The Magic Number 39 and My Meetings with Cobb, Kucinich and the Steering Committee
Many Green members want to know when the infighting is going to end. When will people recognize there is nothing wrong when Greens have differences? Why can’t we respect each other and figure out how to work together? This sentiment is wide spread in the Green Party, especially since many members do not have a hard opinion about some of the differences within the party. They are still listening to both points of view. They want peace, understanding, tolerance and unity in action where there is agreement.
Most Greens are not involved in the day by day or even month by month debate that is now under way in the Green Party. Over time however the issues being raised will reach all Greens and they will express their views in a variety of ways. We must all be patient and understand that it is normal for there to be differences and that our internal debates are themselves part of building a party that can be effective in its opposition to the two party dictatorship. We must learn to allow the differing points of view the freedom to try and convince all of us through example that what they propose will really work. In that way we generate respect between Greens who differ.
It was precisely in that spirit that I proposed a unified approach at the Milwaukee convention. I proposed we accept that there is a sharp difference in the party, recognize both currents, show respect for each other by endorsing Cobb and Nader, then let Greens in each state use their ballot line in the way they thought best. But that vision was rejected by the Cobb supporters at the convention.
When I speak of Cobb supporters I mean precisely those who are in the leadership of that current. Many of the Greens who voted for or supported Cobb are not in agreement with many of the views being projected by what I call the "Lesser Evil" current. I define that current based on the statement by 18 Green leader supporters of Cobb that refer to themselves as supporters of voting for the Lesser Evil (their word).
They wanted to "win", to defeat Nader. Looking back we can now see clearly that after being crushed in the primaries (they received 12%) and in most state conventions, the Cobb supporters could not win unless they stacked the convention. By stacking I mean something quite simple. Regardless of the vote in a state convention or primary the Lesser Evil current set out to get as many of their supporters to become delegates. An example would be if in a State Cobb got 26% of the vote instead of only 26% of the delegates from among those who voted for Cobb going to the convention and 74% of those who voted for another candidate going the majority of delegates going to the convention were Greens who voted for Cobb. To do this is not only anti-democratic it is a conscious effort to over turn the will of the membership.
By doing this "packing" they refused to accept the wishes of the membership. This fact more than anything else is what threatens the Green Party today. If democracy is not respected within the Green Party then what exactly is the Party? Internal democracy is not a negotiable issue. When the membership votes, its collective will must be respected and recognized.
I thought after the election maybe the Cobb supporters would step back, take a deep breath and reconsider their approach within the Green Party. I hoped that some of them might have some remorse over what they had done. I reached out to David Cobb even before the election was over in an attempt to find common ground and see if we could get the party working together. After the elections I called David three times but received no reply. Months went by until one day Matt Gonzalez called me to say he was having David over for dinner and would I like to be there. I changed my schedule cut short a visit and flew in from Chicago for this opportunity to meet with David. A little further on I will explain what happened at that meeting.
THE 2004 ELECTIONS
I think all Greens recognize that something rather peculiar has happened in our history. The formal Green Party vote for President dropped 95% in 2004 as compared to 2000, quite unusual even for a third party. We came in sixth not third like in 2000. We also lost ballot status in seven states and are now down to 15 (Ballot Access News). In many states the party has declined. Two important exceptions stand out at least partially, California and New York. In both states our large registration has held or increased (NY went from 36,000 to 41,000 and California remains above 150,000). In California we hit a new record of elected officials. Nationwide our total number of elected officials also increased. So while we have declined in some areas in others we have held our own or increased.
The pro-Cobb leadership needs to recognize reality and note that most Greens who did not vote corporate voted for Nader overwhelmingly. Most Greens who actually participated actively for Cobb or Nader were overwhelmingly involved pro Nader. Nader was only on the ballot in states with half the population of the country, and nonetheless he received almost 500,000 votes. If you assume in the other states his vote would have been just half of that, Nader would have received some 750,000 votes in spite of the massive ABB campaign. If you calculate Cobb’s vote and also project what he might have gotten being on the ballot in all states, you end up with a combined total of both Nader and Cobb of close to 1 million people who refused to vote for either pro-corporate party.
Amazingly, the ratio between Nader and Cobb’s vote followed pretty closely the ratios in the Green primaries and state conventions: about 6 votes for Nader to 1 for Cobb.
