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Green Candidate - Peter Camejo Analyzes The Recall

by PETER MIGUEL CAMEJO Saturday, Oct. 18, 2003 at 12:58 AM

10/14/03 - Camejo analyzes the recall; Debate Strategy, Vote Declines, Democrat Lies About the Polls, What Our Vote Reveals About Our Base, Democratic Party Front Organizations, Arianna Huffington, Understanding the Demos/Rupubs & more.

THE RECALL

BY PETER MIGUEL CAMEJO

October 14, 2003



SYMPATHY & RESPECT

Because of the Green Party’s participation in the recall election we have

gained new respect and sympathy from millions of people in California and

throughout the United States.

The Green Party made history in the recall election on several levels. In

part because of the 5.3% of the vote we received in November 2002, and in

part because of the nature of the recall, we were immediately considered a

major candidate by the media.

This status resulted in a historic breakthrough. A third party gubernatorial

candidate was included in televised debates. The Green Party has reached

this status not because of any one specific event or candidate but because

of our overall following and successes in California.

DEBATE STRATEGY

The televised debates allowed millions to hear and see a Green candidate for

the first time. In the first debate on September 3rd, I decided against

trying too hard to make an impression. For instance, I avoided humor. This

was because many listeners expect a third party candidate to be peculiar,

unusual, shrill or single issue focused and desperately seeking attention.

We needed to appear exactly the opposite; sensible, serious, calm, and with

a clear message.

Many of you heard my closing remarks in that debate but you would not know

that I practiced them probably over 300 times. I worked it over word by word

so that it would be 60 seconds long and still touch on a large number of key

issues. As it turned out, we were given 2 minutes and so I added to the

message a bit as I presented it, including slowing my delivery down. But I

did not dare try too hard lest I lose the flow and impact. As it turned out,

I took 2.1 minutes.

In the September 24th debate that included Arnold, I was prepared to take a

more aggressive stance. My wife, Morella, advised me strongly against it. We

had a liaison committee with the Green Party of California leadership which

held conference calls to advise me before many of these key moments in the

campaign. In those discussions we made the crucial and correct decision not

to attack anyone.

We decided not to focus on Arnold, especially not to attack him in a manner

that could be perceived as a personal attack. Focusing on Arnold would make

him the center of attention and win him sympathy. Even though this cautious

strategy may have seemed too mild, it was better to differentiate only on

platform issues and keep the message focused. I thought before the debate

that the other four candidates would go into an attack mode. To my surprise,

Tom McClintock had apparently made a similar decision to avoid attacking

Arnold. Obviously Arianna made the opposite decision and tried to provoke

Arnold and expose him. In my view, this did not work well. If all the

candidates had stayed on message, the lack of substance in Arnold’s

responses would have been clearer. Instead he was judged on his ability to

handle the attacks.

As I walked off the stage after having been heard by possibly 20 million

people, I wasn’t sure how well I had come off. Then I saw the faces of the

young people who came rushing towards the front to shake my hand.

This decision on our part to stay focused and not make attacks turned out to

be one of the most important ones we made. I stayed focused on our basic

message and kept the image of the Green Party as serious and polite. There

was another policy I followed that had a very positive result for us. I made

an effort to give positive comments when another candidate made proposals or

points that we Greens feel were valid. Also, I tried to be generous in any

comments regarding the character or intentions of other candidates.

The media was at first quite confused by this. They are used to candidates

only being vicious to each other and trying to assign the worst possible

motive to whatever another candidate does or says. In the early weeks of the

campaign the media thought I must be planning to withdraw because I was

saying kind things about Arianna Huffington (more on Arianna later). When I

congratulated Cruz Bustamante for calling for public funding of campaigns,

for example, the media at first concluded that I must be considering

endorsing Bustamante.

By the last two debates I felt I had sufficient credibility to use more

humor. The media was starting to understand what I was doing and like the

public, reacted positively. The result is that in almost all polls rating my

performance in the debates, we came out quite well.

A San Francisco Chronicle web poll which rated debate performance showed us

in first place at 32%. This was well above all others, especially Arianna

who came in last at 8%. A more scientific poll of Democrats put us in first

place at 25% and declared us the winner over all others.

