Green Plate Tectonics
Brent McMillan, Political Director, Green Party of the United States
My inspiration for this article was a confrontation last fall I had with a couple of apoplectic Democrats that could barely get the words out of their collective mouths, “You’re not going to run Nader again for President are you?” At first I was taken aback, but by the time I ran into them a couple of days later I was ready to let them have it with both barrels blazing.
What if I were to suggest to you it’s not the Democrats that the Greens have been replacing but the Republicans?
In 2006 the Green Party saw a new phenomenon with our federal-level campaigns. Some of our best-run campaigns, in which the candidates were clearly articulate, with a strong message and media attention, did not do that well at the ballot box. It was a hard thing to accept at the time. Scott McLarty, GPUS media director had a theory about what happened. Perhaps there was a kind of message transference. Voters agreed with the Green candidate, but what they thought was, “I agree with the Green, therefore I’m going to vote for the Democrat, to defeat the Republican.” In other words, the Green had the courage to say what the Democrat wouldn’t. Ugh! I’m out to build the Green Party not reform the Democratic Party. (Then again it could have been voter fraud.) That said, we ran fewer campaigns for Con gress in 2006 than in 2004 but got more overall votes. Our candidates and campaigns are clearly getting stronger and it shows.
In Washington, D.C., the Greens are now the second party. We have twice the voting strength as the Republicans. Have you seen any articles in the Washington Post about this? You probably won’t. Following the 2004 election cycle, Greens in D.C. held a strategic planning retreat in early 2005. We set out to deliberately establish the D.C. Statehood Greens as the second party or opposition party and replace the Republicans.
The D.C. Statehood Greens ran five candidates in partisan races and the Republicans did the same. We matched up in three of those races and got more votes in two out of three. Our United States Representative candidate (remember that D.C. is a colony) Keith Ware beat the Republican candidate. Ware received 13,511 votes or 12.65 percent. The Republican candidate received 9,700 votes or 9.08 percent. Yet the Washington Post refused to identify Ware as a Green.
Other areas where the Greens are now the second party include Seattle, WA, (See “Seattle Turns Green”, The Seattle Times, June 22, 2000), Madison, WI, Port land, ME and Portland, OR. In Califor nia, it includes San Francisco, Sebastapol, Arcata and Los Angeles, to name a few.
If I may make a sweeping observation, strategically, the Greens are becoming the second party to Democrats in urban areas, and the second party to Republicans in rural areas. We are the ones positioned to set the opposition agenda. In rural areas, Greens speak a progressive populist language that still has resonance in communities, which would have been active in the Farmers Alliance years ago. This is not a liberal language, it’s a progressive populist one, and it’s not the same. That’s why liberal Democrats would fall flat on their face trying to do the same thing.
Evidence of this can be found with three candidates that ran for Ellensburg City Council in the tri-cities area in Wash ington State in 2003. Although none of them won, two got a respectable 40 percent of the vote. What is significant is Dem o crats don’t really even bother to run east of the Cascade Mountain Range in Washington State. Right after this race, the Democratic Party held a meeting in one of the tri-cities to reconsider whether they should be putting resources into races in this area.
The evidence would indicate Greens are replacing Republicans, not Democrats. Otherwise why would the Democratic Leadership Council find it so important to stop the Greens from advancing, that they would send Howard Dean himself to Portland, Maine to make sure John Eder did not get re-elected to the Maine State Legislature in 2006? This is very curious. Of all of the things they could have put resources into, this was made a national priority!
The Republicans may be feeling the heat though. A recent cover of the American Conservative has “A righter shade of green” printed on it in big letters.