With the one exception of the year 2000, this is the largest progressive vote for President in more than 50 years (according to Richard Winger, editor of Ballot Access News). So rather than draw pessimistic conclusions, let’s recognize that the Green Party is still here. In great part, this is due to Nader’s courageous stand against the two corporate parties. It is clear that a large number of people accept being outside of the corporate-controlled parties.
It is imperative that we look towards organizing and unifying these forces in a growing independent political movement. And from there we reach out to the broad layers of millions of people betrayed by the two parties. We need to reach out to those who either do not vote at all or vote Democrat because they are political prisoners in the two party dictatorship that we live under.
CRISES GROWING IN THE GREEN PARTY
Unfortunately, the current that has organized behind Cobb’s campaign after the elections is moving in another direction. It has become quite clear to me that they have shown little interest in trying to reach out to the majority current in the Green Party or the hundreds of thousands who voted for Nader. Instead, they have become quite attracted to the Democratic Party ‘s latest "progressive" wing, the Progressive Democrats of America (PDA). They seem to feel threatened by the existence of a militant pro-independence current in the Green Party.
Instead of seeing the danger of co-option by Democrats John Rensenbrink recently warned of the danger of the infiltration of socialists into the Green Party. This red baiting approach is another way to say the left in the Green Party is the problem and we need to get them out. To Rensenbrink, calling for a vote for Kerry is not the problem, the problem is those "socialists" that won’t vote Kerry. Of course he never mentions that both the Communist Party and many of the Democratic Socialist of America members were solid backers of Kerry. For those socialists to be in the Green Party, I guess, might be okay with Rensenbrink. His problems are with other "socialists" like the ISO that refuse to vote pro-war, and are helping to build the Green Party.
Since the Nader/LaDuke campaign of 2000, the ISO has worked alongside the Green Party in electoral campaigns (endorsing our candidates, walking precincts, organizing campaign meetings, etc.) and many members of the ISO are registered Greens. The ISO also works in various places with Green Party members in non-electoral coalitions against the war, for immigrant rights, against the death penalty, etc. Other socialist groups, like Solidarity, have had members helping to build the Green Party since its founding. In New York we ran a leader of the Socialist Party for Senate.
The facts are exactly the opposite of what Rensenbrink states. It is a hopeful sign for the Green Party that many of the ISO members and Solidarity are helping the Green Party. The ISO has developed a large following, especially among young people. The Green Party is not socialist or capitalist, it welcomes all who are willing to stand by the ten key values and respect internal democracy. The danger to the Green Party is from the Democratic Party, from pro corporate forces, not from people supportive of our party.
THE ISSUE OF CONTROL
In their desire to cozy up to the "new" Progressive Democrats of America (PDA), the Lesser Evil current wants to keep their control of the Green Party. They feel they must stop the membership from being able to alter the present minority control. The fact is the PDA is watching to see if the Lesser Evil wing of the Greens can keep their minority control and help deliver the Greens towards a fusion strategy with the Democrats.
That is why we are now seeing the first signs of Cobb supporters openly speaking out against one Green one vote. They are trying to sow confusion over the issue. They try to claim our call for democracy is somehow hostility to smaller Green Party states. They accuse California of wanting to "take over". The truth is the exact opposite. Everything we achieve in California we hope will help build the smaller Green Party units. We respect, admire and want to help those states. Rejecting democracy and trying to create a non-existent inter-state conflict is not a way to help the smaller states.
DINNER WITH COBB
I sat next to David at a dinner attended by about ten Greens. He asked me to help raise money for the national party. I said sure, as soon as we vote in democracy: one Green one vote. I proposed that we join together and help raise money for the California Party where we have democracy, where the membership votes for each county council, where one Green one vote is a reality. Cobb agreed to help California.
I asked him to meet with me so we could try to figure out how to reach a consensus on the issues dividing the party, to find common ground so we could work together. He said that he couldn’t because he’s too busy. Specifically, he mentioned that he has to go to Europe.
Cobb did not seem to recognize that there is a serious issue over democracy in the Party. I guess he thinks the present system is okay. But David and all the Lesser Evil Greens should recognize that large numbers of Greens believe, as I do, that a minority has taken over the leadership of our Party. This happened primarily because of the extreme disfranchisement of Greens where we have a large following, but also because the membership’s vote was not respected when delegates were chosen (or self-appointed) at the last national convention.
