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Wednesday, April 23, 2003
"The only vehicle to defeat Bush next year is the Democratic Party -- you start there, or you don't start with reality," says Dugger. "Not running a Green candidate for president does not mean abandoning party building...That's denying the history of the Green Party in Europe -- they built their party by running for local offices, and now they have power at the cabinet level in countries like Germany...This is the most emotionally ragged fissure in the American left in my lifetime. It's an astonishing split and it's very deep."
This article in Salon affords actual Green party sympathizers an opportunity to make a much better argument for why Nader shouldn't run in 2004 than Charles Taylor's (writer of the article and editor of Salon) whiney letter of a while back, which basically amounted to "Green suck! You guys are why Bush is in office! Just shut up and go away!" The party isn't necessarily a bad one, just badly run, and viable third-party movements are important. They should continue to build power, but a far smarter way of doing that is through building up local power. Look at the Christian Coalition, after all--they started with school boards and are now a key Republican demographic that any Presidential candidate has to kowtow to in order to get the nod. Greens could probably get to this point too, if they wanted to. It's just that a lot of them seem like they don't want to. Take this bit, for example, which makes me have a lot more respect for Michael Moore:
According to Dugger, Lawrence Goodwyn, a respected historian of populist movements, has floated the idea of a national unity meeting of progressives to lock arms behind a Democratic presidential candidate that Greens could vote for. "Someone like Michael Moore could easily call such a meeting," says Dugger, who adds that he is trying to track down Moore to get him onboard.
Moore was one of Nader's more celebrated campaigners in 2000, but when "things at Nader Central went crazy," as Moore wrote in his book "Stupid White Men," and it was decided to target swing states where Gore might win or lose by a razor-thin margin, Moore got off the bandwagon. In the final days of the race, Moore writes in his book, he wisely advised the Nader campaign to cut a deal with Gore, throwing him its support in return for major progressive concessions in a Gore administration. A Nader campaign official told the filmmaker that the party could not abandon its goal of getting 5 percent of the vote, which would trigger federal matching funds. But the day after the election, Moore pointed out, "that's all you'll have -- five percent of the vote, and zero percent of the power."
This attitude is just weird to me--it's like they know nothing about third parties and want to keep pretending they're a major party, which they're just not. Third parties cut coalition deals with the major parties whose policies closest resemble theirs in order to avoid leeching the vote away. Maybe they felt the need to assert their power, but if so, it very much backfired, and the Democrats would be forgiven for being leery about trying to cut a deal with the Greens in the future. It's so, so strange. Gore could have won, with the push of people who recognized that the Democrats were their party, like it or not, and the Greens could have had a lot more of what they wanted. There's the theory out there that Nader wants to give the right so much power that things come swinging violently back to the left, but I don't know how much farther you would need to go at this point, and I'm not entirely sure how much I believe that theory in the first place. Anyway, it's bad politics on their part, and they need to start thinking with a bit less purity and a bit more practicality.
Still, at the end of the article, Dugger makes the important point that the Democrats have a responsibility in this, too, to start up a dialogue, maybe even in public, and start offering some key tidbits to make Green voters actually want to get on board. And now would be the time to do it, of course, when they're courting the more hard-line primary voters. We'll see.