ONE DAY, FUTURE HISTORIANS MAY AGREE THE WINNER OF THE 2004 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION WAS CHOSEN THIS WEEK in the Laverne-and-Shirley brewery town of Milwaukee.
The Green Party's six-day national convention, which begins this Wednesday in Milwaukee’s Midwest Airlines Center, will either nominate an obscure candidate of its own or keep open the path for Green voters to support again in 2004 its 2000 Presidential candidate Ralph Nader and his just-announced running mate, Green Party activist Peter Camejo.
Democrats and other Leftists have spent the past four years cursing Nader, now 70, blaming him for Al Gore’s narrow 2000 loss in Florida and hence for Gore’s loss of the Presidency. This has been easier than blaming Gore’s own failure to carry his home state of Tennessee, where voters who knew Gore best rejected him overwhelmingly.
Would the roughly 97,488 votes Nader got in Florida in 2000 have gone to Gore in Nader’s absence? Not all of them. These voters knowingly cast their ballots for a sure-loser third party candidate as a way to show their disgust with Al Gore and the Democratic Party. However, he probably would have gotten enough to make up Bush's margin of victory.
And now, Democrats fear, it’s déjà vu all over again. It’s Groundhog Day and 2000’s nightmare is about to replay itself. Nader -- despite all the vitriol, hate and threats they leveled at him and his supporters -- is back during another likely-razor-close election.
Recent polls show how justified this fear is, confirming Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg’s May 2004 warning that “Nader is a genuine threat.”
A mid-June 2004 Investor’s Business Daily/Christian Science Monitor Poll found President George W. Bush and Senator John F. Kerry tied among registered voters 44-44%, but with Ralph Nader included the count shifted to Bush 44%, Kerry 41% and Nader 6%. At the same time a Louis Harris Poll of adults came down Bush 48%, Kerry 42% and Nader 7%. A Pew Research Center Poll of registered voters at the same time split Bush 46%, Kerry 42% and Nader 6%.
An early June National Public Radio poll found likely voters split 42-42% with Nader holding the balance of victory at 3%. An early June Associated Press-Ipsos Poll found registered voters split 46% Bush, 45% Kerry and 6% for Nader.
Only a few “outliers” (or big liers), like the June 5-8 Los Angeles Times Poll, have claimed to find a Kerry margin of victory big enough to withstand Nader’s inclusion. The Los Angeles Times breakdown was 42% Bush, 48% Kerry and 4% Nader. This result was widely reported in the national media – until it came to light that the Times had gimmicked its poll sample with 38% Democrats and 25% Republicans – a 13 point Democratic tilt that produced a Kerry victory margin of only 6%. Upon re-analysis, this sleazy partisan poll could be interpreted as evidence that Kerry will lose, given that the nation now has at least as many likely Republican as Democratic voters.
Democrats and their leftist lackeys have tried to bully and silence Nader supporters. Nader himself was almost violently attacked when he appeared on the new Democrat-controlled "liberal" radio network Air America. And Democratic-allied leftist magazines such as Mother Jones and The Nation have called on Nader to stay out of the 2004 race, mocking the longtime consumer activist and his followers.
And even though Nader decided to run in 2004, Democrats for a time believed they had dodged a bullet when he refused to seek the Green Party’s official nomination. This has opened the door in Milwaukee for Democratic Party ally David Cobb to grab the Green brass ring himself and become the 2004 Green Party candidate.
A lawyer-activist from the shrimpboat village of San Leon, Texas, David Cobb got into third party politics when Nader asked him to manage the Green Party 2000 campaign in Texas. Cobb has traveled to dozens of states courting support from Green Party leaders, but he has fallen short of enough support among the 2,000 expected activists gathering Wednesday in Milwaukee to win outright. Unlike Nader, he has zero name recognition and zero support outside the Green Party itself – and hence has no hope of approaching the 2.8 million votes that long-famous Ralph Nader got while running as a Green in 2000.
Nader this year is asking not for the Green Party’s nomination but for its “endorsement.” His goal is to go beyond the limits of one party and get on the ballot lines of several parties. Nader already has such endorsement and potential ballot access from the Reform Party in up to seven states, including Florida, where an April American Research Group poll found that Nader would win 3 percent, enough to push Bush above Kerry by 46-45 percent. (The Democrats, needless to say, are using everything in their bag of dirty tricks to keep him off state ballots.)
