Hear Lindorff and Green activist and former 2004 Ralph Nader presidential campaign press spokesman Kevin Zeese discuss the political implications of a possible Sanders general election campaign for president as the Green Party’s candidate, To play this interview, which took place on Wednesday afternoon on the Progressive Radio Network’s “This Can’t Be Happening!” program, click HERE
You ran a great race, achieving something that most of us thought would be impossible, running as an “avowed” socialist in today’s United States of America, against one of the most hardened and tested political machines in the country, the Clintons, and winning 22 primaries and caucuses with a total of over 12 million votes. And while Hillary and her minions threw everything they had at you, including voter suppression efforts, lies about your voting record in the Senate, unfair assistance from the Democratic National Committee and state Democratic officials, and manipulation of the media, you came excruciatingly close to knocking her off and winning the nomination.
Okay, you didn’t make it to the finish line.
Now the pressure is on you, from the corporate media that originally ignored you, then attacked you and finally resorted to outright corruption the night before the June 7 primary by prematurely calling the race for Clinton in hopes of depressing your turnout in the last six primaries, and now to a meeting tomorrow with President Obama, who will try and convince you to give up, and to endorse Hillary Clinton.
But while it’s true that way back at the start of your seemingly Quixotic campaign, you did promise to endorse her if you lost, that campaign has since evolved beyond even your imagination into a powerful movement for “political revolution,” with millions of people behind it. Also over the intervening months, you have both seen how unprincipled your opponent can be, and have also done a masterful job of highlighting just how corrupted she has become as a person and politician. You’ve pointed out how she has been bought by the too-big-to-fail bankers, who have paid her legal bribes totaling millions of dollars, euphemistically calling them “speaking fees.” You’ve denounced her acceptance of hundreds of millions of dollars of legal bribes in the form of campaign contributions from key industries like the drug companies, the military contractors, the oil giants and even the for-profit prison industry. While you graciously declined early on and waited, in my view, way too long to go after Hillary for her improper and illegal use, for years, of a private email server during her four-year tenure as Secretary of State, late in the primary battle you finally did point out that she was acting in an illegal way (one that now has her as the first presumptive presidential candidate in memory running while being actively investigated by the FBI). You also intimated — correctly in my humble view as an investigative reporter — that this move of hers to avoid the Freedom of Information Act was linked to her efforts to peddle influence to US corporate executives and foreign leaders in return for cash going into the Clinton Foundation coffers — a sordid arrangement reeking of corruption and self-dealing.
You’ve been right in all of this campaign criticism, and you have successfully exposed Hillary Clinton as the bought-and-paid candidate of big money, a woman who will say whatever she thinks it takes to get herself elected but who, in the end, will be serving the interests of those who paid for her election, not of the American people.
How could you now even think about turning around and doing what you originally said you would do and endorsing her? How could you, after exposing Clinton as the candidate of big banks, big pharma, big military and rich people, ask your millions of supporters — including people who dropped their hard-earned $27 into your campaign, often multiple times, to the tune, I believe, of over $200 million — suddenly turn around and ask them to back her in the general election?
If you were to endorse Hillary Clinton at this point, you would be destroying everything you have accomplished in this amazing campaign. Many people — especially the young people for whom your movement may have been a first-ever experience at political action — would surely become cynical about politics. Others would just write you off as just another self-serving politician accepting a deal. Most would ignore any call for unity anyhow, making it doubly pointless and destructive for you to make it. So what would you accomplish then, except perhaps to be repaid for your submission with some offer of a plum post on an important Senate Committee (assuming that the Republicans, in a race against Clinton, don’t end up staying in control of the Senate, making such a promised plum into a prune)?
Fortunately there is another path, and I’m sure you’ve been at least thinking about it. That is to run in the general election, this time going up against both Hillary and Trump (as well as the Libertarians and the Conservatives, who will be vying with Trump for the country’s right-leaning voters).
You could run as an independent. I’m sure you’d get plenty of financial backing again from your supporters, as in the primaries, and that you’d do creditably well, too if you did. But as Ralph Nader learned, the problem is you’d be wasting a lot if not most of your time and much of your funding fighting simply to get your name on state ballots — a process which the two established parties have conspired to make extremely difficult. In fact, many states’ deadlines for getting an independent name on the ballot have already, or are about to pass.
On the other hand, I know you have been approached about, but reportedly have yet to respond to, offers from people like Dr. Jill Stein, a leader of the Green Party and its presumptive nominee for this year’s presidential race as she was in 2012, and Seattle’s socialist City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant too, about seeking and accepting the Green Party’s nomination for president (the Green Party’s nominating convention is in early August). Stein has even said she’d let you have the top spot, running for president!