David did tell me he was quite excited about PDA and that he wants them to endorse Greens. I did not have a chance to talk to him about how we should approach the PDA. In any case my door remains open. It would be quite useful for the two us who both ran for office in 2004 representing the two different currents in the Green Party to get together discuss these issues and find common ground.
GREEN INSTITUTE AND LESSER EVIL
For Greens who want to build an alternative party to the two corporate controlled parties it is important to understand the evolution which is now happening in the Green Party. Our party is not immune from what is happening in our nation. Politics are now moving to the right. This is clear within the Democratic Party. This shift is obvious around the issue of the rights of women where the Democrats are back pedaling and their support for Bush on the illegal occupation of Iraq. This rightward shift within the nation acts as a magnet on everyone.
Within the Green Party those who thought we should consider supporting Democrats, that is develop what has been traditionally called a fusion strategy have begun to become more open about their views. Greens in some states have started withdrawing candidates when the Democrats ask us to do so.
There has been a more conservative current in the Green Party for some time. I have slowly become aware of this as I watched the role of the Green Institute a grouping of Greens organized as a not for profit "Think Tank". Recently Greens have been hearing about some large donations going to the Green Institute.
When the Green Institute was set up, its purpose appeared vague but gave the impression it was an organization reflecting the Green Party. It had a large list of well-known Green Party members as its supporters. However, as Green Party members began to have differences over whether to support Cobb or Nader, 100% of the Green Institute was pro-Cobb and in favor of voting Democrat.
It was Green Institute Director Dean Myerson who wrote the statement, signed by 18 leading GP members, laying out most clearly the "Lesser Evil" position. Taking these facts into account, it becomes clear that the Green Institute was set up to help organize the Lesser Evil or "right wing" of our party.
The power of money controls our society and its influence reaches everywhere. We Greens who favor democracy and independence must assume that the Lesser Evil current inside the Green Party will always have more funds than we will. That is always the case in struggles like the one we are now in. Why this is simple. Which wing in this debate do you think the Democrats want to see prevail?
The Green Institute was created to attract money to assist the right wing of the Green Party. What has been circulating on the web is that they received a donation from a German "Green" foundation that has worked with the Democratic Party’s DLC Progressive Policy Institute and has pro-corporate views. Recently they received 250,000 dollars from an individual.
It would be appropriate for the Green Institute to reveal to the Green Party membership where its funding is coming from and how it has spent it. We would in particular like to know if any of their funds were used to help get delegates to our convention in Milwaukee. I was always struck by Dean Myerson’s note in an email where he asked why Nader had not funded delegates in favor of his position to go to the convention. Rather odd question to ask. Because the answer is obvious, Nader has tried to respect the Green Party. The obvious corollary is why did Dean make such an odd comment? Did the pro-Cobb people engage in some kind of funding the membership does not know about? Our convention is not supposed to be a contest over who will fund delegates.
THE LESSER EVIL CURRENT IS SMALL
The pro-Cobb current became fully aware of how small they really are as David campaigned. But they also saw that they could control the Green Party by pushing their people forward to fill positions in the Green Party. In most cases who ever volunteers is simply given the position.
Throughout the Cobb/LaMarche campaign, the votecobb.org web site avoided mentioning how many people attended or even sometimes whether there actually were campaign meetings. Most of the campaign was really an organizing effort for the Lesser Evil current within the Green Party. As far as we know, Cobb’ s campaign meetings were miniscule. Cobb’s big launch in California managed to draw only 25 or so people even though the Bay Area has over 40,000 registered Greens. That compares with about 1,000 mostly Greens at Nader’s Bay Area opening rally.
The Cobb current wants control. They are prepared to maintain control by a small minority and to refuse to allow democracy in the Green Party. I say this because no leading Cobb supporter (for instance none of the 18 who signed the pro Lesser Evil statement) has up to now stated they accept that leadership bodies and the nomination of our presidential slate must reflect the will of the membership by establishing a system based on one Green one vote.
KEEPING THE MEMBERSHIP IN THE DARK
Traditionally, part of what right wings do to keep control is to prevent information from reaching the membership of the group they are a part of. For instance when the primaries and state conventions were being held in preparation for our convention in 2004, the Green Party national website avoided printing how many Greens attended conventions or participated in caucuses or how many voted in our primaries and for whom. They only listed the number of delegates allocated to candidates.
