A message to GDI supporters from Peter Miguel Camejo
THE CRISIS IN THE GREEN PARTY
THE MAGIC NUMBER 39 & MY MEETINGS WITH COBB, KUCINICH AND THE SC
Many Green members want to know when the infighting is going to end. When will people recognize there is nothing wrong when Greens have differences? Why can’t we respect each other and figure out how to work together? This sentiment is wide spread in the Green Party, especially since many members do not have a hard opinion about some of the differences within the party. They are still listening to both points of view. They want peace, understanding, tolerance and unity in action where there is agreement.
Most Greens are not involved in the day by day or even month by month debate that is now under way in the Green Party. Over time however the issues being raised will reach all Greens and they will express their views in a variety of ways. We must all be patient and understand that it is normal for there to be differences and that our internal debates are themselves part of building a party that can be effective in its opposition to the two party dictatorship. We must learn to allow the differing points of view the freedom to try and convince all of us through example that what they propose will really work. In that way we generate respect between Greens who differ.
It was precisely in that spirit that I proposed a unified
approach at the
When I speak of Cobb supporters I mean precisely those who are in the leadership of that current. Many of the Greens who voted for or supported Cobb are not in agreement with many of the views being projected by what I call the “Lesser Evil” current. I define that current based on the statement by 18 Green leader supporters of Cobb that refer to themselves as supporters of voting for the Lesser Evil (their word).
They wanted to “win”, to defeat Nader. Looking back we can now see clearly that after being crushed in the primaries (they received 12%) and in most state conventions, the Cobb supporters could not win unless they stacked the convention. By stacking I mean something quite simple. Regardless of the vote in a state convention or primary the Lesser Evil current set out to get as many of their supporters to become delegates. An example would be if in a State Cobb got 26% of the vote instead of only 26% of the delegates from among those who voted for Cobb going to the convention and 74% of those who voted for another candidate going the majority of delegates going to the convention were Greens who voted for Cobb. To do this is not only anti-democratic it is a conscious effort to over turn the will of the membership.
By doing this “packing” they refused to accept the wishes of the membership. This fact more than anything else is what threatens the Green Party today. If democracy is not respected within the Green Party then what exactly is the Party? Internal democracy is not a negotiable issue. When the membership votes, its collective will must be respected and recognized.
I thought after the election maybe the Cobb supporters would
step back, take a deep breath and reconsider their approach within the Green
Party. I hoped that some of them might have some remorse over what they had
done. I reached out to David Cobb even before the election was over in an
attempt to find common ground and see if we could get the party working
together. After the elections I called David three times but received no
reply. Months went by until one day Matt
Gonzalez called me to say he was having David over for dinner and would I like
to be there. I changed my schedule cut short a visit and flew in from
THE 2004 ELECTIONS
I think all Greens recognize that something rather peculiar
has happened in our history. The formal Green Party vote for President dropped
95% in 2004 as compared to 2000, quite unusual even for a third party. We came
in sixth not third like in 2000. We also lost ballot status in seven states and
are now down to 15 (Ballot Access News). In many states the party has declined.
Two important exceptions stand out at least partially,
The pro-Cobb leadership needs to recognize reality and note that most Greens who did not vote corporate voted for Nader overwhelmingly. Most Greens who actually participated actively for Cobb or Nader were overwhelmingly involved pro Nader. Nader was only on the ballot in states with half the population of the country, and nonetheless he received almost 500,000 votes. If you assume in the other states his vote would have been just half of that, Nader would have received some 750,000 votes in spite of the massive ABB campaign. If you calculate Cobb’s vote and also project what he might have gotten being on the ballot in all states, you end up with a combined total of both Nader and Cobb of close to 1 million people who refused to vote for either pro-corporate party.
Amazingly, the ratio between Nader and Cobb’s vote followed pretty closely the ratios in the Green primaries and state conventions: about 6 votes for Nader to 1 for Cobb.
With the one exception of the year 2000, this is the largest progressive vote for President in more than 50 years (according to Richard Winger, editor of Ballot Access News). So rather than draw pessimistic conclusions, let’s recognize that the Green Party is still here. In great part, this is due to Nader’s courageous stand against the two corporate parties. It is clear that a large number of people accept being outside of the corporate-controlled parties.
