The Green Party in 2004: More Than Party Survival
The Green Party in 2004: More Than Party Survival
(The article below is an account of the genesis, experiences and accomplishments of the David Cobb/Pat LaMarche 2004 Green Party Presidential/Vice-Presidential campaign. I was active from the early days of that effort and am proud of my involvement. I believe there are important lessons that can be drawn from it for the future.)
Organized outreach to potential Presidential candidates by the Green Party's Presidential Exploratory Committee began in 2002, but it wasn't until the spring of 2003 that the discussion within the Green Party of the United States (GPUS) about a 2004 Presidential campaign began to heat up.
The first major article addressing the 2004 presidential question was written at that time by John Rensenbrink and Tom Sevigny, both national figures within the GPUS. In "The Green Party and the 2004 Elections: A Three-Dimensional Plan," they explained, "The prospect of a Green Party run for the presidency is producing a gathering storm of debate within and without the party, peppered with near-panic declarations, threatening to engulf the party in fractious internal contestation. One long-time and savvy leader of the Greens describes the situation as 'a dark and scary tunnel.'"
Rensenbrink and Sevigny proposed that the GPUS run 4-6 candidates for Congress in "carefully selected districts," run "home grown Greens for President and Vice President" who would campaign strategically in a way which would minimize the risk of helping Bush get re-elected, and invite GP supporters like Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney to support these efforts. They also raised the idea that if the race was very close a couple of weeks before election day, a "home grown Green" might withdraw.
Key reasons for such an approach were to "transcend the spoiler argument," "open the door for the Green message to be heard on its merits," and "surmount the baggage from the past." They were addressing the belief on the part of many outside the GPUS that Nader was responsible for Bush taking office in 2000, a belief virtually all Greens and certainly this author rejects.
"Green & Growing"
About a month later two other documents came out. One, "Green and Growing: 2004 in Perspective," was coordinated by GPUS co-chair Ben Manski and eventually signed by about 164 Greens from around the country. It was a comprehensive overview of the state of the GPUS, with thoughts on how it could best continue to grow in 2004. On the key question of the presidential race, it took a forthright position: "We think it essential to build a vigorous presidential campaign now, so that there is a Green opposition ticket in full bloom next Spring. A strong Green presidential ticket will provide voters with the means to confront the establishment parties for their disastrous economic, international, ecological, and social policies. A strong Green ticket will force the establishment to address the failures of the electoral system, and to choose between the implementation of reforms such as Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) and the continued loss of votes to the Greens. A strong Green ticket will bring non-voters into the arena of electoral politics, and thus strengthen the overall movement for democracy in the
But the signers were aware of the difficult political situation facing the GPUS: "In some regards, holding our own in the presidential elections would
represent a significant victory. No one expects the Greens to break out in this race. Given the history of third parties in the
A 'Safe States' Strategy
The other document was put out by myself. It was entitled, "A Green Party 'Safe States' Strategy." In it I strongly supported the GPUS running a presidential candidate but put out that it needed to "explicitly focus the campaign only in those 'safe states' where past voting histories and current polling indicates that either Bush or the Democrat is very likely to win." I argued that this would make clear that the Greens wanted Bush out of office, strengthen our ties with progressive Democrats and "increase the popular vote for the Greens towards 5%" by arguing in the 'safe states' that progressive-minded voters should not waste their vote on the Democrat.
The debate was underway, and it is still reverberating.
In mid-July, 2003, 230 Greens came together in
The presidential question was on everyone's minds. At the meeting, several of the individuals who were interested in or considering going for the GPUS nomination made presentations, among them David Cobb, Lorna Salzman, Carol Miller and, representing Ralph Nader, Theresa Amato, his 2000 campaign manager. A letter was also received from Cynthia McKinney. There was discussion about strategy and a non-binding straw poll about people's preferences. The vast majority of those present supported running a candidate, and a distinct majority supported what began to be called an "all-out" campaign, as distinct from 'safe states.'
A "Smart Growth" Approach
At the 2003 meeting David Cobb put forward a proposal for a nuanced approach--what he called a "smart growth" strategy: "The primary goal of the Cobb campaign is to grow the Green Party," meaning increased voter registration, increased membership in local and state parties, support to local candidates and ballot line efforts and the creation of new local and state parties. The secondary goal of the Cobb campaign is to culminate the campaign with Bush out of office."
