Green Party Media Committee member Kirstin Marr responds to "An Open Letter to Ralph Nader Voters," by Charles Taylor.

Published April 23, 2003 10:00PM (EDT)

[Read the open letter.]

It is no secret that some Democrats, like Charles Taylor, have strongly negative feelings about Greens. Indeed, some of you may believe that Greens are traitors to the progressive agenda, as we splinter off and focus on building a new political party. While we disagree, we respect diversity in opinion and perspective. This is an opportunity for the Green Party to address the spoiler argument, especially as it relates to the 2000 election. More significantly, we would like to encourage understanding and collaboration among all progressive citizens, regardless of party affiliation.

What happened in the 2000 election?

Who voted Bush into office? It's the big scandal that no one talks about anymore. We contend that Bush was not voted into office. Al Gore won the election. It is unfortunate he made at least two decisions after election night that handed the election to Bush.

1. Gore should have trusted the Florida voters and called for a statewide recount, which he would have won. It was his bad decision to have a "selected counties" recount, which sent the case to the Supreme Court.

2. Gore should have supported the Black Caucus with a second to their motion not to seat the Florida electors. Neither he, nor Joe Lieberman, who were both in the Senate during the debate, made the second.

While estimates range, many journalists have stated that at least 20 percent of Democrats voted for Bush. That adds up to more than 7.7 million Democrats. Exit polls from the 2000 election show that Nader voters came from many political parties, including Greens, Republicans, Independents and Democrats. With the roughly 5 million total votes obtained by Nader, nowhere near the number of Democrats voted for Nader as voted for Bush.

The working theory that nearly all Greens would vote Democrat in the absence of the Green Party is an unproven assumption. Progressives -- whether Democrat, Green, Independent or Republican -- agree on many issues. We do not, by association, believe in the same political leadership. The Green Party is not going dissolve into the Democratic Party; it is time to move beyond this notion and to work toward implementing the progressive agenda.

We acknowledge the sharp differences between some individual Democratic and Republican politicians. The argument that a President Gore would be different from this President Bush is a fair one. Sadly, though, the progressive movement has long since been lost within this Democratic Party, a party that is daily moving further into corporate-controlled Republican territory. This movement to the right by the Democrats has given the Republican Party an opportunity to move to even greater extremes. Further, the marathon race for corporate money among Democrats and Republicans is destroying our democratic system. Remove the Green Party, and there's no progressive-populist, ecological, antiwar political ballast.

A Green Party introduction

The Green Party of the United States is a confederation of state Green Parties. Originally called the Association of State Green Parties, the Green Party was formed after the 1996 elections. There are 10 key values of the Green Party: grassroots democracy, social justice and equal opportunity, ecological wisdom, nonviolence, decentralization, community-based economics and economic justice, feminism and gender equity, respect for diversity, personal and global responsibility, and future focus and sustainability.

Committed to environmentalism, nonviolence, social justice and grassroots organizing, Greens pride themselves on renewing democracy without the support of corporate donors. Whether the issue is universal healthcare, corporate globalization, alternative energy, election reform or decent wages for workers, Greens have the courage and independence necessary to take on the powerful corporate interests. We believe that these values mirror those of many progressive citizens, and we hope to move forward in unison to implement a radically new national agenda.

The progressive movement: Implementing an agenda

The progressive movement is so valuable because it demands that we stand up for our fundamental principles, especially when it's difficult. That is why the charge that progressive citizens are not patriotic is absolute malarkey. We hope that the progressive community unites and builds mutual respect for being so committed in this very difficult political climate. Perhaps upon more careful consideration, we can all begin to think about and rally around a progressive movement, rather than one political party. Do you believe that the impressive social changes many of us fought for would have occurred if we took your advice of joining with the established leadership in order to get some share of civil liberty? Would the sole act of building within the system have worked?

Let's practice the art of suspending our disbelief for a moment and imagine another view of party affiliation. What if a truly progressive Democratic Party and the Green Party were major political players in Washington and throughout the nation? We could work together setting a national agenda: a sustainable economy and lifestyle, a clean environment, an open electoral process, and an integrated world community. Please add on to this list in your mind.

We need to imagine this reality, and we need to work at implementing our visions. The best results in social, political and economic change come because there are people working within established contexts and there are people pushing and pulling from the outside. We are all vital; we are all relevant in our different roles.

If we can admit that we need each other, then we can imagine the possibilities of progressive Democrats and Republicans working from within the major parties while Greens and Independents push and pull from the outside. We can begin to find mutually shared goals and divine strategies with measurable results. We'll need policy and legislative successes, and we 'll need direct action plans. Combining policy with immediate action plans is a powerful strategy to make strides in the short and long term and measure success along the way. How about if we start with a fair and representative electoral process?

Fair elections

If Americans, regardless of political stripe, want fair elections, in which the winner has the support of a majority of voters, third parties and candidates have a fair chance, and spoiling is nearly impossible, then it's time to push for instant run-off voting.

Briefly, instant run-off voting involves voters ranking candidates on a ballot. For example, a registered Green votes for a Green candidate as his or her first choice. The Green candidate does not receive 50 percent of the vote. The registered Green's second choice will then be counted. This process continues until a candidate receives 50 percent of the vote.

The benefit for the Green and Democratic Parties is that Greens can vote for Green candidates and then, if their candidate does not win 50 percent, they have already chosen the next most progressive candidate as their second choice. So, when Greens vote Green, they still help elect progressive candidates. To the extent that the next most progressive candidate (from a Green voter's perspective) is a Democrat, this helps the Democratic Party. Whatever the actual party affiliation of the candidate, this win-win scenario instantly unites the progressive vote.

The benefit for our democratic process is great, because a true majority vote is required for a candidate to hold office. Thus, candidates and political parties would need to really encourage people to vote. The more voters there are, the more people watch the politicians. This one tool would do so much to help bring the power back to the people.

We also will push for a fair playing field for political parties. Voters have a right to information about the names they see on the ballot. In a fair presidential election, all candidates whose names are on enough state ballots to allow them to win (a threshold more legitimate than some private firm's opinion poll percentage) would have a chance to participate in debates and get some media exposure. For the latter reason, Greens have called for free airtime for candidates, a much more effective reform than the loophole-ridden and constitutionally suspect McCain-Feingold Act. In order to push this forward, the Commission on Presidential Debates must be run by a nonpartisan organization, not by any political party. There are other considerations to explore, like public campaign financing and reducing election fraud. Focusing on instant run-off voting is a smart first step, and there is ample room for dialogue and consensus-building along the way.

A paradigm shift

We are asking for all of us, on all sides, to realize that we're up against incredible political odds. We must work together, listening and seeking to understand each other. Let's step outside of the thought that we must belong to the same political party to accomplish our goals. We know it is a big request; it will take some retooling on our end as well. But, it is worth it; our cause is worth it. We really are in sync on so many fundamental values. Let's move forward.

-- Kirstin Marr, National Media Committee
Green Party of the United States

By Kirstin Marr

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