Disloyal Opposition

Minnesota's DFL Courts The Greens--Sort Of

Blodgett, doing his third stint as Wellstone's campaign manager, says it's only natural that the senator's supporters would engage with the Greens, citing Wellstone's Green-friendly record on the environment and on fighting health-insurance companies. "We certainly aren't telling the Greens what to do," he maintains. "We are making the case in the next ten months that in Paul Wellstone we have the most progressive person in the U.S. Senate."

Blodgett says that the presence of a third party will force people "to look at this race a little differently." If the Wellstone campaign can get voters to view the race as one between Wellstone and Coleman, he posits, "People will be supportive of Paul."

It's this two-party tunnel vision, especially coming from the DFL, that really rankles the Greens, most of whom have dedicated years to keeping their party afloat only to be called spoilers once they became a major party. "Now we are back to the 2000 presidential election and the strategy of voting against somebody," Busse complains, admitting that there are people within the Green Party who are "uncomfortable" with the possibility of handing the election to Coleman. The problem is that those same Greens are equally sure that this discomfort is something the DFL is counting on.

"They hope that it isn't so much that people will want Mr. Wellstone, but that they won't want Mr. Coleman," she says. "People don't want to live that way anymore, where you are just voting against somebody....We can't not run somebody just to keep Wellstone from losing. He might lose anyway, and then we're not even in there."

Further, Pentel is quick to note that it's foolish for the Wellstone campaign to think it can pick up Green supporters--especially because many of them are former DFLers who became fed up with the party. "It's the move toward centrist thinking that lost [the DFL] support in the first place," he claims. "I believe they will have a hard time getting votes from the Greens."

But Pentel is not naive. He fears the stigma of a "wasted vote," and he acknowledges that, once inside the voting booth, "people just cave." That's why some DFLers, such as Niland, seem to want to appear as congenial to the Greens as possible. "It's not a question of saying no to the Green Party," Niland says. "Basically we talked to them and said, 'We want to see you grow and do well in statewide elections....It's not a zero-sum game. The Greens can continue to grow and maintain major-party status and help get Paul reelected."

The Wellstone camp won't tell the Greens to stay out of the race, Blodgett adds. But "it should give them pause to run somebody against Paul Wellstone. It would be a mistake. There's not much opening for the Greens in this race," he opines.

Pentel, for one, is tired of the argument. "There's a sense that no matter what we do, we're not a player, and we're not a legitimate party," he concludes. "We can respect each other. But we are different parties.

"We are a major party now. We can't sit around and negotiate ballot lines with the DFL."

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