[Marxism] FW: David Cobb: The Sound of One Hand Clapping

Jose G. Perez jg_perez at bellsouth.net
Fri May 21 19:04:02 MDT 2004

I thought this would be of interest -- José

-----Original Message-----

By Joaquín Bustelo

You have heard the sound of two hands clapping. 
What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Like a frenzied one-handed ovation David Cobb has been flapping back and
forth across the United States for months with a single goal: to become
the Green Party's candidate for President of the United States.

If you ask Cobb why he is doing this, his answer could not be more
motherhood and apple pie: To grow the Green vote. To build the Green
Party. To organize more Green chapters. To help more Green candidates

But, when you stop and think about it, the answer makes no sense, none

Because, just who are all those people that David Cobb is going to
attract to his campaign, who then turn into Green Party votes,
organizers and chapters?

Presumably, the throngs that are already coming out to his events.

I hear the sound of one hand clapping.

Try the following experiment: Google "David Cobb" and "campaign rally",
just like that, together, with the quotation marks. This is what you

Your search - "David Cobb" "campaign rally" - did not match any

And that's so whether you Google the web, images, groups, or news.

Do it for "Ralph Nader" and "campaign rally" and you'll get 891 hits on
the web, 249 in newsgroups, 21 among recent news stories, and even two

Of course, for pictures, Google just the name. Ralph Nader gets you 1590

David Cobb will get you 126 -- not too shabby, really, until you look at
the first results page with 20 pictures and realize not a single one is
of this David Cobb. 

Of the 20 most popular David Cobbs on the Internet, ours is number 23. 

There's a saying that in politics, there are the good reasons people
give for doing what they are doing, and then there are the real reasons.
David Cobb may be a Very Nice Guy, even a much nicer guy than all those
other more popular David Cobbs out there on the Internet, but he is not
a candidate who can attract even a few people to the Green Party in this
presidential race. If that were true, he would have shown it by now. 

He can't even attract that many people within the Green Party: little
more than a month before the convention, and running virtually
unopposed, for no-one else is actively campaigning for the nomination,
Cobb has amassed an underwhelming 31% of the delegates selected so far.

So what is the real reason Cobb is running? 

"My secondary goal is to run a campaign where we will culminate with
George Bush out of the White House," Cobb told Newsweek recently. And he
is going to do that with a "safe states" strategy. "If that entails not
campaigning in tight states like Florida," Newsweek explains, "so be it.
‘I know that I am not going to get elected president in 2004,' he says."

But Cobb's stated "safe states" strategy --not putting any effort into
Florida and a few other states-- will not work, and any child can see
it. That is because so much of a campaign today takes place online and
through the national media, especially for a party without money to buy
advertising, which can be targeted locally.

The real way to apply such a strategy is to signal to your supporters
that they should vote for Kerry instead. That is precisely what Cobb
does by proposing “not campaigning in tight states like Florida.” It is
a shame-faced way of saying “Vote Democrat.” And that transforms the
Greens from an independent party into a left pressure group on the
Democrats, and on the slippery slope to becoming one more powerless
captive group within the Democratic Party.

A lesser evil strategy can’t be limited to one candidate, in one or a
few states, for one office. That’s a campaign “strategy” only a lawyer
could understand. It makes no political sense. 

There are many Democratic Party candidates tons more attractive and
progressive than the prowar multibillionaire John Kerry. And if it is
okay to vote even for a Kerry, why not for the rest? Because of the
importance of this presidential election?

The Congress is important. Governorships are important. State
legislatures are important. 

The bottom line is this: sure, when there is a local school board or
city council race that you can win, run independent. But as for the
rest, pinch your nose and cast your ballot for the "lesser evil." 

Except that you don't really need a party for that. Many of those local
races are non-partisan, and even when they are not, a strong progressive
candidate should have no problem collecting the needed signatures, if
that person truly has the support to win.

And this brings us to the heart of Cobb's campaign. He doesn't lay out
his real lesser-evil politics. That would make him tremendously
unpopular among hard core Greens (he's even put his "safe states" away
in his lawyer's briefcase). 

And he doesn't need to. The Cobb campaign is, in and of itself, the safe
states strategy, applied to the country as a whole. It is the un-Cola,
the non-campaign.

Cobb himself all but said it recently. He told reporter Joseph Spector,
of the Rochester, New York, Democrat and Chronicle, that he was running
“a nuisance campaign to get Bush out of office.”

And in case you think Cobb was misquoted, be assured he wasn’t. His
staff has posted this article to his web site, www.cotecobb.org, and,
no, there is no disclaimer.

The danger the Democrats are screaming about isn't David Cobb or the
Green Party. The Democrats know that with Cobb as standard bearer, the
Greens would get only the votes of their most hard core supporters,
people who would not vote for a Kerry in a million years, if that.

The real danger to the Democrats and the Republicans, the whole
two-party, lesser-evil system, is Ralph Nader. The effect of Cobb's
campaign is simply to deny Green ballot lines to Nader, and perhaps
divert some activists from working for him. The political effect of
Cobb’s campaign isn’t to build the Green Party. It is to unbuild Nader’s

One very immediate, practical effect of the Greens nominating Cobb is
that Nader may well not be on enough ballot lines to be technically able
to win the election. There wouldn’t be enough Electoral College votes.
You can be certain that the Democrats and Republicans will use that to
exclude Nader from the presidential debates. 