David put forward this perspective on Bush: "George Bush is a very big problem, but he is not THE problem. The real problem is the economic and political system that is destroying the planet and creating such an unjust world. . . If we want to participate in the growing progressive movements and see our party continue to grow, we must demonstrate to the American people (and especially progressive voters) that we hear their concerns of the real danger Bush poses."
Cobb put forward a four-point approach:
1) Run an aggressive, nationwide campaign that concentrates on organizing, energizing and activating existing and new Greens.
2) Prioritize states that have the greatest potential for party growth.
3) Campaign strategically in swing states to advance goals identified by the state party (like a ballot line or supporting local candidates)
4) Address the spoiler issue head on; highlight instant runoff voting while acknowledging differences between Bush and the Democrat; expend more effort in safe states; focus on internal party building.
During 2003 Cobb was engaged in serious exploratory efforts with Greens across the country. Between January 2004 until the national nominating convention in June 2004, David traveled to over 40 states, making clear that he was serious about contesting for the Presidential nomination. He attended state and local Green Party conventions, caucuses and meetings, usually sleeping on sofas and in spare rooms of Green activists.
While Cobb was traveling and organizing in 2003, efforts were being made by Greens to draft former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. It should be noted that Cobb himself encouraged
Nader did very little himself until the latter part of November. Prior to that he had turned down efforts to put him on the ballot of state Green parties in every state where the Green Party qualified to conduct a state-sponsored primary election--Rhode Island, California, DC and Massachusetts.
In late 2003, word began circulating that he was considering running as an independent and that he might not participate in the Green Party process in any manner.
Yet Another Proposal
In mid-November a "Statement on Green Party Strategy for 2004" was put out, signed initially by 18 Greens around the country, including Rensenbrink, Sevigny, Glick, LaMarche, former GPUS Political Director Dean Myerson, GPUS co-chair Anita Rios and Medea Benjamin. Within a couple of weeks a total of 52 Greens had signed this statement. In its conclusion it called for:
-"Candidates seeking the Green Party Presidential nomination to describe the strategy they would follow.
-The Green Party to debate all strategies with respect--and for the national Green Party to take a stance on its preferred strategy . . .
-All Greens to declare their solidarity with our brothers and sisters in progressive organizations across the country in calling for the defeat of the illegitimate Bush administration, while at the same time demanding that the
electoral system be reformed to include IRV, fair ballot access and public financing."
This statement did not meet with uniform support. Some Greens saw it as a way to discourage Ralph Nader from running by attempting to put boundaries around his, or anybody else's, campaign. Others disagreed that we should concern ourselves with choosing between Bush and the Democrats.
Nader's Exploratory Efforts
In December 2003 Nader traveled to about 7-8 states on the east coast, meeting with local Green Party activists to discuss his thinking about a possible Nader Presidential campaign and test the waters. I personally attended the
"There are three purposes to my run:
1) To push our agenda and expose incumbents and retire Bush.
2) To show the Democrats how to go after Bush and push a progressive agenda. You can't be cautious. They're not hitting on the corporate crime issue (Enron, Worldcom, etc.), for example. In 2002 we sat down with Dick Gephardt and gave him a whole approach they should use on this issue, and they didn't do it.
When I was much younger I once asked Norman Thomas, the Socialist Party leader who ran for President a number of times, what his greatest achievement was. He said it was having the Democrats steal our platform.
3) (He never clearly delineated what number 3 was)
-The Democrats should look at us in this way: we're testing out a different way of campaigning that they can learn from. They will benefit from the spillover votes that come from our voter turnout efforts that go to Democratic Congressional candidates, like what happened with U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell in
-My strategy is to excite more people to vote (understanding that a lot of them will end up voting for the Democrat) and to drive a wedge between the Republicans and their discontented conservatives.
-As far as focusing my campaign in the fall 2004 in safe or strategic states, I can't look people in the eye in
argument--you're in a state that is going to go heavily for Bush so that you don't have to worry, you should vote for who you believe is the best candidate--really worked in 2000."
Nader's First Bombshell
On December 22nd, Nader sent out a formal letter to the national Green Party
announcing that he had decided not to seek the Green Party's nomination. In his letter he detailed his active support for the Green Party since 1996, reaffirmed his belief in a third party alternative to the Dems and Reps but went on to say, "uncertainty expressed by the Party's leadership regarding the conditions under which the Party may or may not field Presidential and Vice-presidential candidates in 2004 can only be interpreted as a confused retreat."
