[Marxism] How the Greens Chose Kerry over Nader

WSheasby wsheasby at earthlink.net
Sun Jul 4 14:49:51 MDT 2004

By Walt Contreras Sheasby
     The battleground at the Green Party National Convention on June 23- 
29 stretched from the West (Oregon, Nevada, New Mexico) to the Great 
Lakes (Minnesota and Wisconsin) and the corners of the Atlantic coast 
(Maine and Florida). Those are the seven Unsafe States with Green ballot 
lines, and denying those ballot lines to Ralph Nader was the mission 
accomplished at the Convention in Minneapolis. David Cobb won the 
election with 408 of 770 ballots cast, based on the strength of his support 
in places like Montana, Nebraska, Wisconsin, South Carolina, North 
Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and, of course, his native state of Texas. 
(1) The urban branches of the Party were overcome largely by bending the 
rural  twigs sprouting in Bush country. 
>From the Green Politics Network to the Cobb-LaMarche Debacle
     The Convention result was largely engineered by veterans of the Green 
Politics Network (GPN), which was founded in spring 1992 by John 
Rensenbrink, Dee Berry, and others opposed to the Fundi radicalism 
of the early Greens. There had been a national Green organization called 
the Greens/Green Party USA since 1991, growing out of the Committees 
of Correspondence formed in St. Paul in 1984. The GPN, however, 
shunned these radicals and hoped to link up electoral-oriented 
pragmatic reformers into a confederation based on State Parties rather 
than membership locals.

     In 1995-96 many of the radicals balked at a Presidential campaign, 
while others worked on the search for a candidate. According to Patrick 
Mazza of the Oregon Pacific Party, "In states such as Ohio and Texas, 
G/GPUSA activists blocked efforts to put Nader on the ballot." 

     Immediately after the election on Nov 16-17, 1996, an invitation-only 
meeting of 62 Nader supporters was held at the Glen-Ora Farm in 
Middleburg, 40 miles west of Washington, D.C. This historic farm had 
been surveyed by George Washington at age 16. It seems appropriate now 
that after gathering in a room where JFK used to hold meetings after his 
election in 1960, many attendees then are now supporting another JFK in 

     When Howie Hawkins, a leader of the G/GPUSA and a New York 
Nader campaigner came to Glen-Ora, he was blocked from entering on the 
first day, and on the second day, as Mazza put it, "Hawkins was told in 
no uncertain terms the new organization is a fait accompli."

     Rensenbrink announced that it "has been a long, arduous, often 
agonizing journey," but the Middleburg Meeting "heralds the emergence, 
at last, of a viable, vigorous, and facilitative Association of State Green 

     Nader told the 62 ASGP founders at Middleburg that "Whoever's 
going to go for the Democratic nomination in 2000 has got to realize they 
are going to lose if they don't stop the drift into the corporate maul." (2) 
The cards were all on the table four years before Nader’s second Green 
campaign, but as the election neared November 2000, the GPN veterans 
and some  Nader novices began to urge their candidate to take a dive.

     Nader had written the Forward to Rensenbrink’s Against All Odds: 
The Green Transformation of American Politics in 1999, and had told left 
Greens that the author was a sterling radical and to be trusted, but within 
a year Rensenbrink was openly venomous toward his former mutual 
admirer. Rensenbrink conceals his personal rancor in a jumble of 
indictments that are taken at face value  by the liberal media and Green 
novices: "[Nader] doesn't want to be a Green, he runs with his coterie 
rather than party organizers, he doesn't involve local Green leaders and he 
doesn't get the racial issue. I fear if Nader runs, he'll drag down every 
other Green in this country." (3)

     As the A.P. Wire reported on June 23, 2004, “Delegate John 
Rensenbrink of Maine said he was a Nader adviser but had to break with 
the candidate over his insistence on running an aggressive campaign in 
swing states, believing it could lead to Bush's re-election. While no 
backer of John Kerry, Rensenbrink believes the Democrat is the lesser of 
two evils.” Apparently even less of an evil than Nader himself.

Pot-boiling the Twigs
     Various anti-Nader, Anybody-But-Bush, and openly pro-Kerry 
websites and list serves all tried to influence gullible Greens before the 
Convention. The GreensforKerry.com website (registered through 
GoDaddy.com) was revealed as belonging to nextgeneration.org, a 
campaign consulting firm, mostly for environmental causes, but also 
working for Democratic politicians. (4) 

     A mass email letter was sent to Greens by Jeff Bennett in San 
Francisco, who  claimed to be a member since 1998, saying : “It is 
shocking to me that the Green Party would even consider endorsing Ralph 
Nader for president this year.... But now I see that the Green Party leaders 
might not be working for environmental protections and social justice at 
all. Maybe they just want to break the two-party system, even if they 
break the planet in the process.” No one in the Greens in the Bay Area  
recalled ever seeing or hearing the name of the sender.

