Hillary As Senator: Just Say No


Dan Georgakas

Hillary

Rodham Clinton’s campaign to become the senator for New York offers the New York

Green Party a unique opportunity to focus national attention on truly

progressive solutions to our health and environmental problems.

Clinton’s

candidacy is mainly the inspiration of the West Side and Southampton liberals

who are long on celebrity consciousness and think progressive politics is a

matter of charity rather than self-interest. Briefly, they believe Clinton will

mobilize women voters, labor, and minorities in New York City to provide the

edge needed to win a statewide campaign. The enormous amounts of money she can

generate as well as the glitterati who will campaign for her are extremely

appealing. Another strong assumption is that even those turned off by Clinton’s

shortcomings could not bring themselves to vote for likely Republican candidate

Rudolph Giuliani. Black voters, in particular, are expected to turn out in large

numbers, both to support the Clinton record on race and to express their outrage

with Giuliani.

The

Republican side is divided by intra-party power politics, but there is little

doubt that Giuliani will win the primary. He has considerable strength upstate

if only because Clinton is so disliked and despite black opposition in New York

City, he would do better in the city than any other Republican hopeful. He has

strong support among conservative Jews and significant support among Hispanics.

His liberal social views play well in the Republican suburbs and among NYC

yuppies. And the fall in crime wins him votes among many of those Nixon termed

"the silent majority."

Early

polls had Clinton ahead of Giuliani, but in what amounted to a statistical tie.

Polls from early July show Giuliani slightly ahead in what remains a near dead

heat. All expectations are that the election will be neck and neck all the way.

Enter the New York Green Party. In the last election, the Green Party pulled

over 5% of the vote for governor to get automatic ballot status. Should the

Greens do just as well or better with a good candidate for the senate, it could

tip the balance, perhaps depriving Clinton of victory but in any case cutting

her chances drastically as most Green voters come from liberal rather than

conservative politics.

Two

factors argue strongly that the Greens should make such an effort. Most

important, anyone with a memory longer than the last commercial will remember

that it was Hillary Clinton who almost singlehandedly strangled the momentum

that had been built for health reform. With all her committees and studies, she

never even considered a single-payer system. With health reform once more

heating up as a major issue, a Green candidate running on a single-payer program

similar to Canada and Sweden not only would be attractive but will be heard.

Intense media will cover the Clinton effort and the prospects that a Green

candidate running on a health plank could tip the contest will not go unnoticed.

Even the ultra-conservative radio talk shows would take up the issue as the

hosts rant against socialized medicine.

The

second issue, of course, is the environment. Al Gore has been a total sellout on

this issue whether it is allowing genetically altered organisms into the

environment or any number of traditional Green issues. The Greens should hold

him accountable, and we can be sure that Clinton will be compelled to defend his

record. Giuliani’s recent assault on the public gardens in New York City

provides another attack point totally natural to the Greens. The community

groups most affected by Giuliani’s attack might welcome a chance not only to

cast a vote against their nemesis but for a candidate who has adopted their

views as a plank in his or her political platform.

A

reasonable objection may be that the national discussion possible by this

strategy is not worth the possible cost of putting Giuliani into the senate.

That argument falls short on several counts. However objectionable Giuliani’s

governing style might be, among Republicans he is actually a moderate. Given his

abrasive personality, his actions in Washington would likely be a constant

source of angina for the conservative wing of the party. His victory would also

serve to boost the moderate wing of the party nationally. Hillary Clinton’s own

worth on the national scene is questionable. She has shown no legislative skill

whatsoever in attempting her Frankensteinian health scheme and she would

undoubtedly follow the same kind of policies as her husband, which amount to

compromising away major political points to get incremental gains at best. In

short, her legislative experience is nil, and her administrative record is a

disaster.

What

could be gained by the Greens and the progressive movement in general is

enormous. The media exposure that would be possible is unlikely to recur. If the

Greens made a significant showing, not only would the Green movement be

enhanced, the major parties might well begin to moderate their policies to stop

the vote drain. The long term gains to be scored for the progressive agenda

would serve to ameliorate the feeling among some voters that their vote should

not be wasted on a candidate unlikely to win. The Greens and all progressives

win big with any vote going over 5%. For once, one could, in fact, vote for what

was wanted rather than the lesser Tweedledee/Tweedledum evil and the nation

would take note.

For

the Greens to accomplish this, a dynamic candidate is needed, someone able to

show up well in a toe-to-toe with the other candidates. It is not the place of

people not in the Green Party to select candidates, but I offer the following

suggestions as the kind of candidates that would be effective. The low-keyed

Ralph Nader campaign of the last election won’t do. What is needed is someone

like Jim Hightower who could more than hold his own and whose humor would be in

striking contrast to the somber two. Michael Moore might be another person to

consider, if only because of the enormous recognition he would bring to the

contest beforehand. Another individual who comes to mind is Barbara Garson, a

veteran of the New Left who can more than handle herself in this kind of foray

and has run for office previously. The point here is that the candidate has to

be substantive yet willing to take on the establishment and face the

consequences that a defeat of Hilary would never be forgiven by the Democrats….

Dan Georgakas

Dan

Georgakas, coauthor of Detroit: I Do Mind Dying, teaches courses in

international affairs at New York University.

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