David Cobb and the coming decline of the Green Party
By nominating Cobb, the Greens have a candidate “with zero name recognition,” said Dean Spiliotes, a fellow at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics. “It may be a good exercise in building up the party on the local level, but it means the party will drop off the radar. It’s a shock, but it is great news for Kerry.”
However, it is terrible news for the Green Party. Cobb’s avowed goal is to build the party from the grassroots, yet it’s difficult to see how his candidacy, which caused a serious rupture in the party, will do much but sink it into obscurity. Cobb is a bland, unexciting candidate; hardly someone who will inspire local organizing.
Moreover, and there isn’t much doubt about this, the Cobb forces prevailed by stacking the nominating committees who made convention rules with their people, thus insuring the rules would favor them – a time-honored tactic to be sure – but also a tactic that resulted in bruised feelings, serious polarization, and destroyed any chance of party unity.
After Cobb was officially nominated, many Nader supporters stormed out. Some sobbed. Others cursed and threw their Green Party posters to the ground.
“This is a dark day,” said Robert Nanninga, a delegate from Encinitas, Calif. “We’ve just nominated a white lawyer with a car salesman’s smile. It might as well be a Republican. This is going to be remembered for years to come.”
Progressives who might have voted for Nader, but now can’t because he won’t be on the ballot in their state, will be unlikely to vote for a nonentity like Cobb. Green Party registration nationwide is way less than 1% of the electorate. You probably thought it was more than that, right? It’s not. Even in California, barely 1% of voters are Green.
Thus, Cobb needs to draw votes from non-Greens if he wants any appreciable vote – and given the rupture he’s caused within the Green Party, there’s no way even the Green vote is his – so, really, there’s no way he can poll anywhere close to what Nader did in 2000. A dismal Green Party result of 1-2% in 2004 will have serious consequences. The Green Party would then drop from national attention. More ominously, if Cobb only polls 1-2%, the Green Party will lose ballot access in many states. (And saying he could reach 2% is probably overly optimistic…)
The Cobb forces won a battle but will lose the war – as Democrats rejoice.
As sf-frontlines so indelicately puts it:
Green Party convention to the real world: Drop dead!
Cobb is a paunchy, balding, middle-aged white lawyer with absolutely no claimed connection to social or protest movements. He says he discovered the evils of the two-party system in 1996, which doesn’t prevent him from back handedly supporting Kerry today.
Over the past few months Cobb ran a stealth campaign in which he held virtually no public meetings or rallies — not that he could draw any sort of crowd had he tried.
A playpen parody of the rules the Democrats and Republicans use for nominating delegates, including allocating representation to states with absolutely NO functioning green party units –facilitated the coup by the anti-Nader faction.
This is not a party that will mend quickly. The Green Party – and this generally stuns outsiders who thought the opposite – has always been riven by endless infighting and internal squabbles. This fight differs from the rest only in that it was unusually nasty and much more public.
Paradoxically, the Green Party belief in consensus and decentralization, ideas implemented for the best of motives, leads to these endless fights, because there’s never really closure; conflicts just keep getting recycled and rehashed endlessly. Plus, in a consensus system, the minority can always block the majority from acting – a result which is directly counter to the original intent. And in this case, a minority grabbed the controls while others snoozed.
“The Tyranny of Structurelessness” is the seminal piece on this. Written in 1970 by Jo Freeman, she describes how the women’s movement, which until then had been meeting in living rooms and operating on a loose consensus basis, found that consensus was no longer useful, and was in fact counter-productive, once they decided to organize for political change – a lesson the Green Party has yet to learn.
So now Greens have David Cobb, who will not campaign in states which he deems to be close between Kerry and Bush – a huge gift for Kerry – and a decidedly odd strategy for someone who says his goal is to build the Green Party. Instead, this will hasten its coming irrelevance and decline. I mean, why would you vote for a candidate who doesn’t even believe in his own candidacy? Rather, you will vote for Kerry – which appears to be the entire point of the Cobb candidacy anyway.
The Democrats couldn’t have blown up the Green Party better if they’d planned it themselves.