This morning I mailed a form changing my party registration from “decline to state” to the Green Party. It’s a tiny individual step in response to a hugely important collective action — the party’s decision at its national convention to nominate David Cobb for president.
A majority of the delegates went for a candidate who relied on grassroots organizing and respectful debate. Cobb won the nomination after proving his capacity to engage in substantive dialogue with Green Party activists and other progressives. Without that capacity, he probably wouldn’t have ended up taking his position in favor of a “safe states” approach to this year’s presidential race.
How thoroughly Cobb and his running mate Pat LaMarche will implement such a strategy remains to be seen. Hopefully, history will record that in 2004 the Green ticket boosted the party’s strength among progressives nationwide while making common cause with the wide array of movements determined to prevent a victory for the Bush-Cheney gang on Election Day.
As a practical matter, ending the George W. Bush presidency on November 2 will require sufficient votes for John Kerry in most of the 20 or so swing states: Oregon and Washington; Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado; Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Delaware; New Hampshire and Maine; West Virginia, Arkansas and Louisiana; and, of course, Florida.
(Since I live in California, where Kerry is running 12 to 15 points ahead of Bush, I’m safely voting for Cobb. But if I lived in one of the 20 closely fought swing states, I’d vote for Kerry.)
With the swing states all too close for comfort, activists should be emphatic that the Green Party’s presidential campaign this year ought to concentrate its efforts on “safe states” — where the Bush-Kerry race isn’t close.
The Green Party should not be at cross-purposes with the progressive movements struggling to end the Bush presidency. People in those movements will long remember, for good or ill, how the Green Party conducts itself between now and the day that seals the fate of the Bush White House.
One of the potential key benefits of Cobb’s nomination is that he seems genuinely interested in hearing — and being responsive to — grassroots activists. This is a refreshing and vital departure for a Green Party presidential nominee. So, more than ever, it’s time for activists to speak up.
If strategic thinking prevails, the possibility exists that the Green Party in 2004 will strengthen itself from the bottom up while also providing tangible solidarity in the national effort to defeat Bush. If the Green Party proves equal to this momentous task, it could open up new possibilities for the years and decades ahead.