We received a record amount of mail–from Greens, Democrats, Independents and a stray Republican–in response to Ronnie Dugger’s “Ralph, Don’t Run” [Dec. 2]. A sample follows.

Sonoma, Calif.

Oh for cryin’ out loud! After the disastrous performance by the Democratic leadership y’all back to worrying about Ralph! I have no particular argument with Ronnie Dugger’s points–Bush is indeed a disaster. In 2004 Greens will face the same tasteless dilemma we always face: whether to hold to our very real principles as defined by our party or to act prudently in the face of conservative fanaticism. Most will do as our Democratic friends ask and support their candidate no matter how flawed. The Democratic Party colludes with its partners the Republicans, to block Greens and others from the presidential debates. Why should Nader or any other Green pre-emptively remove himself from the national dialogue at this date? To make America safe for Gephardt?

BLAIR ZARUBICK


Washington, DC

Imagine an election where the majority of voters actually vote, politicians are more accountable to citizens than to corporate donors and foreign policy is aimed at building peace rather than at the care and feeding of special interests. These are the goals of the Green Party of the United States.

Ronnie Dugger asks the Green Party to step down, join the Democrats and take on the “evil” Republican agenda. We understand why Dugger is so concerned, and we share his outrage. His argument, however, is hardly new. The Democrats have been asking Greens and other third-party builders to cease and desist to help defeat Reagan, Bush Senior and now Bush Junior. Asking citizens to limit their political choices is profoundly undemocratic.

Greens will continue to move politics from a right-versus-left argument to a dialogue about our key values, and an economic and social justice platform rooted in seeking nonviolent solutions to conflict. The Green Party supports reformers of all parties and independents.

The new leader of the House Democrats, Nancy Pelosi, is the most recent example of why a progressive agenda continues to fail within the Democratic Party. Pelosi is clearly opposed to unjustified war, and yet she has acquiesced and pledged support for Bush’s impending war on Iraq. Looking at her voting record, this did not come from her values. To go against a President set on war is bad for mainstream politicians and bad for business–the business of obtaining corporate financing.

While the Greens continue to build a party focused on revitalizing our country’s founding democratic principles, we can respond to requests for help from Democrats with a few words of advice. First, the disappointing 2002 election results are the consequence of a party that has lost its focus. Second, progressive candidates should refuse special-interest money as a way of promoting real campaign-finance reform. There is absolutely no way to maintain a progressive agenda funded by big corporate interests. Candidates from the Green Party voluntarily refuse corporate campaign contributions. It doesn’t take a law to run an ethical campaign.

Issues such as universal healthcare, the right to earn a living wage, respect for diversity, care for the environment, instant-runoff voting, opposition to war as the main tool of foreign policy and the rest of our platform (www.gp.org) attract more voters to the Green Party in every election. We reach out to ex-Democrats, ex-Republicans, independents, nonvoters, disgruntled former voters, first-time voters and young people just old enough to register. Votes do not belong to a particular party; votes belong to the individual voter. For those citizens fed up with politicians who take dictation from their corporate funders while crafting legislative policy, at home and abroad, the Green Party welcomes you with open arms.

Wishing the United States a more representative Republic,

KIRSTIN MARR
National Media Committee
The Green Party of the United States


Houston

Although the press is trying hard to trump our process and give us Ralph Nader as the Green Party candidate for President in 2004, it is by no means certain that he will be our nominee. The national Green presidential exploratory committee has canvassed state parties and developed a deep list of potential candidates. Nader’s name appears on that list, but it is likely that several states, including Texas, will require that our 2004 nominees for President and Vice President be bona fide Greens.

Ralph Nader is not currently a member of the Green Party. He and his staffers have not been active between presidential elections in helping the Green Party in Texas grow. Nader ran as an Independent in 1996 and 2000, and has already said publicly that rather than join the Green Party, he will run again as an Independent in 2004.

