By Michael Albert
Between now and U.S. election day, and for some time thereafter, there
will be an intermittent stream of leftist discussion, debate,
exhortation, and sometimes recrimination about what to do, when to do
it, and with what methods and means.
I think reasonable people committed to justice, democracy, peace, and
even - as in my case - uprooting every last vestige of corporate,
racist, sexist power and greed - can disagree.
Certainly now, but even as we get closer to the election, I doubt that
any single approach will be so evidently correct that disparaging those
with other approaches will make sense.
That said, can we at least settle on some criteria for what we would
like to achieve by our electoral approach? And if we can come up with
criteria, maybe we can even suggest an optimistic scenario worth
What is important about the election is not the time between now and the
conventions. It is not the convention weeks, themselves. It is not the
time between the conventions and the vote. What is important is the time
between the vote and the rest of history. It is the future.
This claim - which seems uncontestable - doesn't tell us precisely what
to do, but it does suggest how to sensibly assess different electoral
proposals. We must ask, what will be their lasting effect, post
To make a case for election 2004 strategy, we will have to describe the
proposed approach, including the steps it implies for the pre-election
period, of course. But our argument must rest on claims about post
If so, here are two simple thoughts.
One post election result we want is Bush retired. However bad his
replacement may turn out, replacing Bush will improve the subsequent
mood of the world and its prospects of survival. Bush represents not the
whole ruling class and political elite, but a pretty small sector of it.
That sector, however, is trying to reorder events so that the world is
run as a U.S. empire, and so that social programs and relations that
have been won over the past century in the U.S. are rolled back as well.
What these parallel international and domestic aims have in common is to
further enrich and empower the already super rich and super powerful.
Seeking international Empire means war and more war - or at least
violent coercion. Seeking domestic redistribution upward of wealth and
power, most likely means assaulting the economy via cutbacks and
deficits, and then entreating the public that the only way to restore
functionality is to terminate government programs that serve sectors
other than the rich, cutting health care, social services, education,
These twin scenarios will not be pursued so violently or aggressively by
Democrats due to their historic constituency. More, the mere removal of
Bush will mark a step toward their reversal.
Think about election night. Think about watching the returns. Think of
your heart and soul's reaction if Bush wins. Think of billions of other
people plummeting into passivity from despair over the same picture.
Think of Bush and his coterie savoring victory and deciding that they
can do anything for four more years. Ee want Bush out.
Second, we want to have whatever administration is in power after
Election Day saddled by a fired up movement of opposition that is not
content with merely slowing Armageddon, but that instead seeks
innovative and aggressive social gains. We want a post election movement
to have more awareness, more hope, more infrastructure, and better
organization by virtue of the approach it takes to the election process.
Can we chart a course likely to promote both of these outcomes at the
Here is a proposal. The Greens are the clear-cut vehicle for a leftist
electoral campaign in the U.S. They have grown in membership and state
chapters steadily and are now a relatively formidable entity able to
muster considerable visibility and communicative pressure in nearly
Suppose the Greens nominate Michael Moore for President? Or maybe
Barbara Ehrenreich, or Ron Daniels, or Ralph Nader, say. How about
running their candidate aggressively in all states where the final
ballot is simply a foregone conclusion? Moore running in Texas and in
Massachusetts seeking as many votes as possible in those and in
similarly uncontested states is not going to impact the broader election
because were Bush to lose Texas or were whatever Democrat is running to
lose Massachusetts, the whole election would be a gigantic stampede
uninfluenced by our project. And there are many other such states.
Perhaps the candidate is Ehrenreich, not Moore. Regardless, Ehrenreich's
message as candidate in every state, like Moore's or anyone else's, is
vote smart. Vote for impact. In the cut and dried uncontested states, do
not waste your vote, vote Ehrenreich. In the closely contested swing
states, Ehrenreich tells the electorate to vote for the Democrat, but
also support Ehrenreich and the Greens.
That is, everywhere - and perhaps it is Daniels who runs - Daniels, or
Moore, or Ehrenreich says, whoever wins, we must persist as a social
movement forcing the new Washington regime to respect and to serve those
in need, those who work, those who endure and persevere, by way of the
program the Greens have put forth. And put it forth Daniels does.
