Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Troubled Youth, The Green Party At The Age of Majority

ohn Eder, the only Green State Legislator in Maine is listed in Wikipedia as the highest office holder in the history of the Green Party of the United States*. I was truly sorry to read that he had lost his reelection bid. I like John. He’s smart and daring and has a future in practical politics. The Greens should have a presence in the Maine Legislature, more than just one person. I would love to see a Green caucus that could hold the balance of power in coalition with progressive Democrats and such independents as might constitute a leftist block. This time John Eder’s constituents in Portland didn’t see it that way, electing a Democrat to replace him. But his loss and his position as the Green holding the highest office after twenty-one years of dedication, hard work and great expense by Green Party members all with wildly disproportionate publicity forces a number of questions.

Why would rank-and-file Greens continue allowing the show candidacies favored by their leadership when it has proven to be counter-productive? Nader in 2000 was certainly enough for any sane person to learn that a Green Presidential candidate can only serve to put the worst president in the history of the country into place. That is the only political result that Greens have achieved in a presidential election, certainly not what they hoped for.

This year’s Green candidate for the Senate in Pennsylvania, Carl Romanelli, with the clear and gloating financial help of Republican fat-cats, came one court ruling away from risking the return of Rick Santorum to the Senate. As we have seen that would have made Dick Cheney the deciding vote in a dead-locked Senate. Instead of Leahy running the Judiciary Committee it would have been Arlen “Rubber Stamp for Roberts and Alito” Specter again. And that’s only one committee in the Senate. It’s time for Green Party Members to force their leadership to stop playing pretend before it contributes to the extension of Republican control of the United States.

In the election just concluded, two Greens who ran for governor are listed on the national party’s website as their great successes. Rich Whitney in Illinois got 11% of the vote, Pat LaMarche, again in Maine, got just under 10% of the vote. Clearly neither came close to being elected.

In Maine, my home state, it seemed for a time that Pat LaMarche and the two other “third- party” candidates on the ballot could have succeeded in only one thing, insuring a victory by the paleo-Republican, Chandler Woodcock over the Democratic Governor, John Baldacci. Along with the certain negative direction for the environment and possible overturning of recently passed gay rights legislation, that a Woodcock administration would bring; his victory would have brought the end of Dirigo Health, Baldacci’s attempt at expanding health care to all uninsured Mainers.

I wonder how many Greens are uninsured. I wonder how many of them are not fully-covered, white-collar workers who aren’t dependent on the minimum wage. That certainly wouldn’t have been raised by a Chandler Woodcock with a veto pen anymore than a Republican controlled Congress would have. And to top it off, LaMarch wasn’t even the top vote getter among the not-a-chance, “third-party” candidates in the race, Barbara Merrill getting much more than double her percentage of the vote. Though she did swamp People's Hero Phillip Morris NaPier** who got about one-percent.

While I would never downplay the honorable, very important and often thankless job of serving in local government, the Greens have not even had much success on that level. In the figures available for this election they have had a grand total of 38 wins listed on their national web-site.

Greens who look at the glossed over election figures touted as such a great success by the parties leadership should really ask themselves if they are getting their time and money’s worth. Clearly not. I don’t see that they have ever gotten close to a thousand office holders nationwide, thought I haven’t had much luck finding those figures. Why not trumpet the success by the numbers?

Non-Greens should look at the Green’s seldom mentioned electoral record to see what the twenty-one years of struggle by Greens in the United States has built. Those who hope for a national third party should seriously consider, with all that work and hype and the history of failed third-parties here, if that is anything but a romantic pipe-dream.

Am I suggesting that Greens give up? Not at all. After twenty-one years they should grow up. Greens are not a national party, there is no chance that they will win national office without a lot of ground work taking decades. They should stop wasting their supporters’ time, money and hope on these stupid, counter-productive, show candidacies. Getting on the ballot doesn’t matter much when there is no chance that it’s going to win you any elections. Study the electoral history of those states where Greens have been on the ballot if you doubt that is true. One, only one state legislative seat in one of the Greenest states in the country and that in one of the Greenest cities in the country, now lost.

When they first started in my state I was hopeing that Greens would present a real alternative to the, then, failing Democrats. Tip O’Neill, Tom Foley and a host of other ineffectual leaders had me tearing my hair too. The Greens’ decision to have a radically decentralized structure gave me hope that they were going to build from the grass roots, though I knew that any leftist political meeting that ran on the basis of consensus wouldn’t work.

