Years before Ralph Nader began his presidential campaign, another Green Party won international attention in Germany. Five percent of the vote entitled German Greens to proportional representation with delegates in parliament.
Suddenly, the Greens had a voice in national government.
More recently, the German Greens built a coalition with a larger party, and one of their own, Joschka Fischer, was appointed minister of foreign affairs.
It is unlikely the Democrats or Republicans will form a coalition with Greens in the United States after the election, even if Nader wins 5 percent of the vote.
But I have a modest proposal: Gore or Bush should offer Nader a cabinet position now, in advance of the election. It might bring Nader's projected 5 percent of the vote when they desperately need it. It would certainly make the presidential race livelier if Nader were to face the temptation of a pre-election coalition.
"Ralph Nader will be my secretary of Transportation," Gore would announce. "What's good for the Green Party will be good for General Motors. If it means cars become safer and waste less fuel, if it would contribute to our nation's energy independence, if it means more efficient mass transit and reduces highway congestion, so be it. If that's the price we have to pay for a more democratic, more inclusive society, I will pay it."
Not to be outdone in grandstanding, George W. Bush could promise to appoint Nader as head of the Department of Energy.
"Not everyone in Texas shares the feeling that this country needs more solar energy and wind power," Bush would declare.
"But Ralph Nader does, and once he and his 5 percent are in my cabinet, alternative energy will get the same special treatment, the same tax breaks and research subsidies that my friends in the oil industry have had for years."
Nader might prefer an offer with fewer compromises. Patrick Buchanan could make it.
"Ralph Nader has opposed NAFTA and other trade policies harmful to American labor, as have I," the nominee of the Reform Party might say. "For that reason, and also because he is more popular than I am in the polls, I want him as my secretary of Labor. For the same salary, I'll let him run the departments of Education and Health and Human Services too."
There is a danger that overtures to Nader from these three presidential candidates could lead voters to see what an attractive presidential candidate Nader is, and elect him president. But it is a small danger, far smaller than the dangers involved in victory for Gore, Bush or Buchanan.
Examiner contributor Joel Schechter, a onetime Green Party candidate for the Connecticut state senate, is chair of the Theater Arts Department at San Francisco State University.
Copyright 2000 San Francisco Examiner