Nader, the Greens, and Building a Movement

While the presidential primary season lurches onward with Obama and Hillary struggling to secure the Democrat nomination, progressives are finding themselves in predicament similar to both 2000 and 2004. Al Gore and John Kerry left a lot to be desired, though Bill Bradley, Dennis Kucinich, and Al Sharpton never gained much traction with their “inside the party” candidacies. We can’t forget Howard Dean either, who was considered the frontrunner in 2004 before faltering and eventually becoming the chair of the Democratic National Committee.

The question, yet again, is whether or not to hold your nose and vote for the “lesser of two evils” (or, if you will, against the Republican Party) OR vote your conscience in support of a true progressive. Casting such a ballot in 2008 for a candidate with almost no chance of winning after the 2000 election fiasco is a tall order, especially when recognizing the substantial differences between McCain and Obama/Clinton on many, though certainly not all, important issues.

Ralph Nader’s 2000 Green Party presidential run is well documented. Charges of “spoiling” aside, his 2.7% — despite appearing on only 44 state ballots and not being included in presidential debates — represented a significant and promising development for progressives. Unfortunately, as many journalists have documented, Bush won Florida — and thus the presidency — through a combination of illegal voter disenfranchisement and legal fiat thanks to a 5 to 4 US Supreme Court decision. The momentum created by Nader’s candidacy was blunted considerably by the resulting anger and frustration over Bush’s installation as president and what remaining energy was effectively silenced in the disturbingly reactionary ‘patriotic” fervor immediately following 9-11. The combination of 9-11 and fallout over the 2000 election was disastrous, in many respects, for the Greens, specifically, and progressives, generally.

What may have been, however, is now a mute point.

In 2004, while Dean’s presidential candidacy prospects rose rapidly only to crash with equal speed, Nader decided not to seek the Greens’ nomination, instead declaring an independent candidacy. Acrimony over both the result of the 2000 election and Nader’s distant relationship to the Greens (more on that later) led to divisions within the Green Party that eventually resulted in a something of a split. Unknown Green Party member David Cobb campaigned nationally for the nomination and articulated what became known as a “safe state strategy” that involved largely staying away from contested swing states that were likely to determine the next president. (Of course, now some controversy exists as to whether this was, in fact, Cobb’s campaign plan but I personally attended a meeting in San Antonio, Texas where Cobb clearly stated just such an approach.)

Nader, for his part, never joined the Green Party and refused to share donor/volunteer lists from his 2000 campaign with the Greens — this despite his oft-repeated campaign goal of building the party infrastructure and triggering federal matching funds with at least 5% of the national vote. Nonetheless, he did select a prominent California Green politician, Peter Camejo, as his vice-presidential running mate and asked the Greens for an “endorsement” of their ticket. At a contentious 2004 national convention, Nader’s appeal was rejected and Cobb became the party’s nominee.

Although Nader was on 44 ballots in 2000, both he and Cobb managed only a fraction of that total for the 2004 general election. Unsurprisingly, several states reacted to Nader’s previous candidacy by raising already unreasonable ballot access standards even higher. The Democrats, fearing a repeat of 2000, contested the Nader campaign through a series of lawsuits designed to drain precious time, resources, and, ultimately, deny him ballot access.

Many Greens, especially those in the relative stronghold of California, went outside the party to support Nader leaving the Green candidate, Cobb, with only 118,000 votes nationwide — good for just 6th place behind Bush, Kerry, Nader and both the Libertarian and Constitution Party candidates. Nader’s support fell drastically to less than 0.4%.

In this 2008 election cycle, Nader has offered praise for some of the positions of John Edwards — Kerry’s vice-presidential running mate turned populist progressive 2008 presidential candidate — as well as those of Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel, all of whom ran unsuccessfully for the 2008 Democratic nomination. He also has had kind words for Cynthia McKinney, former Democratic Congresswoman from Georgia who recently joined the Green Party and declared her candidacy for the Greens’ presidential nomination. But, for better or worse, Nader has decided on another independent candidacy opting not to support McKinney or any of the other Green candidates.

Progressives, by definition, must be concerned with the future. Many thoughtful progressives, with this in mind, have long understood the absolute necessity of building social movements as the basis of transformative social change. The German Green Party evolved as an extension of environmental, peace, and other activist currents in recognition of the need for an electoral arm to social movements. The American Green movement began similarly as a coalition of anti-nuclear activists, feminists, and both those connected to ecology and social justice movements.

