The dynamics that led me to vote Green in 2000 are back in play this year.
Part of the rationale for voting Green in 2004 was that the Democratic process in this country needs fundamental change. BOTH parties are bought and paid for by the lobbyists and corporations. BOTH parties conspire to silence other voices and grassroots movements.
Howard Dean has succeeded this year in a way Nader did not: he has gotten the major Democratic candidates to change their rhetoric. He has helped shape which issues are being discussed.
But Dean's importance goes way beyond changing the dialogue. For the first time since Bobby Kennedy, in my opinion, we're looking at a independent-minded candidate who can actually win.
In 2000 Nader wasn't successful in changing the dialogue for a few reasons. First, Al Gore ignored Nader and ignored the issues that were most important to Greens. All he would say to try and sway Green voters was that a vote for Nader equalled a vote for Bush. If Gore had made a few positive statements about environmental concerns or tightening the reins on NAFTA and corporate welfare he would have swayed many Greens to his cause.
Second, both Democrats and Republicans conspired to keep Nader out of the Presidential debates. A few weeks before the debates, Nader was polling over 10% nationally, and 10% was the threshhold for getting invited to the debates. Then just before the debates they changed the rules to say that you had to poll over 15% to be included.
Having seen how Perot, for example, had changed the previous campaigns, they took unfair measures to keep Nader out. Nader would have asked questions that made Gore and Bush uncomfortable, and he would have certainly changed the complexion of that campaign.
If you were an advocate for change in 2000, you could not vote for Gore in good conscience, even if it meant Bush might win. Doing so would reward the Democrats for stifling other voices and opinions. Doing so would show both parties that they can succeed with the "business as usual" of shady campaign contributions and political dirty tricks.
Though no progressive wanted to see Bush in power, when it happened it brought one strong hope for change: when the people saw how radical, mean, and extreme this administration could be, they might at last take to the polls to force a real change. This year, the hope for real change is Howard Dean. Dean is not bought and paid for by lobbyists and corporations. He is overwhelmingly funded by small contributions from individual voters. As he said in the recent debate, he is the only one who can go to Washington and not owe anything to anybody.
In addition Dean has shown that he is an independent thinker, willing to do what he believes is right, whether or not it is popular. when he signed the Civil Unions bill in Vermont, he did so out of conscience, when the polls in Vermont showed it was not a popular bill.
Unfortunately those who want to stifle other voices have been doing everything they can to stop Howard Dean.
We have seen slanted news coverage from all the major media outlets (see cmpa.com for supporting evidence). We have seen illegal campaign contributions by major Democratic fundraisers for Kerry and Gephardt funneled into secret 527 organizations and used to fund attack ads against Dean (see the Dean blog for links). We have seen Democratic opponents coordinating negative press releases against Dean in New Hampshire. (And could there be a chance that Democratic Party influence was used on certain union officials and ex-Dean-campaign operatives to maximize the damage of their respective turncoat announcements?)
In other words, once again the Democratic Party has nearly succeeded in stifling the strongest independent voice in this year's campaign.
Some people may not realize how unique an opportunity we have now to bring change to American politics.
This year Dean has changed the dialogue because as a longtime Democrat he emerged from within a major party. The rules preventing third-party challenges are stronger than ever, but as a major party candidate Dean gets to share the national podium.
As a major party candidate, Dean also has an opportunity to actually win the Presidency! Nader could change the dialogue; Dean can win. This year the Democratic primaries are like a game of musical chairs. Whoever's left when the music stops wins intense support from nearly everyone who wants Bush out. The last person left has a 50/50 shot of being our next President.
The REAL campaign this year is now.
A vote for John Kerry is a vote to continue with dirty politics and influence peddling as usual. A vote for Howard Dean is a vote for real change.
We have a man of conscience with a reforming attitude and a national voice. We must do everything we can to support Howard Dean's candidacy now and throughout this campaign.