September 9, 2004
Green House Party Gasses
Medea Comes Clean; Cobb Stays Dirty
By JOSHUA FRANK
Following a critical article of the inter-workings of the Pacific Green Party in Oregon titled, "The Green Party Unravels from Within", a suspect rumor was brought to light. After talking to a dozen or so pro-Nader delegates that attended the Green Party Convention in Wisconsin last July, virtually all of them came forward with a similar belief: that the founding director of Code Pink and Global Exchange, Medea Benjamin, funded California delegates to attend the event and support the nomination of David Cobb. The money was rumored to have come from George Soros, the billionaire tycoon who has deep ties to the Democratic Party, and hates Ralph Nader with a visceral fury.
Benjamin could not be reached for comment prior to the article's publication, but she emailed me afterwards to clear her name.
"None of my organizations paid for anyone [to attend the convetion], not even for myself," Benjamin wrote. "I barely even talked to folks before the convention."
And on issue of George Soros funding efforts to nominate David Cobb? "George Soros funding the Greens? Give me a break," she quipped.
This is certainly good news for the Green Party, as the climate within the Greens is an an elevated threat level. Call it Code Green. Those that are frustrated with the Party's decision not to endorse Ralph Nader and Peter Camejo want to point the finger of blame at someone. Medea is the perfect target, as her support for Cobb carried a lot of weight at the Party's national convention.
Was Cobb the right choice? Many are not convinced. Despite Cobb's assertion that he is not running a safe-state strategy, he is doing just that. Even if he focused his energies on states that matter, i.e. "swing states", his efforts would be useless, as he is a no-name candidate with little national exposure. And for many who see this as fact, it is still hard to understand why genunine activists like Medea Benjamin and influential writers like Norman Solomon have endorsed Cobb for President (the latter only because he lives in the safe-state of California).
Seeing a stark difference between John Kerry and George W. Bush, Solomon wrote in a column following the Cobb nomination, "With the swing states all too close for comfort, activists should be emphatic that the Green Party's presidential campaign this year ought to concentrate its efforts on 'safe states' -- where the Bush-Kerry race isn't close."
Cobb denies he is running such a race. The fact remains however -- Cobb campaigned for the Green nomination on that very platform. On July 12 the Cobb campaign released the following statement articulating his campaign's approach: "In 40 or so states the Electoral College votes have, for all intents and purposes, already been cast. For example, Massachusetts, California and New York will go to the Democrats; Utah, Wyoming and Texas to the Republicans. In these states, where our message is 'Don't waste your vote,' a vote for the Green Party is a powerful tool. In the battleground states that will decide the election, we understand if you won't vote for our ticket this time. That's OK. A vote is a powerful and personal decision. You can register Green and support us in every other way possible, especially with votes for state and local Green candidates and contributions of your time and money.
With the strategy we have articulated, we will grow the Green Party, provide voters with a genuine alternative and make the world a safer and saner place to live."
For many that have opted to join Cobb, they have done so under the guise of movement/party building. But what sort of movement is built on the premise that Democrats are significantly different then Republicans? Even if the Green Party continues to grow, what if registered Greens decide not to vote Green? Cobb will "understand". Which is thoughful. But what's the point?
Jeffrey St. Clair articulated an alternative approach in a recent interview, "I take Foucault seriously. Politics is really about power. The only power the Left (loosely speaking) enjoys these days is the power of negation. We can't elect Nader or Camejo or Jackson. But we can defeat bad Democrats, like Gore and Kerry. Until the Democrats bend in our direction or a new political party rises to challenge them. And it doesn't take much, other then courage, to make this happen -- an all out anti-war & anti-free trade campaign waged in Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Oregon, New Hampshire, Maine and New Mexico. Those are the states that matter. Those are the states that will force the power elite to deal with the Left."
So what this comes down to is strategic differences. Have the Greens been co-opted by the Democrats? Perhaps ideologically, or maybe it is the "Nobody But Kerry" syndrome. How will the establishment "deal with the Left" as St. Clair puts it if we fail to play hard now, putting aside the attractive notion of party building?
Not everyone thinks we have that sort of time.
Another question. What will happen in 2008 when Bush or Kerry comes up for re-election? Answer. The same arguments against a third-party campaign that are being made this election, will arise again. Many of the same pro-Cobb voices of 2004 will continue to ask what the potential risks of running an all out campaign could be. At least this time around if Bush wins by more then 50% (which is less then he is pulling at the present time) of the popular vote, Nader will not be to blame for Kerry's loss.
It is nice to know Benjamin did not fund delegates to fly to Wisconsin and support David Cobb. It could help the Green's legitimacy in the future. But the fact remains -- Cobb is the wrong choice at the wrong time. The party may grow. But numbers don't mean the Greens have made an impact. Especially when the newly anointed presidential aspirant "understand(s)" if Greens don't vote Green in this election. Talk about dirty politics.
Joshua Frank, a contributor to CounterPunch's forthcoming book, A Dime's Worth of Difference: Beyond the Lesser of Two Evils, is putting the finishing touches on Left Out: How Liberals did Bush's Work for Him, to be published by Common Courage Press. He welcomes comments at [email protected].
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