Readers respond to Michelle Goldberg's "Why the Greens Are Also Celebrating Election '02" and Joan Walsh's "Donkey in Distress."

By Salon Staff

Published November 20, 2002 7:17PM (EST)

[Read "Why the Greens Are Also Celebrating Election '02."]

It is interesting that Ms. Goldberg mentions my victory in North Carolina and in the same article Mr. Sifry implies that Chapel Hill is the only area where the Green Party has taken root in the state. While Chapel Hill is a hotbed of liberalism, a majority of the members of the North Carolina Green Party are from places that are definitely not.

I live in Charlotte and was recently elected to the Soil and Water Conservation Board here. Charlotte is a fairly conservative town. We have a three-term Republican mayor and a newly elected majority Republican county commission. I admit that my election will not rock the political boat but it shows what good ol' grassroots politicking will do. I beat a 16-year incumbent by doing a lot of walking in our neighborhoods and speaking at quite a few candidate forums.

The Green Party appeals to people all over our state, not just in the liberal enclave of Chapel Hill.

-- Gray Newman

I think for Democrats, if you can't beat the Greens (or don't want them to beat you), then join them. If a majority of elected Dems (from the liberal wing) converted to the Green Party (à la Jim Jeffords), they could gain control of the party and make the Democratic Party as politically irrelevant as the Green Party is now. In doing so, however, they'd have a chance to start fresh in the minds of many disgruntled voters.

-- John Cottone

I am writing in response to your article on the Green Party's role as Democrat-buster in our recent election ... Having been involved with the Greens on various occasions, I agree with nearly everything Michelle Goldberg says -- good and bad -- about them. She's quite right that they do tend to suffer from a lack of conversational cross-pollenization and thus operate under various delusions regarding how popular their positions are in general. But it's a mistake to think that the Greens don't really want to win or that they aren't interested in supporting worthwhile candidates of other parties in related "noble" efforts.

One main point that Goldberg neglected to mention was that the Greens are forced to act in the interest of building their own party rather than supporting a more liberal base in the Democratic Party by the outlawing of fusion. If the Greens were allowed to support other parties' candidates, then the Dems and Greens could work together toward various mutual ends. As it is, that isn't possible, and the Greens must remain electorally insulated, walled off from milquetoast Democrats by both principle and law. The Democrats are greatly responsible for that and, once again, have only themselves to blame. The lengths to which Democrats are going to blame everyone but themselves for their recent failings speaks volumes more about their weakness than Ralph Nader ever could.

-- John Hilla

And how do you feel about snowmobiles in Yellowstone? Drilling for oil in our last real wilderness? Your votes caused this.

-- Donna Gough

Michelle Goldberg writes, "Democrats can't simply jettison their relationships with corporations." Actually, to a certain extent, they can. As historian Kevin Phillips writes in "Wealth and Democracy," while establishment money has always been a powerful factor in political campaigns, populist and progressive periods in American history have begun with the election of leaders backed by three groups: emergent technology industries, the sympathetic rich (the "limousine liberal" is by no means a new breed), and lots and lots of regular folks sending in small donations to support a candidate who they really believe is on their side. This combination can work against entrenched interests with money to burn if the public has enough confidence in the candidate and the message.

All we need now are a Democratic candidate and a Democratic message we can have some confidence in. If the best the party can come up with in '04 is John Edwards spouting warmed-over Clintonist free-trade and deregulation dogma, James Carville will end up wearing another trash basket on his head.

-- Keith Ammann

There is something almost perverse in the way Michelle Goldberg tells the Greens -- those unruly, messianic, lunatic Greens -- to shut up, stay in line, and yield their votes to the pragmatic Dems, who can do something useful with them. Maybe if we behave, the electorate won't realize that we're not Republicans?

From where I sit, the Greens are doing the most sensible thing possible. They are working toward a future in which their inclusion in a winning coalition gives them a voice and a way to carry their issues forward.

The Dems, meanwhile, are gearing up for another round of mimic-the-Republican. (Was that Nancy Pelosi pledging her support of the Bush war juggernaut today?) Far from giving the Greens a voice, they try to distance themselves by bashing potential Green candidates like Cynthia McKinney (whose transgression it was to have the temerity to ask, "What did Bush know and when did he know it?" months before it was safe for Newsweek to jump on the bandwagon and ask exactly the same question).

But why would "swing" voters elect ersatz Republicans when they can have the real thing? And why read Michelle Goldberg when you can go right to the Media Research Center?

-- Ted Diamond

Michelle Goldberg correctly argues that Democrats and Greens should promote alternative voting methods to end the "spoiler problem." She errs, however, in recommending instant runoff voting. This method allows voters to rank the candidates and uses the rankings submitted to hold a runoff election if no candidate has a majority, rather than holding a second election.

Sadly, instant runoff is still plagued by the spoiler problem. If the Green candidate has no chance against the Republican, but the Democrat does, dividing liberal voters between two candidates could send the doomed Green into the second round rather than the conquering Democrat. Something akin to this happened in France's recent presidential election.

-- Alex Small

[Read "Donkey in Distress."]

Joan Walsh's analysis of the election and of the Democratic Party's identity crisis is the best I've read. It is full of perceptive, wise commentary. Unfortunately, from my point of view, nothing in it justifies Nancy Pelosi's apparent capitulation to Bush's view on the right of the U.S. to take unilateral action against Iraq. If such a view is required in order to be a party leader in the U.S., then there is no place in that party for me. Yes, Ms. Walsh makes such perfect sense. But having lived outside of the U.S. for the past 25 years, I have great difficulty understanding and accepting the lack of courage of so many Democrats on issues of war. Maybe it really is time for people like me to get out of the Democratic Party and attempt to make the Green Party more relevant and vigorous. That's going to be the inevitable course of many Democrats and independents if things continue in the present direction.

-- John De Hoog

The Democrats are like a 8-4 college football team that lost all their games by less than 3 points but still sit at home New Year's day. If they won even half those games they'd be in the running, but the fact is they still lost.

Thanks for the very good article and the best postgame analysis I've seen. (Please forgive my clichéd sports analogy.)

I agree with all of it strategically, but the Democrats are also getting killed tactically. There's no reason for it. Bush campaigned very hard in October and the Dems had no answer. Why? They didn't see that coming? They got Rove's strategy on CD, for chrissakes.

-- Doug Walker

Start with the assumption that voters are by and large ill-informed and largely unable to clearly articulate the factual difference between Dems and Repubs. Then, in simplistic terms, when voters are frightened they vote for the tough father, i.e., Republican. When voters feel secure they extend care through the nurturing mother, i.e., the Democrats. If this is true, then the midterm elections were poised to go Republican with the war and terror, etc., but what really put it over the edge was the sniper and all the news coverage that drowned out any Democrat message. Adding this to the huge effort that Repubs put out, and voilà, victory.

-- Kevin Holman

Does Joan Walsh have a boss somewhere? If so, please give her a raise. Or something good. Dinner at Zuni. Her article on what the Democratic Party needs to do is right on. If nothing else, it gives a small voice to those of us who have been thinking about the points she makes but are increasingly frustrated because party leaders are all glabbering about irrelevancies.

-- Bill Metzker

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