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Greens Blow It in Minnesota

Bush Camp Cheers as the Greens Fumble in Minnesota,
Endorsing Plastic Medicine Man in Run Against Wellstone
by Michael I. Niman, ArtVoice 8/29/02
"All eyes are again focused on Minnesota, this time as Democratic Senator Paul Wellstone, universally acknowledged as the Senate's most progressive and liberal member, enters into a to-close-to-call electoral battle against Republican Norm Coleman."
The last two years have provided ample political theater in US national politics. First there was Al Gore's 2000 electoral triumph over George Bush (Gore's 500,000 vote national plurality is uncontested), which was immediately followed by Bush's raucous ascendancy to the White House. In other countries, especially those with histories and understandings of coups, this was seen as a coup. In the US, it was seen as, "whatever," with most folks longing for the return of regular TV programming in the weeks following the Florida fiasco.

Then there was Vermont Senator Jeffords' defection from the Republican party (he is now an independent, like Vermont's lone congressperson), a move that gave the Democrats a 50 to 49 plurality in the Senate. There was the second Bush recession and the concurrent collapse of the stock market, which saw middle class workers lose much of their retirement savings while smart money (rich folks with insider information) made for safe havens in real estate and foreign markets. There was 9-11 and the subsequent Afghanistan war, which saw the earth's richest most powerful nation triumph over one of the absolute poorest, at the same time boosting a bumbling Bush's popularity rating to stratospheric levels, giving New York City a billionaire Republican mayor, and shredding the Bill of Rights. Then there were the side shows. Like the election of former freak wrestler, Jesse Ventura, as Minnesota governor.

The Nation Watches Minnesota

All eyes are again focused on Minnesota, this time as Democratic Senator Paul Wellstone, universally acknowledged as the Senate's most progressive and liberal member, enters into a to-close-to-call electoral battle against Republican Norm Coleman. Coleman was hand picked by the Bush family to make the run against Wellstone. Dick Cheney and George W. Bush both lobbied Minnesota Republicans, pressuring potential Republican primary rivals to step out of the way, giving Coleman the party endorsement without a primary. Since then, George W. has made at least three campaign swings through Minnesota on behalf of Coleman, making it clear that defeating Wellstone is the party's top priority in this year's elections.

The Republicans and their corporate allies have good reason to want to see Wellstone gone. Put simply, Wellstone is one of the few Democrats in Washington who is not an invertebrate. He's championing the fight for universal health care, pointing out that we are the only industrialized nation that lacks what the Republicans pejoratively call, "socialized medicine." He's fighting to raise the minimum wage, which in recent decades has been outstripped by inflation. He's opposed corporate welfare, tax cuts for the richest Americans, and school vouchers that divert funds away from ailing inner-city public schools. He's a defender of social security and the environment, an advocate of meaningful election finance reform, and an unabashed foe of corporate power and the pork barrel Star Wars "Strategic Defense" initiative. He supports organized labor as well as human and civil rights. In other words, he's an old time traditional Democrat who still touts what were once that party's bread and butter issues. Today, in the era of Bill Clinton, Al Gore and the Republicratic Democratic Leadership Council, he's what passes as a radical.

The problem for Republicans is that suddenly, in this year's elections, many congressional candidates are echoing Paul Wellstone. According to Ruth Conniff, political editor of The Progressive, the reason is simple. They're responding to issues polls. James Carville and other Democratic consultants argue that Democrats will only have an electoral advantage if they clearly distinguish themselves from Republicans. This strategy, which flies in the face of the Clinton strategy of out-Republicaning the Republicans, threatens to revive the two party system. A Wellstone defeat, the Republican logic goes, can nip this trend in the bud.

Jesse Ventura & The Greens

But don't expect this race to be a simple Wellstone verses Coleman referendum on the Bush Whitehouse. This is, after all, Minnesota, where voters range from unpredictable and open minded, to downright wacky and eccentric. It's still, for better or worse, Jesse Ventura's state. And the third party to watch this year is the Green Party.

The Greens aren't happy with Wellstone, who they argue, has taken progressive support for granted. While he's often touted as liberal-left, in actuality, he's no more liberal or radical than Viet Nam era president, Lyndon Johnson (LBJ), author of America's "Great Society." Wellstone is simply a moderate, swimming in a sea of reactionaries, sellouts and corporate whores. Hell, by today's standards in Washington, Richard Nixon, who supported LBJ's anti-poverty programs as well as affirmative action, was a flaming liberal, for to the left of most of today's Democrats.