The campaign as a whole and the debates in particular won the Green Party

acceptance, respect and sympathy. We won some support and recruits, but on a

mass scale the sympathy was not yet strong enough to overcome the spoiler

factor and result in votes for us.

OUR VOTE DECLINES

It is surprising that after such massive and positive exposure our vote

declined from 5.3% to 2.8%. In the 2002 campaign people were convinced that

Gray Davis would win in spite of a projected vote of 3 to 4% for me. Many

polls showed that. Therefore people felt somewhat free to vote Green. Still,

we probably lost half of our vote due to the spoiler factor in 2002. This

time it was different. A kind of panic set in among many of the people most

likely to vote for us because of the fear of Arnold.

The Democrats have gained a reputation for dishonest campaigning. Davis is a

master of demonizing his opponent as a way to get people who dislike him to

vote for him. While he still succeeded in getting about half his vote from

people who think he is doing poorly, this time the demonization partially

backfired.

DEMOCRATS LIE ABOUT THE POLLS

The Democrats tried an outright lie at the end of the campaign. It was

primarily intended to mobilize their ranks but it was also a maneuver that

hurt our vote totals. In the last two days of the campaign, they began

announcing that they had polls showing that they were neck and neck with the

Republicans, both on the recall question and in the Bustamante vs

Schwarzenegger race.

Monday evening, the day before the election, I went on KPFK in Los Angeles

and as they hooked me in I heard Antonio Villaraigosa announcing that the

polls were exactly tied. I do not think Antonio was himself lying; he was

just repeating the lie fed to him by others. It is amazing how poll results

can be manipulated. I hope there is no one so naïve as to believe that the

voters were split 50/50 on Monday and then the next day Arnold wins by 16%,

48% to 32%, and Davis loses in the recall by 10%, 55% to 45%!

These lies that were spread far and wide by the media helped reduce our vote

further. There probably has never been an election with such a high number

of those who wanted to vote for us, but didn't. There is also another

phenomena that may be involved. I call it the third party curse in a

winner-take-all system. Once the “novelty” of a new party or candidate wears

off and supporters see that a third party candidate does not win, they stop

voting for you in spite of their support for your platform. Such people can

be won back in local races. And of course they would come back to us if we

had Instant Runoff Voting.

The political mistake made by those Green supporters who voted Democrat is

sad, because a large vote for the Greens would have given us power in

discussions with Democrats and Republicans. It would have strengthened the

chances for Green candidates to win local races. Green supporters who voted

Democrat wasted their vote even from the point of view of so-called

“strategic voting”. Strategic Voting is a new and polite term for

lesser-evil voting.

WHAT OUR VOTE REVEALS ABOUT OUR BASE

Some of the exit polls showed us with a larger vote than we actually

received, so some might be suspicious that perhaps our vote wasn’t fully

reported. It’s more likely that voters told pollsters how they wish they had

voted, not how they actually voted.

The exit polls show our support quite strong among young people. We were at

9% for 18 to 29 year old voters. African Americans were the strongest racial

group to vote for us at 6%, followed by Latinos at 5%. European-Americans

came in at 3%. People not registered Democrat or Republican gave us 8%. The

poorest people in California (below ,000 a year income) gave us the

highest vote of all income categories with 9%.

In gender we were split evenly. One poll showed that the more education

people have, the more they tend to vote for us. So who is a typical Green

Party voter? An underpaid but educated, 24 year old African American or

Latina who is registered Decline to State! The demographics of our support

continue to shift beyond our original base, which is primarily

European-American environmentalists and 60s progressives. Our initial base

is still critical to the Green Party’s efforts and activist core. We should

see our expansion as the early steps in becoming a truly mass party.

2004 ATTACK CAMPAIGN

We need to be aware that we will face a very difficult time over the next 13

months. The Democrats will launch an unfair campaign which is really against

democracy. They will attack the Green Party simply for running candidates.

