'Radical to the Root'
David Cobb, 41, lawyer and community organizer, is the Green Party's presidential nominee. He lives in Eureka, California, and works for Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County (www.DUHC.org).
Q: The peg for this piece is: What could Democrats learn from the Green Party? I'm not talking about electoral strategy, I'm talking substance.
I understand. I do want to let you know up front that I think the Democratic Party leadership is going to be unable to learn anything from the Green Party--bluntly--because our biggest message is a reaction to and rejection of the corporate takeover of our government, our society, our culture and our governing institutions. Now there are plenty of progressive Democrats who already know that lesson and are in agreement with that.
But I think what's really driving the extraordinary and untold story of the growth of the Green Party is that ordinary citizens have had it--that we realize unelected, unaccountable CEOs are making the fundamental public policy decisions in this country, that we don't have a functioning democracy and we're trying to do something about it.
Q: Were you once a Democrat? Did you call yourself a Democrat?
I was. I will admit that I got my start in electoral politics as a Democrat. Actually I got my start working on apartheid politics while a student at the University of Houston. I'm proud of the fact that myself and so many other Greens understand that politics is not merely about elections. It can be something much deeper, anytime you are trying to have an impact on public policy.
I got my start in electoral politics while a student at the University of Houston as a key organizer for Jesse Jackson's campaign for President. I worked on Jesse Jackson's campaign in 1988, then I worked on Jerry Brown's campaign for the Democratic nomination in 1992.
That is actually the year I became so disgusted by the corporate money and realized the kind of progressive politics I wanted to do and bring forward really couldn't be done by the Democratic Party because the corporate money was like a cancer that had metastasized within that body. Even though there were great progressive Democrats, ultimately that money ruled the day. It was in 1996 that I got involved in the Green Party.
Q: Tell me about the campaign. Is it fun?
Well, I find it exhilarating, because I have the distinct pleasure of traveling around the country and meeting with other people--ordinary people--trying to do something extraordinary, ordinary people rolling up their sleeves to try to create an actual progressive political party that will put people's needs before corporate greed. That's kind of phenomenal to think folks have the audacity to create an alternative political party in a system where we're excluded from the debates, where the corporate media either completely ignore us or marginalize and ridicule our efforts. And we're operating in a system where people really have to feel they must vote against what they hate rather than for what they want.
Q: Who are you talking about?
Well, I'm talking about the fact that we have a voting system where people are conditioned to believe they have to cast their vote for the lesser of two evils. You know, this winner-take-all voting system is really the biggest problem. Poll after poll shows that the majority of Americans favor more progressive policies than are put forward by either Democrats or Republicans.
Let's just be clear. Principled liberals have clearly been sold out and lied to by the Democratic Party leadership, but so too have principled conservatives been lied to and sold out by the Republican leadership. I think that observation is what's driving the fact that over half of this country does not even bother to vote in presidential elections, and in off-year elections the number drops even more precipitously.
Q: What are you hoping for this year?
Well, my goals in this campaign are to grow and build the Green party. I want to conclude this campaign with more registered Greens, more people who are actively participating in their Green Party locals. I want there to be more elected Green office holders, so they can demonstrate that Greens have not only a philosophy but ideas that can be implemented and make people's lives better. I want to articulate that the Green Party is a serious, credible political party with a serious, credible platform for deep systemic change.
Q: You're getting good crowds, respectable at least?
Q: What tells you you're making headway?
Everywhere I go, people do register for the Green Party. I make the case: I want you to vote for the Green Party, not only for President but down-ballot. In addition to that, we are urging everyone to register into the Green Party because it's a way to vote for justice, democracy, environmental protection every single day.
You are really sending a powerful and profound message that says I am affirmatively withdrawing my consent from this corporate takeover of my government. Over half a million people have already done it, and that number is growing.