Rethinking the Greens

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

Green, green, it’s green they say

On the far side of the hill

Green, green, I’m goin’ away

To where the grass is greener still

  — New Christy Minstrels

As some of you may know, I have not considered the Green Party a viable vehicle for independent politics.  I have argued that they are organizationally calcified, obsessed with programmatics, and would lack the flexibility to adapt to a strong 3rd-party upsurge.

At the same time, I’ve noticed a lot of people touting the Greens as our best independent vehicle, citing their having thoroughly progressive politics, a nationally-recognized organization in place, and ballot status in many states and I am moved by this.  I have put in many years with independent left politics, including:

     California Peace & Freedom Party

     Barry Commoner’s Citizens Party (Northern California executive board)

     Lenora Fulani’s New Alliance Party (I was their main typesetter)

     Ross Perot’s Reform Party (active in New Jersey branch’s bloody factions)

But I have never seen as much broad 3rd-party sentiment as I am seeing now.  Not even close.  Politically chaotic, from teabaggers (whatever their leaders may tout), to commie radicals to pissed-off liberals to Golden-Mean moderates, but never as much part of the mainstream discourse.  Geez, I remember the days when 3rd party votes weren’t even counted.

So in these circumstances, I am reconsidering my position on the Greens.  It may be the case that the Greens or elements of the Greens will be more responsive to an independent upsurge than to maintaining their own organizational status quo.

Let me quote (steal) extensively from Wikipedia:

There are 31 states plus the District of Columbia where the Green Party has achieved a ballot line in 2008 representing just over 70% of voters and 68% of Electoral Votes …

[this is not to be sneezed at — jr]

On June 26, 2004, the Green National Convention nominated Cobb, who promised to focus on building the party. Just over a third of the delegates voted “No Nominee” with the intent to later vote for a Nader endorsement. Pat LaMarche of Maine was nominated for vice-president. Cobb and Nader emphasized different strategies. Cobb promised to run a “strategic states” campaign based on the preferences and needs of the individual state Green parties; as a result, Cobb campaigned heavily in some battleground states and not in others. Nader intended to run a national multiparty ticket uniting the Greens with other parties …

[an underlying conflict here was that the Cobb forces wanted to avoid running in those states where a significant Green vote could throw the state to the Republicans, while Nader wanted to do exactly that to show that an independent candidate had some real power. — jr]

Two supporters of Camejo, Carol Miller and Forrest Hill, wrote one of a number of articles printed after the convention, including Rigged Convention; Divided Party’, alleging that the convention elections had been undemocratic. Many Green Party members were upset at the nomination convention’s process and results, and some expressed “embarrassment” that Nader was not the party’s 2004 candidate …

[the party does tend to be factionalized, fatal in a period of no-growth, a sign of development during an upsurge — jr]

The voting results from the 2004 presidential election were considerably less impressive than the results of the Green Party’s Nader-LaDuke presidential ticket in 2000, which had garnered more than 2,882,000 votes … Some Greens were not discouraged by the relatively low presidential vote yield in 2004 for Cobb and for Nader, because the Green Party continued to grow in many parts of the country, increasing Green Party affiliation numbers and fielding Green candidates for congressional, state, and local offices.]

However, the number of registered Greens declined by about 23,000 between January 2004 and March 2005, in contrast to a previous period of uninterrupted growth from 1998; the number of Green candidacies declined compared to 2002, and these candidates fared worse than in the past, particularly during the presidential campaign …

[to be sneezed at — jr]

McKinney received 161,603 votes for 0.12% of the vote in 2008 …

[not impressive — jr]

The Green Party currently has at least 193 party members in elected office in the U.S. as of December 14, 2008 …

[impressive — jr]

Therefore …

For better or worse, they are small but one of the best-organized forces on what is left of the American left.

Programmatically, I would call them rad-lib (radical-liberal).  Too radical for the mainstream of the Democratic Party, but falling short of calling for revolution or even socialism.  Rather they call for an EXTREME application of the Democratic Party platform, including opposition to racism, sexism and homophobia.  This seems to be the dominant politic of most of the blogosphere left, and was in fact the dominant politic of the 60’s movement, if you strip away calls for revolution that lacked socialist or anarchist substance.

As I’ve stated in 3rd Party Musings:

the driving engine for a 3rd party in the foreseeable future will be the 2012 primary challenge to Obama (I take its happening as a given).  I won’t guess what the issues will be, probably the likely suspects (war, jobs, abortion, healthcare).  But he will be the focus of national anger at the pagan spectacle in the Beltway.

I still believe this to be the case.  The question in this post is how the Greens will relate to this, and how we may want to relate to the Greens.

The politics will be murky.  My fear is that the Greens will cling hard to their programmatics, and that the breakaway Dems will consider the Greens “too left.”  Additionally, the breakaway would likely take the form of an individual candidacy, hopefully announcing their run once the Democratic nomination outcome is set, but long enough before the Democratic convention to not miss too many ballot access deadlines.  For purposes of this discussion, write-ins are like Nowheresville, daddy-o.

