Election Plan?

by Michael Albert

Michael is a longtime activist, speaker, and writer, as well as editor of ZNet, and co-editor and co-founder of Z Magazine.

This is an excerpt from an article published on ZNet

Between now and US 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 considering.

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 election?

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 US empire, and so that social programs and relations that have been won over the past century in the US are rolled back as well.

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, etc. 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. We 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 same time?
Here is a proposal. The Greens are the clear-cut vehicle for a leftist electoral campaign in the US 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 every state.
Suppose the Greens nominate Michael Moore for President? Or maybe Barbara Ehrenreich, or Ron Daniels, or Ralph Nader. How about running their candidate aggressively in all states where the final ballot is simply a foregone conclusion? Perhaps the candidate is Ehrenreich. Ehrenreich’s message as candidate in every state 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.

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.

But how? 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 real government. And imagine running in 2008, on a foundation of four years of explicitly formulated and explored dissident program.
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.