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Why I am Running as a Green

David Cobb
Date Published: 
March 01, 2004

As someone who is actively campaigning to earn the Green Party’s nomination for President of the United States, I want to acknowledge that the unelected and illegitimate current occupant of the White House is a problem. In fact, he is a big problem. But he is not THE problem. The real problem is the social, political, and economic system that is literally destroying the planet, driving the engine of empire on behalf of transnational corporations, and creating an unjust, oppressive and unsustainable world with the plunder.

Green quest

Folks, the social, political, and economic system is the problem, and the Green Party stands ready and willing to work with you to challenge it!

With that somber backdrop, I offer a few observations:

1) Greens don’t just run in elections. Like many of you, we are citizen activists working on issues like a living wage, universal health care, a clean environment, publicly-funded elections and ending the illegal and illegitimate war of occupation in Iraq (and Afghanistan and Colombia and…. it’s a long and sordid list, isn’t it?)

2) The Green Party is not going away. We are getting larger, stronger and better organized with every election cycle. The untold story is that there are 205 elected Greens across the nation. I am especially proud that so many Green elected officials played such an important role in passing anti-war and anti-Patriot Act resolutions across the country.

3) Greens will continue to exercise our sacred right to participate in the electoral process. If the establishment political parties think our participation is “spoiling” elections, then they should work to adopt Instant Runoff Voting (see Instant Runoff Voting is as easy as 1-2-3. Instead of a system that forces voters to choose from the lesser of evils, voters would be allowed to rank order all the candidates. This system is in use in Australia, Ireland, Scotland and New Zealand. And it is used in this country to select Baseball’s Most Valuable Player, the Heisman Trophy winner, and the Academy award winners. If this voting system is good enough for sports and movies, surely it is good enough to be used when electing politicians.

4) Green candidates are WINNERS. We’ve won approximately 25% of the elections we have participated in over the past few years, and we have an impressive re-election track record to boot. (Greens are proving that we can govern once we attain office).

Even when we don’t get elected, we can help galvanize voters. Matt Gonzalez received 47% of the mayoral vote in San Francisco (in a city in which 3% of the electorate is Green), and with less than 10%of Newsom’s campaign budget. Of course, Matt’s campaign was fueled by people-power and received no corporate funding.

5) There are sharp and unavoidable distinctions between Green candidates and “progressive” Democratic politicians. There are lots of Democrats who call themselves progressives because they support abortion rights, while they also receive their funding from corporations and kowtow to real estate interests. This is half-assed progressivism and Greens are willing to say so. Gavin “I’m progressive too!” Newsom is a prime example.

There are countless examples of so-called “progressive” Democratic officeholders who have supported a Walmart development, a publicly funded stadium or convention center, NAFTA, WTO and IMF policies, eviction of tenants to make way for an upscale condo development. (For example, Al Gore spouted rhetoric against sprawl while supporting funding for projects that he knew would make it worse.)

Democratic politicians, including most “progressives” cannot and will not wean themselves from corporate money. They will never challenge the legal doctrine of “corporate personhood” (which is the illegitimate doctrine that allows corporations to claim constitutional rights in order to overturn democratically enacted laws).

6) Greens know that there is a fundamental distinction between Democratic politicians and Democratic Party voters. We regard progressive voters as our best friends, and as future Green Party voters, registrants and activists.

7) Virtually every significant progressive gain in American history was originally proposed by an alternative “third” party: the abolition of slavery, women’s right to vote, the 40 hour work week, unemployment insurance, worker’s compensation laws, the minimum wage, pure food and drug laws, the abolition of child labor.

In fact, the very foundation of what we today would consider the bare minimum for a just and compassionate society was championed by third parties. And the reality is that it only takes 10-15% of the vote in any national election to force the establishment parties to take new ideas seriously. So if we want universal health care, a living wage, and publicly elections, and an end to pre-emptive war as our foreign policy, we must be willing to vote for candidates who will fight for those issues.

Democratic thoughts

And a closing thought on the Democratic Party’s presidential hopefuls:

Howard Dean has taken a few mildly good positions – and we know he’ll retreat from them if he gets nominated, just as Clinton did in 1992.

Dennis Kucinich, Al Sharpton, & Carol Moseley-Braun are much closer to the Green Party in their positions, but they cannot and will not win the nomination. Sadly, each one will ultimately endorse whoever receives the nomination, in effect abandoning their principles. (We can be sure that Kucinich, like Jerry Brown in 1992, won’t even get a chance to speak in prime-time at the Democratic Convention, and that he will have zero influence on the Democratic platform).

I know that some Greens have joined Kucinich’s campaign. Some have even joined Dean’s. I respect their decision, even thought I disagree with it. As someone who worked hard on Jesse Jackson’s campaigns in 1984 and 1988 and Jerry Brown’s campaign in 1992, here is my conclusion: The Democratic Party primary is the place where genuine progressive politics goes to die.


David Cobb is a California lawyer seeking the Green Party nomination for President in 2004 ( He served as the General Counsel for the Green Party of the United States ( until declaring his candidacy and was the Green Party of Texas candidate for Attorney General in 2002.