Some of the breakaway forces might migrate to the Greens and back the Green endorsee.  On the other hand, some of the Greens, seeing new opportunities to operate in the mainstream, may push the Greens to back this effort, or break away from the Greens.

The question is where will we be in all this?  (What “we?” you ask with a grin.  I deserve that as I dodge for now.)  Here are the options:

(1)  Go with the breakaway, the most mainstream elements of it.  This is where the action will be, the chance to influence large numbers into something new.  The Full Court Press, while taking no position on this, is well-positioned for this.

(2)  Go big into the Greens.  This can take two forms:

(2a)  Assume that the Dem breakaway will dissipate itself despite all the hoopla, and dig in to build the Greens long-term.

(2b)  Go into the Greens with the intention of influencing them to back the breakaway.  If I were going into the Greens, that would be my instinct.

Note on takeovers:

There have been various folks calling for “taking over” the Greens.  A few comments on that.  Who is to do the taking over?  The United Front Committee to Take Over the Greens?  If people go into the Greens with that perspective, they will do so piecemeal, not as an organized force, and be either repulsed piecemeal, or be absorbed with minimal impact.

If there were an organized force to take over the Greens, why wouldn’t such a force simply create a new and better party rather than engage in the bloodbath such a takeover would entail?  Would capturing ballot status be worth it?

The problem with takeovers, as opposed to mutually beneficial mergers, is that if you are successful, you drive out your opposition and are then left with yourselves in glorious possession of the ashes.  Even a weak and dormant organization can be awakened into a frenzy to defend its organizational turf, repel the invaders, and then go back to sleep the next day.

Finally …

Many of you know the Greens much better than I do.  I have opinions, and I am not too bashful about advancing them.  But in this case, I am advancing them for the sake of discussion.  So please, educate me.  Hash these questions over.  Better to start having these discussions now than wait until 2012 when we can only react to events out of our control.


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  1. & especially after the latest Supreme Court travesty, it’s really past time to turn away from electoral politics as an instrument of change and towards strikes, protests, consumer actions (like maybe boycotting banks) , work stoppages, real unions (IWW maybe) — that sort of thing.  

    Look at Greece.  They’ve got the government running scared.

    The American electoral system is one of the most corrupt anywhere in the world–we gain nothing by focusing so much energy on it.  

  2. It doesn’t even really matter which 3rd party to me. I haven’t voted the Democratic ticket since 1992.

      I am registered Green, but I am just as likely to vote Peace and Freedom, or Libertarian, or something else.

     The Republican Party is the party of the wealthy elite and status quo. The Democratic Party is the party of sell-outs and wanna-be Republicans.

      Both parties want you to be so discouraged as to not vote at all. What neither of them want is for you to vote for a 3rd party candidate.  

    • rossl on February 9, 2010 at 00:49

    I’ve been thinking about what you said, too.

    I’m going to be helping a few Greens campaign, potentially, in the next year.  A union organizer and friend of mine is running for state legislature as a Green in Philadelphia.  I think he’s one of the more viable Green candidates I’ve ever seen just because of his union organizing experience and personality.  Money might be a problem, though.  So I’m going to give Green politics a shot and see what happens.

    I also might be helping Jesse Johnson run for West Virginia House of Delegates as a Green (Mountain Party is their name there), but that depends on how much money he raises over the next week.  He ran for president in 2008 but lost the Green nomination, then got 4.6% as the Mountain Party’s candidate for governor and was endorsed by groups like the Sierra Club because he was the only anti-coal candidate.

    Greens are not always the answer.  Just like Democrats, Republicans, and everything else.  However, sometimes they are the answer.  Look at Illinois – they’re a growing presence in Chicago and Illinois because of the Democrats’ corruption.  This is the key to the Greens (and other parties like them, like the Vermont Progressives, who are generally the most successful third party in the country):  the places they do best are one-party big cities.  They can become the second party in some areas, especially where Democrats are corrupt or becoming negligent because of permanent supermajorities.

    And just a note about those Green Party member numbers:  they’re off.  Those might be dues-paying members (I know that’s how the Libertarian Party counts its members), but there are many more registered Greens around the nation than that.  How many?  No one knows because they’re not tracked in every state.

  3. … at least, not the American Greens (I might know something about the Ozzie greens, and I might just think I do).

    However, I do know a little bit about the electoral calendar. Its a mid-term election. And at least in Ohio, I have the opportunity to vote in the Democratic primaries and even to volunteer for selected Democratic candidates without being a member of the Democratic party.

    And I have the opportunity to volunteer or otherwise work for a Green candidate in some other race at the same time.

    I could, indeed, vote Green in any available race where “my vote”, or rather the vote of myself and anybody like me, is unlikely to affect the outcome of the race between the Republican and Democrat, as well as in races where the Democrat is too odious to consider voting for.

