Green on green 

Postings on the enviro-mich mail listserve, which has more than 600 participants who closely follow Michigan environmental issues, don’t usually generate much debate. But in the past week, there has been much bloodletting as Greens attack Greens.

The issue is whether Ralph Nader will play spoiler — especially here in Michigan, where the race remains a statistical dead heat — and throw the presidency into George W. Bush’s lap. About this there is no debate among the listers: Environmentally, Dubya will be an unmitigated disaster if elected.

The posting of a Nader document blistering Al Gore for a long list of environmental transgressions (and labeling the environmental groups that endorse him as “servile”) was met with a reply from Sierra Club President Carl Pope, who ripped into Ralph, declaring that “I and the overwhelming majority of the environmental movement in this country, genuinely believe that your strategy is flawed, dangerous and reckless. Until you can answer how you will protect the people and places who will be put in harms way, or destroyed, by a Bush presidency, you have no right to slander those who disagree with you as ‘servile.’”

Tension among listers reached the breaking point when environmental consultant Alex Sagady — who administers the listserve funded by the Michigan chapter of the Sierra Club — sent a message encouraging e-mails be sent begging Nader to drop from the race. Tom Ness, a Green Party congressional candidate and ardent Nader supporter, fired back a message accusing Sagady of going Nixon.

“Hey Alex, I just had a great idea for you,” wrote Ness. “Since you’re so fired up about conducting a dirty-tricks campaign against us Greens, why don’t you hire a group of Cuban exiles to break into Nader 2000 headquarters.

“Really, this lunatic fringe of the Democratic Party makes me want to see George stomp all over your boy.”

Watching the fight unfold, one lister observed: “One can only guess how many George W. Bush folks are signed onto enviro-mich, if for no other reason than to ‘spy’ on us. We’ve all heard the arguments on this issue at least a dozen times by now. Can’t we just agree to vote our consciences and be done with the squabbling?”

There is a solution to this dilemma, and it can be found on the Web at two different sites. As we all should have learned in high school civics, the popular vote don’t mean diddly when it comes to electing our president. The power is in the Electoral College. A candidate could win a majority of states, or even a majority of votes, but if they fail to get a majority of votes in enough states to secure at least 270 Electoral College votes, they won’t make it to the Oval Office.

That’s why swing states such as Michigan, which have a large number of electoral votes and no clear-cut presidential favorite, are so important. It’s also why Michigan voters leaning toward Nader but horrified at the thought that he could help Bush win are in such a quandary.

Rushing to the rescue are two Web sites, www.nadertrader.com and www.votexchange2000.com. The sites allow Naderites to hook up with people in other states who want to see their votes have an effect. And because the agreements are informal, with no contracts and no money exchanged, experts say they are legal. (The nadertrader site offers links to a half-dozen news articles on the topic.)

Say you live in New York and, like a solid majority of voters there, support Gore. The way the New Yorkers see it, a pro-Gore vote would be a lot more useful in an undecided state like Michigan. So they agree to trade votes. The New Yorker’s traded vote may help put Gore over the top in Michigan’s neck-and-neck race, and the Nader vote sent from Michigan to New York may help Ralph and the Green Party get the 5 percent nationwide necessary to receive federal matching funds in 2004.

Everyone is a winner. Except, of course, for George W. Bush.

Curt Guyette is the Metro Times news editor. Call 313-202-8004 or e-mail cguyette@metrotimes.com

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