The Green Party Question

Image of the word "vote".

Image by Glen Carrie.

“We’re beings toward death, we’re featherless, two-legged, linguistically-conscious creatures born between urine and feces whose body will one day be the culinary delight of terrestrial worms. That’s us.” —Cornel West

A third party run, if it is worth anything at all, is a spoiler and should be proud of it. The Green Party has usually played dumb when hit with this accusation. Perhaps there really is so little support for the Greens that they can argue that they aren’t spoilers. If that is the case, then Noam Chomsky is right. Harm reduction in electoral politics is the only ethical option.

With Joe Biden ramping up the war in Ukraine it seems that there has been no better time to vote for a third party. But let’s be honest. There is no good time for the working class to endure a Republican administration. For many people on the margins the difference between a Republican and a Democrat means death by environmental pollution, loss of benefits, health care debt, homes and so on. The reader would be right to point out that these things happen under Democrats as well, especially Mr. Biden.

But the Left’s position on the two parties has always been wrong. Either there is the claim that there is no difference or the claim that you have to fall in line with the Democrats. For the working poor, there often is a difference between the two parties. And committing to the Democrats is a suicide mission. Both positions lead people astray.

Just as the Democrat’s support should come with conditions, so should support for the Greens and their dynamite candidate Dr. Cornel West. My challenge to Dr. West, and I can only be so bold because the movement is so small, is to map out a legitimate plan to make a viable third party alternative which will undoubtedly take more than this election cycle.

The problem with the Squad and to a lesser extent Bernie (who over time has unfortunately proven to be the best we got in Congress) is that they do not want to be Ralph Nader, they do not want to be the scapegoat. While Ralph Nader is the greatest American of all time the Greens should not necessarily want to be like Ralph Nader the candidate either, even if he was their best candidate so far. The goal, and no one seems to be this optimistic, but the goal should be to win, eventually,

Let me recount two slices of wisdom I heard from Counterpunch editors in interviews, which they should do more of. Glenn Greenwald may think of me as authoritarian for thinking editors are smarter than writers, and should have more authority. But I am openly authoritarian and I am begging the left to stop fighting itself and to form a flawed leadership which we can follow without question. But these days everyone is too wimpy to take charge. So am I. But I am not too wimpy to follow clear vision from a left who punches against the right and not against itself.

What was I talking about? Oh yes, sly wisdom from Jeffrey St. Clair and Joshua Frank. If I recall correctly St. Clair’s critique of the Nader campaign was that he did not dial in on a few states and try to build up real numbers in those. Frank said something to the effect of third party votes meaning the most in so-called swing states. This is the opposite of typical analysis where timidity warns to vote Blue No Matter Who precisely when the most is on the line.

But the Greens most always deny they are tossing elections to the Republicans. They say something like “the Democrats should earn people’s votes”. This is typical leftist moralism that falls flat on the ears of people living paycheck to paycheck. Sure the Democrats should earn it but when has life ever been fair? Do we really have the power to make the world fair or rational?

The more honest answer would be that yes we are spoiling things for the Democrats. Here is why that may be less bad than you think, is an option. But more importantly than trying to argue which ruling class party is better we should be showing people what their hit in the short term would mean in the long run. What would someone get by trading in defeat for long-term leftist leadership? What, concretely is on the horizon in your movement that can create a viable alternative to the two party death spiral?

With pride we should embrace the spoiler label. If we have the power to spoil, we have leverage, and we in theory have the power to create change. By claiming the Democrats dug their own grave we take power out of our own hands. The Democrats don’t care if they win. They would rather lose than change and this is what we must be intent on proving.

As for the candidate themself I am not picky. But please have a clear vision. The political scene really does miss the incredibly flawed Bernie Sanders who trotted out a consistent message every day. Bernie, in 2016 at least, didn’t get caught up in constantly apologizing and modifying his positions to make the perfect leftist platform. It was basically have some health care, some college, some wages, some higher taxes on the rich, repeat.

Bernie, to his credit, gave us Donald Trump. He effectively, even against his own (conscious) wishes, gave us the courage to admit that both parties are corrupt and not worth saving. His efforts to stop what he started failed in 2016 and in spite of Bernie’s best efforts, the Democratic Party became slightly better because of his 2016 run. Not because his ideas were amazing but more so because his clear messaging had power.

The left, if it is serious, will have to give us Trump (or even worse Ron DeSantis) this time. There should be no hiding. The left, quite openly, should be blamed for fascism. We should quite openly admit that we find the status quo unacceptable and in the process of failing to overcome present conditions immediately, we empowered fascists.