If they had listed the actual votes in the primaries and the size of the State conventions it would have been so transparently clear that Cobb had lost overwhelmingly inside the Green Party. Do you think for one second if Cobb had done well in the primaries those figures would not have appeared as headlines in the Green Party web site? After being crushed in three primaries where thousands of Greens voted in California, New Mexico, and Massachusetts, the pro-Cobb Greens did not want the membership to see those figures. They still do not exist on our national web site.
Now through the effort of Greens for Democracy and Independence (GDI) we have started to discover what each state party’s membership is. That is what these states themselves say they have. Do you think for one second the Green Party’s national web site will show the membership what those figures are? In the future that should become a standard list adjusted once every four years for anyone to see.
MY MEETING WITH THE STEERING COMMITTEE (SC)
I was invited to go to Washington DC and meet with the Steering Committee during the 2004 campaign. I agreed to do that. At that meeting, an interesting exchange took place when I mentioned that it was wrong to hide the results of our primaries or to not report how many Greens attended each state convention. Brent McMillan who has worked hard to provide a lot of the information available, protested thinking it had been posted.
Not being the world’s best computer person I figured I was wrong and apologized. I assumed I just didn’t know where to look. When I got home I searched where Brent had told me to go and emailed him asking for further help since I could not find the figures. Finally Brent realized himself that in fact the votes at never been posted.
The main question of interest, at least for some of the SC members was what I had said in Utah to the Utah Greens. In Utah the Green Party had a rule that they had to reach a pretty high level of consensus before decisions could be made. Some of the members had asked Cobb to come to Utah for a meeting and others asked that I also be invited so both points of view could be heard. David was unable to make the meeting so it turned out I was there alone to speak to a meeting of about 15 or so Greens. Some time after my meeting in Utah the Utah Greens could not reach a consensus on what to do regarding whether they would place Nader or Cobb on their ballot and decided not to place either. All three of the delegates sent by the Utah Party to Milwaukee had returned saying they were quite upset by what they saw.
Immediately the Cobb current went to work and split the Green Party. There were two Greens in charge of the treasury, one a Nader supporter the other a Cobb supporter. The Cobb supporter went to the bank and cleaned out the $3,000 or so dollars the Green Party had in Utah. This is usually referred to as a robbery. They proceeded to hold an emergency conference by phone where only certain Greens were invited and declared other Greens expelled. They proceeded to "elect" a new leadership so that it would be 100% pro-Cobb and then went into court declaring the Cobb current the Green Party. The lower courts ruled against them. They appealed using the funds they had taken from the Green Party all the way to the State Supreme Court but they all ruled against them.
Because I attended a meeting in Utah, some of the Steering Committee members seemed to want to find a way to blame me for the split. I oppose the split.
Now the committee in charge of accrediting states within the Green Party, under the guidance of Steering Committee member Jody Haug, has declared the Cobb split the legitimate and official Green Party of Utah. Neither the SC nor the CC has approved that decision yet to my knowledge. Nor has there been any effort by the national leadership to reunify the Greens or even to have a non-partisan investigation. Utah is the first case where such a split has taken place and where Greens were "expelled" for supporting Nader.
The "expelled" Greens and many other Greens in Utah who supported Nader waited to see if the Green Party Steering Committee would stop this split. They informed me that in their opinion Dean Myerson and Holly Hart were orchestrating the split, and that in fact the national leadership supported splitting the Utah party in two. Utah Green candidates withdrew their candidacy in protest against the pro-Cobb coup. But those who would not go along with Cobb felt the Utah Green Party was being destroyed. Both wings now have a web site. The pro-Nader Greens consider the pro-Cobb Greens as part of the Green party. They want unity. The Cobb supporters want to continue the split. The national party web site only lists the Cobb Green’s web site and has refused to include both.
In Utah some Greens pointed out to me that some of the leaders of the splitters where people who had supported Howard Dean and Dennis Kucinich. They also explained how this was the second time the Greens in Utah had had a split. The first time it was a group that also wanted to work with the Democrats. They split and then decided to join the Democratic Party.
