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The Green Party Electoral Strategy is a Failure


I received an email from a friend of mine, Howie Hawkins, a few days ago indicating that he is planning to run for the Presidential nomination of the national Green Party for 2020. Howie’s a good man, a dedicated, intelligent, long-distance runner for transformational change, but this is a really bad idea. I’m against him or anyone running as a Green Party Presidential candidate in 2020.

Why is he doing this? Here’s how he describes the main reasons: “In my discussions with Greens who are encouraging me to run, we have conceived of a campaign that would center around two purposes: building the Green Party and advancing an ecosocialist platform.”

So in an election 19 months from now that could lead to the most dangerous man in the world being re-elected President for four more years, Howie and the Green Party aren’t even concerned about what that result would mean for the disrupted climate and the world’s peoples? They continue to believe that Bernie Sanders is getting nowhere with his tactical decision to run within the Democratic Party and have no problem with the very real possibility that they’d be running against him? It’s mind-boggling.

This problematic approach that the Green Party has been following for 20 years, failing every time, even on their own terms, led me to leave the Green Party about a year and a half ago. I continue to believe that there are a whole series of electoral reforms needed to open up the US two-party, corporate-dominated, political system so that a genuinely progressive, mass-based, independent political party can emerge and become viable, but the GP is not such a thing, and I don’t see it doing much to get us to one.

I would have left the GP many years ago but for the fact that, in the early 2000’s after the Ralph Nader/Winona LaDuke Presidential campaign and my subsequent 2002 US Senate Green Party campaign in New Jersey, an effective local GP group in my area came together. We focused not on running candidates but on doing community organizing, primarily, as it evolved, around the issue of the climate crisis.

In 2003, I was one of the leading proponents of an approach to running Green Party Presidential campaigns that took into account the fact that we do not have proportional representation in the USA. Because we don’t, and because it is worse to have someone like Trump, or Bush, or Reagan in the White House, I urged the Green Party to use a “safe states” strategy as a way to build up its strength. Using this strategy, and taking into account that Presidential elections are actually 50 separate elections to the Electoral College, the GP would focus its campaigning in those 35-40 states where it was virtually certain which of the two corporate parties would win. In those states the GP could argue that progressive-minded people should not waste their vote and should vote for the party whose values and positions were most progressive.

Of course, if the Green Party were a significant political force, getting many millions of votes nationally, this strategy might not work very well, because in that case it could have much more of a practical impact in some of those non-swing states. But the GP is in no way a significant political force. Because of its “Democrats and Republicans, they’re both the same” political line, which is divorced from reality, it has alienated itself from millions of people who agree with its values.

The fact is that this failed electoral strategy has meant that the Green Party, after 30 years of organizational efforts in the US, is an extremely weak reed. It has virtually no political impact nationally.

There are many good people in the Green Party. Many do effective community organizing or work on issues, especially when they are working with other progressives who are not Greens. In some places there have been GP members elected to school boards, town or city councils, or other local offices, even a few mayors. It should make a decision to strategically focus on building up its membership and base by concentrating on these type of candidacies. It should forego for a while the chimeric, illusory belief that the next Presidential campaign, after all the failures of the last 20 years, is going to finally be the big breakthrough.

Hope really does spring eternal, so I guess I can understand why this keeps happening despite all the hard evidence of history. Indeed, over the last month or so, I’ve been having some hopes of my own regarding the Green Party. I hadn’t heard about anything happening as far as a possible GP Presidential campaign, and I allowed myself to hope that maybe there was an internal debate going on about whether it really made sense for them to take that route again, after the failure of the Jill Stein campaign in 2016. A couple of years ago, at a NJ state GP conference, I did hear from a couple of active GP members that there was some debate starting up about that possibility.

Come on, Greens. You really don’t care if Trump is in power for the next six years, or that the failed electoral strategy you’ve been following isn’t exactly attracting the masses?

Ted Glick has been a progressive organizer, activist and writer since 1968. Past writings and other information can be found at https://tedglick.com, and he can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jtglick.

1 comment

  1. owlishdog April 10, 2019 1:42 pm 

    It’s not just the Greens, is it? No third party ever gains traction in the US. One reason might be all the idiots who keep voting Democrat every election in the vain hope they’ll do something good. If people finally accepted the Democrats will never deliver and voted for someone else instead, genuine progress will be made.

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