The development of the American Green movement was also helped, in part, by Jesse Jackson’s 1984 and 1988 Democratic presidential candidacies. Many of the elements of the “Rainbow Coalition” brought together in support of Jackson�s ultimately unsuccessful candidacies subsequently rallied to the Green movement. Jackson’s failure to capture the Democrat’s nomination — and the similar letdowns of subsequent progressive efforts — suggests the considerable obstacles to building substantive progressive movements inside the Democratic Party.

But the unique realities of the US “winner take all” system combined with the entrenchment of the two-party system — both institutionally and in the hearts and minds of the American public — require an especially nuanced approach to progressive electoral activity. The struggle over “party” vs. “movement” has already caused a major split as the current electoral-focused Green Party US diverged from the original — and much more movement-oriented — Greens/Green Party USA.

Ralph Nader’s unwillingness to work within the Green Party coupled with his inability, thus far, to build any sort of movement since 2000, raises serious questions about the value of his 2008 candidacy. While Nader’s tireless, lifelong efforts will doubtless serve to ensure his very positive legacy to history, his independent candidacy can aspire to little more than raising issues in the short term. Furthermore, his choice of another high profile California Green, Matt Gonzalez, as his vice-presidential running mate is particularly troubling for the Green Party.

Gonzalez, running as a Green, was nearly elected mayor of San Francisco in an election that received nationwide attention. Gonzalez was so close to besting Democrat Gavin Newsom that Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and Jesse Jackson campaigned on Newsom’s behalf. As result of this race and his stature as president of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors (similar to a city council) Gonzalez appeared to be a promising asset to the Green Party. However, Gonzalez has announced his decision to change his registration from Green to independent, explaining this as consequence of his part of the independent Nader ticket.

What this means for the Green Party remains to be seen. Nader handily won the California Green Party presidential primary vote over McKinney even as he steadfastly pronounced he was not a candidate. (He declined, however, to have his name removed from the primary ballot.) Perhaps the Nader/Gonzalez ticket will be successful in their stated desire to raise the issue of third party and independent candidates’ ballot access as a major civil rights issue. This is certainly an important matter that deserves public attention, as are Nader’s well-known critiques of corporate power.

McKinney, the likely 2008 Green nominee at this point, escapes what Katha Pollitt, writing in her weekly column in The Nation, referred to the “white populist error,” a notion expressed by Bill Fletcher in The Black Commentator. Edwards, much like Kucinich, fell prey to “(the idea) that unity will magically appear by building a campaign that attacks poverty and corporate abuse, supports unions and focuses on the challenges facing the working class, BUT IGNORES RACE AND GENDER” (Fletcher quoted by Pollitt with her emphasis).

But there is a real possibility that a McKinney candidacy will not have a united Green Party behind her. Though Nader has stated he will not actively seek the Green’s nomination, there is a chance that individual states could break from the national party to give Nader their ballot lines. Another national convention battle appears almost certain, though with declining numbers — in terms of both active supporters and ballot lines — there is, in some respects, less at stake than in 2004.

Green Party US’s almost singular focus on ballot access as well as electoral politics, generally, and presidential candidacies, specifically — as part of a “trickle down” strategy of party growth — is terribly misguided. Building a broad-based social movement, one that includes themes of economic justice, ecology, and social justice as well as a recognition of the importance of so-called “identity politics” to a comprehensive critique of the dominant order, around the idea of citizenship is an idea that was part of the beginnings of the American Green movement.

Though they were ultimately futile in their attempts to maintain a decidedly “bottom-up” movement focus within the Green Party, social ecologists and other forward thinking elements advocated just this position. They stressed the importance of education and historical perspective as part of engaging in movements oriented at everyday concerns and far-reaching, reconstructive visions of a liberatory, ecological human society.

Is it possible that progressives may have learned enough from the experiences of the recent election cycles to reconsider the hazards of an electoral, party-based focus? With economic recession and both global warming and an enduring “War on Terror” looming as momentous challenges for both near and short term, here’s to hoping.

Karl Hardy is a graduate student at Prescott College studying social ecology, a community activist, and was a 2007 Green Party candidate for city council (South Bend, IN.) He can be reached at karl_j_hardy@yahoo.com Read other articles by Karl, or visit Karl's website.

