SECTION SIXTEEN
EMAIL PAGE NINETEEN

sm
COLUMN SEVENTY-FIVE, SEPTEMBER 1, 2002
(Copyright 2002 The Blacklisted Journalist)

FROM PORTSIDE
Portside (the left side in nautical parlance) is a
news, discussion and debate service of the Committees
of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism. It
says it aims to provide varied material of interest to people
on the Left. Heretofore , we were  under the impression that Portside  is the Internet's voice of the Left.  But it turns out to be the Internet's voice of the fundamentalist Far-Left, which, like all fundamentalist organizations, adheres to an orthodoxy and consequently refuses to post dissident or differing opinions from within the Left---such as HATE YOUR GOVERNMENT BUT LOVE YOUR COUNTRY, available to be read in SECTION ONE of COLUMN SEVENTY.  Fundamentalists, like fascists, will not tolerate any disagreements or variations from the fundamentalist orthodoxy.

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PLEA TO GREENS: DON'T GIVE SENATE TO TRENT LOTT

Subject: The Greens Versus Wellstone... A Gift to Trent Lott
Date: Fri, 19 Jul 2002 07:40:24 -0700 (PDT)
From: portsideMod <portsidemod@yahoo.com>
Reply-To: portside@yahoogroups.com
To: ps <portside@yahoogroups.com
 

The Greens Versus Wellstone...
...Or, Handing The Senate Back To Trent Lott

by Steve Cobble

Published: Jul 17 2002

<http://www.tompaine.com/feature.cfm/ID/6014>

Steve Cobble is director of the Campaign for a Progressive Future.

I admire Green Party Presidential candidate Ralph Nader. I also admire Democratic Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota. That might mean I'm principled. It might just mean I'm confused. It does mean that I feel obligated to do my small part to avert the loss of one of the few progressive Senators worth worrying about, a loss that could put the U.S. Senate back in Trent Lott's hands.

Thus, my plea to the Minnesota Greens: take a breath, put aside your anger at the Democrats, and act in your own best interests, as well as the nation's---please reconsider your challenge to Senator Wellstone. And my plea to the Democrats: stop pretending the Greens do not exist; it's time to talk to them.

The most unusual spectacle in politics is for a political party to admit a mistake. We'll all asphyxiate if we hold our breath waiting for the Democrats to admit the blunder they made not passing full public funding of campaigns back in 1993, when they had complete control of the government; and certainly the President-Select, Tom DeLay, and the tax cut lemmings who make up the modern GOP will never admit that their reverse-Robin-Hood tax cuts for the rich have already put us back into massive deficits.

So I know I'm asking the Minnesota Green Party to do something politically brave and unusual---to acknowledge a tactical error, and to reverse course while there is still time. Drop this Senate challenge.

Do it not just because it's in the country's best interests, but because it's in your own best interests as a new, small party. The strategic move for your party in 2002 is to put all your statewide energies into the Ken Pentel for Governor campaign, where you have a known candidate, a four-way race, public funding, and likely access to televised debates. Bolster that statewide candidacy with diverse, issue-oriented, energetic Green candidates for the statehouse and city councils---campaigns that can be won by candidates willing to knock on every door, in districts small enough that money is less important.

The strategic way to build your party this year is for your gubernatorial candidate to do well---and there is absolutely no way for him to break into double figures without a significant chunk of Paul Wellstone supporters. The obvious strategy, then, is not to limit Pentel's potential by linking it with an underfunded Senate effort that will never break out of the low single digits, especially against a recognized progressive like Wellstone.

Instead, Ken Pentel should be making a credible argument to the half of the Minnesota electorate that supports Paul Wellstone that he is closer to Wellstone on the issues than the Democratic nominee, that he is the Wellstone of the Governor's race, and that he would govern in the organizer's tradition that Paul brought to the U.S. Senate. This argument might have a chance with many voters, except that the race is now locked into a "Green team vs. Democrat team" top-of-the-ticket strategy, which will severely limit the Green vote in all races.

So put aside your anger at the Democrats. You should do this not just because it helps Paul Wellstone win re-election---which it will---but because it's in your own best interests.

The surest path to a stronger Green Party future in Minnesota is a credible gubernatorial campaign this year. Your Senate challenge to Wellstone gets in the way of that. It's as straightforward as that.

I suggest putting together a Green delegation to respectfully ask Ed McGaa to step aside as an official Green Senate candidate, or at least to pull back any campaigning, for the good of your party. I think McGaa deserves to be praised for his willingness to take on the extremely difficult task of running for office on a third party ballot line.

