Winning the Next
By Jim Cullen
July 1, 2002
Democrats and Greens seem intent
on re-fighting the last war indefinitely as Democrats continue to
blame Ralph Nader and the Greens for sabotaging Al Gore's election
chances in 2000. Greens reply that Gore beat himself, though they
add that even if they helped Gore beat himself they had every right
to do so.
It's a fascinating argument
replayed on our letters page nearly every edition since the
election, but we're not so much interested in fighting over the last
war as we are in winning the next one. As we have said before, a big
part of that effort is to see that Republicans don't regain control
of the Senate.
Greens are now nominating
candidates for this fall's election and they promise aggressive
slates. But Minnesota Greens haven't done progressive populists any
favors with their decision to challenge Sen. Paul Wellstone.
Wellstone, perhaps the most
progressive populist in the Senate, already faced the determined
opposition of the White House, which recruited former St. Paul mayor
Norm Coleman to run against him. Republicans have made ousting
Wellstone a priority precisely because of his vocal opposition to
most of what George W. Bush stands for.
Ken Jerome-Stern writes on
page 17 that a maturing Green Party decided to nominate Ed McGaa, a
political novice also known as "Eagle Man," for the Senate. We
disagree. Causing this mischief for Wellstone, who supports many of
the Green Party's core values, looks more like a sign of the party's
Green leaders in other parts of
the country have said they intend to put up candidates against
moderate and conservative Democrats in part to force Democrats to
adopt more progressive positions.
Some Minnesota Greens said they
supported McGaa because Wellstone supported the use of military
force against the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack and
he also voted for the USA PATRIOT Act. However, McGaa, a US Marine
Corps veteran of Korean and Vietnam wars, also supports those
measures and has professed that he is unfamiliar with the Green
The main attraction of McGaa
appears to be that he is a Sioux and and an author of books on
Native American spirituality. Reports from the convention indicate
that delegates did not know much more about his position on
Winona LaDuke, Nader's running
mate in the 2000 race, appealed to the convention to pass up the
Senate race, but as 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."
Ultimately, as we have said
before, voters will make the choice. We hope they recognize that
Wellstone needs their support for a third term. We also hope the
Greens will choose their fights better.
A better course this year would
be for Greens to offer to pull back races this fall against
Democrats who agree to support instant runoff voting (IRV) and
Under the plurality voting system
used in most Senate and congressional races, it would be hard to
endorse even so estimable a candidate as our own columnist Ted Glick
against as flawed a product as Sen. Bob Torricelli, D-N.J., knowing
that a vote for Glick would help to reinstate Trent Lott as majority
leader and remove the last meaningful oversight to Dubya's rule by
It would be better to see if
Torricelli would commit to support IRV, which would eliminate the
threat of spoiler candidacies, and proportional representation,
which could be used to replace congressional gerrymandering and
ensure minority representation.
State legislatures can adopt
instant runoff voting in state and federal races but they need the
approval of Congress to set up proportional representation in
congressional districts. Having prominent Congress members pushing
for those changes will perhaps help get them out of committee.
Republicans should be amenable, with Ross Perot's spoiler role in
1992 and '96 presidential races vivid in their memory.
If Torricelli and other Democrats
agree by Oct. 1 to push for IRV in statewide races and proportional
representation in congressional races, Greens might withdraw from
those races. They could still concentrate on races where they need a
certain proportion of the vote to remain on the ballot for the next
election, as well as races against those Demos who refuse to commit
their support to IRV and proportional representation.
In the meantime, Democrats had
better get over their murderous rage at the upstart Greens. They are
here, they are determined to be heard, and there are just enough of
them to make life difficult for the Democrats. It would be better
for Democrats to work in coalition with Greens, particularly when
IRV would do away with the spoiler role that neither side wants the
Greens to maintain. And with Bush's Justice Department bringing back
the FBI's domestic spying program and sending off US citizens to
military brigs for indeterminate detention, there just aren't enough
progressive voters out there to allow us the luxury of splitting our
side and allowing Bush and his right-wing cohorts to consolidate
their hold on the government.
Jim Cullen is the editor of