The Greens point out that Wellstone voted to grant Bush the power to carry out unspecified military actions, against anyone, in the wake of the 9-11 attacks. He also supported military intervention in Yugoslavia and Iraq as well as the oxymoronically named, "Patriot Act," which stripped away our civil rights while laying the groundwork for a surveillance state. Nationally, and in Minnesota, the Green party views their opposition to the War on Terrorism, as well as their activism on global trade matters, to be their two defining issues. Feelings on these issues among Minnesota Greens ran so strong, that at their statewide nominating convention, 88% of the delegates voted to field a candidate against Wellstone.

The stage is set for a repeat of the Gore/Bush/Nader election, where angry Democrats blamed Nader for Gore's loss. The Greens countered that potential Gore voters had already jumped off of the Green ship in the close election, and that the remaining hardcore Nader voters wouldn't have considered voting for Gore. Rather than Nader spoiling the election for Gore, they argue, Gore spoiled the Green Party's chances of getting the 5% of the vote needed for matching federal election funds. This time around, Democrats are sounding the alarm that the Minnesota Green Party may be running a spoiler in this pivotal race, with Greens countering that Minnesotans need an anti-war candidate on the ballot.

Greens Endorse Wacko (again!)

The problem for the Greens, however, is that their nominee for the senate race, Ed McGaa, is not that candidate. McGaa, in fact, has publicly repudiated the Green Party platform statement in opposition to the War on Terrorism. On his own website, he boasts of his service as a Marine fighter pilot. McGaa was not simply a draftee or an enlistee in search of an education or flight experience. He was gung ho. After fighting in Korea, he stayed on to fight in Viet Nam, where he claims to have flown 110 combat missions, earning eight Air Medals and two Crosses of Gallantry." He continues to support both the military and the strategy of "constructive" military intervention - including military action in the wake of 9-11. For most Americans this is a status quo position. For Greens, however, it's an anathema.

McGaa got the endorsement since the Greens were so consumed with the question as to whether or not to field a candidate, then finally so adamant about fielding one, that they didn't pay much attention to exactly who that candidate may be. Basically, it was a long day. McGaa's a well-known Native American. The Greens wanted a diverse slate.

Here, it turns out, is their second major mistake. To the Greens, as well as an assorted smattering of New Agers and hippies, McGaa is a Native American spiritual leader. To Native American political activists, however, he's a "Plastic Medicine Man." A charlatan who makes his money peddling an ersatz version of Native spirituality to spiritually starved white consumers.

Peddling Lies to Fools

McGaa is a self-proclaimed "Oglala Sioux [Lakota] ceremonial leader." He earns his living by traveling the New Age lecture circuit, charging people $600 to attend his five-day workshops on "Native American philosophy and spirituality." At the end of the workshop, participants receive a sort of trophy for their participation; McGaa anoints them with supposed Lakota names before packing them back off to their condos and cubicles. Supporters claim McGaa is teaching "native wisdom" to "thousands," thus fulfilling Indian prophesies. Many Native Americans, however, see McGaa in a different light.

McGaa typifies what Native American author and professor of American Indian Studies and Communication Ward Churchill calls a "plastic medicine man." Churchill writes, "Ed McGaa knows full well he is peddling a lie, that it takes a lifetime of training to become a genuine Lakota spiritual leader (which he is not), that the ceremonies he describes are at best meaningless when divorced from their proper conceptual context, and that the integrity of Lakota cultural existence is to a large extent contingent upon the people's retention of control over their spiritual knowledge." Churchill adds, "He [McGaa] has transgressed against Lakota rights and survival in every bit as serious a fashion as those hang-around-the-forts who once professed to legitimate the U.S. expropriation of the Black Hills." McGaa's only redeeming feature, according to Churchill, is that "most of the information he presents is too sloppy and inaccurate to be as damaging as might otherwise be the case."

Like the "hang-around-the-forts" before him, McGaa praises the early European settlers who participated in the conquest of America, writing, "The Christians did not wipe us out entirely. That is a fact that cannot be overlooked. Some spiritual force must have kept them from doing that." Hence, in McGaa's Eurocentric historical interpretation, Native Americans survived extermination not because of the strength of their culture and spiritual beliefs, but because of the benevolence of white folk.

