Moving the Green Party Forward from 2012

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.

28 thoughts on “Moving the Green Party Forward from 2012

  1. Green_Liberal

    I see 2 concrete ways the Greens could improve their prospects

    1) More co-ordinated actions and solidarity actions. National Green party initiatives and actions. The principle of acting locally is a noble one but the forces that oppress us are not exclusively local.

    2) The really essential thing is building up Internet presence, College Greens, and a youth base. As long as the Greens aren’t doing this there will always be a good argument that another kind of progressive party would do a better job.

    The youth get it. They know (intuitively, since they understand technology) there is no good reason for the lack of transparency in our government and electoral processes. They know the system is a sham and they’re being bullshitted. And while the youth embraces Ron Paul’s anti-militarism and plain spoken style, they reject supply-side economics along with the irrationality and sustainability of laisse-faire capitalism. They know there are better ways to organize human beings than nationalism, competition, war, and theft.

    Fortunately there is a model for the kind of political party that the youth wants to see. The Pirate Parties–successful in more democratic Europe–have a message that actually appeals to teens and 20-somethings today.

    While their website is a work in progress the structure of their wiki is a model for aspiring parties in the 21st century.

    http://www.pirate-party.us/wiki/Main_Page

    The key values of the US Pirates include…

    Open Culture
    Transparency and Openness
    Individual Privacy
    Anti-Monopoly
    Individuals over institutions
    Post-ideological meritocracy
    Egalitarianism

    The European Green Party was smart enough to incorporate the Pirate policy on intellectual property as their own. American Greens (and other left-wing movments interested in building grassroots democracy) should learn from the Pirates and incorporate the technological advances to build up organization and democracy.

  2. Green_Liberal

    I misspoke above re competition–I was talking about the capitalism we have known, characterized by war between nation states and their corporate sponsors over resources.

    The Pirates are obviously for competition (in the sense of free markets, meritocracy etc). However for them the utility of competition is rooted in rational self-interest rather than an assumption about natural law. A healthy respect for competition should not imply self-defeating platitudes about survival of the fittest or might is right. Competition based on egalitarian principles furthers the spread of knowledge and technology for the benefit of all.

  3. Independent Green Party Conservative

    Thank you for posting this Green Party article!

    Yes, Doctor Stein did a wonderful job as a Green Party candidate in 2012.

    Doctor Stein’s positive Green Party message of the Green New Deal, solar jobs, wind jobs, geothermal jobs, rail jobs, simply is a winner for the Greens world wide. It’s a winner for the Green Party in America.

    For me Doctor Stein’s two best lines of the campaign were:

    ” I am not an ideologue. I am a doctor.”

    “We are running an intelligent, collaborative, constructive campaign.”

    With Doctor Stein in 2012 the Green Party and the Independent Green Part put a record number of candidates on the ballot. That is where the wheel meets the rail.

    The Independent Green Party of Virginia put a the most candidates on the ballot for Congress in Virginia of a single third party since 1916!

    “More Green candidates, less apathy”. That’s the key! for Greens.

    2013. How many candidates can the Indy Greens and Green Party get on the ballot.

    Doctor Stein did great work in 2012. Now Doctor Stein and the rest of the Indy Greens and Green Party must immediately put the absolute maximum number of Green candidates on the ballot in 2013.

    For the Green Party it’s about looking ahead to 2013 and beyond. Build the biggest Green Party tent possible. And put GREENS on the ballot.

  4. johnO

    Green Party has a chance to run someone in Jesse Jackson Jr’s seat. If the SWP can do it so can the Green Party. The D’s are going to be divided with crowded field. The Green Party should look at the candidate that won in Arkansas. It is true that a judge said that the D’s candidate votes were not going to be counted. Yet, if the Green Party had no candidate, no win.

  5. Mark Axinn

    One big obstacle is that the public still thinks the GP is Ralph Nader and vice versa. That needs to be addressed in future years.

  6. Dale Sheldon-Hess

    The advantage the Republicans had in 1860, was that the Whig party hadn’t run a candidate for president since 1852, eight years prior.

    People seem to have these fantastical dreams that their party will rise up, and push down one of the current top-two parties, just like the Republicans did! Only that’s not how it actually happened. The Whigs fell apart, all by their lonesome, and then the Republicans filled the vacuum.

    You’ll have to find a different model. Proportional representation. Approval voting. Anything where voters don’t feel pressure to pick the lesser evil.

  7. paulie

    The Chicago Green Party Chairman does great work

    You mean kicking Constitutionalists and Socialists off the ballot? That’s “great work”?

  8. paulie

    I misspoke above re competition–I was talking about the capitalism we have known, characterized by war between nation states and their corporate sponsors over resources.

    That is not a free market.

  9. capitalism=/free markets

    As an empirical reality, capitalism is a form of ecnomics that brings us war, slavery, corporatism etc. It’s competing monopolies empowered by nation states, and thus rooted in violence and conquest.

    The tendency of libertarians to conflate capitalism with free markets is a self-defeating habit, since very often their rhetoric ends up defending corporatist policies as free-market policies. Embracing corporate rule as the ‘natural’ rule of the ‘strong’ is psychologically almost the same thing as embracing the divine right of kings as ‘natural right’.

