The fruits are still green

Less than thrilled with the results of the primary? There is another choice for governor: Doug Campbell, who got a spot on the ballot two days before anyone else did.

“I have a different American dream than the others do,” he told me before nailing down the nomination. “Mine is that regular people like you and I will change the idea that elected offices are reserved for the aristocracy. I dream that regular folk will get on the ballot, get elected, and implement truly representative government instead of the current system of kleptocracy for special interests.”

That’s government by theft, for those of you who don’t work for WorldCom. And what he said sounds like a good idea, in theory, anyway. Campbell, a tall, stout and currently jobless 43-year-old engineer who lives in Ferndale, is indeed a sort of regular guy, at least compared to the glitterati. And now he is the standard-bearer of the Green Party, which had its convention in a Days Inn in Lansing last weekend.

Minor parties don‘t take part in primaries, unless and until one of their candidates gets 5 percent of the vote statewide. Initially, Campbell had two rivals for the nomination, but he cinched the prize when neither of them made it to the motel.

He has a running mate, a premed student with the enchanting name of Adrianna Buonarroti, a dog named Xenon and an issue all his own. Wind power. “I propose to establish a state-owned, 100-megawatt electricity-generating wind farm,” he says. Eventually, he believes wind power could reduce electric costs to a fraction of what people now pay. Campbell believes in social justice, nonviolence and in making the language used in legislation “as clear as a newspaper article.”

He also has a droll sense of humor and, like many other regular guys, wishes he had an easier time getting a date. “What can I say? I’m afflicted with engineer’s personality. But if I am elected, I’d be the most eligible bachelor in the state.”

What are his odds? After his nomination, he stoutly maintained “one in three,” though he earlier offered a perhaps more realistic assessment. “If they nominate Blanchard and Posthumus, the two weakest candidates, and if we have a nuclear meltdown the last week of the campaign, I’d say with a little luck, we could do it.”

Unfortunately, his party has been undergoing a bit of a meltdown itself. Though they have been around for years, America’s Greens first attracted attention two years ago when they ran Ralph Nader for president. Nader got just enough votes to deny Al Gore the presidency, thus opening the door to John Ashcroft, but not nearly enough to qualify the party for federal campaign financing next time. Nader never joined the Green Party, which belatedly discovered that his real agenda is, as it always was, his own ego trip.

By this summer, Michigan’s Greens had a sensible and eloquent platform, more issues than you can shake a stick at, and seem to be going nowhere. Democrats hate them. “Green stands for Getting Republicans Elected Every November,” one longtime Democrat functionary nearly spat at me last spring.

Bonnie Bucqueroux, whose candidacy for Congress in a Lansing district two years ago managed mostly to drain enough votes from the Democrat to elect ultraconservative Mike Rogers, took issue with my criticizing that tactic a few weeks ago.

“Lessenberry failed to mention that the choice was between a really, really right-winger and a right-winger,” she said. Evidently, some Greens believe helping elect really bad candidates will hasten the day when people will pick good ones. That’s just what some Germans thought when Hitler was rising to power.

But though she defends what she did then, Bucqueroux says now, “Sadly, I no longer see the Greens as a viable alternative and think that they should reconsider playing politics … rather than elect cranks and streamline debate; they indulge people who abuse that privilege and thereby drive too many thoughtful and committed people away.”

She would have them instead work to “educate the public about their principles,” which said public would presumably study before tuning in “Sex and the City.”

Ah, yes. Indeed, there is little consensus among the Greens themselves. (Incidentally, I made a technical error two weeks ago when I identified the Green House, a sort of salon of politics and the arts at Nine Mile and Woodward, as their headquarters. Actually, in a social and cultural sense, it is. But the party’s office is in Ann Arbor.)

What, I wondered, did the Green Party big shots think their voters ought to do in the just-concluded primary? Tom Ness, who runs and barely manages to fund the Green House, issued an impassioned plea for voters to plunk for David Bonior, who he felt deserved their support because of his historically strong environmental record.

He even hinted that if Bonior won the nomination, he might jump across party lines. Doug Campbell thinks that is hooey. “Bonior lost my respect when he refused to support even a modest rise in the [fuel-efficiency] standards this year.”

I’m not sure there will even be a Green Party by 2004. But Campbell deserves a hearing. Back in March, he was brutally ejected when he tried to take part in a Michigan League of Conservation Voters debate. Any debates this fall should be required to include him, especially if it might lead to talk about something other than abortion.

Best Button of the Year: Geoffrey Fieger, the Democratic nominee for governor last time, was seen wearing a tank top and a huge Romney for Governor button, fresh from 1962. So uh, like ... why? “Simple. He can’t hurt us any more,” Fieger said gravely before cracking up. For once, we can’t argue. Gorgeous George died in 1995.

Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for the Metro Times. E-mail [email protected]
Scroll to read more Metro Detroit News articles


Join Detroit Metro Times Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.