The “Nader effect” from the 2000 Presidential election has become a standard

term now for Democrats. They use it as a way to oppose free elections and

blame the victim for their opposition to democracy. The level of dishonesty

and hypocrisy this shows is rarely appreciated. These Democrats have no

complaints when their leadership votes for a resolution calling for

“Unequivocal support for George Bush” or votes for the Patriot Act, or gives

repeated standing ovations to Bush’s State of the Union address with it’s

attacks on the rule of law. Instead they attack the Greens for supposedly

“helping” to elect Bush while they openly, politically support him.

In the recall election many Democrats could not see the hypocrisy in urging

Greens to drop out to prevent “spoilership”, but not calling for Tom

McClintock to drop out so that he wouldn’t “spoil” the race for

Schwarzenegger. In other words, they have no shame in trying to win against

the will of the people.

The worst mistake we could make is to bend to this pressure. Many Greens

will, many already have. In the recall election this phenomena was already

at work. Differences will be heightened among Greens regarding our approach

to this problem. All of this is normal. If it were not the case it would

mean we are not part of reality. Our task is to handle internal differences

in an extremely democratic manner, showing respect for all points of view,

especially minority views. Unlike the Democrats, we do not suppress

criticism but regard it as positive, part of a normal process.

One of the smartest moves the Green Party made was to compromise and allow

its members to disagree on the recall and not take a formal Party position,

which would have been very divisive. Events can some times lead to sharp

differences which then shift over time as people get a chance to think the

issues through or further events clarify the roots of the differences. We

will probably be arguing the recall issue for some time, but it is no longer

such a divisive danger now that it is in the past.

DEMOCRATIC PARTY FRONT ORGANIZATIONS

There is a web site called MoveOn.org that presents itself as progressive. I

believe it is nothing more than a Democratic Party organizing center,

allowing Democrats to keep progressive minded people co-opted to the

Democrats. They launched a campaign, as did Code Pink, against Arnold

Schwarzenegger’s attacks on women. But this campaign was directly linked to

a “Vote Democratic” campaign and therefore would not mention anything

negative about Democrats, specifically allegations that Gray Davis

intimidated and attacked women he worked with. The truth is that the real

purpose of both of these campaigns was to help the Democrats, no matter how

sincere many of the people were in their disgust with Schwarzenegger. I

attended one of these events and spoke at it. The content of the event,

sponsored by Code Pink, was overwhelmingly focused on defense of women’s

rights, inter mixed with some pro-Davis signs. Unlike MoveOn.org, Code Pink

tried to some extent to keep the two issues separated.

I understand MoveOn.org came out with a “Suddenly, I Love Gray Davis”

slogan. They are openly a front for the Democrats. They raised hundreds of

thousands of dollars and had a place for voters to sign pledging that they

would never vote for Schwarzenegger. Of course MoveOn will play a role in

mobilizing progressive voters to vote Democrat in 2004 as part of a “stop

Bush” movement, but you can bet your life they will not have a pledge

calling on voters to refuse to vote for anyone who voted “Unequivocal

support for George Bush”, because that would be most of the Democratic

Party’s leadership.

We can expect that Democratic Party controlled organizations like the Sierra

Club, NOW; MoveOn and many union leaders will all join in the attack on the

Green Party. In so doing they will show their failure to understand or

support democracy. Instead, they show their subservience to a corporate

controlled party. Their politics opens the door and helps facilitate

Republican victories. This is because Democrats always accept the premises

of the Republican platform, whether it is the so-called “war on terrorism”

or “energy deregulation”. The only thing they argue over is the nuts and

bolts of implementing this platform. It is these organizations and their

opposition to democracy that has historically blocked the development of any

effective opposition to corporate domination or the Republican agenda.

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON

When Arianna Huffington first announced her candidacy I saw it as a golden

opportunity for the Green Party. I immediately welcomed her into the race

and tried to form a working relationship so we would both campaign together

to promote the progressive agenda. But it quickly became clear to us that

she was not that interested in any serious relationship with the Green Party

or in holding joint campaign events.

