The Demise of the Green Party


“Ignorance of remote causes disposeth men to attribute all events to the causes immediate and instrumental: for these are all the causes they perceive.”

Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (1651)

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

Take a close look at what LaMarche, a not-ready-for-primetime radio “personality”, had to say to say to her hometown newspaper in Maine only days after winning the nomination in Milwaukee.

“If the race is tight, I’ll vote for Kerry,” LaMarche said. “I love my country. But we should ask them that, because if Dick Cheney loved his country, he wouldn’t be voting for himself.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But at least Kucinich remained a Democrat. Cobb and LaMarche were supposedly leaders of a political party that formed not in opposition to Republicans, but from outrage at the rightward and irredeemable drift of the Democratic Party. Apparently, the Green Party has not only lost its mind, it’s lost its entire central nervous system, including the spine–especially its spine. They’ve surrendered to the politics of fear. And once the white flag is raised there’s little chance of recovering the ground you’ve given up.

Always nearly immobilized by an asphyxiating devotion to political correctness, the Green Party has now taken this obsession to its logical extreme by nominating a pair of political cretins at the top of its ticket. Under the false banner of the Cobb/Lamarche campaign, the Green Party is instructing its members to vote for its candidates only in states where their vote doesn’t matter. This is the so-called safe state strategy.

Safe? Safe for whom? Not for Afghan or Iraqi citizens. Not for US troops. Not for the detainees at Gitmo, Bagram or Abu Ghraib. Not for migrant farm laborers or steelworkers. Not for the welfare mother or the 2 million souls rotting in American prisons. Not for the spotted owl, the streams of Appalachia or the rainforests of Alaska. Not for the residents of Cancer Alley or the peasants of Colombia or teen age girls slaving away in Nike’s toxic Indonesia sneaker mills. Not for the Palestinians, the Lakota of Pine Ridge or elementary school students from the hard streets of Oakland. Not for the hopeless denizens of death row or three strikers in for life for a gram of crack or gays hoping to unite in marriage or even cancer patients seeking simple herbal relief from excruciating pain.

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

Yes, Medea, you’re right. Kerry is simply Kerry, a bona fide war criminal, with a record of political infamy that is just as malodorous as that of George Bush-only it’s longer. Over the past four years, Kerry has been complicit in the enactment of some of Bush’s most disgusting policies. Indeed, these days Kerry offers himself up mainly as a more competent manager of the Bush agenda, a steadier hand on the helm of the Empire.

Kerry stands unapologetically for nearly every issue that caused the Greens to bolt the Democratic Party. He was present at the founding of the Democratic Leadership Council, the claque of neo-liberals that seeks to purge the Democratic Party of every last vestige of progressivism and reshape it as a hawkish and pro-business party with a soft spot for abortion-essentially a stingier version of the Rockefeller Republicans.

Kerry enthusiastically backed both of Bush’s wars and now, at the very moment Bush is signaling a desire to retreat, the senator is calling for 25,000 new troops to be sent to Iraq, where under his plan the US military will remain entrenched for at least the next four years.

Kerry supported the Patriot Act without reservation or even much contemplation. Lest you conclude that this was a momentary aberration sparked by the post-9/11 hysteria, consider the fact that Kerry also voted for the two Clinton-era predecessors to the Patriot Act, the 1994 Crime Bill and the 1996 CounterTerrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which were just as bad if not worse.

Although he regularly hams it up in photo-ops with the barons of big labor, Kerry voted for NAFTA, the WTO and virtually every other job-slashing trade pact that has come before the senate. Kerry, who has courted and won the endorsement of nearly every police association in the nation, regularly calls for putting another 100,000 cops on the streets and even tougher criminal sanctions against victimless crimes. He refused to reconsider his fervid support for the insane war on drug users, which has destroyed families and clogged our prisons with more than 2 million people, many of them young black men, whom the draconian drug laws specifically target without mercy. Kerry backs the racist death penalty and minimum mandatory sentences.

A couple of weeks ago the Congressional Black Caucus jeered Ralph Nader when he spoke to them about his campaign, a bizarre reception for a man who has been a tireless advocate for civil rights and poor people. If this group of legislators actually cared about the welfare of their constituents, instead of merely their sinecure within the party, they would hire the twin Dominatrixes of Abu Ghraib, Lynddie England and Sabrina Harman, to clip a dogleash on Kerry (who disgustingly said he’d like to become the second black president) to interrogate him about his dreadful record on civil rights when he comes calling seeking their support. Of course, they won’t. The Congressional Black Caucus is perhaps the only political conclave with clout as vaporous as the Greens.

Kerry, and his top advisor Rand Beers (a veteran of the Clinton and Bush National Security Council), crafted Plan Colombia, the brutal and toxic war on Andean peasants, waged for the benefit of oil companies under the phoney rubric of drug eradication. His scrawny energy plan, devoid of any real emphasis on conservation or solar power, calls for more off-shore oil leasing, widespread natural gas drilling, transcontinental pipelines and strip-mining for coal. His deficit-fixated economic policy, scripted by Wall Street bond tycoon Robert Rubin, is even more austere than Clinton’s.

Like Joe Lieberman, Kerry markets himself as a cultural prude, regularly chiding teens about the kind of clothes they wear, the music they listen to and the movies they watch. But even Lieberman didn’t go so far as to support the censorious Communications Decency Act. Kerry did. Fortunately, even this Supreme Court had the sense to strike the law down, ruling that it trampled across the First Amendment.

All of this is standard fare for contemporary Democrats. But Kerry always goes the extra mile. The senator cast a crucial vote for Clinton’s wretched bill to dismantle welfare for poor mothers and their children and, despite mounting evidence to the contrary, he continues to hail the mean-spirited measure as a tremendous success.

This is merely a precis of the grim resumé of the man the Green Party now supports through the proxy candidacy of David Cobb. The message of the Cobb campaign is: a vote for Cobb is a vote for Kerry. Translation: a vote for Cobb is a vote for war, and everything that goes along with it.

It’s also a vote for political self-annihilation. David Cobb is the Jim Jones of the Green Party. Form a line and pass the Kool-Aid.

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

JEFFREY ST. CLAIR is the author of Been Brown So Long It Looked Like Green to Me: the Politics of Nature and, with Alexander Cockburn, Imperial Crusades: Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia.

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His most recent book is An Orgy of Thieves: Neoliberalism and Its Discontents (with Alexander Cockburn). He can be reached at: or on Twitter @JeffreyStClair3