Green politics in Ohio & putting Nader on the ballot
by aul Dumouchelle
April 1, 2000
The very definition of a “swing” state, Ohio has a record of backing
presidential winners. The state’s varied population and economic base
reflect a rough approximation of the nation as a whole, and its politics
typically reflect national trends. Though every statewide elected office has been held by Republicans for several years, President Clinton still won the state in both of his elections. Ohio’s majority swings from one party to another, depending on the strength of the candidate and the hot issues of the day. This is similar to the split evidenced currently in national politics,
where the White House and Congress are held by different parties. In many
ways, the fledgling Green movement here reflects national trends, as well.
In the early 1990’s the Greens were a growing force with a strong core
organized around opposition to a planned low-level radioactive waste dump backed by then-Governor, now-U.S. Senator George Voinovich. Though the nuclear dump was defeated, the Greens’ momentum for further political or social activism foundered on the rocks of political controversy. The group splintered over the 1996 election and what to do with Candidate Nader. This split reflected the national division between those who favored a strict adherence to Green principles - translated as a total avoidance of a corrupt political process - and those who sought to work within the system to advance
the Green cause (the former typically associating themselves with the
Greens/GPUSA and the latter with the ASGP). As a result, the Ohio Greens
disintegrated as a state-level organization.
The 1996 Nader Campaign in Ohio was a microcosm of the national result.
The campaign energized many, drawing new blood (such as myself) into the Green effort. Yet the campaign embittered experienced Greens on both sides of the issue. To this day, those who supported Nader in 1996 blame their compatriots for undermining the ballot-petition effort and causing the failure to get Candidate Nader on the ballot. Supporters thought they had submitted enough signatures to get Nader on the ballot as an independent, but many of those signatures were invalidated by the Secretary of State, something which always happens. The final count of “valid” signatures fell just a few hundred short of the needed 5,000. If we had had the enthusiastic support of all Greens throughout Ohio, Nader would have surely appeared on the ballot.
Ohio’s Greens have not held a statewide meeting since the 1996 election.
The inability of GPUSA and ASGP to overcome their own differences that
grew out of the 1996 election is, perhaps, similar.
On January 16, 2000, 11 people from around the state gathered to form a committee to put Nader on Ohio’s ballot for this year’s presidential
election. Given the restrictive ballot-access laws in Ohio, the result of an
undemocratic system that many Greens rightly disdain, we can only hope to
have Nader’s name appear as an “Independent.” Reflecting what we learned from the 1996 effort, we have prioritized the Nader campaign as the most important task at hand. We all would like to see a vibrant Green Party attain ballot status and have agreed to work toward that end. People working on this campaign include hard-core activists who attended the
WTO uprising in Seattle as well as people more familiar with Nader’s own organizations and efforts than any kind of Green activities. We also have
many of the leaders of the 1996 effort who have maintained relations with
Nader and the ASGP. As for myself, I am an individual member of GPUSA and a grassroots activist defending the tiny shards of ecologically intact
ecosystems that have somehow survived two hundreds years of assault from America’s mainstream industrial society. My greatest successes have come at the nexus where activism impacts electoral politics. While the 1996 campaign first attracted me to Green politics, it is the Ten Key Values that keep me committed as a Green. We need to keep values such as Ecological Wisdom prominently in our public communication.
A strong Nader candidacy in Ohio would be a great step forward for Greens. Nader can do an excellent job in advocating Social Justice and Grassroots Democracy. His unquestioned integrity is a breath of fresh air in a political environment grown stale from the Republocrats’ duopoly. We are fortunate to have the city of Toledo within our borders. Toledo is the focus of a campaign supported by Nader to challenge the laws that allow global corporations to obtain tax breaks by pitting one state against another in a bidding war to gain corporate investment. Daimler-Chrysler gained several hundred million dollars in tax breaks to rebuild its Jeep plant in that city. Nader is challenging that deal under the Federal interstate commerce rules. He rightly states that small businesses suffer discrimination in this type of handout which always benefit large, well-connected businesses. The logic behind this effort is impeccable, and there is much political gold to be mined in this area. Small businesses should be a focus area for Green recruiting.
I would like to see our ongoing critique of massive corporate centralization balanced with policy proposals that will benefit small businesses. So I am devoting myself to the Nader campaign in Ohio. During and after the election, it will be up to dedicated Greens to take the energy generated by a Nader candidacy and convert it into a long-term Green presence. What I don’t see a Nader candidacy doing is the one thing I find most lacking
in too many Green debates. Ecological Wisdom too often gets shortchanged,
and I have yet to see Mr. Nader articulate a compelling vision in this area.
From my perspective, Ecological Wisdom grows from simple statements such as Aldo Leopold’s oft-quoted Golden Rule of ecology. Why isn’t this Golden Rule the basis for more policy initiatives of the Greens? Winona LaDuke’s 7th Generation Amendment got at the heart of the issue - we have a right to clean air and water - why isn’t this at the forefront of Green Politics? LaDuke expresses the essential issue as the choice between the “indigenous world view and industrial world view.” We need to clearly state that Greens advocate a fundamental alteration of our relationship with the land.
We must find a way to convince the voting public that the way forward is not an increasing reliance on the transitory material benefits of scientism but rather actions and decisions that bring us more closely into union with that which supports life. This advocacy must occur on many levels - including the political. Too much of what we do is defined and channeled by laws and regulations. We must stop ceding our authority as citizens to the myopic minions of scientism. When Al Gore talks about supporting genetically engineered food production as long as “good science” shows there are no ill effects, he abdicates his claim to environmental responsibility. The ecologically wise know we can provide for ourselves from the natural bounty of the earth without the mutant offspring of microbiology. We know the compound effects, unintended and unstudied by the advocates of industrial agriculture, have corrupted both the nutrition of many Americans as well as the social structure of rural life. We know this by measuring our actions against our values - that is all we need.
In this ongoing effort, we all must realize that science has ruled of
almost 400 years, and its decline before the stronger force of Green Values will probably not occur any more easily than the long and sometimes ugly decline of feudalistic privilege. I see the Ohio campaign for Nader in 2000 as one step in this effort. My hope is that all who see a future in Green Values can work together to take more steps like this so we can move more quickly toward a more promising future.
While I am a GPUSA member because of this group’s strong adherence to Green Values I expect to work with ASGP for the 2000 election. I see here the same split between the “fundis” and the “realos” that exhibits itself in other Green groups such as the German Greens. My heart can never be with the realos because the sometimes justified compromise with our opponents should never betray our Green Values. The German Greens betrayed Nonviolence when they supported the first use of German military power in over two generations (in Kosovo) just months after they became the first Greens to gain national elected office. That act proved how corrupting it is to compromise principle to gain power - the fundamental premise the realos follow. So while I will participate in ASGP activities because my head tells me that working within
existing political structures is the best way to advance the Green cause
today, my heart is with the GPUSA as the true expression of the reason I am a
Green. I believe we must make big decisions with the heart and little ones
with the head. This is how I hope things will turn out for the Greens in
Ohio. Perhaps in this way we will reflect what can be a way forward for a Green future, a future for our children because we take their interests to heart in all our policies and all our relations with the land.
Paul Dumouchelle is a Trustee of the Central Ohio Green Education Fund. He is also Secretary of a local river-protection group, Darby Creek Association, and a member of the Executive Committee of the Ohio Chapter of the Sierra Club.