Saturday, March 01, 2008

Nader and the Greens

I have read a ton of email in the last two days concerning Ralph Nader's decision not to run for President of the US as a Green. The internal email lists of the Green Party have exhibited just about every emotional reaction that you can think of and a wide range of commentary about what should be done including some who want to change the party convention rules and give the nomination to Nader anyway.

In general, however, there are two concepts emerging that should be considered. One is that we need to run synergistic campaigns, Nader and the Greens against the duopoly. This seems to be playing off the comments that Nader made on C-SPAN: (emphasis mine)
Q: The caller said you ran on the Green party ticket. Why not run on the Green party ticket again?

NADER: Well, because I think Cynthia McKinney is running, and I think it would be wonderful for the Green Party to have an African-American woman. She was elected numerous times to the House of Representatives, and I think we need several progressive initiatives in this country.

Q: And that was the decision, to not run on the Green Party ticket because she announced?

NADER: Well, there are others as well. You know, the Green Party is only on twenty-one ballots, and we don't want to be distracted. We have to get on fifty - try to get on fifty state ballots. And the
Greens have their way of doing things, and we have our way of doing things.
The other manner of approaching this is to just go our separate ways. Paul Krumm, Green Party National Committee member from Kansas has argued that Greens are better off without Nader because his style of leadership is not compatible with GP values of Grassroots Democracy. His discussion is right out of Eric Hoffer.
Here is the problem as I see it.
1. Ralph has his own agenda. If anybody wants to join his agenda, that is ok with him. If not, he is not interested in working with them.
2. When you look at the kind of relationship this involves between leader and followers, it requires that followers follow the agenda of the leader, in this case Ralph.
3. Upon analysis, this shows Ralph to be a dictator, a benevolent dictator in this case, however a dictator in form and fact.
4. This kind of relationship is inimical to the ten key values of the Green party.
5. This leaves both us, and Ralph between a rock and a hard place. He is unwilling to join a democratic process, and we are left with joining with an actor who has a number of beliefs that agree with ours, but whose process sucks us into the same kind of relationship between leadership and the rest of society as the major parties.
6. Greens who have not grokked the difference in process in their own lives, have no clue as to the existence of this problem. but for those who have, it stands out like a sore thumb.
7. Nader supporters who do not see the difference in process, and see him as a potential leader for our movement are very impatient with those who see differently than they do. They want a leader, and to be followers in a movement. They don't see that what is needed is a movement where a charismatic fuhrer is not necessary, but where leadership comes in little bits from many sides.

my (Krumm's) conclusion: Those who want to support Ralph should join his movement, leave the Green Party, and do so. He is working for good ends, and needs your support. Those who see the inconsistency between Ralph's means and ends should go their way and continue working with and for the Green Party and its ten key values.

This is not an ideal solution, however it is the best that can be done under the present circumstances.
I don't fully agree with Paul. I don't see Nader's intent in the same light, though I see quite a bit of Hoffer's True Believer in those of his followers who refer to "Saint Ralph".
But, I do agree that we are best off putting all of our resources into being the best Green Party that there is. We need to become as adept at organizing as the major parties, especially the Obama campaign this year. To date we have put too much faith in our message and too little work into the organization.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Paul's analysis is on the mark. Same thing I have been saying since 2003. The true believers in the Nader camp definitely thought the means justified the ends.

Now let us go our separate ways and put an end to the insanity I have witnessed over the past few years with the internecine warfare. Clearly with his style Nader should be running as an independent and he has even said he stepped aside so Cynthia might be the Green nominee. So let's just leave it at that.

Mark - SF, CA