In three of the first four debates I made positive comments about Arianna. I

thought it made our position stronger when asked about the death penalty,

for instance, if two candidates opposed it instead of just one. Arianna,

however, never said one word that was positive about our campaign or the

Green Party during the debates. In fact, in the first debate she twice

referred to Bustamante being “the Nader”, meaning a spoiler. Nevertheless,

most of her comments were excellent articulations of issues where we

completely agree with her.

The pressure began building on Arianna from the Democrats to pull out and

declare for the Democrats. Arianna capitulated in a manner that I thought

hurt the progressive movement. She literally became an operative of the Gray

Davis campaign. She had pictures of herself with Davis repeatedly shown on

TV. She flew with him on his private campaign jet and attended

get-out-the-vote Democratic Party union rallies. (By the way, as was

explained to me by one union leader, these rallies were failures in terms of

their turn out. Exit polls show 49% of Union members voted yes on the

recall).

Arianna formally represented the Democratic Party at the October 2nd debate

in Los Angeles. So, of course she could not say one word in criticism of

Democrats in that debate.

Arianna also joined with Senator Diane Feinstein and Dolores Huerta in

supporting Davis, but refusing to support Bustamante. That reflected the

conservative wing of the Democrats.

Arianna Huffington remains in agreement with the Green Party on many crucial

issues. And we should try to work with her and others who supported her,

where we have agreement. One of those issues is public financing of

campaigns. However, we have a problem with the wording of her proposed

ballot initiative on public funding. As written, it treats third parties as

second-class citizens. The proposal is written so that it will only really

fund Democrats and Republicans. We will have to oppose her campaign unless

the proposal is changed to be more like the laws in Maine or Arizona which

treat all candidates equally.

Did we make a mistake in giving her the benefit of the doubt when the

campaign began? Some Greens think so, but I think it was correct to welcome

her and try to win her over to fight the Republicans and Democrats. I don’t

think she understands the effects of her reversal, where she first opposed

Republicans and Democrats and then began supporting Gray Davis. In the end

this only helped Arnold Schwarzenegger win. When progressives who stand

independent of the Democrats capitulate and then support those Democrats, it

undermines the credibility of our current. In this case it weakened our

credibility and made voters more likely to express their anger by voting for

Arnold rather than voting Green or independent.

One of her books is titled, “Pigs at the Trough”. What Governor has put more

feed in the trough than Davis, who in the end she championed? The excuse, of

course, is that there is a Republican who is “worse”. Of course, there is

always a Republican who is worse.

Well what if it’s a “really bad” Republican? Do you get it? We are told that

our job is to vote for evil if the Republicans can come up with a really bad

candidate. That’s the whole point of the winner-take-all system. The mass of

the people gives up on building a political force which will defend their

interests because they have to stop evil by voting for more “reasonable”

evil. Even the most Machiavellian schemer couldn’t have come up with a more

devious system to keep people under control, while allowing them to think

that they chose the government. People not only vote against their own

interests, but some will argue against and even hate those who try to warn

them of their error. And they think they live in a democracy where elections

are fair and square. How many times did you hear the argument “ but Davis

won fair and square only a few months ago”?

And of course Arianna will argue that she didn’t support a candidate, she

opposed the recall. While many progressives, including a few Greens make

such an argument, I do not agree. The recall was a yes or no vote on Gray

Davis and that is how the mass of working people, minorities, and the poor

saw it. To vote no on the recall in their eyes was to condone the cut backs

in education and the pay to play policies of Gray Davis. The Democrats were

able to convince many people that it was all a Republican conspiracy, bought

and paid for by one millionaire. To believe that is to delude oneself. The

Republicans correctly noted the general rejection of Gray Davis and sought

to take advantage of it. They were hoping for a special election where few

voters, except Republicans, would show up. Instead, more voted in the recall

than in the previous regular election.

There are all kinds of progressive consequences from the recall. In trying

to get his base to save him, Davis had to sign many bills he had previously

opposed. These included the financial privacy act, driver’s licenses for the

undocumented, more rights for gays and lesbians and some environmental

issues. The debates opened up and millions heard a pro democracy message.

Young people suddenly became interested in politics and in general there was

an increased interest in political participation.