How did such an allegedly decentralized party start down the path of nominating that black hole of ego, Ralph Nader? Someone too conceited to even join the party that honored him with its nomination? Who was responsible for encouraging Romanelli in his Republican financed, Republican enabling spoiler campaign? Anyone in the leadership of the party who was enthusiastic about those is just too stupid to listen to, they should be replaced with people who have a clear head.

Greens, look at where you have actually had some success on the local level. Build in those places, get more than one person on the local bodies and make certain that they do a good job. That is where your resources and time will get you the success you deserve. Work with progressive Democrats and independents to form an effective power base. Get the people their money’s worth of vital services, educate their children, make their streets safe and then you can ask them to trust you with larger responsibilities. If you have built strong bridges with the Democrats in your area they might sometimes agree to not run a weaker candidate against a stronger Green one. They might also nominate a Green who looks like a safer bet. It’s certainly worth trying. Look at Sanders in Vermont. What has the present strategy gotten you?

A state legislature is the logical next step but only if your candidates can win. Don’t run against anyone if the results will be an even worse candidate has a good chance to win the race. That is the Nader-spoiler model, it will only win you enemies who could have been your allies.

I began this by praising the daring of John Eder. I should have said intelligent daring. In their wrap up of the elections the U.S. Greens include this statement:

Strong antiwar vote in favor of warhawk Democrats shows a disconnect in U.S. politics; only Greens offered an antiwar platform; Greens warn that Democrats in Congress will do little to reverse Bush's foreign policy

Democrats? Since it was the Green candidate Nader who helped put Bush in place to wage his war of conquest this prediction presented in the form of fact isn’t daring, it’s intolerable arrogance. It is dishonesty of Rovian proportions. There would be no Iraq war if Bush had not eaked out a stolen election with the aid of the Green candidate that year.

You’re not going to be forgiven another spoiler on the national level or even on the State level. One more of those, the now strained friendship is over. On their website the U.S. Greens anticipate their presidential bid in 2008, for crying out loud. Read the links to their own web site paying attention to the numbers of successful candidates, many of those winners of non-partisan elections. You’ll see what I mean.

* Here is the election summary for the year 2002 on the Green’s national website.

Greens Continue Growth in 2002.

The Green Party had a successful Nov 5 election day and elected more Greens in 2002 than any previous year. With some results still coming in, we have elected at least 71 people this year and have a new officeholder count of 170. We achieved our main goal of electing someone to a state house - John Eder in Maine. We elected our first people in Texas and North Carolina. Tuesday's election was a defeat for the Democratic Party, but not for the progressive values that they hide from. Nonetheless, our government has moved to the right and our challenges are greater than ever. This country needs a political party that confronts those challenges directly and the Green Party is ready to stand up to the challenge.

Notice the hostility is directed towards Democrats and not Republicans, that is a continuing feature of Green discourse. After six years of Bush II it’s gotten absurdly old. Also notice the number of office holders and people elected.

** His legal name, I kid you not. Actually he was both entertaining and not as crazy as this sounds. His being on the ballot shows how easy it is to get on here, however.

Post Script: In the comments to this piece when it was posted at Echidne's blog last weekend some people missed the point. I'm not calling for the end of the Green Party I'm calling for them to learn from their mistakes and to stop repeating them. The United States needs a party of the left, one that doesn't need to compromise with a conservative wing, it need a successful party of the left, though, not one that does dumb things like run Naders and Romanellis and waste its resources running candidates that don't have a chance of winning. I really meant it when I said that John Eder should have won his race and might have if the futile show governor candidate hadn't distracted people.

Getting on the ballot as an official party is a pretty useless goal if you aren't going to win. Most of the Green's success has been in non-partisan elections, if I can ever find that part of their website that had those numbers again. That should give them a good idea of just how important offically getting their name on the ballot is to them. Wouldn't it make more sense to give that up for more seats in local governments where they can show what they can do and use that to build from the bottom up? What have they got to lose? No seats at "higher" levels of government, that's for sure.

So, I wish such Greens as can face the future realistically well and hope that they will fix their party and really influence real politics. The part that comes after the printing of the ballot.

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