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Green Party Options After Nader

Alex Hogan
Date Published: 
January 01, 0001

Last week I was encouraging Ralph Nader to join the 2004 presidential race, defending him against his many critics. Who knew that I needed to add at the end of "Run, Ralph, Run", that he needs to do it on the Green Party ballot? Last Friday, not only did Nader announce that is he not seeking the Green Party nomination but that he is considering running as an independent, an option that I consider to be disastrous to both Ralph and the Green Party. There is no way Ralph can pull off any kind of campaign with out the grass root support of Green Party members, not to mention use of the party's ballot status. And an independent Nader campaign will split the party, not in any major way to be sure, but enough to slow its momentum and drag local chapters into bitter fights.

So what are the Greens to do? Already some commentators are using Nader's possible independent run as another reason for the Greens not to put up their own presidential candidate. I disagree and the reasons I laid out in Run, Ralph, Run still hold up.

So far there are six potential Green candidates. As one of the two front runners, Peter Camejo of California is far from being a household name, but the recent California gubernatorial recall brought him statewide attention and some nationwide press. He also scored the highest returns of any Green gubernatorial candidate, winning 5.3% of the electorate in 2002. He is an excellent campaigner and even many mainstream media outlets praised his performance during the gubernatorial debates for sticking to the issues while Arnold and the rest were throwing mud and slanders, winning first place in a San Francisco Chronicle poll of debater's performance.

Camejo also scored well among communities of color, himself a first generation Venezuelan-American fluent in Spanish. In 2003, Camejo polled 6% among African-Americans, the largest group to support him, and 5% among Latinos, a remarkable draw for the Greens who have suffered from Nader’s poor showing among non- whites (not including Arab-Americans). Those below the poverty line were Camejo's strongest supporters, giving him 9% of their vote.

Camejo is also a highly respected Green Party member and has shown a much better relationship with the state party during his campaign than Nader ever did in his campaign. And unlike Nader, Camejo is a product of the anti-war and civil rights movements of the 60's, running for President on a Socialist ticket in the 1970’s, and is a veteran of mass democratic radical movements, not think tanks and congressional hearings.

The other frontrunner is David Cobb of Texas a long time and well respected Green Party leader. His main campaign promises are that his campaign will take directives from the party (unlike Nader in 2000) and that he will use the "safe-states campaign" strategy endorsed by some Greens. In many way I am sympathetic to the strategy in that it prioritizes beating Bush, which any Green campaign needs to do. However if part of the purpose of Green campaign is to force the Democrats to raise progressive issues, it does not make a lot of sense to throw our hand down in the beginning of the game. Any Green campaign needs to be flexible and not set in stone our tactics and we should not expect any prior formula will be the magic key to Green success. I am also uncomfortable with the idea of ignoring the chance to raise progressive Green issues to the populations of Michigan, Wisconsin, and California where the "swing nature" of the state means a certain tilt toward independent political thinking. Cobb also suffers from lack of name recognition outside the party.

Whatever Ralph does, and we need to encourage him to do the right thing, the Greens need to move forward and nominate Camejo in 2004. This is the best time for us to do so, with Camejo still receiving attention from the gubernatorial campaign and with the energy generated by the Matt Gonzalez mayoral campaign in San Francisco still fresh.

To read more about Camejo's 2003 gubenatorial campaign check out