Should Greens Support Nader?
by Joel Hildebrandt
In February of this year, Ralph Nader declared himself an independent presidential candidate in the elections this fall. Shortly afterward, he sought and received the endorsement of the Reform Party. He opted not to run as a Green candidate, but sought also the endorsement of the Green Party. At the Green convention in June, the Party voted instead to run David Cobb, a California lawyer and Green Party activist. Cobb won 408 votes, a majority of the 769 required for nomination. With running mate Patricia LaMarche, he is campaigning for the Presidency on a ?safe states? strategy. This means that the Green Party will not actively compete for votes in the contested or ?swing? states. However, in those states where it is widely assumed that the Democrats will win easily (California, Illinois) or that the Republicans will (Texas), Cobb and LaMarche are running a full campaign including a Green critique of both the Democrats and the Republicans.1
While Cobb & LaMarche disagree with most of Kerry?s positions on the issues, they also disagree with Nader?s assessment that there is ?no difference? between Kerry and Bush. The Green candidates consider it a priority to remove Bush?s regime from office; realistically, they say, the only candidate who can do that is Kerry. In addition to the ?safe states? strategy, they are strongly supporting Greens running for local offices and urging the adoption of Instant Runoff Voting (IRV),2 as a way of empowering voters for 3rd party candidates. This is the 3-point strategy advocated by Greens for Impact (GFI), an advocacy group within the Green Party.
There are many reasons why I believe Greens should support the Cobb campaign and not support Nader this year. The most important ones have to do with building the Green Party for the future; we must think beyond this year?s presidential election.
1 ? The differences between Bush and Kerry are insufficient, but they are not insignificant. For example, Kerry opposes the death penalty (which is now the official Democratic position); as governor of Texas, Bush executed more people than any other governor.3 Kerry has received a very high approval rating from environmental groups like the League of Conservation Voters; Bush is considered the worst President ever by these same groups. Kerry?s voting record in the senate is strongly supports the positions of the Sierra Club, the AFL-CIO and the NAACP. Bush?s policies are, almost without exception, abhorrent to these same groups.
2 ? As a grass-roots organization, we cannot afford to latch onto big-name candidates unless they specifically endorse our principles. A pro-Nader strategy puts us in danger of becoming ?Nader?s party? and eclipsing our founding purposes.
3 ? It is much more effective at this stage in our growth to focus on winnable, local elections than it is to put much energy into a presidential campaign that will garner only a tiny percentage of votes. Such campaigns risk making us appear less significant in the public eye over the long term.
4 ? Most progressives this year are holding their nose and voting for Kerry, in the interest of getting Bush out of the White House. These are people we need as allies and as eventual Greens; we need to be wise and careful about actions that will alienate them.
5 ? Since Cobb and LaMarche are our officially endorsed candidates, in those states where both Cobb and Nader are on the ballot Nader will be competing for scarce progressive votes with our own party.
It is also true that Nader?s campaign is in violation of our own principles and concerns:
6 ? Nader is not a member of the Green Party and has expressed no interest in joining.
7 ? Nader is endorsed by the Reform Party, whose anti-immigrant platform is incompatible with Green principles. Remember that the Reform Party?s presidential candidate 4 years ago was the notoriously racist Pat Buchanan.
8 ? Nader has accepted significant help from prominent Republicans in the form of both money and petition gatherers. The Republicans freely admit their purpose in this.4
9 ? Nader is not a strong supporter of IRV, saying that it ?needs to be tested?? first.5 Cobb and LaMarche disagree.
Let us remember that this fall we are voting not just as a symbolic gesture, but for the most powerful elected office in the world. I have a friend who was a journalist in Latin America for many years. The people that he spoke with in Central and South America would say, ?The number of people down here who are killed by your government and by ours depends on whether there is a Republican or a Democrat in the White House.? We cannot ignore the impact of 4 more years of Bush?s rule on the world?s environment, the AIDS crisis, family planning, labor and human rights, and even electoral democracy itself. Supporting Nader has the double disadvantage of both helping the Bush reelection effort and of not building any long-term progressive movement. Let?s get Bush out of office AND build a strong, progressive, grass-roots party on Green principles by supporting the Green Party candidates, David Cobb and Pat LaMarche.
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