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Want to Get Rid of Bush and Grow the Greens? Don’t Listen to Medea Benjamin

Robert Tufts
Date Published: 
January 01, 0001

In her plea to Greens to nominate David Cobb, Medea almost makes a convincing argument for why Greens should support David Cobb and his “giving something to the Democrats in exchange for nothing” strategy (otherwise known as the “safe state” strategy). However, in doing so Medea, and many of the professional liberals like her, essentially suggest that we should betray our core vision, and cede whatever political power the Greens may have in exchange for some mythical coalition building that the Green Party’s professional liberals think will emerge during the course of the 2004 election campaign.

The truth is that we will build the Green Party, build successful coalitions, and create sustainable change moving us closer to the world we want. It just won’t happen by giving in to the Democrats. It won’t happen by trying to build top-down coalitions where Green professional liberals cave in to the demands of supposedly progressive organizations. These same “progressive” organizations who concede their values in exchange for supposed allegiance from the Democrat Party. It will happen by our grassroots struggles. It will happen when we run strong candidates for local office. It will happen when we work successfully in coalitions at the state and local levels.

Any work the Greens do at the national level in favor of Kerry will prove to be fruitless. National organizations such as NOW, AFL-CIO, NAACP, NARAL, and the Democrat Party, view us as rebellious children who are politically ineffectual. Of course that is an accurate description of us (for now). However, they expect us to grow up and come to our senses and return back to the straight and narrow course of obediently marching lock step to the voting booth and voting for whatever candidate the Democratic machine puts before us each election day. That is where they are wrong. We know as Greens that this is a long term project. There are no short cuts. There are no magic strategies. All that is in front of us is toil, toil and more toil. We willingly accept this however because we have grown sickened by watching progressives betray the working class, betray minorities, and betray women by compromising their principles for short term, unsustainable gains. We as Greens want to keep our principles, compromise only when absolutely necessary, and work towards long term, sustainable gains. The only way to do this is from the grassroots up. It isn’t going to happen by bowing before the feet of NOW, AFL-CIO, NAACP, NARAL, or the Democrat Party. On the day after the election, if Kerry wins, the Democrats and their “progressive allies” will allow the Green Party professional liberals to keep their jobs. For the rest of the Greens, we will still be looked at like the bad child that mom and dad are hoping will grow up one day.

How will our presidential candidate David Cobb help us build these long term, sustainable changes from the grassroots up? He can not. That is not the role of a presidential candidate. He is unable to effectively help us in this manner. Therefore, his candidacy is essentially meaningless to the Green Party. We have essentially lost our voice on the national stage. Well, to be honest, the only time we had a voice on the national stage was when Nader was our candidate. We had that voice because we demanded it. We worked hard to promote Nader who in turn promoted our values on the national stage. He had the track record that forced the media and the liberal establishment to listen to him when he spoke. David Cobb does not have that track record. David Cobb does not have that name recognition. David Cobb and his supporters have neutered the Green Party and silenced our voice on the national stage. They essentially handed our political strength and courage to the Democrats. They have bowed at the feet of the Democrats and said, “We have done what you have asked of us, now please accept us for who we are.” Do you ever respect anyone who grovels at your feet? Of course not. You have to earn your respect. That is what African-Americans learned during the civil rights struggle. They were spit upon, beaten on, attacked by dogs, and outright murdered on their front lawns. But they stood up straight and tall and still carried those signs “I am a man!” David Cobb and Medea Benjamin could learn a lot from the civil rights struggle about earning respect for who you are, not by being what others want you to be.

Medea tugs on our heartstrings by sharing the grief of all those who have tragically lost loved ones in this illegal act of aggression against Iraq. However, if Kerry and the Democrats had their way, Medea would still have the same sad stories to report back about grieving families. Except instead of American bullets killing Iraqis, there would have been bullets from many different countries killing Iraqis. Last time I checked a bullet from Russia, France, or Germany is just as deadly as a bullet from the U.S. This is what would be occurring if the Democrats had their way and “internationalized” the conflict. But let us not just stop there with a hypothetical. Let us look at the Clinton administration and its war in Europe. How many innocent civilians died from that war? How many innocent civilians died in Chechnya because Clinton looked the other way in order to get Russia’s support for our war in former Yugoslavia? How many women were raped by U.S. contractors operating in Bosnia and Croatia? Is Medea suggesting that when Democrats go to war, the killings and rapes are not as bad as when Republicans go to war?

But how do we defeat Bush with this strategy? By focusing on key local races regardless if we have a Green running in them or not. The Democrats have essentially given up on the idea of winning back Congress. They are putting all their eggs into one basket and working full out to win the presidency. But if they succeed in winning the presidency, while leaving Congress in the hands of Republicans, how effective will John Kerry really be? Our goal as Greens should be to work to elect progressive candidates to congress and senate, even if they are Democrats. This is where we will gain the respect of Democrats and fellow progressives. This is where our efforts will reap the most benefits for the long term. One Green Party local in the Annapolis, Maryland area has developed a good working relationship with progressive Democrats in their area by just such a strategy. By working the polling place on primary day for a progressive candidate, Green Party activists were able to deliver more votes than any of the other volunteers. This effort helped the local gain the respect of progressive Democrats in the Annapolis area. By working to help elect progressives to Congress, we might be able to take back Congress. That means if Bush is re-elected, he won’t get much accomplished when facing a congress controlled by the Democrats. That is how you defeat Bush if you are a Green. You find your niche. You find your role. You play to your strengths, stay true to your values, and go out and fight for your candidate. Our role and our strengths lie at the local and state level, not at the national level.


Robert Tufts is a member of the MD Green Party