It is imperative that we look towards organizing and unifying these forces in a growing independent political movement. And from there we reach out to the broad layers of millions of people betrayed by the two parties. We need to reach out to those who either do not vote at all or vote Democrat because they are political prisoners in the two party dictatorship that we live under.
CRISES GROWING IN THE GREEN PARTY
Unfortunately, the current that has organized behind Cobb’s campaign after the elections is moving in another direction. It has become quite clear to me that they have shown little interest in trying to reach out to the majority current in the Green Party or the hundreds of thousands who voted for Nader. Instead, they have become quite attracted to the Democratic Party’s latest “progressive” wing, the Progressive Democrats of America (PDA). They seem to feel threatened by the existence of a militant pro-independence current in the Green Party.
Instead of seeing the danger of co-option by Democrats John Rensenbrink recently warned of the danger of the infiltration of socialists into the Green Party. This red baiting approach is another way to say the left in the Green Party is the problem and we need to get them out. To Rensenbrink, calling for a vote for Kerry is not the problem, the problem is those “socialists” that won’t vote Kerry. Of course he never mentions that both the Communist Party and many of the Democratic Socialist of America members were solid backers of Kerry. For those socialists to be in the Green Party, I guess, might be okay with Rensenbrink. His problems are with other “socialists” like the ISO that refuse to vote pro-war, and are helping to build the Green Party.
Since the Nader/LaDuke campaign of 2000, the ISO has worked
alongside the Green Party in electoral campaigns (endorsing our candidates,
walking precincts, organizing campaign meetings, etc.) and many members of the
ISO are registered Greens. The ISO also works in various places with Green
Party members in non-electoral coalitions against the war, for immigrant
rights, against the death penalty, etc. Other socialist groups, like
Solidarity, have had members helping to build the Green Party since its
The facts are exactly the opposite of what Rensenbrink states. It is a hopeful sign for the Green Party that many of the ISO members and Solidarity are helping the Green Party. The ISO has developed a large following, especially among young people. The Green Party is not socialist or capitalist, it welcomes all who are willing to stand by the ten key values and respect internal democracy. The danger to the Green Party is from the Democratic Party, from pro corporate forces, not from people supportive of our party.
THE ISSUE OF CONTROL
In their desire to cozy up to the “new” Progressive Democrats of America (PDA), the Lesser Evil current wants to keep their control of the Green Party. They feel they must stop the membership from being able to alter the present minority control. The fact is the PDA is watching to see if the Lesser Evil wing of the Greens can keep their minority control and help deliver the Greens towards a fusion strategy with the Democrats.
That is why we are now seeing the first signs of Cobb
supporters openly speaking out against one Green one vote. They are trying to
sow confusion over the issue. They try to claim our call for democracy is
somehow hostility to smaller Green Party states. They accuse
DINNER WITH COBB
I sat next to David at a dinner attended by about ten
Greens. He asked me to help raise money for the national party. I said sure, as
soon as we vote in democracy: one Green one vote. I proposed that we join
together and help raise money for the California Party where we have democracy,
where the membership votes for each county council, where one Green one vote is
a reality. Cobb agreed to help
I asked him to meet with me so we could try to figure out
how to reach a consensus on the issues dividing the party, to find common
ground so we could work together. He said that he couldn’t because he’s too
busy. Specifically, he mentioned that he has to go to
Cobb did not seem to recognize that there is a serious issue over democracy in the Party. I guess he thinks the present system is okay. But David and all the Lesser Evil Greens should recognize that large numbers of Greens believe, as I do, that a minority has taken over the leadership of our Party. This happened primarily because of the extreme disfranchisement of Greens where we have a large following, but also because the membership’s vote was not respected when delegates were chosen (or self-appointed) at the last national convention.
David did tell me he was quite excited about PDA and that he wants them to endorse Greens. I did not have a chance to talk to him about how we should approach the PDA. In any case my door remains open. It would be quite useful for the two us who both ran for office in 2004 representing the two different currents in the Green Party to get together discuss these issues and find common ground.
