Despite the reelection of President Obama and not winning any states in the 2012 Presidential Election, the Green Party actually has quite a bit to be happy about and build upon. CBS reports that Presidential candidate Jill Stein and Vice Presidential candidate Cheri Honkala received 431,719 votes nationally, the largest total of any Green Party Presidential ticket since Ralph Nader’s 2000 Presidential campaign. The vote total of the Stein/Honkala campaign more than doubled the total of the 2008 Green Party ticket and more than tripled the total of the 2004 ticket. The Stein/Honkala campaign took third place in Michigan and garnered 1.3% of the popular vote in Maine despite President Obama outspending her by over 774 to 1 and Mitt Romney outspending her by over 491 to 1.
Furthermore, the Commission on Presidential Debates barred her from participating in each of the Presidential debates as they do with all third party and independent candidates. In fact, the majority of Dr. Stein’s publicity during her campaign came from her arrests during various protests. Given all of the above facts and the growing dissatisfaction with the two major parties among the voting public, it seems that the Green Party is only getting stronger. With a few adjustments to their approach to both elections and policy, the Green Party can become a major political force in American politics in the future.
According to Politico, a January 2012 Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 68% of Americans would at least consider voting for a third party candidate that shares most of their political views. Given the fact that a recent Gallup poll found that 90% of Americans feel it is either extremely or somewhat important that President Obama significantly reduces our dependence on fossil fuels. 90% feel it is either extremely or somewhat important that he make college education more affordable. 73% feel he should take major steps toward addressing climate change. 71% feel he should raise taxes on those making $250,000 a year or more. 70% feel he should make significant cuts to military and defense spending (http://www.gallup.com/poll/158834/economy-entitlements-iran-americans-top-priorities.aspx.) Another Gallup poll from October of 2011 found that 50% of Americans support the legalization of marijuana, a 4% increase over the previous year (http://www.gallup.com/poll/150149/Record-High-Americans-Favor-Legalizing-Marijuana.aspx). A May 2012 Gallup poll found that 50% of Americans support legalizing same-sex marriage (http://www.gallup.com/poll/154529/Half-Americans-Support-Legal-Gay-Marriage.aspx). These polls are significant because they indicate that half, if not large majorities of Americans, already agree with the Green Party on a number of issues. The Green Party faces the issue of the majority of Americans incorrectly believing that the Democratic Party also holds these views on these issues, a view that President Obama’s first term contradicts in many cases.
The main struggle of the Green Party going forward will be correctly the erroneous perception that they are a fringe or single-issue party. The Ten Key Values of the Green Party have always included grassroots democracy, nonviolence, social justice, decentralization, feminism, community-based economics and respect for diversity (http://www.gp.org/tenkey.php). Unfortunately, many outside of the party are unaware of the diversity and thoughtfulness of the Green Party’s platform and assume that the party only focuses on environmental issues. While environmental issues are an important part of the Green Party’s platform, the Green Party also recognizes the connections between environmental, economic and even national security issues. For example, the emphasis the Green Party places upon community-based economics not only enriches and empowers communities, it also reduces the distance goods must travel, reducing the amount of fossil fuels consumed by transportation.
Furthermore, global climate change poses a threat to national security because it exacerbates droughts and other extreme weather events, leading to increased political instability and violence in already unstable areas like the Horn of Africa, a view shared by the Department of Defense and the CIA (http://climatesecurity.blogspot.com/2010/02/us-department-of-defense-climate-change.html, https://www.cia.gov/news-information/press-releases-statements/center-on-climate-change-and-national-security.html). For the most part, the Republicans deny climate change even exists and Democrats treat climate change and all issues as isolated issues, if at all. The Green Party can distinguish itself by emphasizing the relationships between political issues and how a solution to one issue requires changes in other areas and positively affects other issues.
The Green Party also must emphasize the other ways in which it is different from the two major parties if it is to succeed going forward. The Democratic Party currently holds a considerable advantage in terms of its support among union members despite their weak support of issues important to unions. An important part of building the Green Party for the future will be drawing union members away from the Democrats by emphasizing potential job creation in areas like alternative energy and high-speed rail, as well as Greens’ much stronger support for workers’ rights and minimum wage increases. Yet another area in which the Green Party differs from the two major parties is in funding. Both the Democrats and Republicans receive the majority of their funding from large corporate donors and Political Action Committees while the Green Party refuses all such donations. Given the low opinion most Americans have of corporate money in politics, it is only reasonable that they would like a party that never has and never will accept such donations. In fact, the Green Party would be wise to flip the concept of the fundraising dinner on its head by instead offering free meals in poor communities across the nation. Not only does this emphasize that the Green Party is about much more than just environmental issues, it also shows that the Green Party actively solves our nation’s problems while Democrats and Republicans just pretend to argue with each other about them. This will also build considerable goodwill among the 42.9% of voting age Americans that the Census Bureau reports did not vote in the 2008 Presidential Election (http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables/12s0397.pdf).
These are just some of the areas in which the Green Party can better position itself for electoral success. The Party also must focus on building local and state parties, as the Republican Party did prior to the Election of 1860 when they officially replaced the Whigs as one of the major parties. The Party also must fight against unjust ballot access laws and their barring from the Presidential debates by the Commission on Presidential Debates. Unfortunately, these things take time and the above solutions build the party in ways that Democrats and Republicans cannot hinder. Given the current status of the Green Party, it is perhaps wisest to focus such things for the moment.