But how? Nader -- maybe it is Nader who runs - or Moore, or Ehrenreich,
or whoever it is, doesn't run alone. The Green presidential candidate
runs with a whole slate of others, one person designated as his
administration's chief of staff, another person designated his vice
president, a third person designated his secretary of state, a fourth as
Press Secretary, and so on and so forth, through the whole Cabinet and
West Wing. Nader, or whoever the presidential candidate may be, runs
with a pledge that if there is sufficient support for him and for the
Green platform he will establish a shadow government beginning the day
after the election.
This new shadow government will operate alongside the White House and
real Cabinet. It will put forth Green program, analysis, and demands
regarding every major undertaking the real government pursues and many
others we think it ought to have pursued. It will hold teach-ins,
tribunals, rallies, and demos, every month for the entire term of the
It will shadow and pressure Washington, providing a vehicle for the
immense range of progressive projects and voices throughout the country
to manifest their desires and to organize support and visibility for
them and thereby pressure the government. It will take seriously what we
want for every side of life, and compare and contrast it with the
agendas and actions of the forces of money and power, and it will show
why our way is infinitely preferable, and fight for its implementation.
And imagine running in 2008, on a foundation of four years of explicitly
formulated and explored dissident program.
How does such a vast undertaking get funded? If Moore, Ehrenreich,
Daniels, Nader, and others were to run as a slate, seeking votes in some
states and in any event seeking support in the form of a submitted name
and slow mail address or when possible email address submitted to
facilitate future communications in every state, how many people would
Not how many would vote for the Green Presidential candidate and slate.
Those who are willing to vote Green will certainly sign on. But how many
would vote for the Democrat as the lesser evil, while still being
willing to sign on to a project that allowed them to back the morally
worthy and politically savvy Greens beyond the simple act of voting,
that is, as wanting to support the Green shadow government? I don't know
the answer. But given the ease of setting up the infrastructure online
to do all this, accumulating millions of potential allies and
participants is not impossible.
So let's say 3, 5, or perhaps 10 million people say we like Moore (or
whoever). We like what he is saying - even though a very large number of
these, at Green request, vote Democrat. And let's say all during the
campaign the Green presidential candidate and the ten or twenty other
prominent progressives from every imaginable constituency and background
who are in the proposed Green administration are also not only
communicating and advocating a wonderfully inspiring platform, but also
making clear their commitment to build a shadow government that will
create, elaborate, advocate, and fight for change in the years to come,
with the support and especially the leadership of its supporters.
How many of the 3, 5, or perhaps 10 million people feeling affinity for
all of this would pledge $3, $5, or $10 a month to support the shadow
government and its undertakings in coming years? Suppose two million to
start at an average $4 a month. That's $8 million a month to get
started. How much more would effective effort provoke? How many more
And the idea needn't be only national. Couldn't local congressional,
senate, and other Green candidates where appropriate do something
similar, with their shadowing of their local administration being part
of the national project, feeding it, and being fed by it?
I think something more or less like this is what should have happened
post election 2000, rather than relative dissolution after election day.
Let's learn from that mistake. Let's not repeat it. Let's demand of our
process and its participants a strategy that has staying power.
We talk about periodic elections not being democracy but being mere
moments of manipulation. Okay, that is a reason why we should create not
only a shadow government, but one that has a rich and highly interactive
set of mechanisms for back and forth communication with its electorate
and constituencies, for guidance and instruction by that public. If we
create that, we will have something so powerful that, in fact, even were
Bush to win the election, it would be a much diminished victory for him
and his minions. Because our movements would constrain his options and
carry on their own agendas, regardless of his presence in Washington.
I think that for election 2004 something like this makes sense. I think
the country is ready. It can be done without incurring recrimination and
division. It can yield hope and real participation and progress.
I suggest that when the Greens get together to consider their path
forward for election 2004, they ought to enlist candidates, conceive
program, and establish strategy, not only in light of the diverse
details of the current period and the short term virtues of potential
candidates and program, but to create a lasting project such as a shadow
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Mediocre times produce the very worst that the world has to offer:
Laden, Bush, Hussein, Sharon, and Blair. None but the feeble minded
inspiration from such a ghastly lineup of "leaders".