Another example where Jody Haug is also involved is Vermont. The Vermont Greens decided not to place anyone on their ballot. Now the Lesser Evil current wants to do something about this. Note the difference in approach. We GDI Greens who believe the Lesser Evil current did not carry the 2004 convention fairly do not want to expel anyone. We want to try and work things out with them and accept there are differences in our approach to the Democrats. That cannot be achieved without coming to an agreement around issues of democracy. The Lesser Evil current supports the split in Utah and is seeking action against Vermont and opposes one Green one vote.
ON THE WRONG TRACK
They are on the wrong track. This is the opposite of what is needed now. We need to mend the Green Party, establish rules that both currents can accept and try to maintain unity, and not seek to create a split. Forget the Democrats. They are not going to help us build the Green Party. The Democrats are part of the problem not the solution.
THE DEMOCRATS AND THE MAGIC OF 39
It is becoming clear to me that the Cobb current, which has previously tried to obfuscate their pro-Democratic Party views, is now beginning to become more openly pro-Democrat. Jack Uhrich, a strong "safe state campaign" supporter, who should be given an award for honesty, laid out an open call that the Green Party’s future depends on it beginning to endorse Democrats. He wrote his views in John Rensenbrink’s magazine Green Horizon. Not a single Cobb supporter, to my knowledge, has said Uhrich is wrong.
Following Uhrich’s lead, Medea Benjamin has taken a step further and is raising money for the Democrats, specifically the PDA. In the fund appeal for the PDA she says the PDA is not the Democratic Party. It is like saying the Panama Canal is not Panama. I’d have to say it’s still in Panama. The Progressive DEMOCRATS of America are not the Democratic Party but they’re in the Democratic Party. In fact they are the front line fighting to prevent an independent force from developing against the two parties and clearly in competition with the Green Party. Part of their goal is to co-opt the Green Party back into the Democratic Party.
They make this perfectly clear themselves. Kevin Spidel, National Field Director for Kucinich for President and now Deputy National Director for Progressive Democrats of America said, "The most important thing we do is that inside-outside strategy: Pulling together members of the Green Party, the Independent Progressive Politics Network, the hip hop community, the civil rights community, our allies in congress, the anti-war community. We are bringing together all the social movements within the Democratic Party under one effective tent, and we will do it better if people can contribute to our cause." (Ordinary Heroes and the Rising Power of the Roots – an interview by Williams Rivers Pitt, truthout, 27 January 2005.)
To make her position even clearer Medea Benjamin has also stated that she now feels it was wrong to vote Green in 2000 that is to vote for Nader at least in some states. This follows quite logically from her position of support to Kerry. If you believe a vote for the Green Party candidate could result in shifting whether a bad Republican gets elected versus a milder Democrat, then you will, over time rarely vote Green in partisan races, since we have no run offs. That is the whole point of the two party dictatorship. Set it up so people will never vote for what is in their interest. When voters are not in agreement with the Republican, openly pro-corporate platform, they have another way, a milder way, to vote pro-corporate. What Medea is challenging is the whole reason for having a Green Party. Clearly this is the New Party strategy. Run only local candidates, vote lesser evil in partisan races, with an exception once in a while.
Recently I had a conversation with her where she told me that she did not say it was wrong to vote for Nader in 2000. So that I do not miss represent her views I will quote exactly what she said in Common Dreams. Org.:
"So while Bush refuses to admit mistakes maybe its time for people who voted for Bush in 2000, the people who didn’t vote at all in 2000, and yes, people like myself (Medea Benjamin-PC) who voted for Ralph Nader in 2000 to admit our mistakes. I’ll say mine – I had no idea that George Bush would be such a disastrous president. Had I known then what I know now, and had I lived in a swing state, I would have voted for Gore instead of Ralph Nader. And this time around, if I lived in a swing state (which I don’t) I wouldn’t make the same mistake. What about you?"
Well I for one will answer Medea. I would have voted for the Liberty Party, the Greenback Labor Party, the Populists, the Debsian Socialists, just as I supported voting for Nader in all states in 2000. I will not vote for a Gore or Kerry or any other pro-war, pro corporate, anti-labor, anti-the environment and anti-democracy candidate whether I live in swing or swing less states.
Because I disagree with Medea on her approach on this issue does not diminish my respect for the work she has done in exposing many injustices through out the world. GDI Greens should recognize that our admiration for people like Medea and many others who do not agree with our views is not in contradiction with debating over policies. To state your political difference is not disrespect. We must return to the days before Stalinism destroyed open dialogue among progressive. There was a time when progressives could argue in sharp terms about policies and maintain our ability to work together, especially given our large areas of agreement. We must return to that culture.
