Morning News (UT)
Party hopeful aims to take White House
By Elaine Jarvik
April 22, 2004
He campaigns in cowboy boots, speaks in a Texas drawl and
is running for president of the United States — and he hopes
to oust George W. Bush in November. David Cobb brought his
Green Party candidacy to Utah on Thursday, explaining what he
called his "nuanced" campaign strategy that includes
ousting Bush, helping the Green Party grow and, eventually,
changing the entire electoral process in the United States.
Cobb is the first to admit that this won't be easy. He will
have to convince voters — Democrats, progressives, even
Green Party members — that voting for him won't make him a
"spoiler" who steals votes from the Democratic
candidate and thus ensures the election of Bush, as then-Green
Party candidate Ralph Nader was accused of doing in the 2000
First, Cobb has to persuade Green Party delegates to pick him
at the party's national convention, to be held in Milwaukee
this June. Some Green Party members would rather endorse
Nader, who is running as an independent candidate for
president this go-round. And some members argue that since, in
their view, "anybody is better than Bush," their
votes instead should go to Democrat John Kerry.
But, Cobb argues, a vote for Nader will not help the Green
Party grow. And the Democratic Party and its primary process?
"It's the place where progressive politics go to
die," he says.
Cobb's campaign appearance at Westminster College drew only
about 50 people, a number that had dwindled to about 20 by the
time the hat was passed around for donations. But Cobb was
fired up, talking fast and furious for two hours as he
explained a strategy he hopes will oust Bush, whom he
described as "an illegal occupant of the White
House." The Supreme Court, he argued, executed a
"judicial coup d'etat" by calling off the vote
recount in Florida in 2002. "But the shame," he
said, "needs to be focused on Al Gore, for not fighting
to secure the election he won."
Cobb is a lawyer who serves as the national Green Party's
general counsel. He helped found the Green Party of Texas and
ran and lost as the Green Party candidate for attorney general
in Texas in 2002. A Texas preacher's son who grew up in a
house without a flush toilet, he says he's at home talking to
ranchers and farmers and people in bowling alleys, "but
when I'm in a bowling alley I never say 'trajectory' or
Cobb's strategy is to campaign hardest not in the usual swing
states but in states, like Utah, where Bush is all but assured
of electoral college victory. "Don't waste your
vote" by voting for Kerry, he tells Utahns. "Invest
your vote." In the swing states, where a vote for Cobb
could actually count, the strategy becomes less clear. On the
one hand, voters should have the chance to vote for him if
they choose, he says. On the other hand, he says he doesn't
want to "unintentionally" be the election spoiler.
He hopes to help the Green Party grow at the local, state and
national level, getting enough votes to keep the party on the
ballot in future years and registering more Green Party
That's the lesson Cobb says he learned when he helped run the
Texas campaigns of presidential hopefuls Jesse Jackson in 1984
and 1988 and Jerry Brown in 1992: If you just work for
candidates, without having a political party of your own, you
have nothing to build on in the future.
"George Bush is not the problem," he says.
"The problem is the socio-political-economic
system that is literally destroying our planet." He
describes that system as racist, sexist, classist and
homophobic. "And for good measure, it masquerades as
democracy when in fact it's a plutocracy — rule by the
In a real democracy, he argues, there wouldn't be an electoral
college. Instead, elections would be held using "instant
run-off voting," letting voters rank their presidential
or mayoral or other choices in order of preference.
The history of America, he says, is one in which third party
candidates are always told, patronizingly or rudely, to
"go away." But third party activists, he says, were
responsible for the abolition of slavery, women's suffrage,
unemployment insurance and the end of child labor.