He went on to say that, given what he called "robust contending views about whether to have a Presidential candidate and under which strategies and conditions. . . it is not feasible within the difficult parameters of state and federal election laws to wait and see what the Green Party will do in June 2004."
He questioned in the letter, and in public statements for months afterwards, what he considered the "lateness" of the Party's convention, even though it was the same last weekend in June as the 2000 convention where he had been nominated four years before. Perhaps more tellingly, the late June nomination date was suggested by Nader himself when consulted and given three possible options by the party's Presidential Exploratory Committee. Some Green leaders believe that he did so to ensure the availability of primary season FEC matching funds for what he then presumed would be his nomination without any serious internal challenge.
He concluded his reasons for this decision by writing, "Were I to become a candidate, I would not want to launch a campaign with such an uncertain compass regarding what should be a bedrock, genetic determination to run presidential and vice-presidential candidates all out--which is what, after all, national political parties--as opposed to movements--do."
And so, as 2003 became 2004, David Cobb assumed the position of likely front-runner for the nomination.
The Avocado Declaration
The beginning of 2004 also brought a new Green Party voice into the roiling internal GPUS political waters: Peter Camejo. Fresh off his California Gubernatorial campaigns in 2002 and 2003, Camejo weighed in with what he
Called, "The Avocado Declaration."
Camejo's piece spent considerable time critiquing the Democratic Party, in particular, for its role in promoting the oppressive two-party corporate monopoly over
On the specific question of Green Party strategy, Camejo was unequivocal: "Those voices who say Nader should not run, that the Greens should consider
withdrawing, that the Greens should not campaign in states where the vote is close are, unconsciously, actually helping Bush's re-election by weakening the development of an opposition political movement. . . Are we willing to stand up to the rule of corporate domination and its central political agent that has deceived and betrayed our people, the Democratic Party?"
As 2004 evolved, Camejo's targeting of the Democratic Party as, in essence, the party which Greens most needed to attack became even more explicit. In April, at a public forum in
Greens Divided on Strategy
Many Greens all over the country were deeply concerned about the prospect of
a second Bush/Cheney administration. In early Spring of 2004 a statement was circulated signed by 31 leaders and members of the Green Party of Minnesota, which concluded: "It is our judgment that a 2004 Green Party presidential campaign will be detrimental to bottom-up party-building. While we do not
believe that the Green Party should endorse the nominee of one of the two dominant parties, for to do so would compromise the independent identity of the Green Party, we do believe that the Green Party of the
Greens in other states, as in
At a state meeting on January 31st the Green Party of New York adopted a statement which urged, in part, that the national party "shall commit itself to an aggressive run for President, including: campaigning in all areas of the country [and announcing to the press its intention to do so]; the encouragement of member states to include an active and complete campaign for. . . president in their efforts for candidates in 2004," and special support in states which are dependent on "the results of the presidential election to gain or keep ballot status."
David Cobb threw himself into this difficult political mix with an intensive schedule of travel to all parts of the country and the activation in early January of a nationwide Cobb campaign team that began meeting on a weekly basis via late night conference calls. Lynne Serpe, a widely-respected, dedicated and organizationally-skilled Green Party member, began working as the interim campaign manager. Dean Myerson, former GPUS Political Director, played an active role, as did Ted Glick of
The focus of the Cobb campaign team for the first half of 2004 was the obtaining of the GPUS Presidential nomination. This meant David, and occasionally others on the team, traveling to as many states as possible to speak to and meet with GP members, putting forward the Cobb "smart growth," (also called "strategic states,") approach, answering questions, listening to what grassroots Green members were saying--in essence, basic organizing. It also meant upgrading what was, in early January, a rudimentary votecobb.org website into a much improved one. It meant beginning to put out press releases, primarily for internal GP distribution but also, in some cases, for wider distribution.
As David traveled from state to state he was able to get local media coverage virtually everywhere he went, with several hundred, separate print, radio and TV articles or interviews, including with some national media, by the time of the FORWARD 2004! Green National Convention, held in
And, of course, it meant fund-raising to cover the shoe-iest of a shoe-string budget; the Cobb nomination was won with a grand total of $40,000 raised over the six month period leading up to the convention.
Cobb's Top Ten List
The Cobb campaign tried to loosen up the internal GPUS friction as best it could. One of the press releases issued about six weeks before
-"He's proven his commitment to the Green Party by serving as an organizer, fundraiser, trainer, lecturer and lawyer.