GREEN INSTITUTE AND LESSER EVIL
For Greens who want to build an alternative party to the two
corporate controlled parties it is important to understand the evolution which
is now happening in the Green Party. Our party is not immune from what is
happening in our nation. Politics are now moving to the right. This is clear
within the Democratic Party. This shift is obvious around the issue of the
rights of women where the Democrats are back pedaling and their support for
Bush on the illegal occupation of
Within the Green Party those who thought we should consider supporting Democrats, that is develop what has been traditionally called a fusion strategy have begun to become more open about their views. Greens in some states have started withdrawing candidates when the Democrats ask us to do so.
There has been a more conservative current in the Green Party for some time. I have slowly become aware of this as I watched the role of the Green Institute a grouping of Greens organized as a not for profit “Think Tank”. Recently Greens have been hearing about some large donations going to the Green Institute.
When the Green Institute was set up, its purpose appeared vague but gave the impression it was an organization reflecting the Green Party. It had a large list of well-known Green Party members as its supporters. However, as Green Party members began to have differences over whether to support Cobb or Nader, 100% of the Green Institute was pro-Cobb and in favor of voting Democrat.
It was Green Institute Director Dean Myerson who wrote the statement, signed by 18 leading GP members, laying out most clearly the “Lesser Evil” position. Taking these facts into account, it becomes clear that the Green Institute was set up to help organize the Lesser Evil or “right wing” of our party.
The power of money controls our society and its influence reaches everywhere. We Greens who favor democracy and independence must assume that the Lesser Evil current inside the Green Party will always have more funds than we will. That is always the case in struggles like the one we are now in. Why this is simple. Which wing in this debate do you think the Democrats want to see prevail?
The Green Institute was created to attract money to assist the right wing of the Green Party. What has been circulating on the web is that they received a donation from a German “Green” foundation that has worked with the Democratic Party’s DLC Progressive Policy Institute and has pro-corporate views. Recently they received 250,000 dollars from an individual.
It would be appropriate for the Green Institute to reveal to
the Green Party membership where its funding is coming from and how it has
spent it. We would in particular like to know if any of their funds were used
to help get delegates to our convention in
THE LESSER EVIL CURRENT IS SMALL
The pro-Cobb current became fully aware of how small they really are as David campaigned. But they also saw that they could control the Green Party by pushing their people forward to fill positions in the Green Party. In most cases who ever volunteers is simply given the position.
Throughout the Cobb/LaMarche campaign, the votecobb.org web
site avoided mentioning how many people attended or even sometimes whether
there actually were campaign meetings. Most of the campaign was really an
organizing effort for the Lesser Evil current within the Green Party. As far as
we know, Cobb’s campaign meetings were miniscule. Cobb’s big launch in
The Cobb current wants control. They are prepared to maintain control by a small minority and to refuse to allow democracy in the Green Party. I say this because no leading Cobb supporter (for instance none of the 18 who signed the pro Lesser Evil statement) has up to now stated they accept that leadership bodies and the nomination of our presidential slate must reflect the will of the membership by establishing a system based on one Green one vote.
KEEPING THE MEMBERSHIP IN THE DARK
Traditionally, part of what right wings do to keep control is to prevent information from reaching the membership of the group they are a part of. For instance when the primaries and state conventions were being held in preparation for our convention in 2004, the Green Party national website avoided printing how many Greens attended conventions or participated in caucuses or how many voted in our primaries and for whom. They only listed the number of delegates allocated to candidates.
If they had listed the actual votes in the primaries and the
size of the State conventions it would have been so transparently clear that
Cobb had lost overwhelmingly inside the Green Party. Do you think for one
second if Cobb had done well in the primaries those figures would not have
appeared as headlines in the Green Party web site? After being crushed in three
primaries where thousands of Greens voted in
Now through the effort of Greens for Democracy and Independence (GDI) we have started to discover what each state party’s membership is. That is what these states themselves say they have. Do you think for one second the Green Party’s national web site will show the membership what those figures are? In the future that should become a standard list adjusted once every four years for anyone to see.
MY MEETING WITH THE STEERING COMMITTEE (SC)
I was invited to go to
Not being the world’s best computer person I figured I was wrong and apologized. I assumed I just didn’t know where to look. When I got home I searched where Brent had told me to go and emailed him asking for further help since I could not find the figures. Finally Brent realized himself that in fact the votes at never been posted.
