How the Green Party Slays Their Own
An Interview with John Murphy
Murphy is running an antiwar, pro-civil liberties campaign for US Congress
from the 16th District of Pennsylvania (www.johnmurphyforcongress.org).
Murphy, a Green, was denied his party’s endorsement last month because, as
Murphy believes, he supported Ralph Nader and was critical of Green Party
presidential candidate David Cobb in 2004. Murphy recently spoke with
Joshua Frank about his campaign as well as the future of the Green Party.
Joshua Frank: John,
you've been a Green Party member for a while now. Can you tell us a bit
about what capacity you've played in your state's Green Party?
John Murphy: I never wanted to get involved in the internal operations of the state Green Party. I thought this was better left to younger men and women. I have, however been active in helping campaign for Green candidates at the local level. My political activism took on an interesting form in the last few years. I became what some people call a "photo essayist." I simply began by writing to my friends and business associates several years ago asking them to contact their senators to prevent an unconstitutional transference of legislative power to the executive branch whereby President Bush would be given unlimited power to wage war at his discretion.
These simple letters to
friends became more and more sophisticated as I began to embellish them
with editorial cartoons, articles written by other people and then my own
comments often spicing up my essays with my own form of editorial
cartoons. Now I have lost count of how many thousands of people receive
I have been active in the
antiwar movement ever since the 60s but the Nader campaign of 2004 gave me
the opportunity to use many of the skills I have developed over the last
60 years as an educator, union negotiator and business owner in support of
his campaign. Consequently when the Nader campaign needed someone to
represent Mr. Nader in a series of debate-like forums throughout
Southeastern Pennsylvania they chose me. When they wanted someone to speak
prior to his press conferences and fundraisers in Philadelphia, they chose
me. When they wanted someone to represent the independent candidacy of
Nader/Camejo in the Pennsylvania Ballot Access Coalition, an organization
consisting of the leaders of the "minor parties" organized to change the
egregious ballot access laws in Pennsylvania, they again chose me.
My organizational and leadership skills coupled with my seniority were put to much greater use in this capacity than serving in any position as an internal officer in the official state Green Party organization. I paid those kinds of dues many years ago when I held several functional vice-presidencies, including chairman of the board, of a prominent professional association in Philadelphia.
JF: Can you talk a little about what it was like being a Nader supporter in the Green Party during the 2004 elections?
JM: First of all you should keep in mind that the entire reason for my joining the Green Party was that since I voted for Mr. Nader in both 1996 and 2000, I simply decided that if there were a couple of hundred thousand people who felt the way I did, at least I ought to join their party.
I had no idea how intimidated the Greens in leadership positions had become as a result of the scapegoating efforts of the Democratic Party after the 2000 election. As the 2004 election approached, a lot of the Pennsylvania Greens were saying things like "we don't want our Democratic friends to hold us responsible again for Bush's election."
Truthfully, I was surprised
by that entire line of thinking because I never felt "responsible" nor did
I hold Mr. Nader "responsible" for Gore's loss in 2000. I had always held
the Democrats responsible for that. In any event there was no way that I
could possibly support someone like John Kerry whose position on the Iraq
war, the USA Patriot Act and a dozen or so other issues were diametrically
opposed to the values espoused by the Green Party. The GPUS as well as the
GPPA supported Kerry through his surrogate candidate David Cobb who told
the Greens that it would be all right to vote for him in states like Texas
and Massachusetts where it didn't matter but they should vote for Kerry
In the meantime, the
leadership of the Pennsylvania Green Party had become completely seduced
by the "safe-states" philosophy of David Cobb. I am strained to describe
in polite language how anyone could embrace this philosophy; especially
people I once would have described as courageous. Suffice it to say that
any courage that I once believed existed in the Green Party leadership was
I could understand how the
Democrats who, in good conscience, thought they were supporting the
antiwar movement through the candidacy of Kucinich or even Dean might have
been flimflammed by the ABB (Anybody But Bush) strategy of the Democratic
Party but I just couldn't believe that my fellow Greens had gotten sucked
into that black hole.
So while I was gathering
signatures for Nader's nominating petitions, the Green Party was working
hand in glove with the Democratic Party whose sole purpose was to subvert
Nader's candidacy by denying him ballot access in Pennsylvania. It's very
spooky to realize that while the Democratic Party challenged every one of
Nader's signatures, not even one of David Cobb's signatures were
challenged by the Democratic Party -- not even for the sake of
I did not stop simply at
supporting Mr. Nader. I chastised those who came to be known as the
"lesser evil Greens" whenever the opportunity arose. Since I had a pretty
powerful Internet presence, that opportunity arose on a pretty regular
The events that began to
unfold in Pennsylvania even became more bizarre. The Pennsylvania
leadership eventually passed a resolution condemning the safe-states
philosophy. When I learned of this I immediately thought, well I guess
they're finally going to dump David Cobb. But they did not. In fact they
put him on the ballot in a state where he did not even want any votes!