-He's the only Texan in the race who's actually held a real job.
-He's working his tail off for the nomination and the Green Party and has visited Green locals in over 40 states since October.
-His strategy for the campaign will grow the Green Party and not piss off millions of potential Green Party members and supporters.
-He is a dedicated grassroots activist who works for democracy and the dismantling of transnational corporate empires.
-He is actively seeking the Green Party nomination and is working within the party's internal democratic process.
-He puts party unity ahead of himself and pledges to support whatever decision the delegates to the national Green Party convention make with respect to a presidential candidate and pledges to implement whatever campaign strategy the Green Party endorses.
-His strategic campaign is designed to protect and maintain ballot access for state Green Parties.
-He has worked with labor and environmentalists and has successfully recruited Green Party candidates from communities of color.
-He's a presidential candidate from
January was the month that the process began of choosing delegates to the
Delegates Begin to Be Chosen
Cobb won with 37% of the vote in the first state primary, in the District (colony) of
His first major setback, not unexpected, came in
David had been living in
Camejo decided to put his name on the
Prior to the
The Guardian had one thing wrong about Cobb's position, and it was in the company of many media outlets, political commentators and progressive activists who made the same mistake all throughout 2004. Cobb never took the position that I had taken in my June, 2003 Future Hope column that the Green Party nominee should "explicitly focus the campaign only in those 'safe states.'" Cobb never described his campaign as a "safe states campaign," but instead, a "smart growth" campaign in which the top priority was to build the Green Party. The secondary objective was to help get Bush out of power.
The Cobb campaign itself, later the Cobb/LaMarche campaign, was a coalition of Greens who had differences on 2004 presidential strategy but who found in
the Cobb campaign an approach that was closest to what they saw as most important. One group, 'safe states' supporters, was made up of people who felt it was critical to both get Bush out of office and run a Green Party presidential campaign to keep the GP out there as a visible, active political player. Another group had problems with the 'safe states' idea but supported David because of his emphasis on using his campaign to build the Green Party and his willingness to work with state parties to fashion a campaign approach that helped to do that on a local level. And a third group was most concerned with getting Bush out of office and saw David's support of that objective and his 'smart growth' strategy as the best of the available alternatives. Pat LaMarche herself was in this third grouping, having written an article for the Fall, 2003 issue of Green Horizons Quarterly supporting a "no Green nominee" position.
Amazingly, despite these differences, and despite the intensity of the on-going, internal GPUS debate throughout 2004, debates which, in some cases, went over the line into destructive personal attacks on Cobb, and later LaMarche, particularly just before and after the
Ralph Nader's decision to run as an Independent, on the other hand, was not easy to deal with, in a variety of ways.
Ralph Nader, Independent
Nader decided in February to undertake what can only be described as a disastrous campaign, ultimately getting about 465,000 votes, less than 1/6th of his 2000 total, despite getting negative feedback from many of the people who had supported him in 2000. In a letter sent out in February around the time of
his announcement, Nader explained that "to defeat George W. Bush in 2004, we need a two-front challenge." He repeatedly lamented the failure of the Democratic Party to stand up to corporate interests and Bush. He asked, "Does it not need collateral demonstration effects by a third political drive to show how to rouse the electorate to turnout for change?"
The Cobb campaign responded to Nader's announcement by urging Nader to actively seek the Green nomination rather than run as an independent. In a press release Lynne Serpe was quoted: "David has said all along that he will respect the decision of the national Green Party convention and support the party's nominee without reservation. A contested primary season and a debate within the Green Party about strategies and goals is healthy. That's what democracy is about." But this appeal, and others by "draft Nader" Green Party supporters, had no impact on Nader's plans to run as an independent.
There was also no response by Nader to a public invitation from the Cobb campaign in June for him to come to
Delegates Keep Being Chosen
As the months went by leading up to
that he would not accept a Green Party nomination but would accept an endorsement. Camejo was the Nader supporter who had the most delegates, primarily because of his big
Two weeks before the voting was to take place in
We weren't the only one counting numbers.
On June 14th Peter Camejo sent out a proposal, entitled "Green Party Unity," calling for the
Nader's Second Bombshell
One week later, on June 21st, two days before the convention was to begin, Ralph Nader dropped a political bombshell by announcing that he was choosing Camejo as his Vice-Presidential nominee. In the opinion of then GPUS co-chair and primary convention organizer Ben Manski, as quoted in an AP article, "This is an opportunity for Nader to make an overture to the party membership. I think it certainly would put him much more in the running but not a guarantee."