Can you imagine how popular that will make the Greens with the many
thousands of Nader activists who otherwise could be attracted to the
Greens as the obvious, logical continuation past November 2 of the fight
Ralph Nader is waging? And that, mind you, for a completely unserious,
“nuisance campaign.” 

That is why Cobb says things like that he doesn’t insist on safe states,
he will follow whatever campaign strategy the Green Party votes for. Of
course he will. Once he is nominated, who cares! 

You didn't like his earlier wishy-washy position on the war? People let
him know and he changed it. You want him to advocate Nader's program?
Sure -- just as long as you don't bring Nader with it.

Don’t bring Nader because, as the Democrat and Chronicle article that
Cobb’s staff has placed on his web site explains, Cobb’s campaign is
about “not taking votes away from John Kerry.”

There is absolutely no danger of Cobb doing that, of course, for Cobb
has no votes. The votes he wants to make sure go to Kerry are Nader’s
votes, by denying Nader the Green ballot line and with it the
opportunity for people in many states to vote for him.

To this end, Cobb and his cohorts are waging a campaign of whispers,
rumors and innuendo against Nader and Nader's strongest supporters in
the Green Party, like California's Peter Camejo. 

Things like that Nader is tied in with the Newman-Fulani cult. 

That Nader is taking money from “thinly veiled racists.”

That Nader refused to hand over his campaign lists from 2000 to the
national Green Party, and that proves Nader is really an enemy of the
Greens pretending to be a friend.

The cult and taking money from racists charges are unfounded and beneath
contempt. The taking money from racists is quoted in an article from The
New Mexican on Cobb’s campaign site without a disclaimer or any attempt
to provide even a shred of evidence. It must be branded as a slander.

On the campaign lists, it is true that Nader did refuse to hand them
over. And he was entirely right to refuse. It is a violation of the
right to privacy when people sign up for one list, and then their names
get taken and put into any number of other, different, lists.

As for the rest of it --that Nader is opposed to the Green Party and
wants to undermine it-- the record is clear. 

No one has done more to build the Green Party than Ralph Nader. 

No one has raised more money for the party than Ralph Nader. 

No one has brought more people around the party than Ralph Nader.

This whispering campaign is the real Cobb campaign. It seeks to win, not
millions, not even thousands of votes, but 419, the votes of 50% + 1 of
the delegates to the Green convention.

So a lot of what Cobb says is geared to manipulate the disappointment of
Green activists that Nader chose not to campaign for the Green Party
nomination, a situation Cobb played no small role in helping to bring
about. And he tries to blind them to an obvious fact.

Whether the Greens like it or not, the real challenge to the two-party
system this year once again is coalescing around Nader and no one else.
There is no reason for the Greens to exist as a party except to
challenge the duopoly. And to do anything except back Nader weakens that
challenge and puts the Greens on the sidelines of the fight.

A central complaint of those who are disappointed with Nader's choices
is that, with Nader as an independent, nothing can be built for the

Yes, it will be more difficult and less straightforward than when Nader
ran simply as the Green candidate. But if the Greens jump into the Nader
committees they will meet and attract many of the best activists being
won to independent politics by his campaign.

And what foundation would a Cobb campaign lay for the future? None,
simply because very few people will even hear about it, and 99 percent
of those who do won't understand why it even exists. 

"Don't you agree with Nader?" Well, yes. 

"So why don't you support him?" 

What does one say? That although Nader was perfectly willing to run
together with the Greens, he didn't want to run exclusively as the Green
candidate, so we took our marbles and went home?

Running against Nader undermines the future of the party, it alienates
the very people the Greens should be trying to embrace. And this has to
do with Cobb's boasts about his party building prowess. 

"I'm really an organizer," he recently told a newspaper reporter. 

"In 2000, Brad, in that 75-day window, I coordinated an effort where we
collected 76,100 signatures in a 75-day window. And to put that in
perspective, Pat Buchanan also got on the ballot in Texas, and he spent
about a quarter of a million dollars. We spent--raised and spent--less
than $20,000."

I won't quibble with Cobb's claim to be a good administrator, but being
a real organizer involves more than those skills. Real organizers
understand the strategic goals they are trying to reach, and the
politics behind them. And those 76,100 signatures Cobb takes sole credit
for were gathered for Ralph Nader, not David Cobb.

And what inspired scores of volunteers to donate thousands of hours was
Nader's message, which is also the Green Party’s message: that the
Democrats and Republicans are a single two-party system. This system is
an instrument of corporate domination, and the duopoly must be fought by
moving toward creating a party of working people.

Those volunteers in Texas did not come out for the lesser-evil approach
Cobb espouses today. Nor will they come out for it this year. Why
support a complete unknown like Cobb running a mere “nuisance campaign”
to indirectly help Kerry, when you can support Kerry directly? 

The Green Party is at a crossroads and needs to make a decision. Many
who have been friends and allies of the Greens in the past, and even
members, candidates and leaders, are dead set against political
independence in this election. Nothing the Greens can do will change

But at the same time, millions of people are starting to see the need to
break from the two-party system. They are going with Nader and no one
else. The polls are quite eloquent about this. From as low as 2% when he
announced, he is getting 5% to 8% in the most recent soundings. 

If the Green Party is to flourish as an independent party, among those
Nader voters are the activists the Greens need to take the party to the
next level. By nominating David Cobb, the Greens will simply be turning
their backs on their own future. It is political suicide.

[Joaquín Bustelo is a member of the Avocado Education Project.]

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