20 September 2010

The Nation Endorses a Third Party Candidate in South Carolina

John Nichols may be speaking for himself and not for the editors of The Nation magazine, but within those pages normally dedicated with sanctimonious servility to the Democratic party Nichols has invited Democrats to support the Green party candidate in the South Carolina U.S. Senate election. Readers may recall that Palmetto state primary voters anointed unknown political novice Alvin Greene as their challenger to Republican incumbent Jim DeMint. Greene has faced legal problems ever since, but despite his near-total absence of credibility he has polled consistently in the neighborhood of 20% in Rasmussen's monthly polls, probably due to die-hard support from black voters. That's far better than the total support for all third-party candidates, whom you'd think would benefit from the Democratic debacle. As Nichols himself hints ever so slightly, Democrats may still hold a grudge against the Green Party, which has nominated environmental activist Tom Clements for Senate, because of the 2000 presidential election. Nichols writes, however, that Democrats should have gotten over their anger at Ralph Nader by now, especially since "Traditional Green issues, such as climate change and sustainability, have gone mainstream." He's careful to note, as well, that "the Greens have skipped runs that might have drawn votes away from progressive Democrats such as Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold."

Here's Nichols's capsule profile of Tom Clements:

Clements is a native Southerner who worked for thirteen years with Greenpeace International and directed the Nuclear Control Institute before taking over in 2008 as southeastern coordinator for Friends of the Earth. He was a campaign manager to former Georgia Congressman Doug Bernard, an experienced player on the international stage since his days as a leading antiproliferation campaigner and an able spokesman on issues ranging from environmental racism to global warming to the green economy. Clements is economically populist, socially progressive and antiwar. And he knows the race should be about DeMint, not the foibles of his Democratic challenger.

Clements is challenging DeMint to debate him, accusing the incumbent of indifference to his own constituents while meddling in elections across the country. There's no good reason for DeMint to duck him. No one expects Clements to beat him even if Democrats do start following Nichols's advice, while sharing a stage with Clements would elevate the Green party in a way that could prove problematic for Democrats in the future. That might prove problematic for Republicans in the longer term, but it probably wouldn't be DeMint's worry by the time the Greens became the actual second party in South Carolina. Still, that's a result for liberals and progressives in South Carolina to shoot for. Some unions have already endorsed Clements, while greater efforts will probably be necessary to convince blacks to abandon Greene's still-historic candidacy. But if a Green candidate can't come in second against such a hopeless Democrat as Greene, the state party is a hopeless proposition.

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