Views in brief

November 5, 2014

Wrong about the Greens in 2004

IN RESPONSE to "Why are they so afraid of third parties": Lance Selfa writes, "Nader's [2000] campaign showed the possibilities for a politically independent alternative, but it didn't sustain a breakthrough. Four years later, leaders of the Green Party threw away whatever potential Nader had shown in 2000 by refusing to mount a serious challenge to the Democrats."

Is that what happened? It is widely known that Ralph Nader was not going to accept the Green Party nomination if he won it in 2004. That is why David Cobb entered the Green Party primary.

Nader wanted the Green endorsement and for the Greens not to run a candidate, but an endorsement is not a nomination. An endorsement does not create or maintain ballot lines for the endorsing party, nor does an endorsement result in wins down-ticket for the party. Nor does an endorsement result in federal financing for the party. A nomination does do all these things that are essential to building a party at the grassroots.

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Nader had much Green support before and during the primaries in 2004. There is no doubt about that. But this simply means it is ridiculous to believe that the specter of "safe states" is why Nader did not seek the Green nomination. With the Green support Nader enjoyed, he could have run whatever type of campaign he wanted. He would not have to have committed to the "safe states" strategy that was voiced by a loud minority of Greens.

Lance Selfa mentions Howie Hawkins in the article. Hawkins ran for New York governor in 2010 as a Green and by doing so created ballot access for himself and other Greens statewide so that he and they could run for a period of four years as Greens without going through the hurdles of ballot access. That is why Hawkins is on the ballot today and why he is doing so well in his 2014 campaign for New York governor, a campaign which I support completely.

But had Howie Hawkins run for governor as an independent in 2010 with a Green Party of New York endorsement, he would not be on the 2014 ballot now as a Green--because an endorsement legally does not create a ballot line for the party. States do not recognize an "endorsement" as a candidate-party relationship. States only recognize a nomination as the candidate-party relationship that gives the party legal state recognition.

Readers’ Views welcomes our readers' contributions to discussion and debate about articles we've published and questions facing the left. Opinions expressed in these contributions don't necessarily reflect those of SW.

This is why the Green Party cannot endorse a presidential candidate. Doing so is antithetical to grassroots party-building. The Green Party can and will only nominate a presidential candidate. (Bernie Sanders, take note.)

Further, is it correct to say that Ralph Nader ran a "left alternative" campaign in 2004, as Selfa writes? In May 2004, Nader's spokesman, Kevin Zeese, wrote the following in "Dissident Voice":

When Ralph Nader announced that he was going to run as an Independent, I was disappointed. As a Green Party activist I saw him as the strongest potential Green candidate. But as I have worked for his campaign, I have discovered that the Independent run has allowed many more people to hear his message.

Activists with the Reform and Libertarian Parties, as well as Independents, have told me that they agree with much of Nader's agenda but that they would not have even considered it if he had run as a Green. Running Green, Nader was categorized by many voters who closed their minds and ears to his ideas.

The Nader plan in 2004 was to draw in "centrist" Reformers and right-libertarians and other conservative Bush supporters and to pressure Kerry to be a "better" candidate. The article by Zeese further lays out those ideas. The Nader plan in 2004 was not to build left-wing political institutions independent of the Democratic Party. That, quite obviously, would require nominations from preexisting left-wing institutions. Instead the plan was to seek "populist" support for one man for president.

The Green Party "leadership," if any exists, was correct in 2004 to see this and run its own candidate, David Cobb. Building left-wing political institutions independent of the Democrats is what the rest of Selfa's article is about, and the rest is spot-on, but it is incorrect to blame the Green Party for Nader's error of not seeking its nomination in 2004.
Michael Trudeau, Cary, N.C.

Challenging wrongful convictions

I AM a mother, and I was deeply moved by the story of so many innocent lives being ruined by false allegations and withholding evidence--lives ruined. I also have a personal story regarding this issue. I have started an organization, Mothers Against Wrongful Convictions, and would like to start commemorating those individuals that have been exonerated.

I would like to join forces with other organizations and honor these men and women who have suffered so much. The world must hear their stories of overcoming the most horrible moments in their lives. I am a mother and there are many more mothers who feel the same as I do.

Thank you for sharing the story of Marvin Reeves. I would like to see him personally one day and meet him and his co-defendant, but I know that would probably be impossible. My son is now in the same situation--not as harsh, but innocent due to age of his crime and how they charged him.

May God bless you with your continued efforts.
Veronica Williams, from the Internet

Why is the movement

IN RESPONSE to "Why is the antiwar struggle weak today?": I was reminded of something I wrote a few years ago (excerpted here slightly modified):

When it comes to the bottom line, though, the underlying cause for the U.S. antiwar movement's current stasis is that most of its adherents believe in one of this country's basic tenets--tenets that are ultimately religious in nature. For lack of a more descriptive phrase, we'll call this phenomenon "American exceptionalism." If our friends in the movement did not believe in America's essential goodness, its exception to the rules that govern power and the desire for power, than how could they believe that the very same agents that destroyed the country of Iraq would have its best interests in mind now?

It's not the policies that need to change, but the foundation upon which those policies flourish. Until U.S. activists accept this and give up their conscious and unconscious acceptance of the myth of American exceptionalism, any movement against war, racism, and other ills of our world is bound to fail. Not because it doesn't have the right motivation, but because it doesn't have a radical enough conception of itself and the world it exists in.
Ron Jacobs, Winooski, Vt.

No better time for third parties

IN RESPONSE to "Why are they so afraid of third parties?": Author Lance Selfa could have included the Panamanian Riots in the Panama Canal Zone, in January 1964, when 20 people, mostly Panamanians, died in a confrontation between Panamanian students and the U.S. military over the raising of American flags alone, without Panamanian flags, side by side, as had been agreed upon in 1960 by the two governments.

A 2009 book on the Panama Canal, by American college professor Julie Greene, The Canal Builders, states that during the building of the Canal between 1904 and 1914, socialism was the model for operation. She writes that profit was not the goal, competition did not loom over workers and employers, government owned the railroads, the hotels, the stores, and the restaurants and provided free housing to every resident.

Greene quotes a prominent American socialist at the time, Arthur Bullard, who stated that the Panama Canal Commission "has gone further towards socialism than any other branch of government...has ever gone." Greene spoke of how Bullard lauded government ownership of land and that government officials in the Canal Zone honestly and efficiently intervened to ensure citizens received the best care possible. The Canal did have great limitations, especially when it came to race, but it gave hope and vision, and a model that socialism could work for the world, if organized properly.

Selfa's present-day analysis of third parties and the American presidential races, ended in 2004, with Ralph Nader's losing effort, despite his almost half a million votes, along with the Green Party. Maybe Selfa could have included the 2008 presidential race as well. Nader was an independent or minor party candidate then, as was I for the Socialist Party USA. Granted, the vote totals for Nader were lower than 2000 and 2004, and I only received approximately 8,500 votes for the SP. However, our SPUSA candidacy did gain ballot access in eight states, and we were officially recognized as a write-in candidate in 23 other states.

More importantly, if not ironically, we gained significant national publicity for socialism mostly because we were compared to Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, who at the time, was accused erroneously of having a socialist platform. But the comparisons were made.

Subsequent to the 2008 election, capitalism and the two-major party United States Congress have failed the country miserably, with the economic gap growing between the haves and the have-nots. What better time for third parties, and socialism, than right now.
Brian Moore, Spring Hill, Fla.