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The Green Version, 2004

by MICHAEL DONNELLY

We all know what happened four years ago. Arguably 2000’s vote-rigging and Supreme Court usurpation of power had to be the most undemocratic event in the history of presidential politics…until last month that is.

Bad as 2000 was, what would we be saying had a candidate been selected if he had garnered but 10% of the vote in his populous home state? What if he was selected using a system where one had to first pay one’s way to a distant polling place? And, what if once there, one had to pay a “poll tax” just to be able to cast a vote?

Couldn’t happen? Well, it just did. All this and more is the methodology whereby David Keith Cobb was chosen the presidential nominee for the Green Party last month–a guy who as part of his long career on the non-profit dole once was a paid consultant for something called The Center for Voting and Democracy!

Voting and Democracy

The Green Party came up with a National Convention Delegate system that is modeled on the undemocratic Electoral College whereby smaller states get representation in proportion far larger than that of one-person, one-vote. And, only delegates with the wherewithal to make the Convention actually get to cast their vote. Few states actually held a Primary to determine delegate apportionment. Most held some form of state mini-Convention which could be accommodated in a space the size of an average living room. In fact, that’s where many did take place.

In my own state of Oregon, one had to get to a state convention–not at all an easy task for those outside the major metropolitan area of the expansive state. And, once there a donation was expected of all who wished to cast a vote. Even though Oregon has led the nation in the use of mail-in voting (it’s used in all elections here), the Pacific Green Party has consistently rebuffed efforts and donations from members to use the same easy system to determine its delegation.

One major state did hold a Primary, and Cobb won about 5,000 votes in California, about 10% of the total cast in his home state. He garnered FEWER votes than that in all of the other state caucuses, conventions and primaries combined. Yet, somehow Cobb came to Milwaukee’s National Green Convention with nearly one-third of delegates already committed to him. Peter Camejo, who won 33,000 votes in the California primary alone (over three times Cobb’s national total) ended up with less than half the number of delegates that Cobb did. And, of course, only delegates with the wherewithal to get to Milwaukee got to vote.

In the end, Cobb gained a small majority of the almost 800 delegates who were able to attend and the ticket of Cobb/LaMarche was selected over Nader/Camejo in a voting procedure that makes the Bush 2000 selection look positively enlightened.

Nader Bashing

One would think that the candidate who had over 2.7 million national votes cast for him as a Party’s standard bearer in 2000–the guy who did more to “build the Party” than anyone else–would be lionized by that Party — forever. No. The anti-Nader vitriol at Milwaukee was on a par with that of the clueless Democrats. (Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 911 with the sorry scene of Al Gore presiding over his own demise when not one of the white millionaire senators of the Democratic Party would take up the Black Congressional Caucus’ challenge to the Florida theft should put an end to the lies about Nader once and for all.)

Pat LaMarche of Maine, Cobb’s vice presidential running mate, viciously told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: “[Nader] walked away and said afterward, ‘Oh, by the way, if you want to throw flowers at me, go ahead.'”

That was just before she told her home state Portland Press Herald “If the race is tight, I’ll vote for Kerry. I love my country. But we should ask them that, because if Dick Cheney loved his country, he wouldn’t be voting for himself.”

And that my friends, is the real reason for the anti-democratic nomination. “Anybody But Bush” has fatally infected the Greens, as well as just about every other purported progressive political group.

The Safe-State Strategy

The self-promotional, self-deluded power brokers behind Cobb–some his long-time cronies on the non-profit dole–haven’t a democratic bone in their bodies. One only need witness their misuse of the Party’s arcane “consensus” rule-making, using it as a form of individual veto power until under what some have called the Iron Ass Syndrome kicks in and those who can outlast everyone else get to make the actual decisions.

These folks used their Iron Ass method expertise to bring about, not only the rigged nomination, but a bankrupt policy called the Safe-State Strategy. The Green Party is telling its members to vote for their loser ticket only in states where either Bush or Kerry have an unassailable lead. Implicit in this is that in any other states, the vote should go to Kerry, who represents everything the Greens supposedly oppose–pro-war, anti-civil liberties, pro-corporate, anti-youth, pro-‘free’ trade, anti-worker, etc.

Gloria Mattera, co-chair of the New York state Green Party, one of the big populous states like California, that was disenfranchised by the Cobbites scheme certainly doesn’t buy it. “We’re the Green Party. It’s not our job to elect a pro-war Democrat into the White House,” she told a rally of supporters.

Nor does Jason West, the Green Party mayor of New Paltz, N.Y., who gained national prominence by defying state law to marry gay and lesbian couples accept it. West noted, “I’ve been asking Democrats all over the country how the world would be a better place under President Kerry than President Bush, and no one’s been able to give me a good answer. The problem with the ‘safe states’ strategy is it leaves unchallenged the illusion that John Kerry is a progressive who is going to do something very different from what Bush is doing now.”

The Party’s Over

So this is how it all ends. The Green Party abandons the anti-duopoly high road that gained their 2000 ticket 2.7 million votes–abandoning with it the hopes of pro-peace, pro-environment, pro-labor, pro-youth, pro-all those disenfranchised by the current system and settles for an undemocratic club of insider dilettantes.

Nader will get even more votes this time around. Cobb/LaMarche will get the less than .05% they seek. After the Fall selection, Nader will continue to fight for the unrepresented as he has always done. The Imperial wars and corporate predation will go on regardless of Regime Rotation. Real Green Party folks will have to pick up the pieces and start over. Cobb and his cohort will return to sinecures on the foundation dole.

MICHAEL DONNELLY of Salem, OR was once the Green Party candidate for Oregon’s Fifth Congressional District. He is a contributor to CounterPunch’s forthcoming book on the 2004 elections, Dime’s Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils. He can be reached at: Pahtoo@aol.com

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MICHAEL DONNELLY has been an environmental activist since before that first Earth Day. He was in the thick of the Pacific Northwest Ancient Forest Campaign; garnering some collective victories and lamenting numerous defeats. He can be reached at pahtoo@aol.com

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