Ask any liberal to identify the force in American
politics most intent on destroying progressive prospects and causes and you're
sure to hear that it's the Bush administration or the Republican right or some
such reactionary power. Let me gently suggest, however, that a very different
force has wormed its way onto this list, and may indeed be right at the top: the
There's something so very pure about the Greens' destructiveness. The
Republican right, after all, isn't committed to stamping out liberalism purely as
an end in itself; it is also a means to advance its own agenda of more power and
wealth to the powerful and wealthy. When the Greens run a candidate against a
Democrat, however, neither their campaign nor the effect of their campaign
advances their agenda one whit. Their goal is simply to defeat Democrats, even
the most liberal Democrats. Especially the most liberal Democrats.
Consider the appalling farce now unfolding in Minnesota, where the Greens
recently endorsed a candidate to run against Paul Wellstone. As you may have
heard, the two-term Democratic senator is in the race of his life against
Republican challenger Norm Coleman, and many political handicappers think that
this is the contest that will decide which party will control the next Senate. As
you may also have heard, Wellstone is the most unflaggingly progressive member of
the Senate, a dynamo who can be counted on not just to vote right, but to knock
himself out for such otherwise unchampioned causes as single-payer health
insurance and workers' rights in the third world. He was elected by an alliance
of enviros, peaceniks, unionists, et. al., which he organized and has since
nurtured into the only genuine statewide left-liberal grass-roots organization in
the land. In short, Wellstone is the single most effective proponent of
lower-case-g green politics in America.
All in all, a perfect target for the Green Party! When delegates arrived at
their state convention last month, some wanted to teach Wellstone a lesson for
having voted to authorize a military response to the 9-11 assault. Others were
rankled that the Wellstone camp had endeavored mightily to keep them from running
a candidate against him. (Da noive!) As a result, Green spokeswoman Holle
Brian told The Progressive's Ruth Conniff, "People came to the convention
with the goal of endorsing a candidate come hell or high water."
But they hadn't come to the convention with a candidate. Demand-side politics
demanded one, however, so they nominated Ed "Eagle Man" McGaa. Eagle Man "was not
familiar to a majority" of delegates, Brian Kaller, co-editor of the Greens'
Minnesota newspaper, told Marc Cooper in the Los Angeles Times. "But there
were at least some people from the Native American community who ... vouched for
him. ... He is a member of a historically disenfranchised people. He's a
feminist. And an environmentalist." What he's not, the Greens were to discover
just after the convention, is an opponent of the war on terrorism. McGaa supports
the Wellstone position on this question, though the Greens call this position the
very basis of their challenge to Wellstone.
What could possibly explain this idiocy? Natural selection? Ever since
Wellstone built the most vibrant left-leaning organization in the nation, any
Minnesota progressive with the intellect to tie his shoes has been a Democrat --
leaving the Greens with the sandaled, the shoeless, and the slow. This could just
be some Minnesota exceptionalism.
But it's not.
The race against Wellstone, in fact, is not an exception to Green strategy,
but its quintessence. Already the Greens have tipped congressional races to the
Republicans in Michigan and New Mexico, and there was that unfortunate outcome of
the presidential race about 18 months ago. In fairness, Ralph Nader warned us
then that even a Democrat who brilliantly advanced liberal causes would merit
Green opposition. When asked at the June 2000 Green National Convention to name
three things he liked about America, for instance, Nader listed Democratic
Congressman Henry Waxman of California as thing number two. But when David Moberg
of In These Times interviewed Nader that October, the candidate said that
come 2002, he'd unhesitatingly back a Green against Waxman. Nader added, however,
that the Greens would focus chiefly on the close races. Where the Democrats "are
winning 51 [percent]-to-49 percent," he said, "we're going to go in and beat them
with Green votes. They've got to lose people, whether they're good or bad."
Even Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold? Moberg asked. Even Paul Wellstone?
"That's the burden they're going to have to pay for letting their party go
astray," Nader answered. "It's too bad."
Indeed, and not just for Wellstone should he lose. Workers in Chinese labor
camps, Africans dying of AIDS, homeless children on the streets of St. Paul would
all pay a price for this piece of Green folly. But then the Greens have always
believed that they are charting the true progressive course, no matter the damage
they may do to the actual progressive cause.
Beware this party. At the heart of Green politics is a novel -- and ruthless
-- ethic: The means justify the end.