suggests that getting ideas out is what is important, and Al and Dennis did that.
No! To Greens, the important part should not be about rhetoric, but about building independent power: independent of the Democratic Party, building our own party as a counter-hegemonic institution.
At this moment many Greens are confused. They want to build the Green Party and to run a candidate in 2004. Nader said he will accept the Green Party's endorsement but not nomination this time. Many Greens are hurt and have lashed out at Nader. Cobb is standing his ground, and is refining his message. Other potential nominees will likely support a Nader endorsement.
Compared to 2000, we are in an uneasy political situation. On the one hand, we have a person who has a track record in the Green Party but who is under some influence of ABB. On the other hand, our standard bearer — one who is able to attract a mass base — seems to be going at it alone. Greens face a dilemma. Without a candidate we are not as likely to build a party. But without a compelling candidate the Green Party will lose the potential of any mass base and risk doom as a tiny party at the margins.
Peter Camejo's Avocado Declaration is the best and clearest statement on the need for the Green Party and political independence from the Democrats. Peter's run for Governor of California (http://www.votecamejo.org/) was admirable, and he won 99 of 132 California delegates to the convention. But Camejo argues that Nader is the best candidate and deserves our endorsement.
David Cobb offers himself as the Party's nominee. His supporters criticize Nader for not doing enough to build the party. But no one individual has done more to build the Green Party than Ralph Nader. No one has raised more funds, brought more people into the party, or energized the country in an electoral cycle. Cobb's campaign has constantly refined its message, exchanging "safe states" for "strategic campaign" and "culminate in beating Bush" for "building the Green Party." But the real message is the same: run a modest campaign that relies heavily on Green activists and focuses our scant resources on states where Greens are unlikely to "spoil." This is in stark contrast to the Nader 2000-Green campaign which attempted to gain MAXIMUM ballot lines for the Green Party, gain matching funds, and break into mainstream consciousness by aggressive grassroots campaigning, and pushing for inclusion in the Presidential Debates. Nader 2000 built a base of Green activists that could be drawn into local electoral and non-electoral green campaigns, local and state party leaderships, and the many social movements we support. It is important that the Green Party comes out of this election cycle strong, intact, and poised for 2006 and beyond. A Nader-Green candidacy will help lay such a foundation for the future.
Many of our friends will undoubtedly leave the social movements and the Greens to work for Kerry in this election cycle. Others will be absorbed into the Democratic Party machine for the long haul. Nothing the Green Party can do in 2004 — including a Cobb candidacy — will to change that.
A Nader endorsement is not as good as a nomination, and Nader may still be persuaded to reconsider. The Green Party should NOT abandon running candidates to become an "endorsing party." But in this election cycle an endorsement will offer Greens the opportunity to both grow as a party while participating in a mass electoral challenge of the parties of war and imperialism. It will allow us to grow from the influx of people from Nader 2004 who share Green values. Lastly, a nomination will allow Greens room to differentiate our vision and platform from any differences we have with Nader, while at the same time not competing against a candidacy we would have otherwise supported.
A Green Vice Presidential Nader running mate would serve to cement the growing divide between Green Nader supporters and earnest Greens opposed to ABB but supporting Cobb because his status as a Green will help "build the party."
We must "stop the pain." We must help stop the pain of war that Kerry and Bush have inflicted on U.S. soldiers and the people of Afghanistan and Iraq. We must stop the cyclical pain of the Democratic Party which is death to social movements. And, last but not least, we must stop the unnecessary internal strife within the Green Party by building a new political synthesis that will allow us to move ahead in this election cycle and beyond. As long as we are divided the establishment will have no problems conquering our nascent political formations. It is time for Greens and Nader to unite for a meaningful campaign against the Kush and Berry war duopoly.