And I think the Greens would be wise to nominate him for another office; he is, after all, an author and a Native American who has served in the armed forces with distinction. This Senate race is just not the right race strategically. I also suggest that the Greens put together a group of party members and voting reform allies to ask Paul Wellstone to lead the national fight for IRV (instant runoff voting), a win-win voting reform that eliminates the so-called "spoiler" problem.

Instant runoff voting works exactly like it sounds. Invented by an American in 1870, IRV allows voters to rank their preferences (1, 2, 3, etc.), rather than merely punching out one chad. Then, if no candidate wins a majority on the first round, the weaker candidates are eliminated, and their votes redistributed among their supporters' second choices. This process continues until one candidate gets a majority.

Why should we care? First of all, because IRV is more democratic. Second, by opening up our increasingly stagnant political system, IRV would encourage small parties, inject new ideas and new voices into elections, and help increase voter interest. Third, IRV increases the incentives for positive campaigns, since major parties must also compete for small parties' second-choice votes. Fourth, through its "instant runoff" feature, IRV leads to a majority winner, thus eliminating the so-called spoiler problem, a feature the major parties should like.

I'd argue that Senator Wellstone should also press for cross-party endorsement, aka "fusion"; continue his long fight for "clean money" style public funding; and try to push the rest of the country into joining Minnesota by opening up television debates and using same-day voter registration. Given the current progressive Democrat v. Green split, though, I contend that IRV should be a no-brainer on both sides.

I would be remiss if I left any impression that the current poor state of relations between the Democratic Party and the Green Party is all or mostly the Greens' fault. The national Democratic Party, or its wiser state parties, needs to move quickly on several fronts to begin to defuse the current split in progressive ranks. Since the Democrats control the U.S. Senate, they can take action right away. If they are concerned about possible "spoiling" by the Green Party, one immediate legislative strategy is obvious---pass an instant runoff voting bill. Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., has already introduced a bill that creates strong incentives for states to adopt IRV in Presidential elections, a means of inducing reform without resorting to a Constitutional amendment.

In addition, the Senate Democrats could unite behind a bill requiring instant runoff voting in all Federal races, and offering incentives to states to move towards IRV in state races. In addition, holding regional hearings and taking testimony on IRV, fusion, same-day voter registration, and other post-Florida voting reforms would be an excellent way to start addressing the split among progressives.

Party leaders could also put together a committee of credible progressive Democrats---leaders such as Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., Rep. Cynthia McKinney, Rep. Barbara Lee, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Rep. Henry Waxman, Rep. George Miller---to initiate a "common ground" dialogue with Ralph Nader, Winona LaDuke, and Green Party leadership. (I would also include Dan Cantor and the increasingly influential Working Families Party of New York.)

There is no miracle cure here---nevertheless, it seems to me that everyone is better off talking directly than firing rhetorical warning shots over the other party's barricades. Clearly, we're better off beginning to talk now, rather than waiting for the heat of the next contest. And it seems to me that there are political strategies that are win-win, that could increase the power of progressives both inside and outside the Democratic Party, if we began to talk. After all, in Europe, where the political center is in a place that American progressives can only fantasize about, serious discussions, negotiations, policy and political trade-offs among left-leaning parties are the norm.

Not to mention that the DLC, the pro-corporate-power wing of the Democrats of the 1990s, is still there, still funded, still waiting for Senator Joe Lieberman's ascendance. I think it would also be wise to stop the heavy-handed rhetorical attacks from prominent liberals. They are not scaring Greens away---and as has surely been obvious since at least 35 years ago when General Motors foolishly tried to intimidate a young Nader, such attacks certainly do not work on Ralph---instead, they are stiffening Green Party resolve, especially among the young.

Finally, why not make a serious attempt to fight for Green Party voters by pressing for some of their issues? The Democratic Party has been unwilling to investigate a stolen election in Florida; ineffective at holding hearings on obvious and massive corruption involving Enron and Halliburton, with tracks leading right into a stonewalling White House; and unable to force a serious, independent investigation of the events that led to the tragedy of 9/11 (much less the conduct of a war that looks less impressive every day).

Health care is not just about prescription drugs for seniors---what about the 44 million Americans with no health care at all? Affordable housing is in a crisis state---why not propose a variation of the G.I. Bill, the most successful housing program for average Americans ever invented? Global warming is a reality that even the Shrub has finally woken up to---but where is the "Global Green Deal" program that would actually make a dent in our carbon emissions?

If you want to convince young people that they are better off voting for the Democratic Party than the Green Party, it might be smart not to wait until August of 2004 to begin fighting for the people against the powerful. We have a rare "anti-corporate moment" here, and we should take full advantage of it.  ##

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