How could the Pennsylvania
Greens take this action? How could they condemn the safe states gospel and
then actually put its evangelist on the ballot? How could they have
squandered our meager resources in such a way when they were so
desperately needed to support Mr. Nader whose position actually reflected
what Greens like to call their "ten key values"?
When it became clear that
they couldn't even come up with enough volunteers to collect a sufficient
number of signatures for David Cobb the chairman of the Green Party
himself financed a private contractor to collect the balance of the
necessary signatures. What were these people thinking? Clearly the
Pennsylvania Greens didn't want this guy Cobb but the chairman himself
paid to have him put on the ballot!
For some reason, I still
considered myself a member of the Green Party, but I had become part of an
internal movement called the "GDI" -- Greens for Democracy and
Independence which had developed a series of proposals that would prevent
another bastardization of the democratic process like the Milwaukee
convention where David Cobb who actually had gotten only 12% of the Green
Party votes ended up as the official candidate.
JF: I've heard quite a
few stories like yours, and there are purportedly a lot of things going on
within the Green Party; a split between Cobb Greens and Camejo Greens and
even the impeachment of a few Steering Committee members. Not to open up
all those issues here, but can you expand more on what has recently
happened with your campaign for Congress? Was it more personal than
strategic on the part of those who didn't support you? I'm assuming that
the majority of them were, and are, Cobb supporters? Are the Greens in PA
trying to dump the Naderites?
JM: Yes, there was a
failed effort to impeach five members of the steering committee because
they refused to seat a validly elected member of the GDI. It had to do
with two separate results from the IRV voting that took place at the
plenary meeting of the Green Party in Tulsa last July. Two different
programs were used yielding two separate results. But the truth of the
matter is they simply did not want to seat a Naderite!
JF: Can you tell us
more about the GDI?
JM: Sure, for all
practical purposes the GDI is composed of former Nader supporters. There
may be one or two repentant Cobbites in the group but the “lesser evil
Greens” want absolutely nothing to do with the GDI members whom they see
as some kind of a radical fringe. There has even been an incredible amount
of red-baiting going on. But you're correct; trying to delve into this
business would take quite some time. To make a long story short however if
the GDI is not ultimately successful in getting its proposals passed, I
find it hard to imagine how the Green Party will survive after 2008.
The Green Party in
Pennsylvania decided not to nominate me for House of Representatives in
the 16th Congressional District. The reasons leading up to this decision
are truly Byzantine.
JF: What is the
nominating process like for Greens in Pennsylvania?
JM: In order to
receive the nomination of the PA Green Party you must first have the
endorsement of your local party. Four members of the Chester County Green
Party (my local Green Party) met in secret and decided not to call the
local party into session for a period of six months in order to avoid the
possibility that I might show up with sufficient supporters to obtain the
local party's endorsement. These four former officers actually admitted
this abuse of the democratic process in front of the chairman of the
Pennsylvania Green Party, three officers of the Pennsylvania Green Party,
nine of my supporters along with my wife and children! There are two ways
you can destroy democracy. One way is by preventing people from voting the
other is by preventing worthy candidates from ever appearing on the
ballot. The Green Party of Pennsylvania has chosen the latter.
When the Chester County Green
Party was forced to have a reorganization meeting on January 30, the party
chairman tried to cut a deal in order to prevent this disgrace from
becoming public. Since they deliberately prohibited the Chester County
Green Party from meeting in order to endorse me, the party chairman tried
to get a motion passed whereby my endorsement would be deferred to the
delegates of the Green Party itself. Although it looked like these four
former officers were going to go along with the deal he was trying to cut,
a few days later one of them went on the listserv of the Pennsylvania
delegates and told them that the Green Party of Chester County could not
recommend me for endorsement. A feeding frenzy followed whereby the
Cobbites trotted out one red herring after another for condemning my
candidacy. At the Green Party convention they would use this as the
linchpin upon which they would hang their refusal to grant me their
Tragically, but not
unexpectedly, the Green Party chairman in a monumental act of CYA did not
even tell the delegates what he witnessed at the meeting at the Chester
County Green Party.
I attended the Pennsylvania
state Green Party convention last week (February 25 and 26). It was a
cross between a high school pep rally and a meeting of a religious cult.
Of course not having a beard and ponytail, as I had back in 1967, made me
a bit out of place. Guess I just never recovered form going “clean for
Gene” in ’68.
These folks had decided quite
some time ago that there was no way they were going to allow my
nomination. They even engaged in emotional blackmail. One of the former
officers of Chester County Green Party wrote to the Pennsylvania delegates
saying that if the Pennsylvania Green Party nominated me it would destroy
the Green Party in Chester County and the PA Green Party could forget
about getting any signatures on its nominating petitions in Chester
County. As a matter of fact, I have more volunteers from the Chester
County Green Party in my campaign than have participated in any meeting of
the Chester County Green Party for the past two years. Furthermore,
because I have been endorsed by the Libertarian Party, they have already
arranged to get all the necessary signatures for my nominating petitions!
