Barry Sheppard, San Francisco
On June 27, the Green Party convention voted against endorsing the independent Ralph Nader-Peter Camejo campaign for the US presidency.
Less than a week before the convention, Nader named Greens activist Camejo as his running mate. In the 2000 presidential election, Nader won an impressive 3% (2.7 million votes) as a Green candidate. After Nader, Camejo has received the highest number of votes ever for the Greens, running in successive Californian gubernatorial elections.
Instead of endorsing the Nader-Camejo ticket, the Greens decided to endorse David Cobb. Unlike Nader and Camejo, Cobb backs a "safe state" strategy, where voters will be encouraged to vote for Democrat John Kerry in any state where the election is close.
Camejo's proposed unity resolution, which would have produced endorsements for both Nader-Camejo and the Cobb campaign, leaving it up to state parties to decide which campaign would get the Green ballot lines, was rejected by Cobb.
The Greens' decision, which was met with much satisfaction by Democratic Party leaders and supporters, was fiercely opposed by many delegates who remained firm in their opposition to both the Democrats and Republicans.
In fact, the Cobb candidacy will be only a token one in all states. The Cobb operation's real purpose was to dovetail Democratic Party efforts — with massive funding — to knock the Nader-Camejo team off the ballot.
In the United States, although it varies from state to state, only "established parties" can easily run. In California, for example, an independent candidate must collect and have certified 120,000 registered voters' signatures in order to run. Because the Greens have "established party" status in 23 states, including California, Nader could have run in those states if he had gained Greens endorsement. As a Green candidate, Nader ran in 43 states in 2000. Without the endorsement, he will find it almost impossible to do that again.
The US presidential system is not preferential, so votes for Nader cannot flow on to Kerry if he is not elected. Following the last US presidential election, many Democrats attacked Nader for splitting the anti-Republican vote.
The pressure among progressives, leftists and many socialists to vote for Kerry, under the slogan of "anybody but Bush", was behind the Green Party capitulation. As Camejo has publicly pointed out, the ABB campaign calls on people opposed to Kerry's politics to vote for what they are against.
The war and occupation of Iraq is the central issue of US politics. The number of wounded and killed GIs is mounting, as well as the costs of the occupation. It is becoming clearer to millions that the Iraqi people oppose the occupation. The gruesome and sexually sadistic tortures carried out by the US military have repelled even conservatives. Opposition to the war is mounting.
Kerry's position on the occupation is to the right of Bush's — he calls for sending an addition 40,000 troops to crush the Iraqi people. Kerry's difference with Bush is to call for more international backing for the US, but Bush himself is now adopting that stance.
The choice in the election is between the Kerry-Bush war party and the Nader-Camejo anti-war party.
The sabotaging of the independent campaign by the Cobb forces was met with dismay by many Greens throughout the country. Nader's support extends well beyond the Greens, with polls showing him with 6% nationally — many millions — and 12% among young voters.
The challenge now for the Nader-Camejo campaign is to mobilise that support to collect hundreds of thousand of signatures in a short period of time to put the ticket on the ballot in the face of extremely undemocratic and burdensome election laws in most states. That big task is being enthusiastically shouldered by Nader-Camejo campaigners across the country.
From Green Left Weekly, July 7, 2004.
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