Saturday :: Mar 15, 2003

Is It Time for the Dems and the Greens to Call a Truce?


by Steve

I was tracking some of the discussion over at the DailyKos earlier, and some of the contributors brought up a topic that I had started to develop last week. Put simply, could and should the Democrats and the Greens call a truce? The bitterness between Gore Democrats like myself and the Greens was definitely going to continue into the 2004 campaign if Gore had been the frontrunner and if Ralph Nader had unwrapped his ambition again to head up the Green ticket, assuming that they would nominate him again.

But with Gore now out of the picture, and the Greens being reminded all the time about the absurdity of Nader’s oft-repeated analysis that there was little difference between Bush and Gore, an opportunity exists for a truce going into the 2004 election between the Democrats and the Greens. Is it possible for Greens to submerge their disappointment with the Democrats and the Democrats to submerge their anger with the Greens so that the larger imperative of getting George W. Bush out of office is achieved? I think it is possible, and needs to be pursued immediately, but there needs to be some confession by both sides to bring about this temporary truce.

First, as angry as Democrats are about the Florida debacle and the resulting appointment of Bush to the presidency by the GOP Supreme Court, the truth is that it should have never come down to Florida. Gore lost his home state of Tennessee and Clinton’s home state of Arkansas, and also lost other states that he could have won. Gore did not use Clinton effectively at all especially in those lost states, and bears responsibility for losing the Electoral College, Florida notwithstanding.

Secondly, Nader did target states late in the contest that would maximize the harm to Gore, rather than work on getting the Greens their necessary 5% popular vote threshold. I have always thought that it was personal between Nader and Gore.

Third, the Greens rightly felt that the Democratic Party left its core constituencies and issues behind in the 1990’s in an effort to become more electable. There is evidence that this is true: Clinton was a poster child for campaign finance abuse, deregulation, and anti-trust inaction. His consumer and environmental records could have been better, and his labor policies didn’t shine with NAFTA and his WTO pushes.

But fourth, in their zeal for ideological purity, the Greens take the self-defeating position that they would rather lose on principle than do whatever it takes to win as part of the Democratic effort to get in and then work incrementally for what you want once you are part of the power structure. The Greens didn’t appreciate the political constraints that Clinton was under, and expected their issues to be pursued to the degree they would pursue them if they had been in power. We have now seen the lunacy of such an approach after watching just the first two years of damage that George W. Bush has done, and will do in the next two years.

And that is what leads me to my call for a truce between the Democrats and the Greens. The truth is that the Democrats cannot afford another 3-4% bleed-off of supporters to the Greens in 2004 when George W. Bush will be spending over $300 million to be elected. And the Greens cannot afford to be marginalized even further if they pull another 3-4% but help cause another four years of destruction by Bush. Besides, after the 2002 debacle and the resulting Democratic push to reacquire their base issues and reengage with their constituencies, the Greens may find that the party that left them behind is coming home out of necessity as well as familiarity.

But to compete with the GOP media Mighty Wurlitzer and corporate ATM that will fund Bush, both the Democrats and the Greens need to make peace. For their part, the Democrats need to fashion an agenda that speaks to a wide swath of interests, while stopping their efforts to look like GOP-lite. That means health care, true campaign finance reform, a large environmental push, and protection of labor rights must be front and center in the platform. For the Greens however, they need to acknowledge that interests are better served by working as part of a team to get the White House again, and then hold the Democratic victor accountable, instead of continuing to push for your own 5% which is only a recipe for being on the outside for a generation. If the Democrats get back in, and the new president goes wobbly on the agenda that got him elected, then the Greens would be right to reactivate and make a major push when the Democrat comes up for re-election.

But there is no merit to an approach that believes in order to save the house, it is better for the house to burn down, when you can accomplish the same thing quicker and more safely with remodeling. To facilitate this, the first move needs to come from the Democrats, and the Greens need to be receptive.

Message to Dems: make the first move.

Steve :: 9:13 PM :: Comments (46) :: Digg It!