    Now, some of youse, your votes don’t matter to the Pierson’s Puppeteer headed mainstream party because you’ll not vote for either in any event. But a strategic vote that routinely votes for the most radical or progressive choice available in Democratic primaries, routinely votes Green in general election contests when the issue is not in doubt just to build up the Green vote tally, and is also repellable by a sufficiently odious Democrat no matter how odious the Republican may be, …

    … that only needs to grow into the single digits in any electoral area to start entering into political calculations. And there are lots of electoral areas of the country where the left of the left (or perhaps rather to the left of the center-right that in America we call the center-left) number in the single digit percentages or more.

  4. I have no opinion on taking over the Greens or joining them.

    Many of my hopes lie outside traditional politics entirely.

    Where my political hopes rest, however, is a Green/Progressive/Left-Independent alliance.  In fact I would even call it the Alliance For Progressive Change (APC).  The interface with traditional politics would be as a party, but the organization would be transpartisan in the sense of being a confederation of leftist parties under a national umbrella.

    Green candidates could be APC candidates.  So could socialists or Democratic Progressives, provided they stuck with the platform, which would be a subset of the various leftist parties’ platforms.

    One could be a Green for example and also be an APC candidate.

    • Big Tex on February 9, 2010 at 16:00

    They aren’t active yet in as many states as the Greens, but they seem to have had more success in the places where they are active. Ultimately, though, whether we get behind an existing party or form a new one, we’re going to have to come up with a strategy for dealing with the institutional barriers that have been erected against minor parties before we get any serious traction – liberalizing ballot access laws, and trying to get electoral fusion and voting system reform passed. This could be done through the initiative/referendum process in some places, but will require action by state legislatures in others.

  5. this is the sort of discussion we should be having.

    Moving beyond the Democrats is still tough for many people, but it’s really needed.  

    • ATinNM on February 10, 2010 at 01:26

    In the US we elect by state districts and districts can be at wide variance to a state’s reputation — perceived or actual.  And at the district level a certain amount of the “fluff and cruft¹” one finds at the national, or even the state, level sort of goes away.

    If one can put any reliance on the issue polling Kos has been doing the citizens are Center Left – to some degree – while the governing is Center Right.  What that suggests is if a modicum of effort is made to tailor a message and narrative in a properly chosen district running a candidate that doesn’t have his/her head up their ass an insurgent candidate has a shot at winning.  I’m thinking particularly here of Tennessee 5th (Nashville) represented (sic) by the odious Jim Cooper.  

    Quick Reference here:

    Demographics are a major factor behind the Democrats’ near-absolute dominance of the political scene. Many conservative white voters (including Nashville natives) have increasingly moved out of Metro Nashville/Davidson County to more “family-friendly” Republican suburban counties such as Williamson and Sumner. They have been replaced largely by liberal-oriented constituencies such as students (and alumni) of the Nashville area’s several colleges and universities, music industry professionals (especially in the growing non-country genres), and white-collar professionals, in a manner similar to that of cities such as Atlanta, Raleigh/Durham, and Austin. In the entire state, only Memphis has anything like a sizable constituency of progressive-minded whites that Nashville has. The clout of Nashville’s African-American electorate, a traditionally Democratic constituency, has grown steadily in recent years as well.

    Generally, the 5th is one of three seats in Tennessee that are usually not seriously contested by Republicans (the others being the 8th and 9th districts).

    ¹ Cruft (n) that stuff you find between your toes when you take your socks off after a hard day’s sweating.  😉

    • banger on February 10, 2010 at 01:50

    I think the Greens are worth a second look. But in the end, I just don’t feel they address the fundamentals. They are a liberal/left party and I’m almost permanently disillusioned with the left/liberal position in this country.

    Unfortunately I’ve come closer to the Libertatian position which is the only political critique that deals with the actual situation in this country. Government may not have started that way, but at present it IS the enemy of progressive forces in this country. Thus, I now oppose all government intervention in our lives — at least for awhile until we get rid of the horror that is the Federal and most state governments. We must deconstruct government to it’s most simple functions as per the Libertarian position. Not as a “final state” but as the beginnings of a truly progressive and non-coercive state which could emerge out of a deconstructed state.

    So color me a “tear down the system” person. It’s time for it to dissolve it does nothing but steal from us. The too-big-to-fail mentality was the final straw for me. Why should we pay taxes for a government that does nothing but kill people abroad and steal money from it’s citizens to “give to their criminal friends on Wall Street”. Let’s work to end it not enhance it through the endless minutae of political correctness that is the Green Party which has no theoretical underpinning to its positions. I’m tired of that kind of thinking. If it was a marxist party using good marxian analysis I’d respect it more — I fly the black-flag today — I think we citizens can handle our own lives and organize to help the poor if we weren’t so bogged down by absurd regulations which I encounter everywhere I turn.

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