Cobb campaign leaders agreed with Manski's assessment on a conference call that night. We were sobered, aware that we did not have a majority of the delegates and that this decision could make a difference for a number of the uncommitted delegates whose choices in
Another decision made on this call was that we would announce on Thursday evening at the planned candidates' debate our choice of Pat LaMarche as David's VP nominee. We had been considering this for a week or more. This proved to be an important decision. By Thursday night, when Cobb made this announcement, the Camejo VP story was "old news," while the announcement of a female VP candidate, and one who had originally opposed running a Presidential candidate, had a positive impact.
Two days later, the Cobb forces were buoyed when Medea Benjamin, the Green Party of California's U.S. Senate candidate in 2000, came out with a statement endorsing David Cobb. In it she asked, "How can we be part of rejecting Bush and building a progressive party? We can do that by supporting David Cobb. David will spend his time strengthening local Green parties and local candidates. . . David will focus on states that are not swing states. His 'safe state' strategy will allow us to make common cause with progressive Democrats. His commitment to having a woman vice president will make the Greens attractive to people who have become weary of all-male tickets. And unlike a Nader/Camejo campaign that will alienate so many of our natural allies, David's campaign will put the Greens in a much stronger position for growing post-November."
The stage was set for an astounding four days of democracy in action.
Greens Converge in
As people gathered in
Proponents of Nader/Camejo and Cobb, as well as those supporting other positions, set up their leafleting and lobbying teams and for three days mingled with each other and with other delegates trying to gather the necessary 50% plus one needed to win.
While very heated and contentious, no more than one or two nasty emotional outbursts occurred between those on the respective sides. There was certainly 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.
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 even accused Cobb of supporting the war. Cobb countered by articulating his "smart growth" strategy, and challenged Camejo to stop misrepresenting his position. "Greens should be above such sectarian nonsense, Peter," Cobb said.
Cobb Publicly Taps LaMarche
The one piece of hard news at the debate was Cobb's announcement 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 consciences, 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 200-250 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 that "Kerry will do what Bush wants to do better." The leaflet asked, "What is the Nader/Camejo strategy?"
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 elected as the Election Administrator by the GPUS' national coordinating committee. Gonzalez at the time was the Chair of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and nearly won in 2003 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 re-adjourned 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.
Cobb Secures the Nomination
The first three states,
pro-Cobb delegates cheered.
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. He publicly thanked each of them for all their work to help grow and build the Green Party, and called for a respectful campaign between the two efforts. Cobb called for a strong campaign by the Green Party, indicating his intention to go to
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.
In the weeks immediately after the convention, as the Cobb/LaMarche campaign re-tooled and re-organized for the demands of a serious Presidential campaign, there was hope that the internal Green Party tensions could be lessened, that those Green Party members who supported Nader/Camejo, in particular, would get involved with that campaign, the Green Party Presidential campaign would unfold, and we would have two anti-war, pro-justice campaigns running against two pro-war, pro-corporate campaigns.
There were some indications that this might be possible. One example was the appearance of David Cobb at a Nader/Camejo press conference in
Another example was the position taken at a late July conference by the organization Solidarity, many of whose members supported Nader/Camejo, that "we respect the opinions of those Greens and progressives who express their
opposition to the war and two party system. . . by supporting the Cobb/LaMarche campaign. We see a vote for Nader/Camejo and a vote for Cobb/LaMarche as expressions of opposition to the war and occupation. We are for the two campaigns developing friendly relations and centering their fire on the Democratic and Republican parties. . ."
