Washington Post blogger Mike DeBonis and DC Statehood Green Party activist David Schwartzman have gotten into a verbal tiff lately, started by Debonis’ assertion that “the Statehood Green Party has withered into near-oblivion.” Schwartzman responded in an online newsletter, and DeBonis posted a lengthy reply today. As of yet, there has been no reaction to DeBonis.
Schwartzman’s full reply can be read here.
Mike DeBonis coined the phrase “token opposition” referring to my campaign and the editorial page adopted it. Now, DeBonis claims the “Statehood Green Party has withered into near-oblivion” in his column “DC Might Be Much Better Off Without Pointless Party Politics” (November 26, http://tinyurl.com/2bla6po). Really? Do the readers of the Post know that total number of votes our candidates received on November 2 for all races was 42,430, with four At-Large races, to 30,450 for the Republicans, with two At-Large Races? Is the Republican Party the party that is really withering away? (Not too much a surprise, when its economic policies are so user friendly to so many of our local Democrats). My own vote percentage increased from my run in 2008, especially in my own Ward 4 and east of the river in Wards 7 and 8. For the same percentage of the vote, if the turnout had been the same as November 2008, I would have received over 24,500 votes (based on the Pre-Certified Results of the DC BOEE). I got 22 percent of the vote of my opponent David Catania, who outspent me by over 20 to 1.And as far as the election of Patrick Mara, who receives so much praise from DeBonis; he outpolled Dotti Love Wade by a mere margin of 1.15 to 1, while outspending her by 7.7 to 1, with Mara raising $16,802 (latest figures from DC BOEE and OCF). Maybe Mara did more canvassing than Wade, but the huge margin in campaign funds surely helped…
There is a better, more democratic way: public funding of local elections, proportional representation, and/or preference voting. And the Washington Post might try earning its reputation as the newspaper of record and fulfilling its responsibility to the electorate by making even the political playing field with meaningful coverage of issues, including voices of dissent from its own big corporate-driven discourse.
DeBonis’ full response can be read here.
First off, there’s party registration. According to readily available statistics from the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics, which go back to 2003, Statehood Green registration peaked in 2004 with 5,215 registrees — about 1.4 percent of the total. Since then, even as total voter registration has risen, the Statehood Greens have continued to shed followers. The current total stands at 4,333 registered voters, or 0.97 percent of the total.
Then there’s actually holding public office. The Statehood Greens haven’t held a seat since Mason was ousted from the council in 1998. A few party members hold nonpartisan advisory neighborhood commission seats, though two of them, Chris Otten and Nancy Shia, are leaving their seats this year. Schwartzman and others note that Statehood Green candidates have gotten more aggregate votes than Republican candidates in 2006 and 2010. True, but Republicans have not entered every city race in those years, while the Statehood Greens have been pretty good about finding people to run for office. (It helps that their ballot access is among the easiest in the city, currently needing only 44 registrant signatures for primary races.)
If you isolate the at-large council race — in which the non-Democratic parties have a structural advantage due to the non-majority-party set-aside — the Statehood Greens have shown no signs of being anything more than a receptacle for the ballots of voters who simply won’t cast their second at-large vote for a Republican. In 2000, the year of Ralph Nader and the height of Green Party strength, the SG at-large candidate mustered 11 percent of the vote. That fell to 7.2 percent in 2002; 7.7 percent in 2004; 6.9 percent in 2006; 5.1 percent in 2008; and 6.8 percent this year (when there was no Republican in the race).
There’s money. In the current election cycle, the Statehood Green party and its four local candidates who filed with campaign finance authorities raised about $18,000. Meanwhile, the D.C. Republican Committee and its candidates spent more than $115,000. Schwartzman bristles at politicians who take “corporate money” but fact of the matter is that, corporations or no corporations, Statehood Green candidates have been not able to get much fundraising traction outside of the party faithful. And when the party faithful amounts to less than 1 percent of the voting base, you’ve got a problem.
Finally, there’s the conversation. The Statehood Greens simply aren’t in it. Not so many years back, Statehood Green-affiliated activists managed to get attention to their message in creative ways — crashing a ballpark press conference comes to mind. These days, you don’t hear much of anything but whining like Schwartzman’s about how the media doesn’t want to cover them.