We should say that by our calculations, the best path forward still remains to hold the line. We should admit our path is risky, and that without the troops falling in line, we will only make things worse, not better. We should admit that we are the less moral, not the more moral force in society.

We should point out that morality, in bourgeois life, is the cause of tremendous suffering, punishment, and revenge. The policing of bodies and behaviors, the prudish attitude towards change and vice, the efforts to save vulnerable populations through charity, only furthers the dynamics of inequality and shame. We should embrace the label of villain.

We should admit that we are non-violent, capable of doing no harm to another person in the way the state or corporation does, but a villain nonetheless. A villain in the sense that the status quo that needs to be accepted to keep the machine of society going, to keep the mindless operation that feeds all hands moving, well we aren’t up for it. We aren’t up to the task of exploiting ourselves, others and the environment for prosperity, camaraderie or even freedom.

We are a problem. A problem that needs to be eliminated. But will you, the ruling class moralizers who claim to be saving us all from ourselves, have the guts to eliminate us? Will you have the same guts we have? Can you, the weak ruling class, be a villain, or do you care too much about your reputation? We are strong enough to be misunderstood. A hero is never a hero in his own time. This is something Cornel West the intellectual understands. But understanding and doing are two different things.

Cornel West’s vision of love transcends typical leftist moralism which fails to address the contradictions of capitalism. His vision is, on a personal level, transformative. The question for Dr. West is if he will repeat the mistakes of the Green Party in the past. Will he shy away from the label of spoiler only to become one? Or will he take the fall, be strong enough to be misunderstood and lead a long term strategy away from the Democratic Party?

So while I absolutely support anyone running for elected office, my vote this time is conditional on a serious stance by the Green Party. They may be called villains but they aren’t villains yet. Incompetency is a good cover but I don’t buy it. Rather than have a laundry list of platform ideas that are nowhere close to getting done, why not launch a pinpoint focused campaign set on making noise where no one wants to hear it? Why manage the problem? Why not become it?

Redemption for the left is impossible. We can choose to be liked or choose to be loved. We can’t be both. Why engage with politics at all when every answer, when you’re the one applying it, seems to be a losing one? Perhaps because we want something more. We do, and this is naive, have faith and hope and belief in our fellow humans. Even if they hate us we cannot help but love them. Cornel West says he wants to stop the revenge in American society and this is a beautiful thing. Unfortunately for Cornel, he may be stopping the revenge by absorbing it.

If Dr. West can keep a smile on his face along the way he may be able to keep up with the punches. After all, hasn’t it always been the Black man in American society who is blamed for fascism? Isn’t it always his transgression that “forces” the hand of the white gatekeepers into revealing who they truly are? Our true colors, as human beings, are not the rainbow hues lighting up our corporations on Pride Month. They are dark clouds, ominously taking us to our fate.

Can we be on fire for this fate? Can we be passionate for our dance with the devil? Or are we preoccupied with achieving salvation in the eyes of the higher power? Maybe the left is going to hell. That’s what they say. Or maybe, as Chuck Mertz says, we are already here. Either way, what choice do we really have? Do we really have the free will to resist our own destiny?

Or is our only real choice whether to go into the fire with unease or with passion? I can say all this but deep down I still have pessimism about American society. I see a heroic working class. But I see most of the radicals to be on the right. I have doubts about myself. I have doubts about the left.

We must proceed. We have doubts. We have fear. But we cannot give up. Our fate is our fate and we must toe the party line and accept it. As Dr. West says: “It is a beautiful thing to be on fire for justice… there is no greater joy than inspiring and empowering others––especially the least of these, the precious and priceless wretched of the earth!” Perhaps his vision is to be some kind of humanist but I confess to needing and wanting a lot more. Beggars can’t be choosers nor will a real beggar try to be.

When was the last time a homeless person had a sign that said “Science is Real” or “No Human Is Illegal”. We must embrace the radical message of the homeless person on the side of the road. Those yard signs tellingly begin with “In This House We Believe”. When there is no house, there is no belief. And the left is politically homeless. The left has been stomped on and kicked to the curb. Our situation is desperate enough to say: “Anything Helps. God bless.” Let us go forward with the humility and directness to ask for the truth. Will anyone stop the madness? Is anyone ok? Help. Please Help.

Nick Pemberton writes and works from Saint Paul, Minnesota. He loves to receive feedback at