As I assume you are aware, the Green Party is already on the ballot in 21 states having a total of 310 electoral votes, which is 40 more than the 270 needed to win the presidency. The party is reportedly working hard to get on a number of other state lines too in time for November’s election and is already close to having 25 states with another 60 electoral votes. They’re not stopping there (and would do even better with some of your campaign money to pay for lawyers and petition gatherers). If you got that nomination, you’d be well on your way to being a viable national third-party candidate, and could work to get on the ballots of other critical states. This could be done in some states by getting smaller state parties, for example Peace & Freedom or the Working People’s Party to nominate you, and where no other option exists by fighting to get listed as an independent candidate.
Could you win in such a five-way race? I believe that in this unprecedented political environment, running against two candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, who have the highest negative polling numbers in the history of polls, you could indeed win. You start with the more than 12 million people who’ve already voted for you once in the primaries (who would surely vote for you again in November), and since you have already run in all 50 states, your name recognition is as high as it could possibly be. Unlike Ralph Nader in his campaigns, you are virtually guaranteed as a third-party candidate to be included in the nationally televised debates in the fall, which will only increase your chances of winning. And you know you will be deluged with campaign funds from your backers in even greater amounts than during the primaries if you are running for the White House for real in the general election.
But even if you didn’t win an outright majority of electoral votes, there’s a good chance you’d win the presidency. All you would really have to do is out-do Hillary Clinton. That’s because given the limitations of Donald Trump’s appeal, and the appeal of even the total right-leaning candidates’ votes, it’s a pretty safe bet that between the two of you, Clinton and yourself, you will win a combined majority of the electoral votes. (Under Electoral College rules, the final vote for a winning presidential candidate has to be a majority of the Electoral College, but the candidate who wins a plurality of votes in any given state receives all that state’s Electoral College delegates.)
Recall that the electors in the Electoral College are not required by law to vote for the candidate who won their state’s popular vote. Like those frustrating “super delegates” of the Democratic Party, they are free to vote for whom they choose (remember the Nixon elector who famously voted for anti-war Rep. Pete McClosky, a California Republican, or recall the electors who voted in 1824 for John Quincy Adams, though Andrew Jackson had won both the electoral and the popular vote that year?). This means if you were to win more electoral votes than Clinton, you could just sit tight and let her contemplate the choice between allowing the election to move from a deadlocked Electoral College to the Republican-led House for a decision, which would mean her turning the White House over to a Republican (possibly Donald Trump!) or alternatively instructing her electors to vote for you.
If you ended up with fewer electors than Hillary, you could do the same, and have your electors vote for her, making her the president.
In either of those cases, I suspect you could both agree to have the one handing over the electors become the vice president, perhaps with some important responsibilities assigned to the role as part of a publicly transparent deal.
What should be particularly attractive about this plan is that by your running as a Green, you would be institutionalizing that “political revolution” that you launched a year ago with your primary run. A Green campaign with you as the marquis candidate would put the Green Party on the ballot in all 50 states for the 2018 off-year election, as well as the 2020 presidential election. It would transmute the Green Party instantly from a perennial protest vote option into a major party going forward, perhaps even supplanting the increasingly corrupted and out-of-touch Democratic Party that you for so long avoided joining.
In fact, with you topping a Green ticket this year, many people, perhaps including some with name recognition, could be expected to run for Senate and House on that party line, and in such a tumultuous election year, they might well be voted into office as Green Party candidates, further undermining the Establishment two-system in Congress, and encouraging yet more people to run as Green candidates in 2018.
Frankly, aside from the wear-and-tear of another grueling three-to-four-month campaign (though you seem to thrive on them!), I don’t see any downside to this plan. You still get a chance to win the White House, you get to continue to lead and further develop a political revolution, and you don’t have to eat crow and endorse a candidate whom you clearly know to be the embodiment of the very rigged political-economic system you’ve been decrying.
Bernie, it’s been 44 years since I’ve been this excited about a US presidential campaign. In 1972, George McGovern put his whole Senate career on the line and tackled one of the most corrupt and ruthless politicians of the day, Richard Nixon, because he passionately believed that the Vietnam War had to be ended, and that poverty in America and other issues had to be seriously addressed. He lost, but he fought a nobel battle that was epic and that is still remembered. In a way, with Nixon’s impeachment and resignation, he really won, for it was his candidacy and the movement he was part of that pushed Nixon to adopt the extreme tactics of Watergate that led to his downfall.
It’s your turn now. You’ve already accomplished one helluva lot, and it almost seems unfair for me and your supporters to ask you, like Muhammed Ali after his draft refusal and ban from boxing, to climb back into the ring for another few punishing rounds of political combat, but we need you to do it. Please, for the sake of the political movement you’ve begun to end America’s corrupt, rigged political and economic system, don’t stop now. Talk to Stein and Sawant and the Green Party, get their nomination for president and go for broke!
The movement you began will have your back!