Liberals and Greens

Sam Smith

ALTHOUGH LIBERALISM HAS been on the skids for more than two decades, it has become the new fashion in that desiccated sect to blame Greens for the problem. Liberals don’t worry about the dropping memberships and dramatic aging of groups like Common Cause and Americans for Democratic Action or the irrelevance of archaic liberal journals like the Nation (kept alive in part by charter cruises aimed at those who remember meeting Eleanor Roosevelt). Nor do they concern themselves with the declining viewership of public broadcasting or the chronic ineffectualness of the congressional black and progressive caucuses.

Who needs those concerns when there is yet another target – the Greens – to join all those other Americans that liberal leaders can’t stand (and then wonder why they won’t vote for them) such as gun-owners, church-goers, southerners, people who still believe in local government and so forth.

For example, Harold Meyerson in the American Prospect leads with this: “Ask any liberal to identify the force in American politics most intent on destroying progressive prospects and causes and you’re sure to hear that it’s the Bush administration or the Republican right or some such reactionary power. Let me gently suggest, however, that a very different force has wormed its way onto this list, and may indeed be right at the top: the Green Party. There’s something so very pure about the Greens’ destructiveness.”

This fits in well with the liberal myth that Gore lost the 2001 election because of Ralph Nader. In fact, Gore lost the election because he was a poor candidate, ran a bad campaign, and failed to separate himself morally from Clinton. Further, not only the Democratic Party, but the liberals within it, made it absolutely clear over eight years that they had no interest in, nor would respond to, the sort of politics espoused by Greens. That liberals should complain now is an example of the self-defeating arrogance that has done them so much damage. If you want people to vote with you, be nice to them. Just because you’re god’s gift to Manhattan or Georgetown doesn’t give you an exemption from this basic political rule.

Meyerson instead takes the stance that “la gauche c’est nous” – “When the Greens run a candidate against a Democrat, however, neither their campaign nor the effect of their campaign advances their agenda one whit. Their goal is simply to defeat Democrats, even the most liberal Democrats. Especially the most liberal Democrats.”

Meyerson, who gives no credit to the idea that Greens might have a few policy differences with his party, has one valid complaint: the fact that the Greens are running a candidate against Paul Wellstone. But liberal Democrats who gave blind allegiance to the most corrupt president in history who then set about dismantling a half century of liberal progress, are hardly in a position to lecture on wise tactics.

Besides, as a fully recognized party, the Greens have a legal, constitutional and moral right to run their own candidates and shouldn’t have to ask the decadent liberal aristocracy for permission. And sooner or later – after Democrats like Meyerson get over their childish tantrums – liberals will realize that one way out of their problem is to support proportional representation and instant runoff voting, rather than excoriating others for participating in American democracy. As it stands, liberals rest on the political landscape, as Disraeli once said the opposition bench, like a range of exhausted volcanoes.

Your editor was an early advocate of the Green strategy of finding tight races between Republicans and Democrats and then breaking up the party. While I think Minnesota was a poor choice, I have no apologies to make. After all, I didn’t leave the Democratic Party voluntarily. It was made quite clear that people such as myself weren’t wanted. And besides, I thought if I remained, I might be liable under the RICO statutes.

Meyerson is upset because the Greens actually practice what they believe in: democracy, nonviolence, decentralization, ecological sanity. They don’t want to go along with the moral charade of the Democratic Party. Myerson writes, “Beware this party. At the heart of Green politics is a novel – and ruthless – ethic: The means justify the end.” You’re confusing your parties, Harold. That’s the Democrats. The Greens believe the means are part of the end.

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