The main question of interest, at least for some of the SC
members was what I had said in
Immediately the Cobb current went to work and split the
Green Party. There were two Greens in charge of the treasury, one a Nader
supporter the other a Cobb supporter. The Cobb supporter went to the bank and
cleaned out the $3,000 or so dollars the Green Party had in
Because I attended a meeting in
Now the committee in charge of accrediting states within the
Green Party, under the guidance of Steering Committee member Jody Haug, has
declared the Cobb split the legitimate and official Green Party of Utah.
Neither the SC nor the CC has approved that decision yet to my knowledge. Nor
has there been any effort by the national leadership to reunify the Greens or
even to have a non-partisan investigation.
The “expelled” Greens
and many other Greens in
Another example where Jody Haug is also involved is
ON THE WRONG TRACK
They are on the wrong track. This is the opposite of what is needed now. We need to mend the Green Party, establish rules that both currents can accept and try to maintain unity, and not seek to create a split. Forget the Democrats. They are not going to help us build the Green Party. The Democrats are part of the problem not the solution.
THE DEMOCRATS AND THE MAGIC OF 39
It is becoming clear to me that the Cobb current, which has previously tried to obfuscate their pro-Democratic Party views, is now beginning to become more openly pro-Democrat. Jack Uhrich, a strong “safe state campaign” supporter, who should be given an award for honesty, laid out an open call that the Green Party’s future depends on it beginning to endorse Democrats. He wrote his views in John Rensenbrink’s magazine Green Horizon. Not a single Cobb supporter, to my knowledge, has said Uhrich is wrong.
Following Uhrich’s lead, Medea Benjamin has taken a step
further and is raising money for the Democrats, specifically the PDA. In the
fund appeal for the PDA she says the PDA is not the Democratic Party. It is
like saying the
They make this perfectly clear themselves. Kevin Spidel,
National Field Director for Kucinich for President and now Deputy National
Director for Progressive Democrats of America said, “The most important thing
we do is that inside-outside strategy: Pulling together members of the Green
Party, the Independent Progressive Politics Network, the hip hop community, the
civil rights community, our allies in congress, the anti-war community. We are
bringing together all the social movements within the Democratic Party under
one effective tent, and we will do it better if people can contribute to our
cause.” (Ordinary Heroes and the Rising Power of the Roots an interview by
Williams Rivers Pitt, truthout,
To make her position even clearer Medea Benjamin has also stated that she now feels it was wrong to vote Green in 2000 that is to vote for Nader at least in some states. This follows quite logically from her position of support to Kerry. If you believe a vote for the Green Party candidate could result in shifting whether a bad Republican gets elected versus a milder Democrat, then you will, over time rarely vote Green in partisan races, since we have no run offs. That is the whole point of the two party dictatorship. Set it up so people will never vote for what is in their interest. When voters are not in agreement with the Republican, openly pro-corporate platform, they have another way, a milder way, to vote pro-corporate. What Medea is challenging is the whole reason for having a Green Party. Clearly this is the New Party strategy. Run only local candidates, vote lesser evil in partisan races, with an exception once in a while.
Recently I had a conversation with her where she told me that she did not say it was wrong to vote for Nader in 2000. So that I do not miss represent her views I will quote exactly what she said in Common Dreams. Org.:
“So while Bush refuses to admit mistakes maybe its time for people who voted for Bush in 2000, the people who didn’t vote at all in 2000, and yes, people like myself (Medea Benjamin-PC) who voted for Ralph Nader in 2000 to admit our mistakes. I’ll say mine I had no idea that George Bush would be such a disastrous president. Had I known then what I know now, and had I lived in a swing state, I would have voted for Gore instead of Ralph Nader. And this time around, if I lived in a swing state (which I don’t) I wouldn’t make the same mistake. What about you?”
Well I for one will answer Medea. I would have voted for the Liberty Party, the Greenback Labor Party, the Populists, the Debsian Socialists, just as I supported voting for Nader in all states in 2000. I will not vote for a Gore or Kerry or any other pro-war, pro corporate, anti-labor, anti-the environment and anti-democracy candidate whether I live in swing or swing less states.
Because I disagree with Medea on her approach on this issue does not diminish my respect for the work she has done in exposing many injustices through out the world. GDI Greens should recognize that our admiration for people like Medea and many others who do not agree with our views is not in contradiction with debating over policies. To state your political difference is not disrespect. We must return to the days before Stalinism destroyed open dialogue among progressive. There was a time when progressives could argue in sharp terms about policies and maintain our ability to work together, especially given our large areas of agreement. We must return to that culture.
