Myths and Green Campaigns

[I’m reproducing this essay because it is a very cogent statement on the official Green position re: this fall’s elections, and of the debate within the Green Party over the “anybody but Bush” strategy. This nuanced position (remember, the more liberal you are, the more you appreciate and embrace complexity 🙂 ), in essence, is what the Green Party endorsed when they nominated David Cobb, as opposed to Nader/Camejo’s more in your face tactics.

The “Safe States” strategy is not about avoiding the blame for a loss by Kerry, it is about focusing the energy of the campaign on building the Green Party where its message can be most effectively communicated without distractions.

Thomas Leavitt]

Myths and Green Campaigns

by Steve Herrick estebandido _at_ gmail.com

During the 2000 Presidential campaign, “everyone knew” that Nader was

going around saying that there was no difference between the Democrats

and the Republicans. However, what “everyone knew” was a myth – Nader

never actually said that. What he in fact said was that there was not

enough difference to make a difference. Between the media and the

Democrat spinmeisters, this scathing indictment of the similarities

between the parties was subtly but crucially recast as a dismissive

oversimplification, one that anyone would recognize as simply

inaccurate. This myth is still being perpetuated four years later,

though it hasn’t become any more true.

Now we have a new campaign and a new Green Presidential ticket. Within

a day or two of the convention, the myth machine was again at work on

the Greens. This time, it’s telling people that Green Presidential

candidate David Cobb is encouraging people to vote for Democrat John

Kerry. One media outlet in Maine even went so far as to assert that

Vice-Presidential candidate Pat LaMarche didn’t plan to vote for

herself. This is nonsense, of course, yet LaMarche found herself

obliged to clarify the point.

Cobb and LaMarche are campaigning heavily in states that either Kerry

or Bush is guaranteed to win in November. In toss-up states, they are

taking their cues from the state-level Green Parties, and in the

meantime, encouraging voters to “vote their consciences.” The campaign

has said repeatedly that this phrase means just what it says, no more

and no less. It is no way a call to vote for Kerry, whom Cobb has

called “a corporatist and a militarist.”

But then, why say anything except “vote Green?” In essence, Cobb is

recognizing that this is not an easy decision for progressives. As

much as he and LaMarche do indeed want people to vote Green, they

recognize that progressives see Bush as being the worst administration

in living memory, and possibly in the entire history of the United

States. As they (the non-Green progressives) see it, Kerry, almost by

default, would have to be a step up. This position is known as ABB,

“anybody but Bush.”

A large majority of Green activists reject this stance, citing a long

list of Kerry’s positions which bear a far greater similarity to

Bush’s than to the Green Party’s. Just “anybody” isn’t good enough for

them. However, it would be disingenuous – and impolitic – to callously

dismiss the concerns of the ABBers out of hand, given that they are a

large majority of progressives outside the Green Party. After all,

this is the segment of the population most likely to vote Green

farther down the ballot, even if not for President.

So, when David Cobb tells people to vote their conscience, here’s what

he’s saying: “I understand what you’re going through. You’ve looked at

the Green Party and realized that we represent your values and

convictions better than the Democratic Party. At the same time, you’ve

seen what a disaster the Bush administration has made of things, and

you want to be part of stopping it, which the Green Party is not yet

in a position to do. You’re caught between what you see as the right

thing in the short run and the right thing in the long run. I don’t

pretend that’s an easy decision. I’m asking you to vote Green, which

is why I’m running and campaigning in your state. In the end, though,

it’s your vote to cast.”