The Nader Campaign in Iowa began in the summer of 1996 when Don Arenz of Iowa City and David Victor of Des Moines began petitioning to place Nader on the general election ballot. This required 1500 signatures from eligible Iowa voters. Mark Brown, creator of the "Iowa Progressive Alliance Network," soon came on board as the state coordinator for the Iowa Draft Nader for President Committee. This petition drive collected over 1800 signatures.
The Nader Campaign in Iowa was an energizing experience. A group of dedicated and talented people coalesced to run an impoverished but spirited campaign. We held a fund-raising concert at a restaurant featuring local musician Greg Brown. It was at this event that we first encountered problems with some "Progressive Alliance" concepts. We copied some Alliance materials and placed them on our literature table. We soon were confronted by New Party member Colin Gordon and graduate students who were members of the United Electrical Workers Union. They wanted to know why they were on our "enemies" list. In our haste, we had copied one of Mark Brown's strategy papers which contained a list of adversaries including the Labor party, the New Party, Democrats, and the AFL-CIO. They were all described as vehement opponents of democracy. We spent a lot of time apologizing to our "adversaries." When we raised questions about this adversaries list we were told by Brown it was for "internal" use only.
Soon after the election, a meeting was scheduled for November 9 at Ames. The meeting was held to analyze our successes and failures in the Nader campaign and to decide how to maintain the energy that had been generated. I began to worry when I obtained a copy of the agenda as written by Mark Brown. The word "Green" did not appear in the call for the meeting or anywhere in the agenda. The headline at the top of the agenda called for the "1st Statewide Iowa Progressives Meeting." I, meanwhile, had been inviting people to a cooperative Green Party/Progressive Alliance meeting.
Brown had prepared a detailed eight point agenda for the meeting, and also proposed eleven topics for the next meeting. As it turned out, the agenda was ignored. I had invited Greens from Minnesota and Wisconsin to this meeting, and the material and energy they brought in changed the focus of the meeting. Brown, however, seemed annoyed, and later called to tell me that he resented what had occurred.
The intent was to co-opt the energy of the Green Party which had been generated by the Nader campaign, and corral its advocates into the "Alliance."
Our next statewide meeting was held in Iowa City on December 14, 1996. This was also promoted as a Green Party/Progressive Alliance meeting, although Mark informed me that he had changed the name of the "Progressive Alliance" to the "Democracy Alliance." This came to the surprise and consternation of Karen Kubby, a member of the Iowa City Council and a dedicated Socialist. Karen had been attracted to the Progressive Alliance concept of bringing together all of Iowa's left political groups. This was the meeting some of us in the Iowa City Green Party refer to as the "Disastrous December Meeting."
We had a decent turnout, but the split agenda turned out to be unworkable. The result was a confusing meeting, leaving a bad impression for the new members, and a lot of frustration for everyone else. We scheduled the next Iowa Green Party/(now) Democracy Alliance meeting for January 25, 1997 in Ames.
The Iowa City Greens were not anxious to travel two hours to Ames to repeat the "Disastrous December Meeting." Later, when I obtained the agenda for the January 25 Ames meeting, I began to understand what had been going on since the beginning of the Nader campaign.
The agenda warned us against becoming "religiously attached to our prematurely formed organization" (read Green Party) for reasons of "emotional insecurity." Now I could clearly see what the focus of the "Alliance" had been all along. The intent was to co-opt the energy of the Green Party which had been generated by the Nader campaign, and corral its advocates into the "Alliance." The statewide "Alliance" meeting that was held in Ames on January 25 had only eight people in attendance. Hardly anyone showed up for the Ames Green Party Meeting held one week later.
Meanwhile, in Iowa City, having regained our focus, we are building membership in the Iowa City Green Party (ICGP) each week. We had new members at each of our weekly meetings in the month of January. We had 15 members show up in January for a meeting of our platform committee.
The most exciting development is that we have a candidate! Russell Lovetinsky, our 27 year-old political Wunderkind, is running for City Council, District B, in this year's November elections. Russell has been anointed by Richard Winger of Ballot Access News as the only person in Iowa who understands issues of ballot access. We are hoping to recruit candidates for the other two at-large city council seats that are on the ballot this year.
If the other left political groups in your state consist of a dozen members who are mourning over the corpse of some long-dead political movement, encourage them to join a party that is alive and growing, like the Green Party.
We now officially exist in the Iowa corporate press. Lovetinsky wrote an editorial on the role of third parties for the Cedar Rapids Gazette and insisted that they mention his role as a founding member of the ICGP. That was the first mention of the Green Party in the Iowa corporate press. The biggest story so far was a front page article in the Iowa City Press Citizen, the local Gannett rag. It announced Lovetinsky's candidacy for City Council, and he described the four pillars of the Green Party. Imagine that, the tenets of Green thought on the front page of a Gannett newspaper! I nearly choked on my Belgian endive!
If you are in a state like Minnesota, Wisconsin, or California with a number of active progressive-left groups, maybe it makes sense to form some kind of alliance and combine your strengths. If, however, you live in one of the nation's political backwaters like Iowa, where the Republicans call the shots and the Democrats stumble close behind sputtering, "Me too," then get out there and build your Green Party. If the other left political groups in your state consist of a dozen members who are mourning over the corpse of some long-dead political movement, encourage them to join a party that is alive and growing, like the Green Party. Most people in this state know that they have been getting the short end of the stick. They are just confused about who has been handing it to them. We can reach out to these people or we can let the Reform Party reach them first. If we present the option of a world-wide political movement with a well-defined philosophy like the Green Party, we will build a viable alternative for Iowa's voters. If we present them with an alliance which vilifies the very forces with which it seeks to align, they will throw us out with the rest of the trash, and we will deserve it.