Saturday morning: After breakfast at the Midwest Diner, Debbie and I walked over to the massive Midwest Airline Center, where the Presidential Nominating Convention was to take place. I registered and got my delegate credential. The other members of our delegation were already there, including Art, who was working at the Solidarity table. Talk was circulating amongst the pro-Cobb camp, warnings of expected disruptions on the floor from the pro-Nader camp. I wonder if similar talk was circulating amongst the Naderites?
After a bit of milling around, we each made our way into the big ballroom and onto the convention floor. This was my first political convention ever, but I found myself familiar with the general milieu, I guess from watching the Democrats and Republicans on television. Of course, the Green Party is much smaller, so there were hundreds of delegates on the floor rather than thousands. But there was a general sense of excitement and anticipation.
Soon things were rolling. Matt Gonzalez was the elections manager and presided over the process. On the San Francisco Board of Supervisers, he’s one of the most important Green officeholders in the land, but more importantly he’s the brother of Chuck Gonzalez, who rocked such great Bloomington bands as Stranded at the Drive-In and Lessick’s Kid.
Each of the candidates addressed us in turn. Not Nader, of course; he wasn’t in Milwaukee, but Peter Camejo spoke on his behalf and encouraged us to support a dual endorsement. A Cobb supporter yelled something at him. Later, Jason stood and applauded Camejo, as if to show that not all Cobb supporters were assholes.
Cobb spoke, and he concluded his speech with the news that he’d been endorsed by the newly-formed Black Caucus. Immediately a couple of African-American delegates near us stood up and protested: “That’s not true!” A general hubbub arose, then quieted quickly as the next candidate took the stage.
Carol Miller from New Mexico gave an angry, strident speech. “It is the United States government that is the enemy of the peoples of the world.” Now there’s a sentiment you won’t hear at the Democratic or Republican conventions. She also made a damn good case against Cobb’s campaign strategy, perhaps the best case I’d heard yet.
A guy named Richard Campbell spoke on behalf of No Candidate/No Endorsement. He ran for office in Maryland and lost by 80 votes. A fellow Green he worked with lost another race by 20 votes. His point was that we need to concentrate on local races we can actually win rather than pissing off a lot of friends running a race we can’t win. I was impressed by the sincerity of this argument. It’s pretty fuckin’ cool to have someone speaking up on behalf of None of the Above.
After the last candidate had spoken, the leaders of the Black Caucus appeared on the stage to correct Cobb’s statement and offer an apology on his behalf. It seems a caucus member had miscommunicated to Cobb; in fact the Black Caucus had endorsed the D.C. Blue-Green Voter X-Change Project, which requires a Green candidate, but they hadn’t been any more specific than that.
Ballots were distributed. I marked mine for Jonathan D. Farley, as I was bound to do. I was elected at our state caucus, remember?
Finally the main event began: the tallying of votes. Each delegation, standing beside its state placard and surrounded by cameras and microphones, gave its official vote count to the Matt, with a side order of pomp and circumstance. Again, this was something I’d seen on television. But the Greens did it a little differently.
Alabama went first. “The state of Alabama has four delegates… We are, in the Alabama Green Party, proud and privileged to cast all four votes for David Cobb and Pat LaMarche.”
I think California was the biggest delegation with 132 delegate votes, and they came out heavily in favor of Camejo, with 80-odd votes for him. That’s a lot — nine times the total number of votes Lousiana has. What if Camejo won? This was a mystery to me. After all, Camejo had stated repeatedly that he was not running for president. He’s Nader’s running mate, but Nader was not seeking the nomination. So what would a Camejo victory mean, exactly?
When my Hoosier homies took the mic, we learned that the great state of Indiana stretches “from the shores of polluted Lake Michigan in the north to the clear-cut banks of the Ohio River in the south, with many other sins in between.” [This quote got picked up by the New York Times and some other newspapers.]
When Leenie gave our votes, she affected a Southern drawl, or some kind of weird country twang. This was strange, since she grew up in Baltimore, and since people in New Orleans don’t really talk like that. She took note of Louisiana’s vanishing coastline, and proclaimed that we were the “saggy pants capitol of the world” and that we now had the “most liberalest or Greenest” ballot access laws in the country. “Us Louisiana Greens proudly present these votes.” We cast three votes for Camejo, three votes for Cobb, and three for Jonathan D. Farley. These three votes were the only ones Farley got. I’m sure many people were wondering who this guy was. I hope they remember the name.
Eugene Debs got one vote from the Minnesota delegation.
The Mississippi delegation gave one of the most rousing deliveries, impassioned and angry. Some parts I couldn’t make out because of the cheering of the crowd. “Mississippi, the Magnolia State. With all due respect to our brother and sister states, the greatest state in the union! We’ve given this nation its highs, with musicians like Robert Johnson, Elvis Presley… and also its lows, with Emmett Till… and Edgar Mevers. A state where compasssionate conservatism means kicking 65,000 of our most vulnerable citizens, elderly and the poor, off the Medicaid roles, in an example of what happens when the Frick Republican Party meets the Frack Democratic Party, in a conspiracy to deprive working men and women of justice… and a fair standard of living. We are proud to cast our four votes: Three for Pedro Miguel Camejo, and one for David Cobb.”
(I’d met the lone Cobb delegate from Mississippi the night before, an older gentleman named Sherman Lee Dillon. He ran for governor of that state last year.)
I was moved by these little speeches given by people from all over the country. I almost choked up once or twice. But soon it became clear that no one would take a majority of the votes in the first round. 385 were needed to win, and Cobb came closest with 308. That meant we’d take a break for lunch, then come back and vote again. Anything could happen; the situation was complex and way too close to call.
Tallies for the first round:
Cobb 308 (385 needed)
No Nominee 74.5
NOTA (None of the Above) 35.5
…I don’t have the numbers for the other candidates such as Shiela Bilyeu but I know Farley got three and Debs got one.
To be continued!