Gutless Greens nominate unknown, become irrelevant
U.S. Greens to serve up Cobb, not Nader, for presidency
John O'Conner Yomiuri Shimbun New York Bureau
The U.S. Green Party chose David Cobb, a lawyer and longtime party activist from Texas, as its presidential candidate here Saturday, opting not to endorse the consumer advocate and former Green candidate Ralph Nader, as many had expected it would.
Cobb's nomination by the Green Party, a left-leaning grassroots organization with several hundred thousand members and more than 200 elected officials across the United States, will most likely be interpreted by party members and others as an implicit endorsement of the Democratic candidate for the U.S. presidency, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.
"If I'm a Democratic strategist, I'm partying tonight," said Kevin McKeon, 47, a Green Party delegate to the presidential convention here and an elected official in Santa Monica, Calif., who favored endorsing Nader. "My fear now is that we've condemned our party to irrelevance," he said, referring to Cobb's anonymity with national voters. Cobb, 41, does not pose a serious threat to Kerry's election hopes, as Nader's candidacy does, and he has indicated that he will not campaign heavily in several key battleground states, such as Florida and Pennsylvania, where the contest between U.S. President George W. Bush and Kerry promises to be close.
Democratic loyalists are perhaps breathing a little easier tonight, as the rejection of Nader will possibly reduce his impact on this year's presidential election. Many Democrats are still bitter over Nader's Green Party candidacy in 2000, which they contend cost Al Gore the election. Nader received only 2.7 million votes nationwide, compared to Gore's 50,999,897. But some argue that in certain critical states, Nader's presence on the ballot served as the margin of difference for Bush. In Florida, for instance, Nader received 97,488 votes, while Gore and Bush drew almost even with about 2.9 million votes apiece. Bush won the state by just 537 votes.
Democratic Party officials have been pressuring Nader to withdraw from the race, which he has so far steadfastly refused to do. Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry MacAuliffe said recently he has repeatedly asked Nader to drop out. Early this week, Nader reportedly stormed out of a heated meeting on Capitol Hill where about a dozen members of the Congressional Black Caucus tried to persuade him to withdraw his candidacy. Nader later complained to a reporter from National Public Radio that some of the congressmen had "used very abusive language."
In addition, a lawsuit was filed in Arizona last week challenging the validity of petitions submitted by the Nader campaign to get him on the state's ballot. The lawsuit, which has the support of the Arizona Democratic Party, alleges that many of the signatures on Nader's petitions were invalid, either because they came from people who are not registered to vote or were collected by people who were not authorized to do so by the state. A decision from the Superior Court in Phoenix is due at the end of the month.
Ironically, as politicians, Nader and Cobb are more alike than different. Both accuse Democrats and Republicans of being beholden to big business and special interests, and both believe that voters deserve a third option for president.
But the decision to nominate Cobb came only after several days of contentious debate and soul-searching among delegates, and it will almost certainly create upheaval within the Green Party. Many Greens had hoped to endorse Nader, whom they credit with bringing the party to national prominence through his years of tireless advocacy, particularly his high-profile 2000 run.
"Nader is the only candidate who can make the Green Party relevant on the national level," said Young Han, 21, an economics student and delegate from Clinton, N.Y. "And he's the only effective candidate who can challenge the two-party system."
But others felt betrayed by Nader's refusal to accept the Green Party's nomination this year, which was widely interpreted as a move by Nader to free himself from a narrow Green Party platform. "We are very grateful for what Ralph Nader has done for the Green Party," said Norris Dryer, 61, a delegate from Knoxville, Tenn., and an ardent Cobb supporter. "But we think it's time to move along, time to look toward the future. I think the party will heal."
In his acceptance speech, Cobb thanked Nader for his contribution to the party, while emphasizing that the Green's work would go on without him. "Ralph Nader has had more influence on my life than anyone not related to me," he said, adding, "We have demonstrated that it is possible to build a political party without corporate money, and without selling out our principles and values."
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