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Dead Party Walking
by Jeffrey St. Clair
Buried in the ossuary of road-kill from the November election you will find all that remains of the once brawny Green Party, now splattered into a micro-stain on the electoral scorecard with evidence of its passing barely detectable by even the most expert political forensic scientist. The Green Party, notorious spoiler of Democratic aspirations in 2000, not only wasn’t a factor in this election; its very existence was scarcely mentioned by the press . . . or by anyone else.
This sorry state of play was hardly surprising since the Green Party’s presidential candidate, a mortician-like lawyer named David Cobb, told CounterPunch that he wasn’t the least bit concerned about how many votes might come his way on Election Day.
Well, mission accomplished, Commander Cobb. And, in case you missed it, you and your running mate, Pat LaMarche, only convinced a mere 106,264 voters nationwide to pull your lever or punch your chad.
By contrast, Ralph Nader, rejected by the Greens in favor of Cobb, vilified by the Democrats and denied ballot status in such key states as California, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Oregon, still pulled in 503,534 vote, nearly five times Cobb’s microscopic accumulation.
Cobb was also trounced by Michael Badnarik, the California computer programmer who replaced Harry Browne at the head of the Libertarian ticket this year. On the ballot in 49 states, the vocally anti-war Badnarik got 360,000 votes. Cobb’s dismal showing now puts the Greens in the catacombs of third party politics, resting in a musty chamber beneath even the Constitutionalist Party, whose candidate, Michael Allen Petrouka, received 131,000 votes from 36 states.
Throughout the summer and fall, David Cobb kept reiterating that the presidential race wasn’t that important. Instead, his campaign was meant to be a vehicle for party building, Green-speak for raising money, winning ballot access and aiding other Green candidates down the ticket.
It’s hard to build a party when no one knows you’re out there.
A similar wipeout took place in state and local races, once the embryonic stem cells meant to fuel the growth of the nascent Party. The Greens were consistently outperformed by Libertarians, Constitutionalists, Independents, and Socialists.
For example, in Oregon, once a bastion of the Green Party, the Greens could only muster up six candidates for election across the entire breadth of the state. They didn’t field a candidate for any of the state’s five congressional races—despite the fact that incumbents were a lock to win all of them. Nor did they offer a challenger for key state races, such as Secretary of State, Treasurer, or Attorney General. By contrast, Libertarians and Constitutionalists ran candidates in each congressional race and in all key state contests.
It’s hard to build a party when no one knows you’re out there.
Yet, it could have been so much different. This should have been the Green’s banner year, a chance to prove its mettle as a real alternative party. The gateway was opened for them by the Democrats, who nominated a pair of pro-war, anti-bill of rights free traders to lead their ticket. Popular discontent with the war was raging, as was angst about the cratering economy, outrage over corporate corruption, and skyrocketing energy prices—none of which were being addressed by Kerry and Edwards.
Instead, the Greens stiff-armed Ralph Nader and Peter Camejo and, in a rigged convention, turned the party over to Cobb and his self-selected coterie of former Democratic Party fundraisers and advisors from public interest groups whose financial feeding tubes are plugged into big foundations that were desperate for a Kerry win.
These laptop savants were the architects of the Anybody-But-Bush designer virus that ravaged the left, leaving zombies in its wake.
The Green Party convention, held in Milwaukee in June 2004, was a sordid and crooked affair that sullied the democratic values the party purports to represent. In Green Party primaries, Nader and Camejo pulled in more than three times as many votes as did Cobb. Yet at the convention, the nomination was turned over to delegates, largely handpicked by the Cobbites. Nader and Camejo went down and so did the bedrock principle of one person/one vote. It smelled a lot like Chicago in 1968 or Florida in 2000.
With the nomination secured, Cobb and his gang advanced a stealth campaign strategy. Call it run and hide. Yes, they would run a candidate, but he would do everything he could to hide from potential voters. It worked. Cobb’s running mate, Pat LaMarche, announced early on that she might not even vote for herself if the race in Maine tightened. That blunder set the feckless tone for the entire campaign.
