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Diagnosing the Green Party
by Joshua Frank
The ashes of the 2004 election battle have finally settled, and sadly the Green Party is buried in the rubble still grasping for air. Even so, if you have heard any of the sordid mutterings from staunch Green loyalists, they are spinning quite a different tale.
Take prominent Green apologist Ted Glick, who has failed miserably at seeing the error of the Green Party’s choice to run David Cobb in 2004. “[Our vote total] was less than expected,” he recently spewed in an online missive, “but the fact is that the cumulative vote for all 14 ‘third party’ Presidential candidates on the ballot . . . was a little less than 1.2 million.” Apparently, to Mr. Glick, such a diagnosis somehow emancipates the GP’s own tepid performance—for no third party did exceptionally well.
Not sure if the Greens’ vote total was less than expected, however, David Cobb told CounterPunch during the “height” of his quest for the presidency that he had “no goals for votes.”
The Greens could and should have been vociferously opposing the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, but they opted for a “smart-growth” (read: safe-state) strategy instead, where they’d stay well below the electoral radar. They should have been on the frontlines of the campaign scene, denouncing John Kerry and George Bush’s neoliberalism and their handling of the downward economic spiral, civil liberties infringements, and environmental catastrophes. Instead, the Green Party caved and, regardless of what Ted Glick and others claim, they paid a steep price, getting pounded at the polls as a result.
David Cobb and his running mate Pat LaMarche earned a little over 118,000 votes on November 2, 2004. Even though only half a million people voted for Ralph Nader in 2004—a drastic decline compared to four years earlier when 2.8 million people voted Green—Nader still managed to garner five times as many votes as the GP on Election Day 2004, despite being vilified by professional leftists, Greens, progressives, and bemused Democrats.
Many still cite the drastic reduction in votes for Nader in 2004 as evidence of failure but it is wrong to compare his two runs in these terms. In the second case, Nader had no party to back him, and in the wake of the 9/11 “Anybody But Bush” hysteria, many who were with Nader in spirit decided to cast their votes for John Kerry in hopes of unseating Bush. Political expediency didn’t work, however.
An example of the ruin: In Minnesota, the Green Party has enjoyed major party status since 2000, but is now heading back to the political fringe. Cobb’s poor vote total disqualified the Greens from $400,000 in public subsidies and automatic ballot access in the state. Looks like they will have to start over from scratch in the state, as well as Connecticut, Montana, Utah, Nevada, New Mexico and Rhode Island, where the Green Party lost the presidential ballot access they had acquired during the 2000 election.
The Green Party didn’t fare very well in local races either, where Cobb and others claimed they would stay strong. Failing to show up, the Greens were outgunned all across the board by Libertarians, Constitutionalists, Independents and, yes, even Socialists in some cases. Regardless, many Greens still claim that they “grew” in 2004. Green Party members Starlene Rankin and Mike Feinstein of California wrote in Green Pages following their November butchering that:14 states ran the most Green candidates ever, and overall at least 431 Greens ran for office in 41 states. . . . The Greens won 68 victories out of 431 races in 2004, including 12 City Council seats and 18 victories overall in California. There are now a record 221 Greens holding elected office across the US.
Growing in numbers doesn’t mean growing in strength. Currently, the Green Party claims to have exactly 313,186 members in 22 states across the US. If this is indeed accurate, that means almost 200,000 of those members did not even cast a vote (let alone donate cash) for their party’s presidential ticket in 2004. How can Ted Glick and others claim that this was a “success?” Not to mention their “smart-growth” strategy did not even elect the man they hoped would win: pro-war Democrat John Kerry.
Despite this “growth,” sources at the Green Party headquarters reveal they are in dire straits financially. It isn’t likely that the Green Party’s DC office will have to close in the immediate future. Nevertheless if money doesn’t start rolling in soon, sources admit, it may well happen down the road.
What is interesting is that Green Party “think tanks” have recently received big bucks from significant Democratic contributors Richard and Marilyn Mazess of Wisconsin. According to the FEC the Mazess clique have given well over $50,000 to the Democratic Party since 2003. They contributed some money to the Green Party following the election in 2004 and they also tossed Ralph Nader several thousand dollars this past election—perhaps to cover their own Democratic tracks.
Nonetheless, two spanking new Green Party non-profits are now robust and thriving. The Green Institute, which is headed by ex-GP Operations Director Dean Myerson, and the Liberty Tree Foundation for Democratic Revolution, which is headed by ex-GP chair Ben Manski (both Cobb backers) have collected a combined $500,000 from the Mazess duo.
This raises questions as to which direction the GP will proceed in the future. How much influence will these “think tanks” have, especially if the GP itself continues to struggle financially? Will it be replaced by these non-profit careerists? Will fruitless “smart-growth” campaigns continue to be the failing GP strategy?
To no surprise, David Cobb is now on the Board of Directors at the Green Institute “think tank.” Akin to Theodore Glick, Mr. Cobb still claims his losing campaign strategy was a winner. Narcissism runs rampant indeed.
This is not to say that there aren’t spurts of dissension starting to pulsate within the party’s grassroots. A quest to take back the GP is already underway. Many Greens are coming together under the banner of the “Green Alliance” to shift internal power away from Cobb and others, and back into the hands of the membership. Green Party veteran Peter Camejo, who was Ralph Nader’s running mate this past election, is also contemplating the best way to mend the fractures currently leaking what little strength the GP has left.
Let’s hope that Camejo, the Green Alliance and other like-minded Greens can join forces and topple the current party “leadership.” If they aren’t successful, 2004 won’t be the worst election the Greens will ever endure.
Joshua Frank is the author of Left Out!: How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush, an analysis of the 2004 elections, just published by Common Courage Press. You can order a copy at a discounted rate at www.brickburner.org
[28 nov 05]