US Greens challenge Clinton


By Lisa Macdonald The decision by well-known consumer rights advocate Ralph Nader to challenge US President Bill Clinton as a Green Party candidate in the 1996 presidential elections is causing some ripples in US politics. The 62-year-old Nader will appear on the Green Party of California presidential primary ballot as part of a "People's Campaign '96" which will "challenge the dominance of money in politics and the corporate welfare it buys ... stimulate a debate on the distribution of power, its abuses and reforms ... and organise disaffected voters and non-voters alike to redirect the nation's politics in a more fair, honest and humane direction". According to the People's Campaign, there is "a growing demand for an alternative electoral choice and for greater integrity in national politics ... Nader's personal integrity and lifetime of public service and advocacy has made him one of the most trusted public figures in the US." The US Greens were founded in Minnesota in 1984. Today they are the most developed of the independent progressive formations in the US, with an estimated active membership of 5000 and more than 450 local chapters in all but two states. Despite the Republicans' sweep in the November 1994 congressional elections, the Greens recorded their highest ever vote — over a million votes for 80 candidates. They now have more than 100 elected and appointed officials in 13 states. The US Greens are strongest in California, where they formed in 1988 and gained ballot status in 1992. They now have more than 100,000 members in this important state for US electoral politics. Nader's candidacy is a direct threat to Clinton's presidency since just 3-4% of the vote for Nader could cost Clinton California's 52 electoral college votes. According to the People's Campaign statement, there are some differences within the US Greens about the exact nature and goals of the Nader candidacy. "Some Greens express hope that Nader's candidacy will serve as a 'wake-up call' with which they may persuade Clinton to adopt stronger positions on key issues. However, according to Bay Area Green activist Daniel Solnit, 'most of us see that the Democratic Party is controlled by most of the same big money interests as the Republicans. Both parties have abandoned the working people of America. We cannot keep waiting around and hoping for Clinton. For all of us fed up with politics as usual this campaign is a wake-up call for us to take back our government from the wealthy special interests'." Playing on these differences, and appealing to the more conservative elements in the Greens, Bill Prest, chairperson of California's Democrats, is arguing that "A vote for Nader would be a vote for [Republican] Bob Dole, and I can't believe that is what Ralph and the Green Party want to accomplish".