JANE W. ELIOSEFF
Green Party of Texas


San Francisco

Ronnie Dugger’s misplaced angst assigns responsibility to the candidate but not the party. In 2000 a determined Nader and the Greens raised and spent more than $8 million and achieved less than 3 percent of the national vote. In a 1996 symbolic race, Green candidate Nader spent $5,000 and achieved less than 1 percent of the vote. The Nader factor has been tested, and whether he runs again or not is not as critical as knowing that whoever the Green presidential candidate is in ’04, whether he/she is catatonic or driven, will likely garner enough votes to upset the success of any lackluster Democratic contender. And as the midterm elections show, the Dems proved that Bush is poised to win re-election. The Dems have little choice but to regroup with the left or step aside, while the Greens need to establish a proper diagnostic that weighs the consequences of running a national campaign in the name of building our party.

ROSS MIRKARIMI
State director, California Nader 2000


New York City

Although I am a Green Party member and was a City Council candidate in New York City in 2001, unlike many Democrats but like many Greens, I’m not a party loyalist.

If the 2004 Democratic presidential and vice presidential candidate commit to instant-runoff voting, universal healthcare, a foreign policy built on the economic well-being of the poor and middle class here and abroad; if they stop supporting pro-war, pro-corporate power and antidemocratic legislation; if, instead of using their considerable ingenuity for raising money by sucking up to wealthy moneybags while pretending they care about the “little people,” they use it to address and respond to the barriers to meaningful participation in our democratic form of government; in short, if the Democrats become Greens, they’ve got my vote.

How can they make this common-sense, common-cause, common-folk agenda a winning one for 2004? It will be tough, but that’s supposed to be why they make six figures a year. They’ll have to make a commitment to making citizenship, as opposed to consuming and producing goods and services, central to our political economy. They’ll have to address the following: (1) US citizens are the most overworked and underpaid of any work force in an advanced capitalist country; (2) we are also the least well educated; (3) we are the most manipulated by elections, based on money and advertisement as opposed to ideas and values.

Such systemic barriers result not only in a majority of Americans being unwilling to vote but also in elections determined by a cheapened “discourse” that occludes real issues and avoids real change. If our current framework for providing an education and work results in a reactionary or an apathetic public, that framework must be changed. Only an informed citizenry can challenge the worldwide imperial interventions begun by Clinton and expanded by the Bush Administration through its shameless military policy of “anticipatory self-defense” (which most Democrats have not challenged).

ROBERT JERESKI


San Francisco

Ronnie Dugger renews the old debate from 2000: to Ralph, or not to Ralph. While we won’t have instant-runoff voting by 2004, which would free voters to vote for the candidate they really like, there is still a temporary solution. In the 2000 presidential election, forty or so of the states were completely locked up for one political party or the other. This included some of our biggest states, like Texas, California and New York. The election really boiled down to just a few battleground states–Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, etc. Moreover, most states were completely predictable; in fact the Center for Voting and Democracy announced winners months in advance. That means that in just about every state it was a free vote to vote Nader.

These sorts of regional demographics are becoming hard-wired into our politics. The 2004 election is shaping up pretty much the same way. Progressive Democrats and Greens in the vast majority of states will be free to vote for the candidate they wish. Only in ten or so states will it matter that they choose the Democrat.

While this is a sad comment on the numbing trajectory of our “winner take all” electoral system, it also opens up certain possibilities for the Democrats and Greens to coordinate campaigns, helping the Green candidate maximize votes in noncompetitive states and minimize them in battleground states. Are Democrats and Greens ready to promote this? Or will they stay locked in destructive, internecine and needless combat?

STEVEN HILL
Center for Voting and Democracy


Washington, DC

The Democratic Party has only a few things worth salvaging, things the Greens don’t have and will not have anytime soon: (1) electoral credibility: The fact is, the large majority of the population will not vote for a Green Party member, regardless of political alignment, but might be willing to vote Democrat; (2) infrastructure: the Greens have neither the party infrastructure nor the financial wherewithal to compete in a national election, McCain/Feingold notwithstanding; (3) Jesse Jackson Jr., Russ Feingold and the few other dedicated progressives remaining in the party.

These are worth preserving, but at what cost? Unlike Dugger, I believe that each person does, in fact, have “the right” to decide whether he or she wishes to choose the “moral victory” over the very hollow victory of defeating Bush in the next election and replacing him with an uninspired, unprincipled creature of the Democrats’ big campaign contributors.

Before writing off the Democratic Party for good, it is our responsibility to make our voice heard; to try to take over the infrastructure, as Dugger points out. But if the voices of pro-market “centrists” like Joseph Lieberman and Tom Daschle drown us out, I am prepared to “throw away” another vote.