21 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Max Shields said on March 7th, 2008 at 5:46am #

    Karl,
    Thank you for collecting some of my thoughts on this very topic. Polity is essential but Presidential politics with the “entrenchment” of a winner take all two party system is a complete waste of valuable energy, and it creates a losing streak that reinforces a negative image that creates dis-association over time by progressives. That’s not because progressives don’t agree with the Green Presidential candidates agendas, but because the whole enterprise of running is futile and thus shows a lack of careful thought.

    A coalition of progressives around a local and regional movement that connects nation-wide is a strategy worthy of consideration.

    The notion that if you show up enough times you”ll eventually get a seat at the table doesn’t work in the system that is the American body politics – in fact, just the opposite is the case. We no longer live in the 19th Century Lincoln mythology. The landscape is vastly different. It’s time we acknowledge it.

    But I do think local Green politics along with movement building is invaluable. Greens can and have won locally and should continue to do so. On the Congressional level, making selective inroads is good. Get the petitions signed rather than waiting for some Presidential candidate to garning the necessary ballot percentage.

    Good piece.
    Max

  2. COMarc said on March 7th, 2008 at 8:53am #

    As always with a piece like this, there are parts I agree with and parts I don’t. But, its got me thinking and writing, which is always a good thing. 🙂

    The part I agree with is that BUILDING an alternative party is an imperative. It can’t be about individuals and their campaigns. The highest priority has to be to build.

    Actually, I’m quite disgusted with what I’ve seen from the Democrats. Six months of listening to them, as well as watching their disgusting performance as the majority party in Congress, has very much convinced me that I am not voting Democrat.

    I’m not at all sure I see the differences between McCain and Obama\Hillary that you posit. We know the Clintons track record from their eight years in office, and frankly its really not that different from Bush. And Obama seems to go to great lengths to avoid saying anything specific, or does the opposite on his website and promises everything to everyone. Both leave one guessing as to what they’ll do.

    So, I fall back on two indicators. The huge amount of corporate money flowing into the Dems, especially the Obama campaign. And the performance of the Dems in Congress. I think the combination paints a pretty clear picture of what a Dem presidency will be like, and it seems to be likely to be as bad or worse than the Clinton years in terms of economic policies that favor corporations over workers and illegal foreign wars and a foreign policy that’s willing to kill millions to reach its ends.

    I’ve got great respect for Mr. Nader. But I’m kinda tired of this constant posture of using the Green Party for his ends without ever joining the party and committing to building it. He’s done lots of good for the party, not only with his campaigns but in other ways. But, I’m really starting to feel that the Green Party needs a candidate that’s committed to building that party.

    On the other hand, if the people who oppose corporate rule in this country ever want to have any success in doing so, we have to unify our movements. This means one opposition candidate standing against the two corporate candidates. Let them split their vote while we unify ours. But that means not only the Greens and Mr. Nader agreeing on what to do, but also bringing into the fold the Libertarians and others who oppose this exact same corporate rule from other political viewpoints. Its insane to try to contest winner-take-all elections with our vote split amongst all the different candidates you mentioned in the 2004 election.

    Meanwhile, I like Cynthia McKinney a lot. I’ve had the pleasure to live in Georgia and listen to her for many years, as well as work on her campaigns. I’d urge anyone to go hear her in person if they get a chance. She’s one of those people where everything you’ve ever heard about her in the corporate media is distorted if not an outright lie.

  3. Robert B. Livingston said on March 7th, 2008 at 10:49am #

    I agree with COMarc– especially “She’s one of those people where everything you’ve ever heard about her in the corporate media is distorted if not an outright lie.”

    She is a beautiful person and one of the smartest. What she accomplishes under so much adversity is simply phenomenal.

    I too believe that Nader and Gonzalez should move (even now) to ally with McKinney– or their issue-driven campaigns will falter and be tarred as the year wears on. I do not think it was Nader’s or Gonzalez’s intention at all, but Gonzalez leaving the Green Party sent the message: the Green Party does not matter. (The two are pragmatically working for ballot access.)

    I believe Nader has sincerely wanted to build the Green Party, but recognized its corruption before many of us did. I think he had hoped it would mend itself. I know I did.