THE MAGIC OF 39
The problem all the progressive-minded Democrats have is that their party is rapidly moving further rightward and more openly showing how pro-Bush, pro-Republican the party really is. Hillary Clinton and Howard Dean are now openly questioning the Democrats’ traditional positions on reproductive rights for women; Hillary Clinton has also joined in the right wing “abstinence” campaign that both Kerry and Bush pushed in the presidential “debates”.
But most amazing is how, after telling the world in
thousands of speeches how terrible a president George Bush is and how if Nader
runs it is such a crime because the terrible Bush might get elected, the
Democratic Party—including the so called progressive Democrats (Ted Glick a
hard core Cobb supporter claims there are 130 progressive Democrats in
Congress)— gave George Bush 39 standing ovations at the State of the
We have not heard a peep from the PDA, The Nation,
Moveon.org, The Progressive, Norman Solomon etc., about the fact that their
choice for president just gave Bush 39 standing ovations. Apparently it is not something
they feel is worth commenting on. In fact the silence is deafening as Democrats
cheer Bush and openly declare how they are shifting away from what is majority
Let us not forget the massive totalitarian campaign to not allow a pro peace candidate, Ralph Nader from being on the ballot. Not one elected Democrat in the nation publicly opposed their party’s campaign against democracy. Not one leader of the PDA said one word in opposition to this totalitarian campaign.
CONTRADICTION IN THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY
The Democrats are moving to the right under the pressure of the Republicans and the control of money, but they also have to try and shore up their base if they want to win elections. Like in nature where there are strong currents counter currents appear. It is understandable that as the Democrats move to the right some Democrats seek to regroup to oppose the right turn or at least to not lose their base that is suffering at the hands of the right ward shift.
This can be important to us. But we also need to fully understand the role such counter currents often play to keep the Democrats from losing their base that is disgusted with their politics. In the end do they just end up trying to keep those who are turned off to the Democrats from leaving and joining the Greens or forming some other opposition organization.
In fact the Democrats electoral failure is in good part due to their inability to mobilize their base. Therefore even as they shift to the right, expect to see all kinds of maneuvers to try and appeal to labor, minorities, women, gays, environmentalist and others. Making Howard Dean the head of the Democratic Party is one step. There may actually be an increase in activity of “progressive” Democrats as they try to keep hope alive for this degenerating instrument of money among its traditional base. I would not be surprised to see some State and local Democratic candidates appear that are more progressive than usual.
The Democrats do not mind having such candidates if it shores up their base and weakens the Greens or any other current moving towards independence. They especially do not mind such candidates in races they expect to lose.
GREENS AND THE PDA
Our attitude should not be sectarian towards the PDA. We should reach out to the members of the PDA where we have agreement to engage in actions together. We need to recognize that there are many specific points where we have agreement with the PDA. We should show respect for them as individuals and not engage in personalized attacks. We should also not confuse expressing our political differences with them and personal attacks.
But the last thing we should do is suggest to them that membership in a pro-war, pro-corporate party is the way to go. Nor should we follow Jack Uhrich’s proposal to follow the fusion policies of the now defunct New Party, a policy that will only tear the Greens apart by arguing over what Democrat to support. In the end the road towards fusion is the road to oblivion. That is what has happened through out the history of our nation. Where ever progressives, trying to build an independent political force, were seduced into a fusion strategy they ended up being destroyed.
The Cobb current is free to endorse all the Democrats they want. That is acceptable. But NOT IN OUR NAME. The Green Party as an institution must remain independent. The Green Party belongs to all its members not just the Lesser Evil current.
The PDA held a national convention with about 600 people present where they invited Medea Benjamin and David Cobb to speak. They refused to allow Ralph Nader, who had just gotten almost 500,000 votes for president to come and be heard. Isn’t it clear? To the PDA the condition for political collaboration is that you are willing to vote for war, for the Patriot Act, for pro-corporate candidates like Kerry or you are not welcome.
MY MEETING WITH DENNIS KUCINICH
Wouldn’t it be nice if Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! asked Dennis Kucinich or Barbara Boxer the next time she interviews either of them how many times they stood up and gave Bush a standing ovation? Kucinich has fought for many positions that the Green Party supports such as opposing the Patriot Act. But he buys in to the two party dictatorship and will not dare to stand against the betrayal that standing ovations for Bush mean to the future of our nation.
