When California endorsed the Nader candidacy, voters in seven states including Maine, Alaska, New Mexico, Colorado, Oregon and Hawaii were assured the opportunity of voting for a positive alternative to the evil twinsóClinton and Dole. Grassroots activists in another 38 states are working to place Ralph Nader's name on their state ballots. Several states with no history of Green organizing activity have taken this Draft Nader candidacy, and run with it-using it to do some serious bridge building to people of color, New Party, Labor Party, Alliance, peace, social and economic justice and environmental activists. Some are still trying to find common ground with the Reform Party.
What does it all mean? And, will it have any relevance beyond November l996? Let's put it in historical context.
In June of l995, more than l00 political activists from across the country, including individuals from 26 alternative political parties, met at George Washington University in the District of Columbia. In less than three days, that group learned to work together well enough to produce a consensus document with l7 planks. After voting to label it the "Common Ground Declaration," the Third Parties '96 conferees used it as an organizing tool and an instrument for beginning the coalition-building in evidence today. Additionally, thousands of C-SPAN viewers were exposed to the alternative politics arena through televised segments of the conference. Hundreds of those viewers responded and have now become part of the current Third Parties/Draft Nader movement.
The campaign has also provided Greens the opportunity to reach out to progressive affinity groups and to build long-term relationships.
None of us who participated in the organizing of that conference or the follow up event convened in January of this year, could have imagined that we would now be embarked upon an ambitious national effort to draft a presidential candidate in l996, particularly not a candidate with a household name and a global reputation. But here we are, struggling to sort it all out with long-time alternative politicians like Greg Jan, Daniel Solnit, Walt Sheasby and Mike Feinstein helping us interpret the "Ralph rule," and Thomas Linzey, Bob Benson and Richard Winger translating the Federal Election Code and 51 different ballot statutes.
This is truly a People's Campaign for the Presidency. It is not about Ralph Nader. It is about the Green Party, the Green Party platform, Green Party values, and Green ambitions in the public policy arena.
We no longer have to look to the European or the Australian or the New Zealand experience to find Green party electoral successes. We see it here in the states with ballot qualified Green Partiesówhere dozens of California Greens hold local non-partisan office; in Hawaii where our homegrown Keiko Bonk was re-elected in a partisan race and now is seen as a serious contender for the prized Hawaii County mayoral seat; in New Mexico where Greens have been elected, appointed to boards and commissions and recently earned major media endorsements; in Maine where the Green Party is seen as an important player in environmental coalitions and long-time Green Party activist and U.S. Senate candidate John Rensenbrink is invited to participate in debates with major party candidates.
The Green Party is "happening." The Greens are here to stay, with or without a presidential candidate this year.
The Greens have long been effective in their backyards. What the Draft Nader campaign does is move them up on the radar screen and into the consciousness of mainstream voters. The campaign has also provided Greens the opportunity to reach out to progressive affinity groups and to build long-term relationships. If the campaign also helps qualify another dozen state Green Parties, their ability to influence public policy through state and local elections and through political appointments will be greatly enhanced.
Is this Draft Nader campaign a "quick-fix with no substance," as Eric Chester argues here? Not according to progressive voters in California and New Mexico. It could legitimately qualify as "a marriage of convenience." But this "arranged" marriage is not an empty facade, as Chester contends. The Nader/Green Party relationship is a partnership between stable, credible equals who hold common valuesóvalues that will resonate with the "new mainstream" voters. And, whether those voters pull the lever or write-in the Nader vote this year matters not. This campaign is about building for the long-term Greening of our nation's political processes.