Another Texan for President? Austin Chronicle Interviews David Cobb


A Texan is running for president, and get this � he supports environmental protection, workers' rights, and an end to imperialism. He even speaks the English language quite articulately. David Cobb grew up in San Leon on the Gulf Coast, received a law degree from the University of Houston, and managed Ralph Nader's Green Party presidential campaign in Texas in 2000. Now, Cobb seeks the Green nomination for himself, and talked with the Chronicle at Ruta Maya Coffeehouse recently before an Austin campaign stop.

The Austin Chronicle: First, the obvious question: Why are you running for president?

David Cobb: The Earth is being literally destroyed, and an unjust, racist, sexist, classist society is being created with the plunder. The current establishment parties are complicit in that destruction. Now, there are good, rank-and-file progressive members of the Democratic Party; there are good, principled, rank-and-file members of the Republican Party; but at the leadership level, those two parties have basically ensured that a genuine movement for peace, social and racial justice, genuine ecology, and grassroots democracy cannot take root within those two parties. So I'm seeking the Green Party's nomination for president to ensure that there is a political party that can take its place in the pantheon of history of the important role that other third parties have played in order to change the culture of this country.

AC: You just said there are some good, principled people in the rank-and-file Democrats ...

DC: Including elected representatives, I should say.

AC: ... so why not unite with the Democrats to defeat Bush?

DC: First of all, George Bush is a problem, but he's not the real problem. The real problem is the underlying social, political, and economic institutions, and John Kerry, with all due respect, is part of that. He voted for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, he voted for the PATRIOT Act, he voted for NAFTA, he supports the World Trade Organization, the GATT, the World Bank and IMF, and the entire global trade regime. He is opposed to single-payer universal health care; John Kerry opposes a guaranteed living wage across the board; John Kerry has voted in favor of the military-industrial complex time and time again. So, I don't see John Kerry being part of the overall solution of being able to build a long-term movement to be able to challenge the real problems.

AC: Why can't those rank-and-file Democrats use Kerry to accomplish their goals the same way the radical right uses George Bush to accomplish theirs?

DC: I guess they can, but I'm not a member of the Democratic Party, so I'm not going to judge what other folks do within their own party.

I will say this: The Green Party has a right to exist. We have a right to run candidates. We're going to continue to exercise our rights. How can our participation be a problem when we are advancing a progressive agenda that a majority of Americans agree with, and we are bringing people into the polls and into the election process that otherwise wouldn't participate? Polling data shows that in 2000, that about 25% of the Nader voters wouldn't have voted if Ralph Nader and the Green Party hadn't been on the ballot. ... If anybody believes that our participation is a problem, then the solution is instant run-off voting and proportional representation. There are systemic electoral reforms that could be implemented right now that would prevent the Green Party [from] spoiling anything, and it's very interesting to me that the Democrats are fighting hardest to prevent those reforms. At the establishment level, the Democratic Party leadership would rather try to kill the Green Party than beat Republicans. And you know what? That's their problem, not mine.

AC: What about the argument that the damage that Bush is doing is so far beyond even previous Republican administrations, that there is just too much at stake to give him another four years?

DC: Any voter who really believes that should vote their conscience. [But] first of all, there are only about eight, at most 10, states where that is going to matter. If any voter lives in such a state and is genuinely terrified of four more years of George Bush, I respect the fact that such a voter might hold their nose and vote not for Kerry but against Bush. It's too bad that we have a voting system that makes somebody vote against what they hate rather than for what they want. ... But in 40 other states, you don't have to do that, because the electoral college is predetermined in at least 38 to 40 states. For a progressive in those states, I say don't waste your vote. All you're doing if you vote for John Kerry but you don't like his policies, is putting a message out that you do in fact like those policies.

AC: But why a third party? Why not try to reinvigorate the progressive wing of the Democratic Party?

DC: I worked on the Jesse Jackson campaigns in 1984 and 1988 and the Jerry Brown campaign in 1992 ... and let me tell you what I learned: The Democratic Party presidential primary process is where progressive politics goes to die.

History shows us that creating an independent party is what works for progressive issues. In American history, any time that there have been efforts to make genuine, systemic, progressive change, citizens organize, they come to the establishment parties of the day ... [and] both establishment parties react one of two ways. Either, "Oh, that's very naïve, you're very idealistic, now please go away" or "You're a dangerous, un-American, Communist-Anarchist-Whatever, now go away." You see, they both conclude "now go away."

The abolition of slavery, women getting the right to vote, the creation of the social security administration, unemployment insurance, workers compensation laws, pure food and drug laws, progressive income tax, the abolition of child labor ... the entire fabric of what we today would consider the bare minimum of a just and compassionate society was woven together by third parties.

The Green Party presidential nomination will be determined at the party's national convention, June 23-28, in Milwaukee.