    Sadly, I believe as a consequential party, the reality now is that the Green Party matters little. It was ruined by a corrupt inner-sanctum leadership that takes its cues from the Democratic Party. I think McKinney is waking up to it. She is showing her resolve to put social justice issues at the forefront. Nader understands the logic behind how corporations drive the inequality in our land– McKinney has the power to better relate the logic to people’s everyday experience.

    I trust that among our politicians today– the only ones that can make Lemonaide from Lemons are McKinney, Nader, Gonzalez, and Sheehan (who has never let up on war and impeachment issues).

    They all need each other– and our support.

    I believe national candidacies over grass roots efforts is imperative because the message reaches more people and ignites grassroots efforts.

    Gonzalez needs to especially be heard: particularly his message that Democrats have had years to fix the electoral system which benefits them as much as it hurts them. They are not interested because, as Nader relates, the two parties are in collusion to close the doors to citizens in Washington which is now Corporate-controlled territory.

    To be heard, we must become the media. Getting 5 minutes on FOX or 6 minutes on the Daily Show (or even 10 minutes on Democracy Now!) has become unavoidable for anyone seeking attention; somehow this nut must be cracked. I don’t know the answer to it– except to suggest that we should become more savvy about how even publications like the Nation, Mother Jones, et al. have (like the corporate media) also been feeding us lies under the guise of speaking to our interests.

  4. Deadbeat said on March 7th, 2008 at 10:52am #

    Nader’s independent run in 2004 was also prompted by the shenanigans of people like Medea Benjamin and Ted Glick as well as Cobb who misused the internal processes of the Green to dilute the will of the majority of Greens who wanted to support Nader’s 2004 run.

    If we are going to talk about “progressives”, the anti-war movement could have expressed themselves “electorally” within the Greens but chose to demobilizes in 2004. The split within the anti-war movement thus weakened the Green Party as well. My point here is that the “movements” themselves are fractured so how can the Greens, or any third party, coalesce these “movements” when the “movement” themselves deliberately demobilized in order to avoid real confrontation and avoidance of honest dialog. This aspect appears to be missing in the author’s fine’s analysis.

  5. Thomas Mc said on March 7th, 2008 at 10:56am #

    If voting for Nader could bring the coup de grâce to a dying Democratic Party, then what could be better? The modern Democrats only serve to enable the GOP, and stand in the way of any true progress.

  6. Eric said on March 7th, 2008 at 12:38pm #

    David Cobb said it best in 2004: “The Democratic Party is where progressive causes go to die”. Since both parties remain in the pockets of corporate power, and that same corporate power owns (just about) every information delivery system across the culture, it’s hard to see how things are any different in 2008.

    Clearly if we want to see the “transformative social change” as Karl so eloquently puts it in this outstanding article then we’ll need to be on the outside shouting in.

    But from where? Where are the national progressive leaders or national movements? I guess I’m as guilty as anyone if I’m waiting around for a movement to start up on its own two feet all by itself. Still, it’s a tough time to be a progressive. Here we are at the beginning of some kind of change – you can’t deny it’s not there; you can see it in the new environmentalism, in the organic movement, in the sustainability movement, in the anti-war feelings – if not anti-war movement. There’s some kind of awakening going on here.

    But then? Where will this energy go? With so many of us “amusing ourselves to death” with meaningless drivel and “working ourselves to death” with dual incomes, 12 hour days and bills piling up everywhere, who’s got time to march in the streets?

    I don’t have the answers. I’m open to ideas.

    Eric
    http://www.changeany1thing.com

  7. Mark Konrad said on March 7th, 2008 at 2:10pm #

    If voting for Nader could bring the coup de grâce to a dying Democratic Party, then what could be better? – Thomas Mc

    Absolutely agreed. Cindy Sheehan is challenging Nancy (OMG, is my hair okay???) Pelosi for her seat in November. Let’s see if the anti-war sentiment is real in the SF Bay area or if it’s smug, self-satisfied grandstanding. If they re-elect Pelosi they lose all anti-war credentials and the Democratic Party is exposed to be every bit as phony as the repubs.

  8. Rev. José M. Tirado said on March 7th, 2008 at 3:40pm #

    Just one of the many errors in analyzing either Nader´s runs or the fate of progressive causes, including progressive electoral exercises, is that there is too much of an either or mentality that dominates the discussion. Either “we” work our assess off and coalesce around a movement, then the electoral stuff will disentangle itself because “they” can’t ignore us and “we”, having de facto accepted the electoral landscape as is, can get our needs met through the Dems.

