By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Do you think the Green Party is much stronger since the election?
Yes--but not as strong as Id hoped. They won 25 percent of their seats last November, out of 280 candidates. But it needs more candidates. More local candidates. There are 2.5 million elective offices in the U.S., and thats not just City Councilmen and State Legislature. If you want to really start a local party youve got to have lots of local candidates. You cant beat somebody with nobody.
I always thought the Green Party had a branding problem.
Youre right. It does.
Maybe it just the name--Green--it doesnt seem to resonant well with Americans, like its associated with tree-hugging, or something.
I think its because people like Rush Limbaugh, who stereotype it again and again. And the pictures at the conventions they normal pick out the guy with the ponytail and the nose ring. [laughs] So, I think youre right. And thats not a trivial issue for the Greens.
Should it be?
In the best of all worlds, yes. Branding is a problem.
Have you ever flirted with a new name for the party?
I had a few great names, let me think . . . Oh, yeah! The American Party.
Well, its simple, I guess, to the point.
The others would be, The Sovereignty of People Party, or the Independent Party.
When the pundits were screaming "spoiler" and blaming you for "tossing the election" to Bush, did that ever hurt you, personally?
After all these years, you dont take these things personally. Everything is a functional reaction. I was trying to refocus the media on why we were doing this.
How do you think the war on terrorism will effect the future of third-party candidates?
Well, you know what happens with any kind of war. The presidents polls go way up. Theres not much tolerance for dissent. The government gets few inputs because a lack of robust disagreement--and as government gets less and less input, its more prone to making more mistakes, blunders, it procrastinates revisions in policy--and thats what were getting to see now in Afghanistan.
What weve also seen is massive bombing, lots of civilians killed, injured, and lots of refugees, death by disease, starvation, and the rest, and the country is now overtaken by the old warlords. Very unsavory and brutal creatures. Theres chaos, and the interim government hardly controls Kabul. Weve succeeded in burning down the haystack in order to find the needle, but we havent found the needle.
Does the lack of dissent, or the absence of a visible anti-war movement, surprise you?
It does. Its now three, four months. This is the time when we should speak up, and speak out more then ever. Thats the only way the government can gauge the best array of proposals and caveats.
In the book, you write, "The corporate quest for sovereignty over the sovereignty of the people is an affront to our Constitution and our Democracy." Isnt that corporate quest just capitalism in action? Do you really think real democracy can exist under the capitalist model?
Its corporate capitalism. Big time corporate capitalism that doesnt have an allegiance to any country or community, other then to control them as they walk or stride the world, unchallenged, and use governments as puppets.
The Constitution didnt talk about corporations; it talked about people. Thats why I say its become an "affront" to the Constitution because corporations have become constitutionally protected powers, never envisioned by the Constitution. The preamble starts out "We the People." It doesnt start out, "We the People, and Corporations."
Will there be a breaking point?
Yes. Theres always is a breaking point. One thing you can rely on, commercial interests always push the envelope too far. Greed has no self-restraint to it, as weve seen, with Enron.
Have you ever thought about when that "breaking point" will be?
Its a function of two movements. The Greed Movement, and how far its in your face, how far it extends over abuses. The second is the degree to which the citizenry mobilizes to counter, and to reassert their sovereignty.
Too early to say. Im Focusing on 2002. Getting thousands of more Green candidates on the local and state level. Thats so critical, in fleshing out The Green Party into fifty states and getting a whole new crew of leaders.
Youve been in Washington nearly half a decade. Ralph Nader is not going to be around forever. Do you ever think about who's going to fill your void?
A lot of that is up to the media, isnt it? Theres a lot of valiant people whose name nobody knows.
Rick Perlstein on Ralph Nader's Crashing the Party: How to Tell the Truth and Still Run for President