THE MAGIC OF 39
The problem all the progressive-minded Democrats have is that their party is rapidly moving further rightward and more openly showing how pro-Bush, pro-Republican the party really is. Hillary Clinton and Howard Dean are now openly questioning the Democrats’ traditional positions on reproductive rights for women; Hillary Clinton has also joined in the right wing "abstinence" campaign that both Kerry and Bush pushed in the presidential "debates".
But most amazing is how, after telling the world in thousands of speeches how terrible a president George Bush is and how if Nader runs it is such a crime because the terrible Bush might get elected, the Democratic Party-including the so called progressive Democrats (Ted Glick a hard core Cobb supporter claims there are 130 progressive Democrats in Congress)- gave George Bush 39 standing ovations at the State of the Union address, surpassing the previous year’s amazing 18 standing ovations with an additional 21 ovations all in one hour. The Democrats are not an opposition party. They are a prevent-an-opposition-from-arising Party.
We have not heard a peep from the PDA, The Nation, Moveon.org, The Progressive, Norman Solomon etc., about the fact that their choice for president just gave Bush 39 standing ovations. Apparently it is not something they feel is worth commenting on. In fact the silence is deafening as Democrats cheer Bush and openly declare how they are shifting away from what is majority opinions in America on one issue after another. An amazing numerical coincidence has just occurred when the Democrats in congress overwhelming voted for Bush’s request for funding for the continued illegal occupation of Iraq: only 39 Democrats voted no. Of course many Democrats vote no when they know the motion will pass. Their no vote becomes cover when they live in strongly anti-war districts. The pro war vote included some of the more famous progressive Democrats like John Conyers and Jesse Jackson Jr.
Let us not forget the massive totalitarian campaign to not allow a pro peace candidate, Ralph Nader from being on the ballot. Not one elected Democrat in the nation publicly opposed their party’s campaign against democracy. Not one leader of the PDA said one word in opposition to this totalitarian campaign.
CONTRADICTION IN THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY
The Democrats are moving to the right under the pressure of the Republicans and the control of money, but they also have to try and shore up their base if they want to win elections. Like in nature where there are strong currents counter currents appear. It is understandable that as the Democrats move to the right some Democrats seek to regroup to oppose the right turn or at least to not lose their base that is suffering at the hands of the right ward shift.
This can be important to us. But we also need to fully understand the role such counter currents often play to keep the Democrats from losing their base that is disgusted with their politics. In the end do they just end up trying to keep those who are turned off to the Democrats from leaving and joining the Greens or forming some other opposition organization.
In fact the Democrats electoral failure is in good part due to their inability to mobilize their base. Therefore even as they shift to the right, expect to see all kinds of maneuvers to try and appeal to labor, minorities, women, gays, environmentalist and others. Making Howard Dean the head of the Democratic Party is one step. There may actually be an increase in activity of "progressive" Democrats as they try to keep hope alive for this degenerating instrument of money among its traditional base. I would not be surprised to see some State and local Democratic candidates appear that are more progressive than usual.
The Democrats do not mind having such candidates if it shores up their base and weakens the Greens or any other current moving towards independence. They especially do not mind such candidates in races they expect to lose.
GREENS AND THE PDA
Our attitude should not be sectarian towards the PDA. We should reach out to the members of the PDA where we have agreement to engage in actions together. We need to recognize that there are many specific points where we have agreement with the PDA. We should show respect for them as individuals and not engage in personalized attacks. We should also not confuse expressing our political differences with them and personal attacks.
But the last thing we should do is suggest to them that membership in a pro-war, pro-corporate party is the way to go. Nor should we follow Jack Uhrich’s proposal to follow the fusion policies of the now defunct New Party, a policy that will only tear the Greens apart by arguing over what Democrat to support. In the end the road towards fusion is the road to oblivion. That is what has happened through out the history of our nation. Where ever progressives, trying to build an independent political force, were seduced into a fusion strategy they ended up being destroyed.
The Cobb current is free to endorse all the Democrats they want. That is acceptable. But NOT IN OUR NAME. The Green Party as an institution must remain independent. The Green Party belongs to all its members not just the Lesser Evil current.