    Or, “we” must coalesce our forces around one or more political entities, usually one party with the most ballot lines (the Greens these days?) and shake the system up by getting one or more of “our” people into office (surrounded by Dems and Reps who both hate said official of “ours” and who, as we all know, would probably get defeated soon after taking office. Say three terms, max.)

    Or “we” coalesce our forces around a person, someone noble, of high ideals, who will champion “our cause(s)” and lead us to the Promised Land of Progressivism…

    A movement…a party…or a person…which will it be?

    It has ever been thus for progressives in the US and will remain so until our way of thinking changes.

    Well, we need ALL of it.

    We need to engage the political, electoral arena because let’s face it, as depoliticized as the usual USAmerican is, it’s that game that runs the ship. So, working to have a legitimate force in the electoral arena, locally and nationally is a good strategy. Of course, “we” must decide, which one? Personally, because of the many good observations made and hinted at in the article and comments, I have simply jumped ship with the Greens and suggest going Socialist Party-USA, for reasons enumerated here before. But that’s me. Either way just getting a few “independents” (Bernie Sanders, Jesse Ventura, etc) doesn’t shake things up. It actually entrenches the mentality that the “two party” system is somehow enshrined in the way things should be run in the US and that when someone else gets in, they are the anomaly.

    On the other hand, movements like the Civil Rights movement or the feminist, Chicano, gay liberation, etc. are particularly successful in the US because they capture USAmericans tiny attention span in flashy ways long enough to put the fear of God into the politicians (Dems and Reps) who made the mess in the first place to change a little here, change a little there. And while great strides have been made, the onus is always on us to get those masses regularly and vociferously on the streets (no simple task) risking our necks while the powers-that-be wait until they have no choice (usually after some of our people are killed and a few of theirs voted out of office, the equivalent in their jaded eyes) and do something. Usually inadequate in the long term, but OK in the short term.

    Nader. Jackson. Brown. (On the progressive side. Paul, Perot, Anderson on the center-right side) What all these people have in common is that third element, style, pizzazz, commitment, fire-in-the-belly and they capture our attention and we ride their coattails hoping beyond all hope that they will finally crack open the gates and we can all swim upstream for once. Well, I like charismatic “leaders” too and yet…it doesn’t seem to be that important. Especially if we don’t have political parties to be part of who can lobby for a more open system and movements that can force the parties attention back towards the people where it belongs.

    I’ve now lived almost a quarter of my life outside of the US (5 years in Japan, 6 here in Iceland) and done alot of traveling. What most countries have around the world is a multiparty system with avenues for movement politics to influence the public and the parties, and plenty of opportunities for “leaders” to grow and rise from the ranks. That’s what “we” need in my opinion

    We need 3-5 Senators, 20-100 House members, a few governor ships and lots…lots of local positions to really influence things (the Socialists had much of that for the first quarter of the 20th century). Building movements (anti-war, environmental, labor) while building an electoral structure that, once elected will get us a better system (proportional representation, IRV, election day a holiday or weekend, etc.) will stimulate the body politic by opening it up for more different groups to get in. Leaders will step in and we can follow or not, but at least we will have a voice and a structure to begin making the system even more accountable. And while we can say that the deck is stacked against us, well, it is. But we have so much more freedom, so many outlets of information and so many networks (like the forum here on this site. Hi CoMarc, good to see you here from CD!) that people I speak to around the world are amazed at how slow moving the US political system is. Most of those I have spoken with faced much greater odds and often death and have now ended with free health care, fair education and a more responsive government and political system. We can do just as much if we really wanted to.

  9. Karl Hardy said on March 7th, 2008 at 4:17pm #

    Thanks to everyone for their comments.

    Some responses:

    I wrote:
    Casting such a ballot in 2008 for a candidate with almost no chance of winning after the 2000 election fiasco is a tall order, especially when recognizing the substantial differences between McCain and Obama/Clinton on many, though certainly not all, important issues.

    I understand your point, though I believe that neglecting to recognize substantive differences between the likely policies and behaviors of McCain vs. Obama/Clinton presidencies is wrongheaded.
    :::

    I’d be interested in any supporting evidence to support these statements:

    I disagree with the following statement for a number of reasons:


    :::

    I agree that various existing social movements are fractured and this does pose a significant problem for any sustainable, decentralized “bottom up” electoral outgrowth. There is certainly a lot to consider regarding *how* to coalesce various social movements. (I’d also add that there many more currents than anti-war movements.)