Cultural Genocide

Over the years McGaa has grown to become the personification of the plastic medicine man. He has even gone as far as to create his own "tribe" for New Age "Indians," which he dubbed, "The Rainbow Tribe" (not to be confused with The Rainbow Family, an international anarcho-utopian movement which predates McGaa's "tribe" by 15 years). With the creation of this ersatz "tribe," McGaa's customers can now not only learn about Indian culture, in their minds they can shed their white skin and actually become Native. The phenomenon of white people claiming to be true Indians is frighteningly analogous to a belief held by many Holocaust-era Nazis and contemporary neo-Nazis who, based on an obscure nineteenth-century doctrine called British Israelism, claimed that Anglo-Saxons were the true Jews spoken of in the Bible, and that modern-day Jews were the children of Satan. New Age Indian impersonators, like Holocaust-revisionist historians, are completing the genocide by identifying as native hence, cleansing their forefather's sins from history while displacing authentic native voices. Hence, Ward Churchill has gone as far as to refer to one of McGaa's books as a "culturally genocidal travesty."

McGaa's New Age white "Indians" also often deny the reality that they are still living privileged lives, while real contemporary Indians are still oppressed. By becoming "Indian," by identifying with the oppressed instead of the oppressor, McGaa's minions successfully disassociate themselves from their own cognitive dissonance. Hence, there is a large market for McGaa's workshops as well as his silly "tribe." And the Minnesota Greens are clearly part of this market.

With the whole nation watching the Minnesota senatorial race, the Greens have clearly fumbled the ball. They took an opportunity to make a strong anti-war stand, and a strong stand against political compromise, and instead simply made fools of themselves.

Dr. Michael I. Niman is an elected representative to the New York Green Party State Committee. Portions of this article have been abstracted from his 1997 book, "People of the Rainbow, A Nomadic Utopia" (Univ. of Tennessee Press).
Your a wacko 30.Aug.2002 16:51

squirell

You democrats are all alike. If you ran a good campaign, you would have no problem being elected. Instead you are owned by the corporations just like the republicans. The only difference is that you don't tell people what you are going to do, you do it secretly instead.

The greens are cool and you are not :)

squirrell--Perhaps you should re-read 30.Aug.2002 20:25

aaarrrrggghhh

The author is a member of the Green Party. He was saying that the person they put up is a "faux" Indian; someone who talks the talk for money. Just because a candidate is "Green", doesn't make him worthy of election.

Besides, it's not like he was "touch-feely" with the Democrat.

Yep, Minnesota Greens fucked up! 30.Aug.2002 22:07

Pacific Green Party member

Whats worse, is that they have a
terrific candidate for Gov. Instead
of throwing everything behind Ken
Pentel they are wasting MASSIVE amounts
of energy defending thie PRO-WAR candidate!

I think I am going to re-register indy.
The Greens don't have there shit together.

Green Party = Strong Local Control 31.Aug.2002 13:05

jbk

I understand some Greens are unhappy with the choice the Minnesota Green Party has made in running Ed McGaa against Paul Wellstone. I have just read a very similar article in October's Utne. I am a currently an active member of the Pacific Green Party and a former resident of Minnesota who's first political activity was to caucus the Democrats to elect Wellstone for his first term. It's my understanding that the Pacific Green Party and Green Party of the United States support strong local control of the party. Would the Pacific Green Party in Oregon
want the national Green party to tell us who we can and can not run for office in our own state? Would the local Metro Chapter of the Pacific Green Party want the National or State party to tell us who we could or couldn't run for a local race? Wasn't it all supposed to be about local people deciding what's best locally on a chapter by chapter and state by state basis?

While I don't think running McGaa is a good idea, I support the Minnesota Green Party's right to make their own mistakes. I've actually heard a rumor that the Pacific Green Party made a mistake once and ran a candidate they later regretted. I think that's the risk a new young and growing pollitical party takes - they might screw up once in while.

If the supporters of the Green Party on the national level want the Green Party of the US (or some other Green collective) to control who can and can't run for office in each state then they can try to pass that as a rule (good luck) - Until then let the local people in Minnesota run who ever they want for whatever office they want. It's their
vote not yours - why not worry about the lack of any Pacific Green Party candidates for national office this November rather than the bad choice local Greens made in some state 1700 miles from Oregon.

