Ignored on Energy in California

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http://www.commondreams.org/views01/0220-04.htm Published on Tuesday, February 20, 2001 in the San Francisco Chronicle Greens, Ignored on Energy, Have Full List of Issues by Ross Mirkarimi Bipartisanship won. An overwhelming majority of the American people lost.

The tragedy is that members of George W. Bush 's Cabinet have been sworn in under a cloud of illegitimacy because the inauguration of this accidental president was preventable. The irony is that after running a disjointed campaign and squandering the right to challenge the Florida vote (by not demanding a full, statewide recount from the beginning), Al Gore's apologists continue to blame Ralph Nader for putting Bush in the White House.

But arrogance, not Nader, is to blame. President George W. is a consequence of the Gore campaign's refusal to listen to advice and ideas outside of its group-think circle. Candidate Gore could have won the election and Nader could have reached his goal of 5 percent of the vote if the Democratic Leadership Council, centrist to the core, had not recklessly fixated on the embodiment of their own fear, the Green Party.

According to a preponderance of polling data, Nader was never a threat to Gore in states such as California, New York and Texas. It would have behooved the Gore campaign to increase its efforts in swing states rich in electoral votes instead of spending time and enormous amounts of money manufacturing a climate of fear against Nader in noncritical states.

Now, even though Democrats and progressives cannot wish George W. away, the liberal left needs to understand our differences so that recent history will not repeat itself. But if the Democratic leadership continues on its righteous course against the left, then without question, their flexibility is lost in the hardening of habit.

Nader, like the Green Party, strove to transcend the narrowness of Democrats and Republicans, so that the struggling classes, the environment and future generations would not become casualties of centrist-right politics, relentless fund raising and corporate-dominated dealmaking. Examples abound, but let's take a current one: the California energy crisis.

Energy deregulation was birthed by a commingling of Republican Gov. Pete Wilson and the Democratic state Legislature, and raised like a neglected stepchild by Gov. Gray Davis. Between 1996 and 1998, Nader, the Green Party and an alliance of consumer, social justice and environmental organizations lobbied hard against deregulation and warned of its ill effects.

When that didn't work, that alliance placed a voter initiative to stop deregulation, Proposition 9, on the state ballot in 1998. To our astonishment, the lessons of Ronald Reagan's voodoo deregulatory economics were lost on Democratic ears. Gubernatorial candidate Davis and the state Democratic Party, along with their Republican rivals, vigorously opposed Prop. 9. With heavy opposition from the same utilities now crying bankruptcy, it lost.

When San Diego began to feel the effects of deregulation in early 2000, Nader was the only presidential candidate who addressed the issue, not as a local problem, but as a crisis poised to engulf the state. And it was Nader, not Gore, who advocated a policy of public power, the municipalization of utilities and ecological alternatives to the use of fossil fuels and nuclear power.

On the energy issue, and others, the Green Party was ignored. But being ignored is what fuels our fire, whether it's in the nation's capital, the presidential debates or in City Hall. The myth of two-party omnipotence does not mean disenfranchised voters must accept the same old false promises.

When principles take a back seat to personalities, as shown in the near sweep of Bush's Cabinet nominees during confirmation, then it's fitting that a new political party elbow its way toward progressive change. The Green Party continues to fight for positions that the other parties will not, such as: public financing of elections and same-day voter registration; the enactment of instant run-off voting and Electoral College reform; a crackdown on corporate crime and an end to corporate welfare; abolishing the death penalty; decriminalizing drug use, and seeking alternative sentencing for victimless crimes.

Also: providing universal, catastrophic health care for all Americans; abolishing NAFTA; providing a vigorous defense for the civil rights and liberties of all; establishing a living wage; preserving and expanding affordable housing stock; advancing a woman's right to choose, and removing the tax inequities shouldered by the lower and middle classes.

As debate looms about Nader's right to run, on the local front, the Greens are growing. Green mayors were elected in three new cities -- Santa Monica, Santa Cruz and Sebastopol -- and Green candidates won a number of city council seats and other elected posts in the state and nationwide. It's a start.

Ross Mirkarimi was director of the California Nader 2000 campaign and is a spokesperson for the state Green Party.

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