The problem of Green spoilers, a la Nader 2000 and still perhaps Glenda 2006, is not going to go away. Saying more loudly, "Hey people, don't vote Green" is, it strikes me, not likely to do a damn bit of good.
How to deal with this? A proposal below the fold.
Early this afternoon, with 99 percent of precincts reporting, Jim Webb, the Democratic challenger, led Senator George Allen, a Republican, by less than 8,000 votes out of more than 2.3 million cast -- a difference of about one-third of a percent. . . .
The races in Virginia and Montana were both complicated by the presence of third-party candidates who drew more votes than the margin separating the two major-party candidates.
In Virginia, Glenda Parker of the Independent Green Party had slightly more than 1 percent of the vote this morning. Ms. Parker, a former Pentagon budget analyst, had no affiliation with the national Green Party. She ran on two issues, calling for cuts in the federal deficit and the construction of a high-speed rail network to cut dependence on oil. Late in the campaign, when she was attracting about 2 percent support in opinion surveys, she considered dropping out and endorsing either Mr. Webb or Mr. Allen, but then changed her mind.
Bear in mind, the main difference between progressive Dems and Greens isn't policy, it's tactics. Survey 100 progressive Dems and 100 Greens about the things most important to Greens -- energy policy and the environment -- and you'll get doggone similar answers. (OK, I admit this is an assumption on my part. If anyone is better informed about this, please chime in.)
No, where Greens and Dems part ways is on how to get the policy implemented. Greens think Dems are too timid and too sold-out to a corrupt system to accomplish anything meaningful. Dems think Greens are too naive and impractical to accomplish anything meaningful.
How to bridge the gap? Is there a way to get the POLICIES we agree on enacted, by resolving our tactical differences?
I think, perhaps, there is. And I think there's a bonus for both sides -- a factor that would make the whole greater than the sum of the parts.
First the tactical plan, then the bonus.
The tactical plan.
For 2008 and every Presidential election thereafter, the Greens and Dems could make an alliance on the following terms:
1. Until mid-October, the Dem Pres nominee and the Green Pres nominee will pursue their separate campaigns.
2. In mid-October, whichever of the two candidates is trailing in the polls will withdraw and endorse the other candidate.
3. In return for the endorsement, the withdrawing candidate will be allowed to name a certain number of cabinet secretaries if the remaining candidate wins the election. (Say, two cabinet secretaries for the first 4% of poll support, plus one other secretary for each 2% or 3% or whatever.)
Of course, in 2008 the Green candidate would withdraw and endorse the Dem. But because the Green campaign would matter to both election outcome and post-election policy, people would pay attention to the Greens. They would have a real opportunity to expand their support in each election. After several election cycles, it might be the Dem who has to withdraw -- or to "greenify" his (or her) platform to compete for Green votes.
AND -- most importantly, of course -- this would strengthen everybody's chances of BEATING THE DAMN REPUBLICANS.
Similar rules could apply in Senate, House, and governor races. The withdrawing-and-endorsing candidate becomes a member of the winner's staff, or gets to name the head of the state EPA, or something meaningful.
The Republicans didn't just suddenly rise from the dead in 1994. They slowly and methodically built an intellectual foundation that shifted the terms of the debate. Their think tanks, opinion magazines, pundits, Newts, Blooms, etc. kept injecting hard-right ideas into the public debate until the shock of how far-right they were wore off. By moving the limits of acceptable ideas rightward, they moved the general public's perceived center rightward as well. What had once been right seemed center, and what had once been moderate-left seemed far-left. This is how they made "liberal" a dirty word.
If we play our cards right, the Greens could be our chance to reverse the process. Let the Greens advance the really radical energy, environmental, social, whatever policies. Let them be taken seriously by the general public. Let them pull the margins of acceptable debate leftward, and with it the perceived center will shift left as well -- until it's where the Democrats already are. Result: Democrats win more elections. Greener policies become law. Everybody's happy except the Republican bastards.
If we don't find some way to deal with the Greens, their presence will bite us -- and America -- in the ass.