Just my 2 cents...

jbk

wellstone vs. mcgaa 31.Aug.2002 13:58

drone

I'm inclined to agree with jbk, at least mostly. Telling the Minnesota Greens they "can't" nominate McGaa (even if he is a jerk) is like telling everybody left of center that they're obliged to vote for Al Gore. It's condescending.

I used to like Wellstone but voting for the so-called Patriot Act, well, that's really hard to forgive. But if I lived in Minnesota I might want to vote for a candidate who's genuinely to the left of Wellstone, and McGaa obviously isn't.

And besides 31.Aug.2002 15:28

Jack Straw

And besides voting for the "PATRIOT" Act, Wellstone the "liberal" voted for the Bush declaration of war, for the Pentagon budget, for the Pledge of Allegiance, and for supporting Israel's Sharon government policies of genocide. In fact, he pressured the Minneapolis Tribune in public when it ran some articles critical of Israeli policies. Sounds like the Green is a loser too. Oh well, one day people will realized that ballot boxes are shaped like coffins for a reason, they serve a similar purpose, burying people's aspirations.

Missing the point 31.Aug.2002 18:52

B. Plains

jbk wrote:

"I support the Minnesota Green Party's right to make their own mistakes. I've actually heard a rumor that the Pacific Green Party made a mistake once and ran a candidate they later regretted."

What the hell are you talking about? Who is saying anything about there rights? They fuck up therefore NO SUPPORT. Nobody
is saying they aren't allowed to. But they are being called out for it. Should we also say the Democrats "have the right to make mistakes"?

Jack Straw wrote:

"And besides voting for the "PATRIOT" Act, Wellstone the "liberal" voted for the Bush declaration of war, for the Pentagon budget, for the Pledge of Allegiance, and for supporting Israel's Sharon government policies of genocide. In fact, he pressured the Minneapolis Tribune in public when it ran some articles critical of Israeli policies. Sounds like the Green is a loser too. Oh well, one day people will realized that ballot boxes are shaped like coffins for a reason, they serve a similar purpose, burying people's aspirations."

Thats right. McGaa SUPPORTS THE WAR ON TERRORISM! Nobody is
saying the Greens shouldn't have run a candidate, they simply should have run a PROGRESSIVE ONE! Instead they let
there white guilt get in the way.

Here is the thing. The Greens DON'T have a right to my support/membership in/of the party. THEY MUST EARN IT!
Running candidates like McGaa is not going to cut it.
Sure they have the "right" to make mistakes, but they are
making them hard and fast. The PGP as jbk has mentioned
has made a few mistakes.

One of them is they can't seem to get organized enough
to keep a steady flow of funds. They won't take corporate money AWSOME! However, they make fundrasing and volunteer
recruitment as a low priority. They run the party of stalwarts. Dumb. This, I might point out, seems to be a nation wide epidemic. I have worked with Greens in many states (Minnesota included) and it is the same everywhere.

My laundry list for the PGP:

1)WHERE THE FUCK IS THE COLOR! HEY WHITE BOYS, START
ADDRESSING ISSUES OF COLOR! THIS IS POLITICS THIS
SHOULD BE OBVIOUS!

2)WHERE IS THE WAR CHEST?!(Peace Chest if you prefer)
If you not going to accept corp contributions (one of the great things the GP has done!) then start a PAC and collect
small contributions from individuals for campaigns. Yes, then candidates would be accepting PAC money, but lets not be dogmatic, its still not corporate influence. We work in the rules set by the system.

3)Where in the hell are the candidates? Isn't the PGP a political party? Did we file for even ONE state house or senate seat this year in Portland?

4)Why don't we have people handing out fliers at every
place where two or more people are standing around talking.
The PGP gets lists of hundreds of people every month (or could if they wished) What are we doing with those lists?

5)Public Power is great. Its good the PGP is involved, HOWEVER this should only take up a small portion of the partys efforts. There are many, many neo-liberals that will support this. What are we doing to distinguish oursleves from them?

Despite these criticisms, things do seem to be getting
better in Portland (however VERY slow). I for one will stay
registered Green...for now. At some you have to decide
changing the Dems might be easier.