     Not to be outdone by covert Democrats, seven Green Party politicians, 
headed by David Segal, a City Councilor in Providence, Rhode Island, 
formed Greens for Impact (GFI) to “Encourage voters in swing states to 
vote for John Kerry in the general election.” Segal revealed that the real 
aim of the Rensenbrinkians was not Independent Political Action, but 
Dependent Political Action, as with the German Greens: “Though small, 
the Green Party sometimes has enough sway to change the outcome of an 
election, but as a party that does not believe in fascism and extortion, our 
segment of the progressive movement must work together with the 
dominant left-of-center party, as our fellow Green Party members in 
Europe and many other nations have done.” (5)  

     The most ambitious effort was funded by George Soros through the 
Democrats’ 527 groups (6),  three of which combined to focus their TV 
anti-Nader advertising firepower on six states that were decided by two 
percentage points or less in 2000 -- Wisconsin, New Mexico, Florida, 
New Hampshire, Iowa, and Oregon. In addition the groups formed 
TheNaderFactor.com to also beam internet pleas by repentant Greens  
and Naderites. (7)

The Realo Strategy
     To deny those six or more states to Nader, primary battles had to first 
be won in as many of the 45 States with delegates as possible, even 
though only 23 States have a ballot line at the moment. In fact, some of 
the key skirmishes were in States that failed to get a Green line this year, 
such as Texas and Illinois. Other delegates were selected by relatively 
small Green formations in the South, stretching from Arkansas, 
Tennessee, and Georgia, to North Carolina and Virginia, all states 
without a Ballot Primary which nevertheless chose and sent delegates to 
keep Nader off the ballot in other States. 

     Belinda Coppernoll, Secretary of the Green Alliance, the left tendency 
in the Green Party, and a delegate from Ellensburg, Washington, summed 
up the process: 
     “The GPUS Coordinating Council (aka GPLC) which is the National 
Leadership and Governing Group is made up of 2 GPUS rep from each 
state; was heavily dominated by ProCobb leaders who pushed the 
ProCobb agenda for the last year relentlessly. Several in the GPUS 
leadership were responsible for Nader not seeking the GP nomination last 
fall when he went out on his exploratory committee. These same 
aggressive anti-Nader Greens dominated the Steering Committee as well,  
and the Rules/Procedures, Convention committees. They used their internal 
power to get the nominee they had preselected (Cobb) and tried to use a 
variety of manipulative tactics and undemocratic processes to in their 
quest to stop Nader/Camejo from winning the GP endorsement or even 
sharing it with David Cobb, so there would be two progressive choices on 
the ballot lines. Little was fair or balanced in the conduct of this 
nominating election process.” (8)

     The unlikely candidate who defeated Nader, 41 year-old David Cobb, 
said that he would campaign vigorously for all Green candidates in the 40 
states not considered critical to the outcome of the presidential race. (9) 
He will be the Green Party candidate on the ballot in all the States that 
supported Nader, including the biggest, California, as well as Nevada, 
Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Kansas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Florida, 
Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, and Vermont. The spectacle of rural 
States blocking progressive States is an old one in America: it appears in 
the guise of the Electoral College which overrides any Popular Vote. The  
a breakdown of the delegate allocation at the convention reveals exactly 
how that worked. (10)

     Had the contest been decided by One Person = One Vote, the Nader- 
Camejo ticket easily would have been the overwhelming winner; among 
Greens, the polls show 70% support for Nader. (11) . While California 
only had about 1/7 of the delegates at the convention, they represent over 
1/2 of the registered Greens in the country. David Cobb, a Texan who 
moved to California, won only 5,000 votes or 10% in the California 
Primary. As a stand-in for Ralph Nader, Peter Camejo won 76% or 
33,000 votes in the California primary, but nationally he had less than 
half the number of delegates that Cobb claimed. This was on the basis, in 
many cases, of meetings of less than a hundred Greens in various States 
without a Ballot Primary. Those who could afford to go were given 
delegate status, regardless of whether they faithfully reflected the vote on 
the candidates.

     Moreover, many of the delegates claiming to favor other candidates or 
to be uncommitted in order to be sent to the Convention, may have 
intended to vote for Cobb all along, as soon as they were released from 
their State mandates after the first round of voting. Some of the most 
prominent long-time allies of John Rensenbrink, like Tony Affigne from 
Rhode Island, arrived in Milwaukee as nominally undecided delegates. In 
several states a significant number of Nader-Camejo or Lorna Salzman 
votes in the first round turned to Cobb-LaMarche votes in the second 

