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© 2004 The Beast

Greens Wave the White Flag

The Green Party Narrowly Avoids Relevance in ‘04

By Matt Taibbi


Well, thank god the Green Party came to its senses last week and nominated David Cobb to run for the presidency, ending that whole ugly Ralph Nader episode. I was afraid I might have to make an actual decision before this upcoming election—but now I can safely be a gutless worm and throw my vote away to a gang of ferrety, querulous, self-flagellating intellectuals who learned politics from the '61 Mets.

What a relief! Now, when I have to explain my electoral choices at Upper West Side cocktail parties in 2005, I can have it bothways! I did—and I didn't! It's perfect!

For those of you who didn't follow this story, Cobb snatched the Green Party nomination away from Nader last week largely through his embrace of the so-called "safe states" strategy, known affectionately in political circles as the "Crack Suicide Squad" approach to campaigning. In this scenario, Mssr. Cobb agrees in advance to refrain from campaigning in any state where the Greens might have a chance to affect the outcome of the Bush-Kerry race. Bravely, however, he condescends to campaign balls-out in any state where a vote for the Greens doesn't matter. This is the kind of political warfare that would have made the Mensheviks proud: whistle-stop tours full of rowdy Greens singing "Kum Ba Yah" and "Give Peace a Chance" in front of crowds of two dozen in Cambridge and Portland and Seattle.

There is simply no way to explain the Green Party's decision to nominate Cobb except as a formal admission/cementing of its national role as a quixotic affectation for the spineless intellectuals of the Starbucks-and-SUV set. This is the kind of politics you get when you raise a generation of people who don't understand the difference between brand identification and ideological conviction. Much the same way that Burger King and McDonald's are scrambling to figure out a way that you can be on the Atkins diet and still spend your money at their vile, ass-inflating restaurants, Cobb and his party basically figured out a way that Nation subscribers can wear Green this fall and still keep their friends. They have turned politics into a shoe and a handbag, a conquered market demographic.

Vote Green—elect Kerry! Lose weight—drink Lo-Carb Coca-Cola! It's the same thing, on many different levels. Because both decisions really boil down to the same insane compromise: trying to fit an instinct to reject corporate consumer culture into the ruling paradigm of corporate consumer culture.

Logic dictates: If you want to lose weight, the way to do that is not to drink the right kind of Coca-Cola. The way to do it is to not drink Coca-Cola. It doesn't take a genius to figure this out, but it is apparently beyond the grasp of most Greens.

Similarly, if you don't believe in things like corporate personhood, if you are against the war in Iraq, if you are against the scourge of corporate money in politics, if you are in favor of a reduction in military spending, if you want to abolish the WTO and NAFTA, if you want to end the export of arms, if you want to break up media monopolies, if you want to get Channel 1 out of public schools, if you want to end the targeting of children by corporate advertisers—if you believe any of these things, or more to the point, if they are embedded in your party platform, then you can't vote for either the Republicans or the Democrats, because they're united against you all the way down the line.

I understand the logic of the Greens' decision. I don't agree with the "anybody but Bush" idea, but I will admit that it is a rationally defensible position, one that makes sense on some primitive level. What does not make sense here is why the burden of "anybody but Bush" should fall on the Green Party. The burden really rests with the Democrats. If they want to end the Green Party problem, then those votes are there for the taking. All the Democrats have to do is renounce the WTO and NAFTA, create a universal healthcare system and slash the defense budget, putting the proceeds into education and healthcare. Among other things.

But the Democrats won't do that; they're too addicted to corporate money. They're money junkies. And as anyone who's had any experience with junkies will tell you, junkies cannot be trusted. They'll say anything you want them to say about going straight, but at the critical moment, they'll still steal your television and shoot it straight into their arms.

The only way to deal with a junkie is to change your phone number or, if you ever find him in your house, chain him to a radiator. If you're feeling generous, you might consider bringing him hot chocolate and chicken broth during the three days he spends freaking out and writhing on your floor. But the one thing you can't do is keep giving him that one last chance. That only guarantees that he will come back again very soon, covered with mysterious bruises and needing 200 bucks to pay for—tchya, right—a Hepatitis shot.

Shit, just look at what's happened since the last election. The junkies got kicked out of office, which ought to have been a wake-up call, and what did they do? They went out and almost unanimously voted for the Patriot Act, the No Child Left Behind Act and two wars.

And now here they come, four years later, and they say: "We need all your votes right now or we're fucked." Am I the only one laughing?

That said, I understand the Democrats' point of view. I used to take a lot of drugs, too. And when you take a lot of drugs, absolutely nothing matters except getting off. In the quest for drugs, any kind of behavior is excusable. You will be standing with a nice fat gram firmly in your fist and you'll still stare your best friend right in the eyes and swear to him that you couldn't find anything, either. And the funny thing is that later, when he finds out that you've been smacked out watching Starship Troopers for three days, he won't even be mad. He'll laugh. Because he would've done the same thing to you.

That's junkie morality. That's why, from the Democrats' point of view, it makes perfect sense to nominate a gazillionaire missile-humping aristocrat who'll have more corporate logos pasted on him than a NASCAR driver when he gets into office. What's the difference? We got off! Why is everybody complaining?

But this line of reasoning doesn't make sense for the Green Party. If you're going to suck a cock in a train-station lavatory, you ought to at least get something for it. But the Greens are going to roll over for John Kerry, and in the best-case scenario all they're going to get for it is another insane trade agreement, more troops in Iraq, more corporate handouts and another my-dog-ate-my-homework healthcare fiasco.

Yes, Bush is a moron and a monster, and it would be better if he were not around. But America's political problems are bigger than Bush. The real problem in American politics is the rule of calculation and money over principle, and until this problem is fixed, the Bushes of the world will always be with us.

The Greens used to offer a solution. They've now become part of the problem.

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