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Synthesis/Regeneration 35   (Fall 2004)

The Demise of the Green Party

by Jeffrey St. Clair

“Ignorance of remote causes disposeth men to attribute all events to the causes immediate and instrumental: for these are all the causes they perceive.”
–Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (1651)

So this is what alternative politics in America has degenerated to: Pat LaMarche, the newly minted vice-presidential candidate of the Green Party, has announced that she might not even vote for herself in the fall elections. The Greens, always a skittish bunch, are so traumatized by the specter of Bush and Cheney that they have offered up their own party—born out of rage at decades of betrayal by Democrats from Carter to Clinton—as a kind of private contractor for the benefit of those very same Democratic Party power brokers

Take a close look at what LaMarche, a not-ready-for-primetime radio “personality,” had to say to her hometown newspaper in Maine only days after winning the nomination in Milwaukee. “If the race is tight, I’ll vote for Kerry,” LaMarche said. “I love my country. But we should ask them that, because if Dick Cheney loved his country, he wouldn’t be voting for himself.” This is the sound a political party makes as it commits suicide.

This is the sound a political party makes as it commits suicide.

LaMarche’s running mate, David Cobb, is no better. The obscure lawyer from Texas is a dull and spiritless candidate handled by some truly unsavory advisors. In action, he functions as a kind of bland political zombie from a Roger Corman flick, lumbering across the progressive landscape from Oregon to Wisconsin and back again to the tune of his liberal political masters. The tune? The familiar refrain of “Anybody But Bush.”

Bland, yes, but it worked, thanks to the likes of Medea Benjamin and the pompous Ted Glick. At their recent convention in Milwaukee, the Green Party, heavily infiltrated by Democratic Party operatives, rejected the ticket of Ralph Nader and Peter Camejo in favor of the sour campaign of Cobb and LaMarche.

This will not harm Nader much. Indeed, it may liberate him. Free of the Green Party’s encyclopedic platform, Nader can now distill the themes of his campaign to the most potent elements (war, jobs, corruption and the environment) and, unburdened by the concern of party building, Nader can, if he chooses, focus his efforts only on the battleground states where Kerry must either confront Nader’s issues or lose the election.

The fatal damage in Milwaukee was done to the Green Party itself, where Cobb and his cohort sabotaged the aspirations of thousands of Greens who had labored for more than a decade to build their party into a national political force capable of winning a few seats here and there and, even more importantly, defeating Democrats who behave like Republicans. The fruits of all that intense grassroots organizing were destroyed in an instant.

But behold: the rebuffed Nader continues to poll nearly 6% without the Green Party behind him. Yet, you cannot discern Cobb’s numbers with an electron microscope. Of course, the pungent irony is, that’s precisely the way Cobb and his backers want it.

So the Greens have succeeded in doing what seemed impossible only months ago. They have made the quixotic campaign of Dennis Kucinich, which still chugs along claiming micro-victory after micro-victory long after the close of the primaries, seem like a credible political endeavor. Of course, Cobb and Kucinich share the same objective function: to lure progressives away from Nader and back into the plantation house of the Democratic Party.

But at least Kucinich remained a Democrat. Cobb and LaMarche were supposedly leaders of a political party that formed not in opposition to Republicans but from outrage at the rightward and irredeemable drift of the Democratic Party. Apparently, the Green Party has not only lost its mind, it has lost its entire central nervous system, including the spine—especially its spine. They have surrendered to the politics of fear, and once the white flag is raised there is little chance of recovering the ground given up. Always nearly immobilized by an asphyxiating devotion to political correctness, the Green Party has now taken this obsession to its logical extreme by nominating a pair of political cretins at the top of its ticket.

This is the so-called safe states strategy. Safe? Safe for whom?

Under the false banner of the Cobb/Lamarche campaign, the Green Party is instructing its members to vote for its candidates only in states where their vote doesn’t matter. This is the so-called safe states strategy. Safe? Safe for whom? Not for Afghan or Iraqi citizens. Not for US troops. Not for the detainees at Gitmo, Bagram or Abu Ghraib. Not for migrant farm laborers or steelworkers. Not for the welfare mother or the 2 million souls rotting in American prisons. Not for the spotted owl, the streams of Appalachia or the rainforests of Alaska. Not for the residents of Cancer Alley or the peasants of Colombia or teen age girls slaving away in Nike’s toxic Indonesian sneaker mills. Not for the Palestinians, the Lakota of Pine Ridge or elementary school students from the hard streets of Oakland. Not for the hopeless denizens of death row or three strikers in for life for a gram of crack or gays hoping to unite in marriage or even cancer patients seeking simple herbal relief from excruciating pain.

A crucial player in this unsavory affair was Medea Benjamin, the diva of Global Exchange. In rationalizing her decisive vote backing the Cobb/Lamarche ticket, Benjamin emitted this profundity: “John Kerry is not George Bush.” Apparently, that tiny sliver of genetic variation is all it comes down to these days.

Yes, Kerry is simply Kerry, a bona fide war criminal, with a record of political infamy that is just as malodorous as that of George Bush, only it’s longer. Over the past four years, Kerry has been complicit in the enactment of some of Bush’s most disgusting policies. These days Kerry offers himself up mainly as a more competent manager of the Bush agenda, a steadier hand on the helm of the Empire. A couple of weeks ago the Congressional Black Caucus jeered Ralph Nader when he spoke to them about his campaign, a bizarre reception for a man who has been a tireless advocate for civil rights and poor people. If this group of legislators actually cared about the welfare of their constituents instead of merely their sinecure within the party, they would hire the twin Dominatrixes of Abu Ghraib, Lynddie England and Sabrina Harman, to clip a dog leash on Kerry (who disgustingly said he’d like to become the second black president) to interrogate him about his dreadful record on civil rights when he comes calling seeking their support. Of course, they will not. The Congressional Black Caucus is perhaps the only political conclave with clout as vaporous as the Greens’.

The message of the Cobb campaign is: a vote for Cobb is a vote for Kerry. Translation: a vote for Cobb is a vote for war, and everything that goes along with it. It is also a vote for political self-annihilation. David Cobb is the Jim Jones of the Green Party. Form a line and pass the Kool-Aid.

Risk-free voting? I wouldn’t bet your life on it.

Jeffrey St. Clair is a co-editor of the political newsletter CounterPunchand the author of Been Brown So Long It Looked Like Green to Me: The Politics of Nature and, with Alexander Cockburn, Imperial Crusades: Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia.

There are replies to St. Clair from Greens at http://www.greensrespond.org/ –js

[30 aug 04]

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