    Greens ought to embrace free markets insofar as free markets contribute to the good of the commonwealth. But free markets shouldn’t be confused with monopolies that limit human freedom without justification.

  10. johnO

    @11
    I doubt the Green Party would embrace total free markets. They seem to be left of D’s but to the right of the several “Socialist” parties.

  11. JT

    Pretty much every free-market economist since the 19th century whom I’ve read–which is many–uses “capitalism” to refer to the political-economic system of free markets. Coercive (state-enforced or subsidized) monopolies aren’t part of capitalism. If anyone prefers to use “free markets” instead of “capitalism,” fine.

  12. FLAMETHROWING LIBERTARIAN !

    Cooking the Figures on Climate Change: http://www.ornery.org/essays/warwatch/2007-03-04-1.html

    Environmentalists Pick Up Where Communists Left Off: http://townhall.com/columnists/charleskrauthammer/2008/05/31/environmentalists_pick_up_where_communists_left_off

    “Hundreds of billion dollars have been wasted with the attempt of imposing a Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) theory that is not supported by physical world evidences…AGW has been forcefully imposed by means of a barrage of scare stories and indoctrination that begins in the elementary school textbooks.” — Brazilian Geologist Geraldo Luís Lino, who authored the 2009 book “The Global Warming Fraud: How a Natural Phenomenon Was Converted into a False World Emergency.”

  13. paulie

    Pretty much every free-market economist since the 19th century whom I’ve read–which is many–uses “capitalism” to refer to the political-economic system of free markets. Coercive (state-enforced or subsidized) monopolies aren’t part of capitalism. If anyone prefers to use “free markets” instead of “capitalism,” fine.

    The term capitalism is used by different people to mean different things. To some people it means free markets, to others it means corporatism or “crony capitalism” as it currently exists.

    See http://mises.org/daily/2099#6 :

    Suppose I were to invent a new word, “zaxlebax,” and define it as “a metallic sphere, like the Washington Monument.” That’s the definition — “a metallic sphere, like the Washington Monument. ” In short, I build my ill-chosen example into the definition. Now some linguistic subgroup might start using the term “zaxlebax” as though it just meant “metallic sphere,” or as though it just meant “something of the same kind as the Washington Monument.” And that’s fine. But my definition incorporates both, and thus conceals the false assumption that the Washington Monument is a metallic sphere; any attempt to use the term “zaxlebax,” meaning what I mean by it, involves the user in this false assumption. That’s what Rand means by a package-deal term.

    Now I think the word “capitalism,” if used with the meaning most people give it, is a package-deal term. By “capitalism” most people mean neither the free market simpliciter nor the prevailing neomercantilist system simpliciter. Rather, what most people mean by “capitalism” is this free-market system that currently prevails in the western world. In short, the term “capitalism” as generally used conceals an assumption that the prevailing system is a free market. And since the prevailing system is in fact one of government favoritism toward business, the ordinary use of the term carries with it the assumption that the free market is government favoritism toward business.

    And similar considerations apply to the term “socialism.” Most people don’t mean by “socialism” anything so precise as state ownership of the means of production; instead they really mean something more like “the opposite of capitalism.” Then if “capitalism” is a package-deal term, so is “socialism” — it conveys opposition to the free market, and opposition to neomercantilism, as though these were one and the same.

    And that, I suggest, is the function of these terms: to blur the distinction between the free market and neomercantilism. Such confusion prevails because it works to the advantage of the statist establishment: those who want to defend the free market can more easily be seduced into defending neomercantilism, and those who want to combat neomercantilism can more easily be seduced into combating the free market. Either way, the state remains secure.

    I don’t mean to suggest that evil statists have deliberately conspired to corrupt our language to serve their own nefarious ends. That sometimes happens, of course, but it’s not necessary. Rather, a perverse invisible-hand process is at work: the prevailing use of the terms “capitalism” and “socialism” persists because it serves to preserve the statist system of which it is a part. Think of it as spontaneous ordure. (Sorry.)

  14. paulie

    I doubt the Green Party would embrace total free markets. They seem to be left of D’s but to the right of the several “Socialist” parties.

    It depends on which Greens we are talking about.

    While this is true of most Greens, I’ve found a significant minority are very open to a real free market along the following lines:

    http://aaeblog.com/2006/11/24/greensleeves-was-all-my-joy/

    Even many of the Greens that currently embrace statist solutions are often open to considering voluntarist solutions to social problems once it is made clear that we are not defending the interlocking big government-big business dominance of sciety that currently exists. Most have simply never heard an explanation of libertarian views which makes that sufficiently clear.

  15. Starchild

    Paulie @17-18 – Spot on. I hope this thread is read by some of the folks who attack “capitalism” and “free markets” and see both libertarians and the status quo as embodying these terms, and that they understand what you (well, mostly Roderick Long who you quote at Mises.org) are saying.