Cobb has pledged not to run a Green campaign in as many as 17 states where he might cause Democrat candidate Kerry to lose. He is, in effect, promising if nominated to turn the Green Party from a genuine political party into just one more leftist auxiliary of the Democratic Party, into another Emily’s List, Sierra Club or MoveOn.org. If nominated, Cobb has pledged to neuter and neutralize the Green Party, removing any reason the Democratic Party might have for including Green Party policies in its platform. Cobb would offer the Green Party as a salad course to be devoured and absorbed by the Democratic Party.
Nader, by contrast, has already exerted serious pressure on Kerry not to move right-ward (that is, to the center). But from the point of view of a hard-Left Green Party “progressive,” Kerry is already center-right, a politician who voted for the war in Iraq and has not backed away from that vote. Kerry has admitted committing war crimes and atrocities against women and children himself in Vietnam. Kerry also supported President Bill Clinton’s international trade agreements including NAFTA, which according to leftists exploit foreign workers, pollute the global environment and send unionized American jobs to non-union workers overseas. How can any serious Green Party delegate in Milwaukee vote for David Cobb, knowing that Cobb has pledged to help secure votes and victory for the likes of Kerry?
The dynamics of the Green convention in Milwaukee -- a left-wing labor town that proudly hosted the national convention of the Communist Party USA three years ago-- changed dramatically on Monday with Ralph Nader’s selection of his running mate, Peter Miguel Camejo.
Camejo co-founded the California Green Party in 1991. As its gubernatorial candidate in 2002 he carried 5 percent of the vote statewide. As a Green candidate in the California recall of Democratic Governor Gray Davis in 2003 Camejo won more than three percent of all votes in the special election that made Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger California’s new governor. He carries serious cache, clout and appeal inside the Green Party.
Camejo was born in New York City on New Year’s Eve, 1939. He holds dual citizenship in the United States and Venezuela. After his parents divorced, Peter spent summers in the South American oil-rich nation with his father Daniel, a wealthy land and resort developer. His capitalist father named his son after Pedro Camejo, a general who fought at the side of 19th Century liberator and Venezuelan national hero Simon Bolivar. His father also sparked what Camejo calls a lifelong commitment to the poor by answering his 16-year-old son Peter’s question about the existence of God by gesturing to the shanties of Venezuelan workers and replying: “Pedrito, if God existed, would He allow this?”
By the late 1960s Peter Camejo was a leader of the Young Socialist Alliance, giving speeches now gathered into a rare 40-page book entitled How to Make a Revolution. As a rule-breaking student radical, he was expelled from the University of California Berkeley two quarters shy of completing a degree in history, but not before then-Governor Ronald Reagan included him in a list of the “Ten Most Dangerous” people in California.
In 1976 Peter Camejo was the presidential candidate of the Trotskyite Socialist Workers Party, winning its highest-ever number of votes, 90,310 (that is, 0.11 percent of the vote nationwide). The wire service stories announcing Camejo as Ralph Nader’s running mate somehow omitted any mention of Camejo’s past as a Marxist and supporter of Leon Trotsky during his 25 years as a member of the Socialist Workers Party.
Camejo worked for a time for the U.S. Postal Service, then became a broker for Merrill Lynch and Prudential. In the late 1980s he launched Progressive Asset Management in Concord, California, to assist guilty liberals and leftists eager for through “socially conscious” and “progressive” investing. Today Camejo manages $1 billion in such investments, and with his annual $250,000+ income he and his wife recently moved from blue-collar Folsom near San Francisco to ritzy Walnut Creek.
But Camejo insists that he remains a “watermelon – Green on the outside, Red on the inside. I have the same views I’ve always had in my life….”
Peter Camejo, now 64, will have enormous appeal not only to Greens eager to abolish private property and capitalism but also to their comrades on the far-Left of the Democratic Party . . . who are also Red on the inside. (He has even learned how to say conservative-friendly things from his younger brother, a Republican.) His “Avocado Declaration” puts forth a powerful rationale for voting Green Party, not Democrat. And to add to Kerry’s nightmares about a Nader-Camejo ticket, Camejo also speaks perfect native Spanish and knows how to peel Hispanic voters away from the Democratic Party.
This week we will find out whether the Democratic Party, using money and guile, has been able to co-opt the Green Party and break it away from Nader. If Democrats fail to do this and the Greens gathered in Milwaukee support Nader, this could siphon Democratic votes this fall on as many as 23 state ballots. (Alas, the Green Party is not on the ballot in Ohio, the most likely “Florida” of 2004.) If the Nader-Camejo ticket gets Green Party support, John Kerry should brace himself for what could be a very dark and chilly November.