The PDA held a national convention with about 600 people present where they invited Medea Benjamin and David Cobb to speak. They refused to allow Ralph Nader, who had just gotten almost 500,000 votes for president to come and be heard. Isn’t it clear? To the PDA the condition for political collaboration is that you are willing to vote for war, for the Patriot Act, for pro-corporate candidates like Kerry or you are not welcome.
MY MEETING WITH DENNIS KUCINICH
Wouldn’t it be nice if Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! asked Dennis Kucinich or Barbara Boxer the next time she interviews either of them how many times they stood up and gave Bush a standing ovation? Kucinich has fought for many positions that the Green Party supports such as opposing the Patriot Act. But he buys in to the two party dictatorship and will not dare to stand against the betrayal that standing ovations for Bush mean to the future of our nation.
During the primaries I met with Kucinich and spoke twice at Kucinich meetings. In both meetings I thanked him for taking good stances on many issues but I also made it clear that I was a Green and would not endorse any Democrat, any candidate of a party that was pro-war and anti-labor.
I think it is quite possible that the majority of people working on Kucinich ‘s campaign were Green Party supporters. We built a progressive independent party that attracted hundreds of thousands of people, especially with the Nader campaign in 2000. Kucinich saw this development as an opportunity to build a current inside the Democratic Party by trying to win Greens back to working inside the Democrats. Similarly the PDA that is much smaller than the Green Party sees the opportunity to build their current inside the Democratic Party by recruiting Greens.
I urged Dennis Kucinich at the time we met to show respect for the Green Party by not calling on its members to abandon the Green Party and join the Democrats. I had gone to a Kucinich house party to check them out and saw a video where Kucinich states he will bring the Greens back into the Democratic Party. I asked him to take that out of his video and to publicly state that he respects the decision of those who have joined the Green Party. Kucinich turned to me and said, "Yes you are right that was a mistake." He then turned to Gary Jelinek who was driving the car we were riding in together and said "remind me Gary we need to change that video, Peter’s right."
Many months later I spoke to Gary who remembered that conversation clearly. He pointed out to me that the Kucinich campaign had a meeting on that issue but Kucinich insisted on keeping the video unchanged. In New Mexico well after my meeting with Kucinich he held a press conference with the 2002 Green Party candidate for Governor, David Bacon, deregistering from the Green Party into the Democratic Party. The Kucinich campaign worked hard to deregister Greens all over America but especially in California. In spite of their efforts our registration did not decline in California and I have been quite happy to see the rise in New York State. I am sure the success in New York is probably at least partially the result of the great work the New Paltz Greens have done around the issue of gay marriage.
We should continue to work with Kucinich on the many issues we agree with him on. We should be respectful to him and his supporters, but always understand that he harbors illusions in the Democratic Party and wants the Greens to abandon their party. He is willing to support any one with any policy the Democrats may present as a candidate.
CALIFORNIA AND NEW YORK
In California our May plenary will consider a proposal to establish internal democracy nationally based on one Green one vote. The argument the Cobb supporters are raising to confuse the issue is how difficult it is to find a formula that will work for every state. This issue has been discussed at length by the Greens for Democracy and Independence. In California we have come up with a simple approach. We are simply saying let each state tell us how many members they have. In general it would be very difficult to exaggerate too much since in most states we have discovered many members know pretty closely what their membership is. In some states they even post it on their web sites.
The truth is that the abuse we now live under is so extreme that is difficult to believe people who consider themselves Greens can try to justify it. For instance in Iowa a membership of 83 has the same representation in our leadership and to determine our national ticket as 35,000 Greens in California (assuming only 155,000 Greens in California). So maybe the figure of 83 is not accurate and instead it is 100 or 200 or 300 or 1,000 the point remains the same. What it is not is 35,000 or anything near it.
Ohio, a State with something over 1,200 members, has five delegates or the equivalent of the representation of almost 60,000 members in California. Texas probably has only a tenth of the membership of New York but it has more representatives on our national CC than New York and therefore more delegates to pick our presidential ticket. And so it goes until you end up with a tiny group of Greens having majority control of the party and by gosh they happen to be Lesser Evil supporters!