Now ironically the Green Party candidates will have no signatures on their
petitions from Chester County. In a year when they need 67,000 signatures
they have essentially thrown away the 5000 signatures that my candidacy
would have brought them.
If that were not bad enough
one person who constitutes an entire hate group all by himself joined the
GDI listserv some time ago under false pretenses. When the GDI was
considering endorsing me, he tried to blackmail them by telling them that
if they gave me their endorsement they could forget all about their three
proposals ever passing in Pennsylvania. You might get away with that kind
of emotional blackmail in Pennsylvania but the GDI would never buy into
something like that and I am pleased to say that I have been endorsed by
the GDI as well as by Peter Camejo. I expect to have the formal
endorsement of Ralph Nader as soon as he returns from Connecticut.
JF: So what is their
public rationale for not endorsing you?
JM: The Green Party
here has said they can't have someone like me represent them because of
the way I criticized them for supporting David Cobb. This decision was not
strategic; it was personal. Unfortunately, the GPPA and by extension the
GPUS, has not yet developed the talent for strategic thought. The
Republicans are going to be represented in the 16th Congressional District
by a man who took money from Jack Abramoff and who blames Homer Simpson
for the decline of fatherhood in the United States. This man of course
also supports the war, the Patriot Act and countless other pieces of
The Democratic Party is being
represented by a retired school administrator who believes that terrorists
should be tried by military tribunals instead of civilian courts. She too
believes that the occupation of Iraq should continue and gives her support
to the Patriot Act along with free-trade agreements like NAFTA. The
Democrat does not even support equal rights for gays and lesbians and she
thinks that individual countries must be held responsible for acts of
terrorism committed by their citizens. The implication being that the
United States therefore has the right to invade any such country anytime
it chooses. The Green Party of Pennsylvania, however, will not allow an
antiwar, pro-civil liberties candidate to represent it because he called
them a dirty word two years ago!
JF: On the
whole, does this pro-Cobb sect represent the majority of Greens you know?
JM: Most Greens are
well-meaning environmentalists who see the Green Party as some kind of a
social club where people should sit around and talk about our stinking air
and dirty water but should not sink to the level of electoral politics.
The Pennsylvania Greens, following the GPUS in the 2004 presidential
contest essentially backed off from the whole question of electoral
politics. The Pennsylvania Greens again had an opportunity to back a
strong antiwar/pro-civil liberties candidate for House of Representatives
in the 16th district against the two warmongering candidates, but again it
backed off from that race as well.
If the Green Party ever hopes
to overcome its characterization as being a fringe group full of tree
hugging hippies it’s definitely going to have to stop electing such
politically naïve leaders. The Green Party of Pennsylvania refused to
support a truly antiwar candidate in the 2004 presidential election
deferring to John Kerry through the surrogacy of David Cobb and now they
have decided not to field an antiwar Green candidate to run against the
two pro war candidates for House of Representatives in the 16th District.
I will be running as an
independent and my ballot line will read "Pennsylvania Populist Party". As
you may recall the Green Party of Maryland refused to endorse Mr. Nader
consequently he started the Maryland Populist Party. I will run under the
Populist banner in honor of Mr. Nader. Fortunately the local Greens -- the
real Greens in Chester County -- will be supporting me. I will also be
endorsed by both the Libertarian Party and the Reform Party. Although the
Pennsylvania Socialist Party had endorsed me, they had their hands slapped
by their own National Committee whose policy does not permit the
endorsement of non-socialists. Nevertheless the rank-and-file members of
the Socialist Party will be providing me "feet on the street" during my
campaign. I have linked my candidacy not only with Kevin Zeese who is
running for Senate in Maryland but to a network of non-duopoly antiwar
candidates that has sprung up all over the country.
As far as the Green Party actually trying to get rid of the Naderites; I'm afraid it is really true. Most of the Nader supporters have become members of the GDI. One of our proposals requires the complete independence of the Green Party from the two old parties which of course really means the Democratic Party. There is a strong element in the leadership of the Green Party which, in the words of Jody Haug, one of the co-chairs on the National Steering Committee of the Green Party, "we need to keep our options open." A large majority of the Green Party's National Committee refuses to declare its independence from the Democratic Party and wishes to retain the option of supporting a Democrat either openly or simply by running no candidate in closely contested elections. Those of us in the GDI, primarily the Nader supporters, feel that this will spell the death of the Green Party.
Joshua Frank edits the radical news blog www.BrickBurner.org and is the author of Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush, published by Common Courage Press (2005). Josh can be reached at: BrickBurner@gmail.com.
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