Green and Growing
Green and Growing
The Green Party of the
It was because of HOW it was done.
Going into the convention there was deep concern on the part of many Greens around the country about what was going to happen. For a year or longer there has been a sometimes-bitter internal debate about what should be done as far as "the presidential question." The perceived threat of an emboldened, second Bush administration has led some to work for Dennis Kucinich. A small group is now working for Kerry, although it is a very small group. Some have said that they will be voting for Kerry and are urging others to do the same.
The three main positions going into
A nominated candidate would get the Green Party ballot line in 22 states and
The political struggle over these positions was intense, and it went down to the wire.
Convention week was begun on Monday with a huge announcement by Nader that he was choosing Camejo to be his Vice Presidential candidate. Score one for the pro-Nader forces.
Two days later Medea Benjamin, like Camejo a California Green Party leader, issued a statement headlined, "Want to Get Rid of Bush and Grow the Greens? Support David Cobb." Touche.
As people gathered in
Significantly, there were no physical altercations or, as far as I am aware, even any nasty emotional outbursts between those on the respective sides, while there was a great deal of reasoned discussion, as well as robust, vigorous and competitive debate.
This same process of debate and discussion went on at state caucuses, in the room full of literature tables, in the hallways and throughout the convention.
A Close Race
Everyone knew that it was close. David Cobb went into the convention with about 33% of the delegates pledged to him. Those supporting Nader, as well as candidates Camejo, Lorna Salzman, Carol Miller and Paul Glover, all of whom personally supported Nader, had about 28% of the delegates. 23% of the delegates were officially uncommitted, 12% were for no nominee, and the remainder were for Kent Mesplay and other candidates.
Thursday evening was set up by the Green Party convention planners as the one time prior to Saturday's decision-making when all the candidates would meet in an open forum. For close to two hours Camejo, Cobb, Mesplay and Salzman (Miller and Glover were not there) answered a series of questions put to them by the moderator in front of a room completely jammed with many hundreds of delegates, observers and press.
Camejo and Cobb, as the two main protagonists, were both "on their game." Both came across as articulate and passionate in support of their positions. Toward the end of the forum/debate, things got heated as Camejo accused Cobb of being a supporter of John Kerry and Cobb countered by articulating what he has been calling a "smart growth" strategy which prioritizes building the Green Party while also running a campaign which helps to get Bush out of office.
One piece of hard news emerged at the debate when Cobb announced that his campaign had chosen Pat LaMarche, a 43 year old single mother of two and radio personality from
Friday morning began with the Cobb campaign distributing a statement they called, "The True Position of the Cobb/LaMarche Campaign on the Iraq War: End the Occupation, Bring the U.S. Troops Home Now." The statement quoted from press releases issued in April and May and posted on the votecobb.org website, while also criticizing Camejo for "misrepresent(ing) the position of the Cobb/LaMarche Campaign on the
Throughout the day the pro-Nader people distributed a leaflet urging those who supported Nader/Camejo to vote a certain way on Saturday. In the first round, they said, vote as mandated by your state. In the second round, when almost all states released delegates to vote their conscience, vote for no nominee, the Nader forces urged. If a majority on the second round voted no nominee, this would then allow for a vote to endorse Nader/Camejo, or endorse both Cobb/LaMarche and Nader/Camejo, on the third round.
In late afternoon both campaigns put out another piece of literature. The Nader campaign distributed a letter from Ralph Nader in which he explained that he would not be coming to the convention but articulated the rationale for why the convention should endorse him. Nader spoke later that evening via telephone hook-up to a pro-Nader rally of, according to reports, about 200 delegates and observers.
The Cobb campaign leaflet highlighted what it called an inconsistency between Ralph Nader's position of trying to influence Kerry/the Democrats and "retire Bush," and Camejo' s position, articulated Thursday evening, that "Greens should never, ever vote for a Democrat." The leaflet asked, "What is the Nader/Camejo strategy?"