Arnold Schwarzenegger won, and most of his votes did not come from

Republicans! The Republicans ran two candidates. Daryl Issa at one point

even suggested he might vote against the recall (to stop Bustamante and keep

Davis). Their pro-recall campaign received about 1/3 the funding that the

anti-recall forces got. Most of the major Republican donors refused to give

to the recall. Some Republican conspiracy.

Paid signature gatherers have also been used for every progressive ballot

initiative in recent years. Right now, an effort is under way to reform the

Three Strikes law with an initiative that needs funding to gather

signatures, and they are looking for wealthy backers. The recall election

was far more complex than the Democratic “Republican Conspiracy” propaganda

line.

Since the recall passed, Governor Davis has vetoed a living wage bill and a

bill giving the children of undocumented workers the right to attend college

at the same rate as other residents of California. Of course, once again,

not a word of protest is heard from any Democratic Party leaders or their

so-called “labor leaders”. Imagine if it was Arnold who had vetoed a living

wage bill. The Democrats would all be howling in loud protest.

UNDERSTANDING THE DEMOCRATS AND REPUBLICANS

Our party will not survive if we do not stand up to the Democrats. Once we

start urging votes for Democrats because Republicans appear to be worse, we

will go the way of the New Party, into oblivion. How fast people forget that

it was the Democratic Party that led us to war against Vietnam, killing two

million people, and it was the Republicans who ended that war. The people

who run the United States remain in power regardless of which of their

parties they put in charge at any one time. Their goal is to control and

appease popular pressure. When they see they can get a Republican elected,

they go for it. But if the people begin to protest, they bring the Democrats

in to co-opt, disorient and prepare the way for a return of the Republicans.

This dynamic is not a “conspiracy”, but is simply the nature of our

money-driven system. It is a feedback loop that is on automatic. Without

“liberal” and “progressive” Democrats, the usefulness of the Democrat Party

to their corporate rulers would be sharply diminished. They need the

Democrats to co-opt and thus de-mobilize mass social movements like the

civil rights, peace, women’s rights and labor movement.

Of course, individual Democrats can be affected by the pressure from below

to oppose some of the pro-corporate platform, and even feel sympathy towards

the Greens. In this election many of the people who voted for the Democrats

are quietly sympathizing with us. We must not betray that sympathy. They are

looking to us to be principled and in the end they will respect those who do

not waiver.

But most Democratic Party leaders who consider them selves progressive have

bought in to the idea that the best that can ever be done is to keep the

Democrats in power, and that is all the people should hope for. They believe

that any attempt to go against the Democrats is hopeless. Deep down, they

are defeatists who promote a “slave” mentality. Accept and please the master

or you will only anger them. Resistance is hopeless.

What they fail to see is the great power of the people. The power of money

is limited by the awareness, the consciousness of the people. The media

works day and night to confuse and disorient people so that they act against

their own self-interest. But the day-to-day reality of most people counters

the propaganda message of wealth.

The Green Party, on the other hand, is the electoral expression of living

mass movements, like the peace, women’s rights, gay and lesbian, social

justice, civil rights and civil liberties movements. Note that all of these

movements were built outside the Democratic Party and usually against them.

Democrats do all they can to weaken these movements and then to co-opt them,

get them off the streets and into the two party game. Once that is achieved,

the power of popular movements sharply declines. Greens work to keep these

movements independent and to increase the power of people. Our elected

officials work to defend the majority and increase the power of the

environmental, labor and other movements.

Above all, we Greens are fighting to save the earth. The Green Party stands

as a genuine force for democracy, free of the influence of money. The Green

Party truly defends our Bill of Rights and the rule of law. We do not waiver

or lower our banners because others panic. If we cannot show confidence in

ourselves, we can never win masses of people to rally behind us. Time and

history are with us. The next generation must see people who stand firm by

their principles. The youth who vote for us today will be tomorrow’s leaders

in all the major social movements. We are planting the seeds; they must be

watered, not trampled. We made one more step forward in this campaign. Keep

our beautiful Green flag waving high and proud!

---

http://www.votecamejo.org

http://www.cagreens.org/

http://www.sfgreenparty.org/

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