    Suggesting that a movement has “deliberately demobilized in order to avoid real confrontation and avoidance of honest dialog” seems to presuppose an almost “official” leadership or organization that represents the movement. Maybe this is the case and maybe it’s part of the problem.
    :::

    I share your frustration with the modern Democrats but disagree that 1) Nader could bring about the demise of the Democrats 2) that this would be a positive thing for both progressive prospects and global society at large.
    :::

    You seem to be suggesting that if Pelosi wins then anti-war sentiment in the SF Bay area is somehow false. I don’t think your logic is sound. People reasonably cast defensive strategic votes (i.e. Gore/Kerry/Pelosi). The task, I believe, is not to frame the situation in such terms but to work towards changing our culture such that Dems will be capitulating to the Left instead of the Right.
    :::

    Sure, I agree.

    But I don’t believe that I suggested a rigid dichotomy between “party” and “movement” but that any future successful progressive electoral activity will *necessarily* be based in social movements. As I wrote in the above piece:

    “The German Green Party evolved as an extension of environmental, peace, and other activist currents in recognition of the need for an electoral arm to social movements. The American Green movement began similarly as a coalition of anti-nuclear activists, feminists, and both those connected to ecology and social justice movements.”

    I believe our task is to reconsider the idea of an electoral “arm” to social movements rather than a political party apparatus that draws (as if from on high) from social movements.

    thanks!
    Karl

  10. rosemarie jackowski said on March 7th, 2008 at 5:52pm #

    Maybe I’m missing something here, but since Nader is the strongest of the acceptable candidates, why not coalesce around him? If the Socialists, Greens, and others do that in the end, we will have given birth to a “movement”.

  11. Max Shields said on March 7th, 2008 at 6:34pm #

    It’s important to 1) face the problem square on 2) determine how best to deal with that problem.

    Multi-parties are desired, but the USA has deeply institutionalized the 2 party system. The 3 critical components that make up a society are its: 1) Culture 2) Polity 3) Economics. These are the forces that determine the prevailing trajectory. All 3 (triad), today, are wrapped around the 2 Party system.

    One does not solve such a problem by butting one’s head against the triad as if it will evential give in. In fact, the power dynamic will probably be strengthened by such a futile effort.

    The purpose of Nader’s run has absolutely nothing to do with building a 3rd party. He is offering a voice for those of us who see through the triad of power, mentioned. He does not expect to win, not even attain some kind of influential power after the election, but to keep the issues alive. It may or may not be a good strategy given his stated goal – which is hugely modest.

    To change the power structure you need to de-link localities from it, to create a movement and politic that surrounds the power structure. The latter is doomed because it is not, given what we know, sustainable. It will collapse and that not only seems inevitable but near. The important thing is to stay outside the box created by the mindset that maintains the triad of power. By de-linking from that power structure a transformative movement can begin to take place.

    There are deep systemic and structural problems which cannot be fought, I repeat, by going head to head in some kind of Quiotic adventure. It is futile at best, and keeps the “battle” within the limits of the “box” where the triad plays its game in ways they are most accomplished at. Those of us wishing to change the power need to face that fact, stay out of the box and become completely and thoroughly engaged in a deep local transformation of all 3 components, ready to move forward as the unsustainable collapses. In other words, Presidential politics, today, is built for 2 Parties (not 3 or more). It seems to me coming to those terms is the beginning of, humbly speaking, wisdom.

  12. DaveGillis said on March 7th, 2008 at 8:27pm #

    The Green Party has done an outstanding job. 2008 presents an outstanding opportunity for Greens to affiliate the four states of the Independence Party of America. These include New York with nearly 400,000 members, and Jesse Ventura’s Minnesota Independence Party. Independence Green Party, a third major Party for America.

  13. Rev. José M. Tirado said on March 8th, 2008 at 9:17am #

    I have to disagree with you Max. Decoupling, or “de-linking” as you call it, accepts the satus quo in an attempt to reinvent the wheel. There is nothing written in stone about a two party system. Shoot, there was a Socialist Mayor of Milwaukee, Frank Zeidler from 1948-1960, so it´s not a done deal. Secondly our economy is not built around a two party system. Most importantly, you ignore the suggestions I made and those in the article and in Karl´s response above. We need movements and an electoral party both.

