Hopefuls for Green Party Presidential Nomination Debate at KSG

Lowell K. Chow

Presidential hopeful David Cobb, left, delivers his opening comments at a Green Party candidates’ debate held at the JFK Jr. Forum on Jan. 29. Lorna Salzman, who is also competing for the nomination, sits at right.

Green Party presidential candidates gathered at the Kennedy School of Government last week to debate but spent most of the event criticizing the Bush administration.

Candidates David Cobb, Kent P. Mesplay and Lorna Salzman affirmed their commitments to peace, preserving the environment, and gender and racial equality before an audience of about 100 people at the JFK Jr. Forum on Thursday.

All three candidates were unified in their criticism of President Bush.

Salzman, an environmental activist, writer and lecturer who co-founded the New York Green Party, called Bush a “vector of disease,” blaming him for most of the political and economic problems of the United States.

Mesplay, a California air quality inspector, said he was more concerned about the nation’s government than he was about any threat of terrorism.

“I would find it hard to design a society that’s more prone to collapse than the U.S.,” Mesplay said.


Salzman, however, said both the government and terrorism were causes for concern.

“I also think that the practice of suicide bombing is despicable,” she said.

All three candidates said they were strongly opposed to U.S. involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan and Colombia.

Cobb, general counsel for the national Green Party and founder of the Green Party of Texas, called U.S. military involvement in Iraq an “immoral occupation...done by, for and on behalf of multinational companies.”

Aside from their criticism of the Bush administration, the candidates stressed the importance of their party, despite its small size.

With about 300,000 members nationwide, the Green Party’s goal, Cobb said, is to have a membership that includes at least five percent of all registered voters. Many states require the Green Party to meet this threshold before permitting residents to affiliate themselves officially with the party.

Mesplay discounted claims that in the 2000 presidential election, Green Party candidate Ralph Nader contributed to Bush’s victory by winning votes away from Democratic candidate Al Gore ’69.

“I don’t know what happened in Florida, but 300,000 Democrats voting for Bush didn’t help either,” he said.

Harvard College Democrats President Andy J. Frank ’05, who did not attend the debate, wrote in an e-mail that he believes that the Green Party will play no significant role in the 2004 election.

“If members of the Green Party wish to have their agenda heard, they should work within the machinery of the Democratic Party,” Frank wrote.

Harvard Republican Club spokesperson Lauren K. Truesdell ’06 wrote in an e-mail that while “it is not necessarily true that without Nader, Gore would have won,” she thought the Green Party would have even less of an impact this year than it did in 2000.

“No Green candidate has generated a significant amount of press activity, and we don’t think that as many liberals will defect from the Democrats en masse to vote for an unknown Green candidate,” she wrote.