     As Kevin McKeown, Mayor of Santa Monica, explained: “In the first 
round on Saturday, your California delegates were bound to the statewide 
primary results from March. California cast 13 votes for Cobb out of our 
132 delegate seats, based on his 10% showing in the California primary. 
In the second round, it became apparent that Cobb had organized at the 
county level, particularly in the Bay area, to get his delegates appointed. 
When they were released from the primary vote mandate of all California 
Greens, they switched to Cobb.” This meant an extra 26 votes for Cobb. 
“The shift in the California vote alone was enough to put Cobb over the 
top. If California had again voted the primary outcome of 10% Cobb in 
round two, Cobb would not have had a majority.” (12)

     As one delegate, Ken Smith, reported: “The only other person waiting 
with me was sitting two chairs over to my right, and she was our Lorna 
Salzman team leader. I could swear she also had a Nader/Camejo poster, 
but in the second round it some how transformed itself into a Cobb sign. 
The first person to arrive on the left of this so called Lorna Salzman 
California delegation row... was Medea Benjamin. Medea placed three 
Cobb posters on the chairs to my left, and a second woman with a Cobb 
sign then sat down on my right. Now why would I think that maybe there 
was some type of a pre-planned conspiracy?” 

     In the decisive second round, in which Nader-Camejo delegates and 
those of other candidates supporting that ticket were asked to vote for no 
nomination, the tally was Cobb 408, No Nominee 308, Mesplay 43, 
Beeman 8, abstain 3. 

     John Rensenbrink’s Maine delegation cast all but one vote for Cobb. 
In Missouri, a State which has long had a large left Green community in 
St. Louis that is not actively involved in the Party, Dee Berry of Kansas 
City delivered all her State’s votes to Cobb. 

     Blair Bobier of the Pacific Green Party in Oregon delivered virtually 
all his States’s votes to Cobb. Texas alone cast 34-1 votes for Cobb on 
the basis of a meeting not much larger than the number of delegates. 
Georgia chose its delegates at a small meeting far removed from Atlanta 
during the heightened security of the G8 Summit when travel and lodging 
were difficult to arrange. As a result, the Georgia State Green Convention 
that sent 12 delegates to Milwaukee -- 11 obligated to voting for Cobb -- 
had a grand total of 17 people in attendance. 

      In Wisconsin, Minnesota and Montana the influence of the old New 
Party chapters that entered the Greens there was decisive. 

     The Anybody But Bush Syndrome prevailed at this Convention, and 
John Rensenbrink was honored in the final moments with an orchestrated 
homage. The Greens will probably come to regret their rigging of the 
tally in order to stop Nader. The low vote in November for the Cobb-
LaMarche ticket will disappoint and anger those Greens who have 
invested their hopes in the Party. There will be a considerable price paid 
in ballot lines by the less secure States who depend on a certain 
percentage of the vote to stay on the ballot. 

     On the other hand, it is clear that the Greens for Nader and the Green 
Alliance do not intend to leave the Party or allow themselves to be pushed 
out by the Rensenbrink wing. To the would-be terminators, the left wing 
of the Greens promises “We’ll be back.” 

[Thanks to those who made suggestions on an earlier draft]

1. Garance Franke-Ruta, No Tie -- Cobb! The true story of how a man 
you've barely heard of beat Ralph Nader for the Green Party nomination. 
American Prospect, Web Exclusive: June 28, 2004.

2. John Rensenbrink and  Patrick Mazza, Report on the ASGP 
Middleburg Meeting 1996, http://www.mainegreens.org/directaction/ 

3. from The Nation, Nov. 3, 2003.
Ralph Nader's Skeleton Closet, http://www.realchange.org/nader.htm

4. NoKerryNoBush, Dems Promote Fake Greens for Kerry Org, SF 
Indymedia,  Friday April 09, 2004,  http://sf.indymedia.org/news/2004/04/ 

5. Why John Kerry? Greens for Impact. 

6. Walt Contreras Sheasby, George Soros and the Rise of the Neo-
centrics, Citizine, http://www.citizinemag.com/politics/politics-401_ 

7. Walt Contreras Sheasby, Democrats Launch Anti-Nader Campaign, 
Citizine, May 28, 2004,  http://www.citizinemag.com/commentary/ 

8. Belinda Coppernoll, Truth at the GP nominating conv in Milwaukee, 
COMMENTS at truthout.org,  Mon, June 28, 2004. 

9. Rick Lyman, The Greens Gather, Sharply Split Over Nader's Run,  NY 
Times, June 26, 2004. www.nytimes.com/2004/06/ 26/politics/campaign/ 

10. 2004 Delegate Allocation Details

11. Carlos Petroni, Green Party Delegates at a Crossroads. Battle between 
the Left and Demogreens in Milwaukee, SF-Frontlines, Saturday, July 03, 
2004. http://www.sf-frontlines.com/modules.php?op=modload&name=

12. Kevin McKeown, Milwaukee report, Greens CA listserver: grns-cal-
forum at greens.org, June 28, 2004.


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