    And I hope lots of libertarians read the post @1 by Green Liberal about the key values of the Pirate Party which are attractive to young people:

    Open Culture
    Transparency and Openness
    Individual Privacy
    Anti-Monopoly
    Individuals over institutions
    Post-ideological meritocracy
    Egalitarianism

    I don’t think any of these values are contrary to libertarianism, but I think most of them involve seeing libertarian ideas and/or priorities in ways that vary somewhat from how I think most self-identified libertarians have tended to look at them.

    Take perhaps the most superficially problematic one, “egalitarianism”, for instance. I say “superficially problematic” because I don’t think most self-identified libertarians tend to think of themselves as champions of equality. Yet libertarianism in fact calls for a more egalitarian legal system than virtually any other political philosophy, because it does not exempt government employees from rules against initiating force by killing, enslaving, or robbing others. Libertarianism also holds that rights are universal, which suggests that any properly constituted government will respect the same basic human rights, and will treat people equally under the law whether they are “citizens” or not.

    Furthermore, there is strong evidence that libertarianism has an equalizing economic impact in practical terms. Nineteenth century America, which was fairly libertarian in contrast with 19th century Europe still largely ruled by monarchies, was observed by the French visitor Alexis de Tocqueville in his famous treatise “Democracy In America” to have a comparatively broader middle class and higher level of economic equality. One can likewise look around the world today and see that the more statist societies tend to feature larger disparities of wealth, while those with more economic freedom tend to be not only more prosperous overall, but to have a stronger middle class.

    Beyond this, I will venture to say that concentrations of power in society, whether they identify as “governments” or not, are inherently dangerous from a libertarian perspective. Lord Acton observed that power corrupts. He did not say “power in government corrupts”. I say that government is as government does. Excessive power can and often does lead institutions, and individuals, to act like governments, whether they formally identify as governments or not. This is part (though by no means all) of what I think motivates the antipathy that many people on the left have towards corporations — that they are often too controlling toward employees and customers; in short, that they are prone to act like wannabe governments.

    Which points to the wisdom of another of the values that Green Liberal cites as Pirate Party values: Individuals over institutions.

    I could keep going here, but I think that’s enough for this post.

  16. No Difference

    Everyone that comes to the Green Party seems to have their own point of view as to what the party is, and should be. That’s very creative.

    It’s also very confusing to leftists trying to find themselves a political home. Either the GP is leftist or it is not leftist. As a more left-leaning person myself, all this talk shatters my own understanding and experience as a party member for several years.

    This same conflationary noise permeates the Justice Party as well. It’s almost as if people calling themselves “left” do not really understand the meaning of the term, and obviously they are ignoring or dismissing a century of hard work by many many people who tried to create a more sustainable and survivable economy.

    If the GP will tolerate all this rhetoric intended to pull it in about 8 different directions, so be it. But I refuse to be a part of any movement or party that is defocused, particularly on the issues that matter to me most.

    I will hazard a guess that a lot of working, particularly older people, will be frightened off by the confusing mess some people are making of otherwise very solid ideas. I know I am, and I know several others who are in the same shoes as I am.

    Good luck whatever you try to do. I’ll be continuing my search for a political home that addresses the needs and concerns of people in the same situation as myself.

  17. No Difference

    Thanks, Ed. I know most of the posters are Libertarians, but Paulie made a remark above about the Greens. I was responding to that.

    But that makes me wonder why this is called Independent Political Report when it does seem to attract mostly Libertarians. I hope the audience is not limited to just L’s.

  18. paulie

    We welcome all independent and alternative party folk, but libertarians have freely chosen to be here more than others. That does not mean you are any less welcome; by all means please stay, participate, and bring others. We can’t force anyone to be here who doesn’t want to be here (and as libertarians we wouldn’t want to).

    And yes, I have found that most, but not all, Greens are leftists in the sense you are using.

    Actually I consider myself a leftist too, but you would have to read the whole article at http://mises.org/daily/2099 to more fully understand that. It’s not a short article, but I highly recommend it.

    I believe a truly fully mutually voluntary social order is the only sustainable, survivable economic system, and the only one that can provide environmental sustainability and justice for working people. Other ideologies pay lip service to these goals, but utterly fail to deliver them in practice. Most libertarians fail to speak the correct language, although our proposals would do more to achieve those stated goals than anyone else’s would.

    I hope you find time to read the links I have already put in this thread.

    If you are too busy, or just completely unwilling to consider a different perspective on which policies would best achieve the goals we share, I still hope you will stick around – IPR is mostly libertarian by default, not by design.

  19. Andy

    “IPR is mostly libertarian by default, not by design.”

    I think that there are two main reasons why there are more Libertarians who post at IPR than there are people from other parties.

    1) The Libertarian Party is the largest political party in terms of dues paying members outside of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.

    2) A lot of Libertarians tend to be computer geeks.

  20. paulie

    Not just in terms of dues paying members, but by pretty much any measure you want to use.

    But, it’s true that another reason why is because we tend to drive away other people when we congregate. I’m trying not to be that way, but I don’t shy away from expressing my views either. Some people find our arguments overwhelming and would rather just go elsewhere where they don’t have to deal with them.

    But that may just mean off line. Compare IPR with Green Party Watch, which is explicitly Green Party. They get way less comments overall.

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