The so-called Safe-State Strategy called for Cobb to direct his attention to those states that either Kerry or Bush were assured of winning, such as New York, California, Texas, New Jersey, Vermont, Washington, Indiana, Illinois and Maryland.
So how did he do by his own narrow goals? Cobb scored best in his adopted home state of California, where he tallied 31,697 votes. But this was actually a pathetically weak showing. California went big for Kerry as it did for Gore. Yet, in 2000 Nader, who was kept off the California ballot in 2004, racked up 418,000 votes.
Inexplicably, Cobb failed to qualify for the New York ballot, where Nader scored 102,000 votes in 2004. Cobb similarly failed to qualify for the ballot in his native Texas, in Indiana, and in Illinois, where Nader drew 103,000 votes in 2000. In New Jersey, Cobb got only an anemic 1,700 votes and was beaten badly by both Badnarik and Petrouka. In 2000, Nader reaped 100,000 votes in New Jersey.
Cobb spent a lot of time in Green-friendly Washington State. Yet when Wednesday morning dawned, he only had 1,998 votes next to his name. In 2000, Nader got the nod from 102,000 Washingtonians. In Pat LaMarche’s home state of Maine, the Green ticket got 2,775 votes—5,000 votes fewer than Nader this year and 32,000 votes less than Nader in 2000.
By any standard, this was a dismal showing in the very vote-rich states where Cobb said he was going to run the hardest. He only edged the Libertarian candidate in Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Minnesota, Rhode Island, and DC. Those are some slim pickings.
So Cobb wrestled away the nomination from Nader and then effectively went to work destroying the Party from the inside over the course of the next four months. It was an act of supreme political cowardice that couldn’t have happened at a worse time for the nation.
The Green Party convention . . . was a sordid and crooked affair that sullied the democratic values the party purports to represent.
The Green Party should have served as the political vehicle for the anti-war movement, a movement that put 10 times as many people on the streets of Manhattan in August as Cobb got to vote for him on that dark Tuesday in November. If the Green Party had risen to the challenge, it could have helped force this ugly war to an early end, saving thousands of American and Iraqi lives. Instead the Greens went AWOL in order not to hobble its Democratic Party allies. This non-aggression pact proved to be a fatal decision that failed to propel Kerry past Bush and rendered impotent the Greens as a force of political opposition.
A new party must rise from the carnage of the Greens and the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, which was once again bound, gagged and abused by the lords of the party to little avail. No doubt Kerry’s debacle at the hands of Bush will soon be blamed on them and will serve as yet another excuse by the party establishment to compel the Democrats to bow even deeper at the feet of the corporations and military interventionists.
Freedom can come from such losses. Freedom from illusions, for starters. There’s a crisp clarity to the political landscape now that will cloud up as the days and months go by. The time to bolt is now, while the guards are changing.
There are many fellow travelers, leftists and libertarians, wandering out here in the wilderness, searching for a new party of resistance to corporatism and imperial wars that will be led by those who will not flinch under fire.
Where to begin?
There’s a whole swath of country which the Democratic elites have not only abandoned, but are literally scared to tread across. Start there in the Red States, where there are many, many thousands of souls desperate for a militant party that will fight for them—the “lesbian enclave” in southeastern Oklahoma that the vile Tom Coburn kept screeching about in his senate campaign; or Earth First!ers in the depths of Idaho; peace activists in Huntsville, Alabama, HQ of Star Wars; or civil rights organizers in South Carolina, birthplace (and living museum) of the Confederacy.
Move to France? Ridiculous. Why not move to Iowa? Or Wyoming? It’s wide open political terrain now.
Red is a good color, a color with a pulse and an honorable history. Here’s to a Red States Party. Onward!
Jeffrey St. Clair is a co-editor of the website CounterPunch and 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.
[27 dec 04]