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Green Party Presidential Debate in San Francisco: Show of Unity?

by Robert B. Livingston (gruaudemais [at]
It was not without trepidation that I attended the Green Party Presidential Debate today at the Herbst Theatre in San Francisco-- and despite moments of inspiration, cheer and hope... I left mystified. Will the Green Party enter the 2008 Presidential race strong and unified-- or will it continue to become increasingly marginalized by a leadership more concerned with creating pockets of influence than with igniting an authentic and diverse national movement capable of substantially challenging the status quo of a country increasingly controlled by corporations?
San Francisco
January 13, 2008

"What is missing?" I kept asking myself from the moment I arrived at the Herbst Theatre this afternoon.  It seemed all of the keys were in place for a dramatic and catalytic presidential debate that would put the trivia of the the two-party presidential debates in a spotlight.  Despite the full house and exhuberent audience participation, somehow that never quite happened.

Earlier I had encountered Cynthia McKinney and confessed to her that my dream would be for Nader to throw his support behind her campaign-- and I could see in her eyes that she truly hoped so also... but she also looked as if she hadn't any idea what Nader had in store.  It remains to be seen if Nader will declare his own independent candidacy-- to broaden debate about the issues he cares most about?

After seeing McKinney, I saw Nader, looking weary and somewhat disappointed, huddling with his advisers-- something did not seem to be happening according to plan.  I was never able to talk with any of them, although I had hoped to do so.

During an intermission, I encountered a few prominent local Greens huddling-- what were they talking about?  They shooed me away-- whatever it was they did not want me to know.

Whatever was going on, the full audience were treated like children-- no one ever explained why Nader was not to share the stage with the Green candidates.  All that was announced was a terse message that the organizers had been informed 48 hours before the event that he would not appear with the Green Party candidates and that he was not an official candidate.  Was Nader going to announce his own independent run for the presidency?  I was told later that Nader had not yet declared. (Indeed, before the event Green Party organizers said that Ralph Nader's office had asked them to state that he is not a candidate.)

I was also told after the event by Aimee Allison that Nader had not shared the stage with the Greens for "legal" reasons:  was that a way of saying that rules set up by those who set up the debate could not allow him to share the stage-- or was it his own agenda that disallowed him from sharing the stage?  I was never sure.  

At one point Cindy Sheehan, one of the moderators, asked Nader about his potential candidacy.  Alone on the stage, Nader quipped about building bridges to the Green Party and embarked upon an eloquent diatribe against the control corporations increasingly have over our country-- a control that can be described as being fascist.  He said that on the issues, the Green Party as compared to the two corporate parties (Republican and Democratic Parties) was as different as day and night. He suggested that internal conflicts and excessive rule-making within the Green Party did not much interest him and advised that the Party grow by keeping its focus on the issues it professes to be concerned about-- and by organizing. Much of Nader's soliloquy on a host of issues was devoted to advising the party to become angry and energized by the increasingly negative turn our country has taken in recent years.

So what happens next?  I wonder-- and I'm sure many people wonder.  Will Nader run?  If he does-- what will that mean for the Green Party? What will that mean for Cynthia McKinney's campaign? (At one point in the debate, Jared Ball declared that the debate was less a debate than a discussion of unanimity of support behind Cynthia McKinney, clearly the most popular of the candidates that shared the stage.)

Rather than leaving the event energized-- I left mystified-- except for one thing:  clearly Nader and the Green Party candidates virtually share the same interests.  All the debaters were eloquent and sincere.  The audience all hoped for unity and purpose. All were solidly behind Cindy Sheehan's independent congressional campaign in San Francisco against Nancy Pelosi.  Both Nader and McKinney appeared bent toward making the critical issues of our day tantamount to any party bickering or conflict.

So where was the magic?  Where was the transparency?  Where was the unity and purpose?  

Stay tuned....


Of note:  To my knowledge, Matt Gonzalez did not appear as a moderator as advertised.  Elaine Brown did not appear because she left the Green Party.

On stage to debate were Jesse Johnson, Kat Swift, Cynthia McKinney, Kent Mesplay,and Jared Ball.

The crowd was told at the start that Ralph Nader would appear separately from the Green Party candidates, which he did after they debated.  He never shared the stage with them.

Disclosure:  I endorsed Ralph Nader at (which never published my comment that I hoped Cynthia McKinney would declare her candidacy.  I afterwards endorsed Cynthia McKinney.  My hope continues to be that Nader and McKinney could find a way to run together.  I am a charter member of GDI, Greens for Democracy and Independence-- I believe that an authentic and strong Green Party requires transparency and valid representation-- it should not endorse candidates in the corporate parties.

It is my understanding that today's event will be broadcast and reported widely-- as soon as possible I hope to provide links to such in the comments section.  I hope others will make productive comments and corrections below.
§Herbst Theatre where the event took place
by Robert B. Livingston
This was the announcement of the event here at indybay,org:
§Cynthia McKinney before the event
by Robert B. Livingston
§Ralph Nader before the event
by Robert B. Livingston
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Nader was late for the event: not true. In typical fashion, it failed to mention that Cindy Sheehan is a congressional candidate in San Francisco. It further reported that hecklers received claps of approval-- from Chronicle reporters I wonder? Perhaps some people clapped approval for those that removed the hecklers.

The Chronicle article tried to make the debate sound trite:
§Greens Presidential candidates debate
by Robert B. Livingston
Left to right: Jesse Johnson, Kat Swift, Cynthia McKinney, Kent Mesplay,and Jared Ball.
Cindy Sheehan, an independent candidate for congress is seated on the right.

Here is Cindy Sheehan's campaign website:
§Ralph Nader speaks alone.
by Robert B. Livingston
Add Your Comments
Listed below are the latest comments about this post.
These comments are submitted anonymously by website visitors.
Mon, Jan 28, 2008 4:12AM
Robert B. Livingston
Sat, Jan 26, 2008 1:40PM
Jared Ball (repost and link)
Sat, Jan 19, 2008 2:01AM
Robert B. Livingston
Wed, Jan 16, 2008 6:47AM
Theory and practice
Wed, Jan 16, 2008 12:16AM
Robert B. Livingston
Tue, Jan 15, 2008 11:17PM
Tue, Jan 15, 2008 5:02PM
Enough Dumbing down
Tue, Jan 15, 2008 4:53PM
Robert B. Livingston
Tue, Jan 15, 2008 7:11AM
Tue, Jan 15, 2008 12:01AM
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