Post-Election Thoughts on Minor Party and Independent Performance

The preliminary Presidential election results, according to CNN are:

Obama

63,364,884
52%
56,022,312
46%
651,356
1%
486,121
1%
173,632
0%
140,507
0%

The numbers will change somewhat as the final results come in. Nader will probably hit 700,000. McKinney does only slightly better than Green nominee Cobb did in 2004.

I voted for Cynthia McKinney, Green Party candidate. However, I did some, very minor, campaigning for Nader/Gonzalez in the last few weeks. I campaigned for Nader to maximize the progressive vote, I figure the relative strength of the Nader campaign gave it a better chance of picking up wavering voters.

A few of my co-workers talked about their minister’s endorsing McCain from the pulpit. I waited in line for about an hour and a half to vote at Inman Mills Baptist Church. Small town Republicans were motivated to vote, there was no likelihood of the Obama taking SC.

Neither was there much possibility of a progressive breakthrough. My neighbors and co-workers knew Nader was running. Almost everyone thought he was the Green Party candidate. Mentioning McKinney produced confusion, and lecturing at that stage of the game seemed counterproductive.

Of all the minor campaigns, Nader/Gonzalez was the best organized. The McKinney campaign needed one break in this election: Hillary Clinton had to be Democratic nominee. Without being situated as the progressive African-American candidate for President, McKinney’s opportunities to attract attention evaporated. The subsequent disorganization of the campaign did nothing to overcome the already massive hurdles. Maybe Nader hired all the experienced people. Maybe the Greens didn’t have any money to hire anyone. Probably both. Somebody should write a book on the third party campaigns in 2008.

The media’s complete and utter fixation on the Presidential election as a horserace precluded the introduction of alternatives even when the McCain and Obama patently agreed on an issue. The best chance for breaking this lock occurred around the breakout: when Obama and McCain both flew back to Washington to endorse the Bush-Paulson emergency plan and massive public opposition erupted. Well, we got through that and back to talking about Joe the Plumber in the space of about a week. Topics that were never even seriously entertained in the media were the essential sameness of the GOP and Dems on Healthcare – neither plan corrects the basic problem of controlling cost – and the War in Iraq – both major parties support continued U.S. military presence until a stable puppet regime is established.

A national progressive Presidential campaign should simply hire the Nader organization. There aren’t sufficient resources or opportunities to run more than one national independent-progressive campaign. A Nader/McKinney ticket would have made more since than the Green campaign we got. I don’t think this is the end of the Green Party, which has done relatively well in in local elections this time. In Chicago, the Bay Area, Portland, Maine the Greens are the second party vs a Democratic machine. It would be foolish to rebrand that local organization. It might be possible to establish a federative structure at the national level that would preserve the Green Party, but expand the base to include the independent voter’s that nader attracts, independent unions like the United Electrical Workers, state parties like Vermont’s Progressive Party, and progressive organizations like Physicans for a National Health Plan and the Wilderness Society, whatever socialist organizations that would come on board, etc. Most of these organizations either did, or came close to, endorsing Nader in 2000. There’s your ready-made cabinet.

Maybe desirable to expand the party to more mainstream independents like the Independent Party of Minnesota, which at least declined to endorse either McCain or Obama and has a strong left-libertarian element. It was always Nader’s goal to build a reform movement, not an ideological party.  Taking in the results of this election, maybe that’s a better use of energy.

Maybe a looser national structure is needed. Nader’s organization is run by the man like a CEO.  The Greens appear to be poor at articulating the effective parts of the party as a whole.  A federative structure might use the strength of both. Set political reform, national health care, and withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan as the baseline.  Emphasize independence from the two parties, not a whole new party structure.  The Greens continue to participate as a national party, the Progressives, Peace and Freedom Party and others as state or regional parties.  If the Democrats fail to establish national health care and the war in Iraq is dragging on in 2010, then you may lay the groundwork for a federation to endorse a progressive candidate, using the ballot lines available, and getting new lines in other states in a collective basis – but work on healthcare, withdrawal and political reform first.

A federated political party hasn’t really been tried in the U.S. The Labor parties of Europe were traditionally organized this way. The Conference for Progressive Political Action was an attempt in the Twenties, wrecked by labor leaders too close to the Democrats. If you learn that lesson, the thing could work, and maybe later form the basis for a new political party. A federative national platform for progressive politics could represent solutions to national problems, like single-payer healthcare, and provide a context for local campaigns to work.

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Posted on November 5, 2008, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Can you make phone calls to help Malik Rahim become the first Green in Congress? These calls are urgently needed, because they can make the difference in a low-turnout election. No matter where you live, if you have internet access and a phone, you can help. Join Malik’s growing volunteer team today at http://tinyurl.com/5686o2 and we’ll fill in the details.

    Malik Rahim is a hero who can beat William Jefferson on Dec. 6th. He could be the first Green in Congress, but only if we work overtime to spread the word about him. Our phone team has started calling Louisiana Greens to mobilize volunteers for Malik’s campaign. Please join them for this essential work – http://tinyurl.com/5686o2 – and help start the Green revolution!

    “If not now… when? If not us… who?”

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