Day of Decision
As people began arriving at the
The day's historic events began with the adoption of a comprehensive and impressive, updated national Green Party platform that had been worked on for many months with much input prior to
Matt Gonzalez had been decided upon as the Election Administrator by the GPUS' national coordinating committee. Gonzalez is the Chair of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and nearly won last year in a nationally publicized election for Mayor of San Francisco.
In the first round there were no major surprises. David Cobb led with 308 votes, followed by Peter Camejo with 119, Ralph Nader with 117, no nominee with 109, Lorna Salzman with 40, Kent Mesplay with 24 and various other candidates with smaller numbers, including Joann Beeman, a "favorite daughter" and elected drain commissioner from
Both sides were nervous as Gonzalez adjourned the session for lunch. Over lunch caucusing continued with appeals to hold firm by Camejo to both the
Prior to Saturday both the Cobb and Nader campaigns had "worked" the no nominee delegates. The Cobb campaign argued that those who held that position-people who, in general, wanted the Green Party to focus its limited resources on local campaigns this year-should see a Cobb nomination as their second preference, that a Nader endorsement would be a worse alternative for those who wanted to build up Green Party strength via local campaigns given David Cobb's first priority of using his campaign to build the Green Party.
The convention readjourned about 2:30 to start the second round of voting. It was reported that there were four options for delegates. One option was David Cobb. Another was no nominee. The third was Kent Mesplay, and the fourth was Joann Beeman. There were no other options because, unlike the first round, the convention rules mandated that only no nominee and candidates who signed a statement affirming that they would accept a GP Presidential nomination would be eligible to receive votes after the first round. Cobb, Mesplay and Beeman were the only candidates who signed that statement.
It was obvious to everyone that the big question was whether or not David Cobb and Pat LaMarche would be able to gain the additional 77 delegates needed to have 50% plus one. If they failed to do so, that would give a major boost to the Nader/Camejo side and continue the voting into future rounds.
The first three states,
As the reports continued, a clear trend began to emerge. Cobb was holding his own in every state, gaining one, two or three up until
A few rounds later,
For many the celebration began, genuine joy over a hard-fought victory. Hugs and kisses and dancing in the aisles erupted until David burst onto the stage and introduced Pat LaMarche for her first speech to the assembled delegates. Following it, David came to the podium and spoke graciously about Ralph Nader and Peter Camejo as he called for a strong campaign by the Green Party, indicating his intention to go to Ohio, Pennsylvania "and New York, if you want me," to help efforts in those states to get Cobb/LaMarche on the ballot.
For others, the feelings certainly ranged from mixed to deep disappointment. But as the session was adjourned by Matt Gonzalez, many of us left the convention center feeling extremely proud not just about the results but about the political maturity displayed by the convention as a whole in the way we had just dealt with a hugely difficult, months-long, often-painful issue.
Green and Growing
This was an amazing week, an emotional roller-coaster for those of us immersed in it. For large numbers of the delegates, it was a strengthening experience and not just because we successfully navigated the dangerous shoals of decision-making regarding the big Presidential question. There were the many dedicated activists we met from all over the country who we know will keep building this important organization at the key, local, grassroots level for months and years to come. There were the local Green elected officials like Matt Gonzalez, Jason West, Joyce Chen and Brenda Konkel and many others that we met and interacted with, as well as the candidates running for office all over the country. There were the valuable workshops and caucuses on a whole range of issues, the great street party Friday evening, the general spirit of unity and common purpose that pervaded the deliberations. The women's caucus, youth caucus and black caucus all took steps forward. International visitors and speakers reminded us that we are part of an international movement worldwide and that we have major responsibilities to the world's struggling peoples and threatened ecosystem.
The numbers show it: there is clear, persistent, quantitative growth on the part of the Green Party of the
As David Cobb said in his inspiring speech Saturday night, the Green Party is chock full of "ordinary people doing extraordinary things." In this time of great danger but also great possibilities, this is no small thing.
Ted Glick is the National Coordinator of the Independent Progressive Politics Network (www.ippn.org), although these ideas are solely his own. He was a Cobb delegate from