DANIEL R. SOMERFIELD


Wayland, Mass.

Ronnie Dugger is right that progressives need to support the Democratic Party. The party, both locally and nationally, is adrift and rudderless, but it’s not just the party. Many Americans are uncertain where they stand right now on a host of issues, ranging from national security policy to civil liberties. The Republicans, with their simple “tough guy” nationalistic and increasingly militaristic views, are winning a lot of hearts and minds. Building a radical-moderate coalition propelled by progressive ideas is exactly what the Democrats succeeded in doing from FDR’s time until the Vietnam War caused a debilitating split in the Democrats’ left-liberal coalition.

Progressives and progressive Democrats have a vital role to play in bringing a new, principled politics back to the Democratic Party. The new antiwar, environmental and globalization activisms on campuses and elsewhere are good signs for our chances of reviving the party. This doesn’t mean that progressives will become the party but that these movements and these voters must once again become important and essential coalition partners with a moderate/liberal Democratic Party leadership that can depose the conservative Blue Dog Democrats, who have gained control of the party, and restore it as a progressive force in politics.

JON SAXTON


Denver

Why is it Ralph Nader’s responsibility to rescue the Democratic Party by not running? If the Democrats stopped acting like GOP Lite and mounted a solid opposition, they wouldn’t have to worry about Nader and the Greens. It’s time for the Democratic Party to take responsibility for its plight and stop griping about the Greens. Nader would not have so much support, after all, if not for the feckless Democrats, who are too afraid to point out the extremes of “a popular President” and stake out a viable alternative. Clinton’s popularity didn’t stop conservatives and Bush’s shouldn’t scare the Dems.

Griping about Nader merely distracts Democrats from the real task at hand: taking a stand that would make Nader irrelevant because his supporters would be brought back into the fold.

BLAKE THOMPSON


DUGGER REPLIES

Somerville, Mass.

I learned a great deal from the 500 or so letters and e-mails that The Nation and I have received on my essay. I’ve answered about half of them and am continuing to reply to the rest.

Perhaps the most succinct one said only, “You, sir, have shit for brains!” although it was topped for malice, in tune with the times, by another that said my computer should be confiscated and my lips sewn shut. In an e-mail riptide, Democrats’ bitterness against the spoiler Greens churns up against Greens’ bitterness against the spoiled Democrats. Many responding agreed that Nader should not run again. Many would not acknowledge that the more votes cast for Nader in 2004, the likelier will be Bush’s election and the consolidation of the United States into a garrison state committed to bullying the world in a series of aggressive wars. A number of Greens agree with me that building the Green Party is not the same as running Ralph for President and that Ralph should not run again. On the other hand, Blair Zarubick’s implied suggestion that if Nader is not going to run he should not be in any hurry to say so, is a good point.

Many correspondents took it as a truism that a progressive can’t be nominated by the Democrats and can’t win the presidency. This is precisely the message the mass media have been imprinting on the mass mind they are creating. The realities–that a people are dynamic, not a static geological formation; that a gifted progressive candidate can electrify and transform a presidential election; that we are a people begging to be inspired–are all but snuffed out in the messages I received that, I believe, reflected this new kind of “internal oppression.”

Kirstin Marr misrepresents my article by saying that I asked the Green Party “to step down.” I asked Ralph not to run for President as a Green, but I urged Greens to continue to run vigorously in local and state contests and asked Nader to run for governor or senator. Marr’s or the Greens’ National Media Committee’s only other comment on whether Nader should run again is oblique: “Asking citizens to limit their political choices is profoundly undemocratic.” That is nonsense, since citizens talking politics with one another is profoundly democratic.

Steven Hill reminds us that because of the Electoral College, progressives voting in the forty-odd states that are safe for one of the two major-party candidates could in 2000 and might again in 2004 vote safely for Nader without affecting the outcome. However, despite a major effort to sell just that tactic in 2000, at the campaign’s end Nader deliberately campaigned in swing states, including Florida, during the final weekend. It’s a bright idea, but there’s no way to insure that it’s followed where it counts.