    Without a party, the movement relies on mobilizing a notoriously apolitical USAmerican electorate. Without a movement, parties devolve into elitist institutions losing their connections to the people.

    I personally don´t think Nader is the “strongest” Rosemarie. The criticisms above are right I believe. Nader extolled the Green Party so much the first time around then dumped them like they were nothing. Why? How does that help fix a broken system? Now he runs with a wonderful guy who also jumps ship from the Greens. As well, last time he ran with Camejo. So what´s going on there? Either they know something about the Greens we don´t or they believe running away from the Greens is simply a better way to get attention. Well, shit, so what if they get attention, no structures are being built. No movements either. I worked for Jesse Jackson and Nader years ago and they both have made crucial mistakes–by not putting together a movement/party that could beat Dems and get into power in order to open up the system further. This is very shortsighted in my opinion.

    As I see it, the Greens remain viable, although barely. I disagree with you Dave–I think they have done an awful job and I believe it is because too many are tied to the hip of the Dems. I think a Labor Party would be the most potent political entity of all but they have fewer members than the regular writers in this forum. There are alternatives and USAmericans have to figure them out. But counseling opting out as a strategy guarantees inertia and politcal impotence. And in light of what so many people around the world have created, with far greater obstacles, we should be ashamed of ourselves for not being at the forefront of great progressive strides in education, the economy, and political reform.

  14. John Halle said on March 8th, 2008 at 10:27am #

    I agree with the consensus expressed above that Nader running as an independent is a potential obstacle in the way of the kind of long term strategy which we need to advance.

    That said, given that he is running, it is incumbent on us to make the best of the situation and to mine it for what opportunities the presence of two outstanding left candidates, Nader and Mckinney (and possibly others) offer. This is the logic, incidentally, which motivated Matt Gonzalez to resign from the Greens and accept Nader’s offer for the VP slot. In particular, given the rather small likelihood of the Greens, or any candidate, achieving the 5% mark, there’s an argument to be made that we are actually better of with more left candidates than fewer, just as we would be better off with more candidates and more choices of all sorts on the ballot in November.

    With this in mind, here is a concrete proposal: sponsor a series of Nader-McKinney shadow debates which would occur immediately following and/or in the same cities as the major party candidate debates. The implicit statement would be the mirror image: two articulate, decent, principled candidates who disagree on relatively little of substance following two unprincipled corporate hacks.

    We could also use this opportunity to focus on some of the tactical and strategic questions which have been floated above, and to begin the process of organizing a long range alternative party which will support insurgent candidacies at the local, state, and eventually national level.

    This will require significant organization, volunteer energies and probably money, though maybe no so much. In any case, my impression is that we would get a lot of bang for the buck from this strategy.

  15. Max Shields said on March 8th, 2008 at 11:50am #

    Rev. José M. Tirado
    “I have to disagree with you Max. Decoupling, or “de-linking” as you call it, accepts the satus quo in an attempt to reinvent the wheel.”

    I respect your point, but it’s not based on what I said. I’m not saying there is anything sacrosanct about any human system including a 2 party system – to the contrary. The very first point is that all human systems are fabrications. Nevertheless, these “systems” are institutionalized around the triad I mentioned and one must take heed of the dominate narrative that glues these together before determining a smart approach.

    De-linking does not mean disengaging from the body politics – again to the contrary. It is absolutely necessary that building and sustaining a movement have a strong political arm otherwise it will go no where. BUT, José, fighting head to head against a deeply rooted power like the triad I mentioned, is futile and foolish. It could actually prolong the inevitable as it collapses and potentially drag down our effort with its demise.

    If we look at, what I consider, the best 21st century political organization in the world, it is not the Labor Party or the Socialist Party, but the Green Party. The reason is that the first 2 are anachronistic and are aligned to a dynamic which is the Western liberal democracy and a hardened corporate capitalism based on endless growth (Marx saw nothing wrong with this, btw). What we know today is that we need much more profound and fundamental changes that require cultural and economic transformation as well as political. The economic changes note the social alliance with legacy left wing groups and will build coalitions with them.

    The Green Party has been successful in Europe and is gaining solid ground in Canada and Pacific. In the USA the Green Party has had some real success at the local and state level. That is a natural fit for a grass-roots party. I’m arguing that we need to build a deep and wide constituency from there and de-link from the national politics and its unsustainable trajectory. If we play (as we have) in that game, it is a major distraction from the movement and political and culture building that must take place.