A primary focus by the Cobb/LaMarche campaign for July and August was to support efforts to get the Green Party on the ballot. It was already on the ballot in 22 states due to successful ballot access campaigns by Green parties prior to 2004. It was felt that, realistically, given Green Party strength and the requirements for getting on the ballot, it might be possible to get on the ballot in 32 or 33 states. In the end there were 28 states in total where voters could vote for Cobb/LaMarche, with another 20 states where official write-in campaigns were registered with state election officials. Very importantly, as it turned out,
Ballot Access Conflicts
As July turned into August, however, we in the Cobb/LaMarche campaign began to learn that in at least four states where the Green Party had a ballot line, efforts were underway on the part of Nader/Camejo supporters to either deny Cobb/LaMarche that line or try to give it to Nader/Camejo. This was being done despite an understandable GPUS requirement that for a state to be a member of the national Green Party they must agree to support whomever is determined to be the national Presidential nominee. Those states were
As it turned out, these efforts were successful in both
The effort in
Cobb & LaMarche Campaign Non-Stop
Through all of this David and Pat kept traveling, speaking and getting out the word through progressive, local and corporate media, to the best of their
abilities. A report from
"A tremendous success," was how
A highlight of the campaign was Pat LaMarche's unprecedented "Left Out Tour." From September 21 to October 4th she traveled across the country, from
David Gets Arrested
Another highlight was David's nonviolent civil disobedience action at the second Presidential debate in
David and the campaign felt it was important to highlight this issue by the use of nonviolent civil disobedience, a tactic used by many great movements for peace and social justice. There was a desire to draw attention to the fact that the Green Party is about more than running candidates for office; we are part of a broad progressive movement that organizes around issues and uses a variety of tactics to advance our agenda. As David said after he got out of jail, "Every time I engage in nonviolent civil disobedience against an oppressive government, I revel in the power that we the people actually have. If more people did so, we would change the oppressive power structure more quickly. I have been charged with trespassing on private property and failure to obey a reasonable order by the police. But you and I know that the real crime is the corporate hijacking of our democracy. And that's what I went to
As the campaign moved towards the November 2nd election, it joined with a number of other groups in a No Stolen Elections! Campaign, a network of groups prepared to take action the day after November 2 to draw attention to voter disenfranchisement before and on election day and the possibility of another stolen election. Many groups were gearing up for this effort because of the experiences in
Election Day Results
On November 2nd, about 120,000 people voted for Cobb/LaMarche. This was less than expected, but the fact is that the cumulative vote for all 14 "third party" Presidential candidates on the ballot in at least one state, according to Ballot Access News, was a little less than 1.2 million, 1% of the total vote. In 2000 Ralph Nader alone, running as the Green Party Presidential candidate, got 2.8%; all candidates together got about 3.8%. To the surprise of nobody in the leadership of the Cobb/LaMarche campaign, 2004 was not a good year, from the standpoint of vote totals, for alternative Presidential candidates.
These election results led to the loss of ballot status for several state Green parties. But in at least one state,
"I got the 2% we needed to maintain party status in
In other respects the Green Party more than held its own. An article written by
Ben Manski had this to say about the Green Party and 2004: "I am personally happy that the party fielded a presidential ticket. That we grew this year despite the obstacles. That we won more elections. That we held a well-organized and attended national convention. That we did it all on our own, and without outside help, and under very difficult conditions. And that there was also a tremendous amount of initiative taken by newer activists in this election cycle. . . All things factored in, 2004 was a step forward for the Greens."
And then there is the
Three days after the election, on November 5th, the Cobb/LaMarche campaign sent out a press release calling for "a thorough investigation of reports of voting fraud, suppression and disenfranchisement." Cobb was quoted as saying, "It's
Three days later, on the weekly late night conference call, there was discussion of the positive responses to this press release and a report on legal research that indicated the Cobb campaign, as a registered write-in candidate, had the legal standing to do file for a recount in
The Cobb/LaMarche campaign was inundated with phone calls and email messages from disgruntled Democrats. Thousands contributed financially to make the recount happen and many volunteered as observers for the recount itself.
Many more sent messages saying that they were switching their party registration to Green; others hailed us as patriots.
The Second Generation Voting Rights Movement
The pinnacle of our post-election efforts came on January 6, 2005, when Ohio Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones and California Senator Barbara Boxer, pressured by a political tidal wave of calls, emails and faxes to Democratic Senators, challenged the legitimacy of
As the dust from the 2004 election settles, the Green Party's influence and credibility has grown substantially despite having no representation in the
national legislature. The GPUS faced political attrition and possible destruction in a bitterly charged election year. But far from suffering the fate of other third parties in the past who foundered in Presidential election years, we not just survived but grew. The Green Party can use its increased visibility and credibility to push for a progressive agenda that includes instant runoff voting, public financing of elections, an end to the
We are here to stay; we are Green; and we are growing.
Ted Glick is the former National Coordinator of the Independent Progressive Politics Network and the author of a twice-monthly Future Hope column distributed nationally. He was an active member of the Cobb campaign leadership team throughout 2004. He can be contacted at email@example.com or