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The Green Party in 2024

The Green Party was conceived in the 1990’s as a kind of ideal party, one free from the defects of the D’s (too warlike) and the R’s (too oppressive), and unlike either of them, one fully committed to preserving our environment.  It has attracted many followers and much international success.

In the US the electoral system has prevented any great electoral success. In Olympia, its list of past members is long — it seems that half of Olympia has cycled through its ranks. People join with enthusiasm, then eventually see it as powerless to achieve its own aims, and drift over to one of the major parties.

The obstacle facing the GP in the US is known as the “spoiler effect”: any votes for a GP candidate are seen as votes taken away from one of the 2 major parties. Third parties had some success in the past (George Wallace, Ross Perot) but voters are canny now and know that a third-party candidate — especially an attractive, dynamic one — will take votes away from the major-party candidate that might otherwise win, and they vote “strategically.” A worker gathering signatures will feel the antagonism that stems from the notion that this third party may prevent a win by that voter’s major-party candidate.

Voters would do well to go one step further in their thinking. It might be true that a small party can spoil a larger party’s chances, but instead of concluding that the smaller party should not participate (what kind of a democracy would that be?), a voter’s next thought ought to be, What a pity our electoral system discourages third parties; so many nations have Ranked Choice Voting which makes all parties viable, but our country still has a system that was novel in 1776. Perhaps we should change it.

Getting on the Ballot

For the third time, the national Green Party has picked Jill Stein for its Presidential nominee. Stein, a dedicated activist, recently made headlines for her arrest at the anti-genocide demonstration in Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. She is currently polling at 4% in Washington State, although actual vote count is usually less due to the spoiler effect. Without the spoiler effect, votes for the party would grow year by year as success generates more success.

Additionally, the party is endorsing Jason Call for Washingtons Second Congressional District.

Each national election year the party has to gather 1,000 verified signatures to allow the candidate to run. Adding red tape to the actual gathering, each time a worker goes to gather signatures, he-or-she has to announce the “event” in a newspaper of record ahead of time. The GP has had ballot access in Washington State for many years and doubtless will have its candidate on the ballot this year as well. Daniel Bumbarger and Colin Bartlett, the current leaders, are hard at work every weekend gathering signatures.

Green Party Values and Local Actions

Beyond politics, the GP is a movement dedicated to its core values. It has always had its Ten Key Values, including the value of “community-based economics,” but its hopes for that value have changed over the years. In past years the GP wanted to see experiments in different forms of government; they wanted to retain the option of capitalism, especially if reformed. But Daniel and Colin say frankly they find capitalism irredeemable.

The correct response to an irredeemable system is to undermine or challenge it, and many GP members do so whenever possible. They participate in direct actions targeting oppressive policies, and Colin practices as a street medic. Street medics work against police violence by patching people up after they have been harmed and sending them back into action again.

The local Green Party chapter collaborates with various organizations and movements, from LGBTQ Pride events to Housing for All to guerrilla gardening efforts. The party also co-sponsors events to spread its message. Recently, they co-sponsored Debbie Bookchin and Arthur Pye to speak on May 13, 2024, at the Evergreen State College as part of their Report from Rojavatour. Deb explained that the Kurdish freedom movement wants not only separation from Turkey but also sweeping social change.

The new form of government would be bottoms-up, with villages and city districts holding the most power, and regional bodies where local governments send delegates to solve regional problems. After all, Deb says, “it is precisely at the local level where [problems like climate change] are being solved day in and day out.” Such a “horizontal” organization tends to appeal to youth more than traditional hierarchical government (go to https://news.stanford.edu/stories/2024/02/8-things-expect-gen-z-coworker) so the event was popular among young people. This is the direction in which our local Green Party would like to take us.

Working in the System

People ask Colin and Daniel how they manage to both advocate radical change and at the same time work within the system as a political party. They answer that their candidates represent new values; when elected, they can begin the transition to a better system.

Colin and Daniel actually are beginning such a transition in their work as commissioners on the Thurston County Planning Commission. They regularly raise questions for the Commission, such as, What will happen to the carve-outs — our coastal parks and wildlife refuges — when the water rises? When they are flooded out? Will they disappear, or can we have a plan for moving them inland step by step as the flooding happens? The Commission’s answer so far is that we can ignore that until it happens. It seems that Colin and Daniel are right that our institutions are wedded to an old system that needs to change.

Working for the Green Party isn’t easy. The party stands for policies progressives hope for but have little chance of getting; a GP person needs to embody those perfect values. But for GP candidates there are heavy barriers to winning elections. Holding oneself to the highest standards while understanding that rewards will be far in the future can be exhausting. However, the current leaders are getting the job done, in both the political and educational fields.

The whole nation needs the Green Party. A recent popular book The Doom Loop describes the gridlock often plaguing Congress, in which any legislative effort of one party is automatically opposed by the other party, simply to deny that party a win. The loser is actually the public that waits in vain for needed legislation to pass. The author said the solution was more parties, since coalitions could then form with enough members collectively to force legislation through. The Green Party could benefit the nation simply by being a third party in Congress.   As time goes on, GP legislators could bend the arc of legislation towards real solutions to our national problems.

With a change of election systems at both national and local levels, the GP could begin to get the votes it deserves and eventually take on leadership at all levels of government.

* a quote from “The City Rises,” guest editorial in Roar Magazine, April 20, 2022

Views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not reflect the views of the South Sound Green Party.

2 Comments

  1. Steve June 1, 2024

    I participated in a national Green party convention in the late-80s, so have an affinity for the group’s goals. However, my experience has been that if one wishes to make substantive change, a stand-alone third party is not the best organizing model.

    Groups such as Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition and Tom Hayden’s Campaign for Economic Democracy strike me as more promising approaches. Both were independent groups that usually worked within the Democratic party to move it leftward. In their prime, both were reasonably successful (Jackson at the national level and Hayden in California).

    Even Ralph Nader, who has been the Green party’s most-successful presidential candidate, has said that Bernie Sanders was wise to run in the Democratic primaries rather than launch a third-party candidacy.

    Why? A big part of the problem is that the political system so heavily privileges the Democratic and Republican parties. However, the Green party has also not had the capacity to help elect very many people even to local offices. So if you are a candidate who is serious about winning, why work through the Greens when you could be more viable as a Democrat?

    A Rainbow Coalition-type group solves that problem because you can maintain your progressive values while also tapping into the Democratic party’s electoral infrastructure.

    I think that a Rainbow Coalition model is particularly timely given the dangers of American fascism. Washington is enough of a blue state that one could plausibly vote for the Green presidential candidate without worrying that it could help install Donald Trump as dictator. However, that’s not the case in swing states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

  2. Jim Lazar June 3, 2024

    This article is a little bit odd.

    At the end, it says “Views expressed in this article are the author’s and do not reflect the views of the South Sound Green Party.”

    But there is no author listed in the byline, which says only “as viewed by an ex-member on June 1, 2024”

    I regret sometimes that I am faced with “voting for the Democrat” or else “enabling the Republican.” As the article says, the D’s are often too warlike for me, and the R’s are … well, currently off their rockers. This year I will vote for Democrats, because Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, and MTG are simply too scary to countenance.

    I support a proportional representation system in which the Green Party would likely be a source of several members of our state legislature, our US Congress, and our US Senate.

    And I support Ranked Choice Voting, where I can express my Green preferences without giving up my role in the ultimate decision.

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