One can certainly understand the impatience of Kim Scipes as he poses the question "Where are the Greens" in his June 16 ZNET Commentary. Scipes is right to demand leadership in this time of struggle. The reality is that people are really suffering in the United States and abroad, and progressive social change is needed yesterday.
Scipes missed the Green Party of the United States (GPUS) November 9 press release declaring the Party’s 2006 electoral successes. The release did appear prominently on the GPUS web site, and can be found in the archives here: http://www.gp.org/press/pr_2006_11_09.shtml. It is no surprise that these Green Party releases are largely ignored in the corporate media. The fact that such news is also often overlooked in "progressive" media outlets is perhaps a bit more confounding, but nevertheless true.
Scipes is correct to excoriate the Democrats for squandering their new Congressional majority and ask "Why can’t the Greens take advantage of this incredible opportunity?"
To be sure, building a viable alternative party in the United States is a very high mountain to climb. The fact that this mountain remains steep is of course, by design. The status quo works quite well for the Democratic and Republican parties, and they certainly don’t want any real competition. Therefore, they have made the barriers to getting and keeping ballot status, which vary from state to state, quite insurmountable.
Despite numerous obstacles, Green candidates continue to win elections, particularly at the local level. Nationwide, there are currently 226 Green officeholders. California boasts over 50 elected Greens, including one mayor of a mid-sized city. Greens hold office in states ranging from Pennsylvania to Oregon to Wisconsin, where there are seven Green elected officials in Dane County alone.
But the more electoral success the Green Party achieves, the harder the establishment parties fight to eliminate opposition. In Pennsylvania, for example, Democrats and Republicans require only 2000 signatures to appear on a primary ballot, while another party candidate or independent must gather 67,000 signatures. This goal was achieved by Carl Romanelli, who was a Green candidate for Senate in 2006. The Democrats, however, successfully sued to keep Romanelli off the ballot. As a result, Romanelli was not only denied the right to run for office, but was also ordered to pay $89,000 in court fees as well as the legal expenses incurred by the very Democrats who ended his candidacy. Rather than denounce this dirty trick played by the Democrats, the "progressive" media either disregarded this draconian attack on our democracy, or attacked the Green Party for daring to challenge the pro-war, anti-choice Democratic candidate Bob Casey.
The Democratic Party has made a tremendous effort to block the Green Party from having a place at the table. As far back as 1991, when the Green Party of California (GPCA) was nearing its goal of attaining ballot status, Democratic Party officials intercepted the voter registration cards of citizens who wrote in "Green Party" on their forms and returned them to the signers with a letter beseeching them to reconsider their decision to go Green. This action was a crime, a misdemeanor, but no one was ever prosecuted.
Democrats have even employed Tom DeLay-esque tactics by re-drawing district lines in order to get Greens out of office. This happened in Minneapolis, where two Greens were elected to the City Council in 2001. Dean Zimmerman and Natalie Johnson-Lee were elected on issues of social justice and environmental responsibility, but later became victims of a redistricting plan enacted by Democrats. The same tactic was used against John Eder, who held a seat in the Maine House of Representatives. Eder won his first re-election bid despite being re-districted, but lost in a subsequent election.
But these well-funded attacks on the Green Party in the electoral arena should not, and have not, prevented the Green Party from organizing for progressive social change. On this point, Scipes may well agree, as he wrote of the necessity of laying the educational groundwork for a radical program that must be fought for and won.
Across the country, the Green Party has achieved important victories. In San Francisco, the Green Party has been a driving force behind successes that include raising the minimum wage, banning plastic bags, shutting down a polluting power plant, strengthening police oversight, requiring greater transparency in government, and public power.
And it doesn’t stop there. Just this month, the Green Party was instrumental in opening the Los Angeles National Impeachment Center (LANIC), which garnered national attention and helped step up public pressure on Congress to call the Bush Administration to account for its crimes. Health care workers who are Green Party members have been on the forefront of the single-payer movement.
Green organizing efforts have been broad-based, and have included the issues that Scipes mentioned. The People-of-Color Caucus of the San Francisco Green Party (SFGP) recently helped organize a speak-out on the criminalization of poverty that drew a capacity crowd. So far in 2007 alone, the SFGP has had a visible presence at the LGBT Pride Parade, rallies for immigration rights, Impeach on the Beach, a demonstration to defend reproductive rights, and the local Progressive Convention.
The Green Party still has a long way to go to achieve greater visibility and electoral victories. Due to the dedication and creativity of Green volunteers, however, the Party is making great strides in that direction. The hope is that Kim Scipes and others will join the movement against the dictatorship of the duopoly, and towards a multi-party system that will increase democracy and participation in government.
BIO: Erika McDonald is a spokesperson for the San Francisco Green Party and Co-Coordinator of the Green Party of California Media Committee. She is also a graduate of the Z Media Institute.