How did the David Cobb/Pat LaMarche ticket receive the Green Party nomination? And what does it mean for the Green Party in particular and American politics in general? My conclusion is that the so-called "red states" Greens, by rejecting Ralph Nader/Peter Camejo campaign, first of all served to diminish the Green Party's own strength in the "safe state" of California, ironically without helping the pro-war Democratic Party candidate John Kerry (despite the hope of the Cobb/LaMarche faction) in the most crucial "swing states": Ohio (20 electors/3.6% victory margin in 2000), Florida (27/0.0%), Pennsylvania (21/4.1%), and Michigan (17/5.1%).
California Green Al Sheahen reported that "The geographic voting was striking. The big industrial states of MA, CA, MI, MD, NJ, NY, and PA cast a combined 181 votes for Nader and 91 for Cobb -- a 2-1 ratio. The southern states of AL, AR, GA, LA, MS, NC, OK, SC, TN, TX, and VA cast a combined 99 votes for Cobb, but only 13 for Nader -- a 9-1 ratio" (June 27, 2004, republished at GreenAllianceUSA@yahoogroups.com, June 28, 2004).
Garance Franke-Ruta put it more vividly: the Ralph Nader/Peter Camejo ticket lost "100 votes" because of the growth of "the Democratic Leadership Council wing of the Green party" in the "red states," i.e. the conservative stronghold in US political geography:
[J]ust as in the country at large, voting patterns among the Greens reflect regional and geographic differences. . . .
Nader drew support primarily from California Greens, who, with 132 delegates and more elected officials than any other state, made up about a sixth of those in attendance. He also did well in New York and Vermont, and gained the backing of many other Greens living in blue states. But Cobb won the election with 408 of 770 ballots cast, based on the strength of his support in places like Montana, Nebraska, Wisconsin, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and, of course, his native state of Texas.
The number of state Green parties grew from 21 in 2000 to 44 today, and with the party's expansion from the coasts into the interior of the country has come an influx of Red-state Greens -- call them the Democratic Leadership Council wing of the Green party.
Indeed, Cobb went out of his way to court the South -- his campaign explicitly advocated a "southern strategy," promising to devote considerable resources to the newly formed state parties in places like Mississippi, Green since April 2002. . . . (Garance Franke-Ruta, "No Tie -- Cobb! The True Story of How a Man You've Barely Heard of Beat Ralph Nader for the Green Party Nomination," The American Prospect Online [Web Exclusive], June 28, 2004)In US politics in general, the "red states" wield political power clearly disproportionate to the magnitude and density of their populations, pulling both the Republican and Democratic parties to the right and making Washington's politics much more conservative than the actual US public opinion in most respects. The same can be said about the result of the Green Party national convention this year, where the largest, best organized, and most powerful Green Parties in states such as California (where 65 Greens hold elected office), Pennsylvania (26), and Massachusetts (19), whose delegates supported the Nader/Camejo campaign, lost out to the "red states" Greens who have a long way to go before they can catch up with them and whose number the Cobb/LaMarche candidacy is unlikely to help boost.
Cobb pitched his campaign as a "Smart Growth" strategy, using a term that metaphorically evokes an alliance of developers and business-friendly environmentalists, but how can the Cobb/LaMarche campaign possibly help grow the Green Party by denying the Nader/Camejo campaign the Green Party ballot lines in states like California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Vermont whose Green leaders and activists support Nader/Camejo rather than Cobb/LaMarche???
The Green Party nomination of the Cobb/LaMarche ticket doesn't make any political sense in terms of the Cobb/LaMarche faction's own "safe state" strategy either, for the Green Party does not have ballot status in the majority of the most crucial "swing states": Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, West Virginia, Missouri, Iowa, Washington, and Arkansas. (Keep in mind that the Reform Party has ballot lines in two of the most coveted "swing states" whose ballot lines the Green Party refused to give Nader/Camejo: Florida and Michigan [Nick Anderson/Los Angeles Times, "Reform Party Endorses Nader," Detroit News, May 13, 2004]). By promising not to compete with Kerry in the "swing states," the Cobb/LaMarche ticket in effect clears the Third Party ground for the Nader/Camejo campaign in them, while surrendering the "safe state" of California, the best Green Party stronghold, to Kerry.
In short, the Cobb/LaMarche faction's "Smart Growth" strategy turns out to be not very smart, neither helping the Green Party grow in the states where it has been growing dramatically nor serving their own dubious purpose of handing over the "swing states" to Kerry and "re-unelecting" George W. Bush.
What will left-wing Greens do? They will surely vote with feet, supporting the Nader/Camejo campaign, in which many of them are already involved, especially since the Cobb/LaMarche campaign shows no sign of taking off (one learns that "[s]o far, 96 have signed up" for Cobb 2004 Meetup, as of July 1, 2004, 3:41 PM). One of the ten key values of the Green Party is decentralization, so California and New York Greens, for instance, may even exercise their autonomy and put Nader/Camejo on their respective ballot lines, in the interest of their own state parties.
Given his advanced age, 2004 is probably the last presidential campaign for Nader. I believe that left-wing Greens should do what they can to make use of the Nader/Camejo campaign to consolidate the anti-war/anti-occupation bloc of committed activists, telling the truth about liberal imperialism of John Kerry and the Democratic Party and the roots of wars and occupations in the mode of production driven by profit accumulation. The truth doesn't make them the most popular political force immediately, but it will serve them best after the election day in November, when the time will come to fight the Democratic President in the White House who will try to send more troops to Iraq. In the meantime, left-wing Greens must think ahead, taking back the Green Party to run a strong campaign against Kerry in 2008, when he will have to run on the record of four years of war and fiscal austerity.
Peter Camejo/Matt Gonzalez 2008!