Red Over Green Party Moves
Among those Minnesota Greens who wanted to stay out of the Wellstone race was Brian Kaller, co-editor of his party's state newspaper. But even Kaller said McGaa's politically correct credentials proved irresistible. "McGaa was not familiar to a majority [of the delegates]," he said. "But there were at least some people from the Native American community there who...vouched for him. And while we are all pro-union, McGaa [was] a union worker. We are all in favor of peace, but he's a Korean and Vietnam war veteran who has also spoken out for peace. He is a member of a historically disenfranchised people. He's a feminist. And an environmentalist." For many Greens, Kaller said, McGaa is simply a "dream candidate."
The Minnesota situation is not, unfortunately, an anomaly in Green politics. Since their emergence in Germany thirty years ago, the party has always had a strain of fundamentalists, known as "fundis,"who are allergic to political compromise and seek a politically pure party, despite the electoral consequences.
Opposing them have been the "realos," the more pragmatic faction that argues that politics is the art of building coalitions. The success of this approach can be seen in the current "red-green" alliance of Social Democrats and Greens that governs the German Federal Republic.
In a place like Germany, both factions can easily coexist within the Greens. In a proportional representation system, where even small minor parties can win parliamentary seats, a viable argument can be made to keep the party small but pure.
But how can the "fundi" strategy--as symbolized by the selection of McGaa to go against Wellstone--sustain itself in the winner-take-all American electoral system? A Green Party that refuses to build bridges with allies outside of its own confines is destined to doom--as so many previous third-party upstarts learned. The Minnesota Greens should have gone ahead and run their own candidates for governor and the Legislature and then have joined in the grassroots effort to keep their natural ally, Wellstone, in the US Senate. They would have maintained their own identity and maybe even have built up the party by winning grateful converts among pro-Wellstone Democrats. Now, instead, they must campaign for McGaa.
When asked whether he's worried that spoiling Wellstone's re-election could backfire on the Minnesota Greens and wind up spoiling their own future, Kaller said: "The short answer is yes. It's a tough question, one we are going to have to grapple with."
Kaller is only half right. A tough question it is. But it's one that should have been grappled with thoughtfully and fully before Ed "Eagle Man" McGaa was flung into the race. The Minnesota Greens had a good chance to build a model third party. If they don't reverse their recent action, they will be opting instead for a circus.