Looking at the ratio of the two examples above of Iowa and Ohio you could end up with a majority of our leadership body with the support of only 20,000 Greens that is about 4 to 5% of our membership!! To try and defend the present representative system is to allow the Green Party to be controlled by any group having sufficient money to organize and manipulate in states with a tiny Green Party. That has occurred in other third parties in our history in the past as Mark Lause has pointed out. Inevitably it is whoever has the most money that can take advantage of such an undemocratic set up. One Green one vote is the safest defense of the rights of the membership since that makes it far harder for anyone with whatever agenda to take control of the Green Party.
It just happens that California and New York combined have about half the membership in the Green Party and both states have democratic internal structures that have elected representatives that favor internal democracy and political independence from the Democrats.
(I have noticed that wherever the majority of the leadership in a State is pro-GDI care is taken to welcome the Lesser Evil current into leadership positions and include them at all levels. In California’s national delegation as well as our state leadership, the pro-Cobb current is well represented. However, more and more reports are coming from Greens complaining that once the Lesser Evil current gets control of a state they act quite differently. While Utah was an open split what is happening in states where the Lesser Evil current controls is a bleeding split where pro-Nader Greens are made to feel unwanted and begin to drift away from the Green Party.)
If the membership in all states could openly vote on the issue of democracy there is no question the majority would vote for democracy even in states like Maine or Ohio controlled by the Lesser Evil current, just as these states voted against Cobb. They will probably never be given a chance to do so.
If we enter our next national meeting with backing from both California and New York along with possibly a series of other states in support of a resolution for democracy it will be transparent to any honest person that it represents the majority of Greens.
BE PREPARED FOR THE WORST, HOPE FOR THE BEST
It is quite possible especially in states like Washington, Maine, Iowa, Wisconsin and so on where the Lesser Evil current controls the local state apparatus that the delegates will come opposed to our proposal. If the minority that is presently controlling the national CC rejects internal democracy, this will be unacceptable. One Green one vote is not negotiable. Having internal democracy is not something you negotiate; it is a basic value on which the party is founded.
I sense we are gaining ground. As more Greens hear of the debate they naturally gravitate towards one Green one vote and they favor independence as long as it does not cut across local autonomy. Most Greens do not want a top down party. They want the freedom to act based on their views. Exactly what the GDI current is proposing in California.
However should our proposal be "formally" defeated like Cobb was "nominated," we should not split from the Green Party. A split is exactly what the Democrats want. It would weaken the Green party terribly. It would stifle the discussion and debate on these issues. We should, however, organize our current for a long term struggle in support of democracy and independence.
KEEP THE DOOR OPEN
We should keep the door open and hope the Lesser Evil current comes to their senses, stops its abuse of our membership and accepts reaching a consensus for a one Green one vote democratic structure.
There are many steps the Lesser Evil current could take to lower the tension in the party. For instance, when John Rensenbrink writes that the Greens in Maine suddenly changed their position when they arrived in Milwaukee, he could assure us he is right just by listing the names of the nineteen Maine delegates in Milwaukee and show how each voted in their state caucuses. If the list showed that it reflected how the Greens voted in Maine, only 26% voted for Cobb while many of the delegates, that is 74%, voted for other candidates, and then we could believe him. But if instead the membership voted one way and a delegation opposed to the membership went to the convention, then we could call that packing.
The most important effort the Lesser Evil current could make to help unify and build the Green Party is to accept that every Green has an equal say in the Party and support a one Green one vote policy. It would also be helpful if they would declare they support the right of Greens who disagree with them to be in the Green Party. The more they clarify their politics, the easier it is to work together. In that sense Jack Uhrich should be congratulated for openly stating what many of them are all thinking.
To end I think it may be important for the GDI current to hold a national gathering to discuss how best to carry forward our effort to democratize and defend the independence of the Green Party. It has been an enormous personal pleasure for me to see so many Greens working together building the GDI current.
Post Script: A bi product of the GDI discussion for me was the discovery of Mark Lause’s book on the 1880 Greenback Labor Party presidential campaign. His book is a story that so closely parallels 2004 where a presidential candidate General Weaver fights for the people against the two parties while every effort is made especially by the Democrats to block him, steal his votes and accuse him (not true) of taking money from the Republicans. The book is called "The Civil War’s Last Campaign." Read it and you will understand in a new way why the GDI current is crucial for the survival and growth of the Greens.
PETER CAMEJO ran for governor of California on the Green Party ticket and was Ralph Nader’s running mate in the 2004 presidential election.