To Daniel Somerfield and others who picked up on a point he raised, I proffer an apology. Closing my piece, I had written, “But in my opinion, we should not be for Nader knowing that it will help elect Bush. We no longer have the right.” In the last stage of editing, “in my opinion,” was cut and I failed to notice it. While expressing my opinion that we do not have the right to dominate the world and take the lives of innocent civilians abroad in aggressive wars by helping to elect Bush, I, of course, agree that others have the right to disagree.

In the letters from Somerfield, Ross Mirkarimi, Robert Jereski, Jon Saxton and Blake Thompson, I believe the gong of truth resounds–that it is really the Democrats who can save the situation by shaking off the defeatist attitudes in the mass media about progressive candidates, by inviting Greens back and warmly welcoming them, by overtly repudiating “the Bush doctrine,” by fighting outright for national health insurance, peace, public funding of elections, instant-runoff voting–only the Democrats can save the country from four more years of this nation’s first police-state warfare junta. Ralph can help by not running, and Greens can help by being open to voting Democratic for President if the Democrats nominate someone worth progressive support. But if the Democrats in Boston, again, in dead-hearted subordination to the big-money corporations, nominate the likes of Joe Lieberman or John Edwards or Bob Graham–why then, when the history of the failure of American democracy is written, it is the Democratic Party that will bear the blame and the shame.

So what do we do now? A caucus named “Wellstone Democrats” should form; Rich McHugh of Michigan (rmchugh@nelp.org) says he “could help with the incorporation” of Wellstone Democratic clubs. In Texas, according to Stan Merriman (sfm@airmail.net), a progressive populist caucus of several hundred in the Democratic Party (www.texaspopulists.com) is organizing to replace the state party chair and the county chairs in Houston and San Antonio. Martha Ture of California (marthature@earthlink.net) proposes Senator Barbara Boxer for President. There should be, pronto, a national meeting of progressive Democrats to organize for 2004. A progressive platform group, taking some cues from the Greens’ platform and guiding ten values, should make plans to infuse the Democrats’ 2004 platform with the people’s needs and values; Ture and friends have a draft. Perhaps Senator Edward Kennedy would agree to shepherd such a progressive platform group into the convention in Boston. The pre-announced Democratic field of possible presidential candidates must be augmented by at least one inspiring progressive: Dennis Kucinich, Russell Feingold, Barbara Boxer?–you say who–or Howard Dean might so emerge.

Permit me here also to respond to Alexander Cockburn’s January 13/20 column, which misrepresented my position on the Democratic 2004 nomination for President, conjecturally and mistakenly attributing to me a preference for Gore. When Nader asked me last June what I’d do if Gore was the nominee, in a burst of hyperbole I replied that in that case the country was lost and I’d commit suicide. Then Cockburn, mistakenly or correctly for all I or anybody but Gore himself knows, attributed Gore’s decision not to run to some columnist’s observation that the big money was turning away from him because of his recent forays into populism. Finally Cockburn asserted that with Gore not running there is no hope for the Democrats in 2004, and he asked, “So where does that leave Ronnie Dugger?”

Let’s see now, Alexander. You misrepresent me on Gore. You make the fate of the country hang on Gore’s decision–which it doesn’t. You allege without knowing it that the fat cats deterred Gore from running and conclude, therefore, that there’s no hope with the Democrats. We can’t elect Nader in 2004, either, so it follows, does it not, that Bush wins in 2004. And where does that leave Alexander Cockburn?

RONNIE DUGGER


COCKBURN REPLIES

Petrolia, Calif.

I didn’t say Dugger preferred Gore as the nominee in 2004, but that he assumed he would be. If this was not the case, I apologize for making the inference. Dugger’s ensuing observations have no relation to what I wrote, which bore on the question of why Gore suddenly stood down. My conclusion was that Gore’s opposition to war on Iraq along with his swerve toward a leftish posture on the economy and healthcare prompted his usual big-money promoters to advise him to bag any run for the nomination.

I added that since it looks as though no antiwar, leftish candidate stands the slightest chance of attracting the money required to win the nomination, the Democratic Party has now become absolutely inhospitable to any candidate left enough to win back the defectors who went to Nader and the Greens in 2000. If Dugger wants to argue that there’s still a chance the Democrats can nominate a progressive candidate that’s his privilege, but I don’t think he should be too optimistic about the outcome.

ALEXANDER COCKBURN