During the primaries I met with Kucinich and spoke twice at Kucinich meetings. In both meetings I thanked him for taking good stances on many issues but I also made it clear that I was a Green and would not endorse any Democrat, any candidate of a party that was pro-war and anti-labor.
I think it is quite possible that the majority of people working on Kucinich’s campaign were Green Party supporters. We built a progressive independent party that attracted hundreds of thousands of people, especially with the Nader campaign in 2000. Kucinich saw this development as an opportunity to build a current inside the Democratic Party by trying to win Greens back to working inside the Democrats. Similarly the PDA that is much smaller than the Green Party sees the opportunity to build their current inside the Democratic Party by recruiting Greens.
I urged Dennis Kucinich at the time we met to show respect for the Green Party by not calling on its members to abandon the Green Party and join the Democrats. I had gone to a Kucinich house party to check them out and saw a video where Kucinich states he will bring the Greens back into the Democratic Party. I asked him to take that out of his video and to publicly state that he respects the decision of those who have joined the Green Party. Kucinich turned to me and said, “Yes you are right that was a mistake.” He then turned to Gary Jelinek who was driving the car we were riding in together and said “remind me Gary we need to change that video, Peter’s right.”
Many months later I spoke to Gary who remembered that
conversation clearly. He pointed out to me that the Kucinich campaign had a
meeting on that issue but Kucinich insisted on keeping the video
We should continue to work with Kucinich on the many issues we agree with him on. We should be respectful to him and his supporters, but always understand that he harbors illusions in the Democratic Party and wants the Greens to abandon their party. He is willing to support any one with any policy the Democrats may present as a candidate.
The truth is that the abuse we now live under is so extreme
that is difficult to believe people who consider themselves Greens can try to justify
it. For instance in
Looking at the ratio of the two examples above of
It just happens that
(I have noticed that wherever the majority of the leadership
in a State is pro-GDI care is taken to welcome the Lesser Evil current into
leadership positions and include them at all levels. In
If the membership in all states could openly vote on the
issue of democracy there is no question the majority would vote for democracy
even in states like
If we enter our next national meeting with backing from both
BE PREPARED FOR THE WORST, HOPE FOR THE BEST
It is quite possible especially in states like
I sense we are gaining ground. As more Greens hear of the
debate they naturally gravitate towards one Green one vote and they favor
independence as long as it does not cut across local autonomy. Most Greens do
not want a top down party. They want the freedom to act based on their views.
Exactly what the GDI current is proposing in
However should our proposal be “formally” defeated like Cobb was “nominated,” we should not split from the Green Party. A split is exactly what the Democrats want. It would weaken the Green party terribly. It would stifle the discussion and debate on these issues. We should, however, organize our current for a long term struggle in support of democracy and independence.
KEEP THE DOOR OPEN
We should keep the door open and hope the Lesser Evil current comes to their senses, stops its abuse of our membership and accepts reaching a consensus for a one Green one vote democratic structure.
There are many steps the Lesser Evil current could take to
lower the tension in the party. For instance, when John Rensenbrink writes that
the Greens in
The most important effort the Lesser Evil current could make to help unify and build the Green Party is to accept that every Green has an equal say in the Party and support a one Green one vote policy. It would also be helpful if they would declare they support the right of Greens who disagree with them to be in the Green Party. The more they clarify their politics, the easier it is to work together. In that sense Jack Uhrich should be congratulated for openly stating what many of them are all thinking.
To end I think it may be important for the GDI current to hold a national gathering to discuss how best to carry forward our effort to democratize and defend the independence of the Green Party. It has been an enormous personal pleasure for me to see so many Greens working together building the GDI current.
Post Script: A bi product of the GDI discussion for me was the discovery of Mark Lause’s book on the 1880 Greenback Labor Party presidential campaign. His book is a story that so closely parallels 2004 where a presidential candidate General Weaver fights for the people against the two parties while every effort is made especially by the Democrats to block him, steal his votes and accuse him (not true) of taking money from the Republicans. The book is called “The Civil War’s Last Campaign.” Read it and you will understand in a new way why the GDI current is crucial for the survival and growth of the Greens.