While I was napping on Saturday (due to a mild cold), a single thing I said on Twitter got retweeted by someone famous. I woke up to find my mentions exploding from people I didn’t know. I replied to the first one before I realized what was going on, and found myself in a weird argument about the Green Party.
My original statement had been: “Field candidates in more that 0.02% of elected offices. Build a base. Earn my vote.” And I @-ed the Green Party official twitter account. The reason I did that is because every four years for the last couple of decades, I (and anyone else who espouses progressive ideas online) get harassed by Green Party supporters urging me to vote for the Green candidate instead of the Democrat because the Democratic Party isn’t liberal enough.
And I’m tired of the harassment and harangues and histrionics.
In the 2000 election the Green Party had their biggest success: they put George W. Bush, a person who embodied everything the Green Party stands against, into office. By their own numbers, among the new Green voters they got that year were 24,000 in Florida who otherwise would have voted for Gore. Those 24,000 votes would have put Florida safely out of recount territory and would have prevented the eight disastrous years of Bush/Cheney we got.
The 2000 election was the Green’s best result because they got millions of votes nationwide, instead of their previous high of a bit less than 500,000. A big surge! Green principles must have been appealing to more people! Except that in every election since then, they’ve only managed about 460,000 votes nationwide… again. They didn’t turn any of those new voters into Green Party supporters after 2000. None. And they didn’t use that new support to improve their organization in any way, such as to get more of their candidates on the ballot in local races.
If you want to take the time of going to their national party website and literally by hand count the number of candidates they have run on the ballots in recent elections (because they have a horrible database that won’t give you the total, and they conveniently avoid mentioning the exact number in all their publications, even when asked by a columnist that they have vilified for reporting they don’t run local candidates), you find that they have about 116 candidates, compared to the total of 500,000 elected positions in the country. That’s 0.02% of the possible offices—not two percent, that’s two-one hundredths of a percent. Which is less than a drop in the bucket.
When I said “earn my vote” I meant the party needs to organize enough to run and win enough local races that they have party members with the necessary experience to then run for state-wide offices and start winning there. Not running 2 candidates for every 10,000 offices, as they are now. Not running celebrities that have name recognition and no applicable skills for governor in some states every now and then. Not running joke candidates for president every four years when you can’t get your party on enough state ballots where it would be even possible to win the electoral college.
One of the people who tried to argue with me on Saturday asked what could the party possibly do other than stating their policies. The answer doesn’t fit into 140 characters, but here’s part of it: Organize. Ring doorbells, find local problems that aren’t being addressed by the other parties, and find viable candidates to offer solutions. It means running candidates in off year elections. It will take years, I know. But yelling at people like me, telling me I’m not a real progressive because I’m voting for a candidate who actually has a chance of getting into office isn’t going to build your party. Getting millions of people to throw away their votes in the national election 16 years ago didn’t get the party any further than it had been before.
And just stating your policies isn’t going to do it, either. The left has a problem organizing because a lot of us fall prey to the notion that if they just put out a good idea, people would magically be drawn to them. The myth (and I used to think this, too) is that if the policy is good enough, we don’t have to do the hard work of recruiting and organizing and raising money and actually putting candidates on the ballot and getting them elected to city councils or state legislatures. And we get caught up in these endless debates about the best policy.
I’ve been to those meetings, where every week we try to get some work done, but someone wants to re-visit an issue we’ve already re-discussed ten times after reaching a decision a few months ago. No one who wants to discuss it has any new information, and truth be told, because the topic keeps being re-opened for discussion again and again, we haven’t really had a chance to see if the decision we thought we made months ago will work or not.
The Green Party is trotting out their candidate who flip-flops between multiple scientifically incorrect positions on medical care—anti-vaxxer, pro homeopathy, pro-and-anti-vaxxer at once—without explanation; and whose inconsistent foreign policy is more in line with the ravings of Trump than Trump’s running mate’s foreign policy comments are! They put forward a platform which with regards to domestic policy mirrors significantly the platform which the Democrats officially adopted yesterday.
Their current argument is since Bernie Sanders failed to win over a majority of Democratic Primary voters, that instead of voting for Hillary, people who liked Bernie’s policies should vote for the Green Party candidate. Never mind that when Sanders and Clinton were in the Senate together, they voted the same 91% of the time. Never mind that when she was in the Senate Hillary was more liberal than her husband, President Clinton had been, and that her campaign had more liberal stands that President Obama’s before she was pushed further to the left by Bernie Sanders. If Bernie was good enough, why isn’t 91% of Bernie worth voting for?
The argument is usually put forward that an election isn’t a horse race. I agree. It’s a hell of a lot more important than that. As a voter, I should vote for candidates that will make the world a better place. Part of making the world of better place means actually getting elected and having the organization and experience to enact at least some of their proposals.
The Green Party is not on enough state ballots to get the electoral votes to win. That’s a fact. Many states don’t allow write-in candidates for President (heck seven states don’t allow write-in candidates at all!). Many more won’t allow votes for a write-in candidate for President to be counted if the candidate doesn’t have electors properly registered with the state beforehand. So the likelihood that the Green Party candidate can be elected as President is so close to zero, it isn’t funny.
Before about 1940, it was not uncommon for Third Parties, rather than to nominate their own candidate for President and waste party money and resources on a campaign that didn’t stand a chance to win in the electoral college, to instead endorse the nominee of the larger party that most closely aligned with their platform. Then the party concentrated on down ballot elections. Since the Greens haven’t been able to get on enough ballots to have a mathematical chance at winning post-2000, I’d have more respect for them if they took that route
You can complain about ballot access. You can claim that both parties are corrupt. But it is an absolute lie that both parties are equally corrupt. And it is just as untrue to insist that neither party is better than the other for civil rights, health care, jobs, or the future of the planet. And if you let Trump become President, you will not make ballot access any easier in future elections; nor will you reduce corruption.
And it won’t be four years of gridlock. Trump and the Republicans in Congress will be rolling back progress in pretty much every social justice area that the Green Party cares about. In 2000 the Green Party argument was that if Bush/Cheney won and enacted their policies, a wave of voters would come to the Green Party’s way of thinking by 2004 and throw everyone out of office.
That didn’t happen.
I can’t tell you how to vote. If you want to shoot yourself in the foot by voting for the Green Party candidate and letting Trump win (and that’s a simple matter of math; that is what will happen), I can’t stop you. But know this: you aren’t just shooting yourself in the foot, you’re shooting a whole lot of the rest of us, too.
We’re not the enemy. Trump and the forces of hate are. Stop asking me to shoot myself in the foot at the ballot box. And stop claiming that you are doing anything more productive than that.