    If you would like metrics on GP success vs other leftist parties in the US, I’d just ask you to tell me how many states and local political positions do non-Green progressives have? We know the GP numbers are well into the hundreds.

    The GP accounts for a deeper change in USA which is not evident in the Corporate Media because the media is part of the triad of power.

    Again, let me be very clear, Rev. José M. Tirado, I am not suggesting “opting out”! I am saying we need to be thoughtful about where we can effect real and lasting change. You can disagree with that but please do not confuse my position.

    Peace
    Max

  16. Max Shields said on March 8th, 2008 at 12:41pm #

    Jose, I do think you have a valid point concerning Nader. But at the national level – running for prez is problematic since the triad of power will not allow for other voices. With his billions, Perot was able to beat that but without $$$ the world is different. This is a last stand for the power triad and it’s circling the proverbial wagons and they – media, big corporate money, Dems/Repubs will squash any and all comers to the party in short order. Since there is no real movement in this country there is only the triad of power. My sense is that the triad of power will make sure the Dems win this go round.

    So, I’m not sure that Nader’s run is going to matter; but why he choses to step out of the Green and take an up and coming leader with him is a mystery, I do agree.

  17. dan e said on March 8th, 2008 at 2:36pm #

    Well, John Halle definitely gets the Best Comment Award this time around. I’ll copy your suggestion & fwd it to Cynthia HQ. IMO “shadow debates” is a dynamite idea, just the kind of outside the box creative thinking that is alas all too rare in these rarified “progressive” circles.

    So Props To You, Bro. JH! Got any more ideas where that came from?
    Thanks,
    Dan:)

  18. George Thompson said on March 8th, 2008 at 6:08pm #

    I disagree that Howard Dean faltered. He was bamboozled by the corporate media and the elite who viewed him as a threat with all his transformation talk. The problem is that the American people bought it hook, line and sinker. Who cares that he yelled out a bunch of state names after a minor setback as he attempted to galvanize his campaign. I guess it’s the same people that care that Kucinich is a man of short stature or doesn’t have the deep voice of a Barack Obama. Americans are hopelessly shallow and distracted by consumerism. We are nothing but a nation of slaves that are told we are free.

  19. John Halle said on March 8th, 2008 at 7:15pm #

    Thanks for the kind words, Dan e.

    Alas, the above just about fulfills my quota for good ideas for the year. DV readers can reassure themselves of a return the normal cluelessness-no more rude surprises.

    But that means that they’ve got to pick up the slack within the category you mention-and there’s a lot of it, as you suggest.

    JH

  20. John Halle said on March 8th, 2008 at 7:16pm #

    Not to mention typos and grammatical errors.

  21. Jason said on March 8th, 2008 at 11:43pm #

    What I believe the main problem to be is lack of centralized leadership. This was brought up earlier by somebody. The progressives of this country have too many fractured political parties to which they can look for leadership. There are a dozen or more socialist parties (the Socialist Party-USA being the largest) throughout the country, plus the Greens, the Labor and any other progressive party. On top of that there is Ralph Nader running as an independent. What is needed is for all of these parties to say that this time around, for this one election at least (and possibly for 2010), that they will tell all progressives to vote for one party, get behind one person for president (honestly I think that one party should be the Greens, simply because the word “socialist” scares so many in this country, and Brian Moore doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in South Carolina).

    While I do love Cynthia McKinney (and she will definitely be getting my vote this November), that one person that everybody gets behind could be Ralph Nader. He has the name that everybody recognizes. He has a strong populist, progressive message. If all of the progressives of this country get behind him, the Democratic Party would be forced to become a centre-left party again, moving away from its current state as a centre-right.

    Another method that I’ve toyed with is helping the Libertarians, Reforms and the Constitutions try to draw conservative voters away from the Republican Party. This way we don’t have to worry about the whole “spoiler” system. If it could even get two third parties that glorious 5% (say the Greens and the Libertarians), it would help out the anti-war movement alone tremendously, because the two major parties would see that two anti-war parties are “stealing” their votes.

    Personally, I believe we need to institute proportional representation. This would allow progressive voices to be heard through political parties. We know this country has a conservative majority, that doesn’t mean we have to live with it.