Home | Back Issues

Thursday, March 21, 1996

Green Spring

They actually approached Ralph Nader and said, "If you don't like us, Dole is worse." Democratic Party apparatchiki, dispatched to apprise Nader of the harm his primary campaigns in California and other states could cause Clinton, are no doubt hopeful that the old fear tactics will still be effective.

Indeed, for more than three decades we've assiduously avoided the ominous specter of the alternative, and have voted for the un-Bush, the un-Reagan, and assorted forebears. This year we are able to see how minute those differences between bad and worse--as Nader couched his reply-- actually are. Dole and Clinton have achieved perfect morphing; we are offered two candidates who have ceased to believe in anything which doesn't translate as rank expediency.

Progressives could not have been graced with a more appropriate time to finally have the chance to "waste" our votes by opting for Nader and the Green Party in the California primary. He has helped lead the opposition to state ballot measures which would establish no-fault auto insurance, limit lawyers' fees in contingency cases, and require losers to pay in unsuccessful shareholder lawsuits. For the November ballot, he is behind an initiative to regulate California HMOs.

An L.A. Times poll his week estimates that Nader takes 9 percentage points away from the combined totals of Clinton, Dole and Perot. Add to that the combined anti-NAFTA votes for Perot and Buchanan--whose trade-agreement positions Nader shares--and the Green Party is well-situated for the November election. Currently considering running on the Green ticket in five or six other states, Nader's vow to spend only $5,000 nationwide--out of his own pocket--exemplifies his rigorous stand on campaign finance overhaul. His ability to garner exposure through news interviews and his tenacity on health and consumer issues and workers' employment/income insecurity should certainly be a harbinger of tactical implementation for alternative electoral organizations.


California will be an instructive test case. No doubt Dole narrows the gap against Clinton here in November. Nader whittles at Clinton's totals, and it is assumed that Perot, if he enters, takes support away from Dole. Let's all permanently put aside the pipe dream that Clinton will redefine himself in response to outside challengers. (All together now: This guy ain't moving left.) His handlers will continue triangulating him around the middle-ground, trading spitball perception-jabs with Dole's spin-gunsels. Both camps will attempt to lump Nader and Perot together, and then link them with the "socialist" Buchanan, coding them as a triad aberrant in hopes of erasing the residue of anger working people voiced during the primaries.

It's a monumental wager by the morph councils, one they realize they cannot accurately measure. There are too many elements of both left and right arrayed against them in heretofore-unseen combinations, and too many issues which can no longer be marginalized or shunted aside.

An interesting scenario was posited prior to the 1992 election, involving a race between four candidates. Given a predictable voter turnout of only 40 percent, what may have seemed a farfetched challenge from a progressive candidate suddenly seemed very plausible. The prospect of a future where plurality victories could be achieved with a small percentage of the total vote has fueled the impetus toward the formation of alternative parties.

Five parties? Six parties, even? Such an occurrence is likely at some point, as a surplus of prominent names and organizations abound and wait expectantly in the wings. Any significant campaign finance reform will bring them onto the stump.


It will be telling, and not a little comical, to watch Dole choose his running mate. His people will first proceed with a consummate evisceration of Buchanan's standing in the party. Sufficiently mollifying the Christian right could be accomplished by the choice of either of the midwestern governors John Engler or George Voinovich, plus give the Republicans a foothold in those crucial industrial states. As to the wavering ace-in-the-hole, Colin Powell, he can only be brought aboard with Buchanan gone. There's no chance that Powell, who on social issues is Clinton in blackface, will ever sit in a convention hall as Buchanan launches one of his nativist rants.

The Powell question best illustrates both parties' treacly quest to perfect and occupy the ultimate center-right node. In entropic situations like that, no light enters or is emitted, and it's time we acted on that recognition. There should be no hesitation now about stepping outside the Democratic party and voting our real interests. Cautious incrementalism failed, but the vision sharpens. Right now, outside my window, the sun is shining and the hills are turning into season.

Copyright John Hutchison 1996
Home | Current Issue | Back Issues | sfflier@well.com