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Synthesis/Regeneration 34   (Spring 2004)

Letter from Ralph Nader to the
Green Party of the United States

22 December 2003

[This letter was addressed to the Steering Committee of the US Green Party and the Presidential Exploratory Committee of the Green Party.]

I am writing to withdraw my name from consideration as a potential nominee for the Green Party presidential ticket in 2004.

I write this with regret because of my support for your platform and civic activities, because of our shared political history and because of the numerous efforts I have made, over the years since 1996, to help grassroots Greens build the Party. Since running as your nominee in 2000 through all 50 states—from the disenfranchised Anacostia in Washington, DC, to corporate-dominated Alaska, from downtown Hartford to the pilot industrial hemp field of Hawaii (not to mention those states where we had to help build the party from scratch)—I have met with Greens from around the country and the world, scheduled and completed more than 45 fundraisers in some 30 states, assisted in starting the Campus Greens and supported more than a few state and local Green candidates.

[T]he reaction to George W. Bush has fractured more than galvanized the Greens as a party.

I remain a registered Independent. But my efforts to build the Green Party and my public contributions on issues of importance to Greens can be compared favorably with those who wear their Green Party registrations as some badge of bona fides. More recently, as part of my exploratory effort, I have met or spoken with Greens from all over the country in extensive conversations, heard from even more through sign-on letters, Kucinich supporters, Greens for Dean, state and local Green groups, newspaper and magazine accounts, including the Green Pages and Green Horizon, etc., all of which illustrate how the reaction to George W. Bush has fractured more than galvanized the Greens as a Party. Most individuals have the best intentions, and there are people who have now dedicated years to helping build the Greens.

However, many of the communications I have received express volumes about the maturity of the Greens as a political party. Although its growth has been slower than many of us would like, the Green Party at least remains poised to respond to the voters’ desire for a third party. The failure of the two major parties both to engage 100 million nonvoters and to provide existing voters with choices over a broad range of important issues has been a continual reality for Greens. With this in mind, uncertainty expressed by the Party’s leadership regarding the conditions under which the Party may or may not field presidential and vice-presidential candidates in 2004 can only be interpreted as a confused retreat.

Specifically, the Steering Committee has declared in reference to whether “the Green Party will (or won’t) run a high- (or low-) profile candidate for President in 2004, and that the candidate will (or won’t) drop out in their (sic) run for the Presidency before Election day, possibly making some kind of accommodation (or not) with the Democrats and their candidate!” that: “The truth is, no one person or group of persons, inside or outside of the Green Party will make those types of critical decisions in the Green Party. The strategy the Green Party pursues will be arrived at through a comprehensive process that is beginning now and will go on in every state Green Party, either through conventions or primaries.”

“The conventions and primaries will in turn select delegates from every state Green Party who will come together at our National Convention in the summer of 2004 to make a final, collective decision as to whether the Green Party will run a presidential candidate, and, if so, who that person will be.”[1]

See, as just two of many additional recent examples, Dec. 16, 2003 USGP Proposal to Create a Presidential Support Committee: “whether we will have a Presidential candidate is not 100% settled;” Oct 28, 2003 National Press Release: “The decision about whom, how, and whether to run in the 2004 national election will be made democratically by all the accredited state Green Parties at the Milwaukee convention.”

The occasion for this letter is not simply that there are robust contending views about whether to have a Presidential candidate and under which strategies and conditions, but that—should I decide to run—it is not feasible within the difficult parameters of state and federal election laws to wait and see what the Green Party will do in June 2004. Indeed, the framework and schedule you have chosen for making a decision seems tilted against anyone contemplating a serious run as your nominee. Many grassroots Greens who have views contrary to this procedure are not, nor are they going to be, in control of how this decision is going to be made or unmade. It has already been made.

…I am withdrawing my name from consideration…

I cannot, nor could any serious potential candidate, embark on a committed campaign for President as a Green Party nominee when the Party will not even be certain whether or how it wishes to run a candidate until June 2004. Nor would it be tolerable (not to mention counterproductive for ballot lines, local candidates, party growth and vote totals), for the Party to impose on its nominee varying geographical limits to campaigning.

Nor, under such ambiguous conditions could a committed candidate run the risk that individual state parties would prevent the national nominee access to their ballot lines for whatever conceived motives, with little penalty for non-acquiescence to the convention decision. The deadlines for obtaining ballot access in many states come due prior to, or around your convention’s decision. Were I to become a candidate, I would not want to launch a campaign with such an uncertain compass regarding what should be a bedrock, genetic determination to run presidential and vice-presidential candidates all out, which is what national political parties (as opposed to movements) do.

As you know, I have scrupulously refrained from interfering in any internal Green Party matters. For purposes of encouraging more intensive and resourceful initiatives, I have commented on the need to expand the number of state Green offices through more assiduous fundraising and on the importance of running more candidates. The Green Party has endless opportunities to field candidates, especially among the 2.5 million elective offices at the state and local levels, many of which offer no opposition to the incumbents by the other major party.

Given the absence of decision that has been effectively formalized into an unchanging, misguided national procedure on the presidential front, I submit that 2004 might be the year that the Green Party makes a deeper commitment to building the party through state and local candidacies. I and many Greens concur that this is the Party’s clearest present strength and will be the source of its important talent in the future. During the 2001, 2002 and 2003 elections, Greens won approximately 25% of the local offices they contested.

Accordingly, for the reasons described above, I am withdrawing my name from consideration and wish the Party and its local community adherents the best in their future endeavors. I still believe that Americans deserve more political parties and better choices than the rhetoric and offerings of the two major parties. I believe in giving people real power to achieve solutions to the problems we have today and in the long term potential for a reorganized Green Party. In the event that I should still decide to become a presidential candidate, any collaborative efforts that are possible, especially at the state and local level, would be welcome.


Ralph Nader

Note 1. Green Party of the United States mailing signed by members of the Steering Committee June 5, 2003.

[7 apr 04]

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