December 07, 2016

#Recount2016 — Is the #GreenParty at the end of its tether?

The North Star's Mark Lause certainly seems to think that may be the case. He does a good job of explaining all the rabbit trails and spider webs within the national Green Party, its relation to various state Green Parties, and more.

Part of that includes blasts at "paper parties" among various state parties.

Funnier yet? He's from the Green Party of Ohio — the same Green Party as Bob Fitrakis. 

Lause also does a good job of calling out the third member of the recount troika — 2004 Green Party prez candidate David Cobb.

I had no idea, until seeing this piece, that he (Cobb) was that involved with Progressive Democrats of America. PDA seems to have a rabid following, stereotypical Berniebros who had been waiting for their Bernie to appear, and then refused to believe he couldn't win when it was clear by May that he couldn't. (Update, 2018: This probably helps explain Stein's offer to step aside for Bernie.)

Like Barack Obama, Cobb has been compromising away the compromises in advance, it seems. And, per part of my concern about Jill Stein's vote recount, her flirting with Bernie Sanders — even talking about a deal to step aside as Green Party presidential nominee, which she could not do — illustrates just what's wrong with such dances.

Lause's nutgraf is about halfway down. It's a good one on explaining how the party works, both that the national and state levels:
Except for a few states, the Greens are not a membership party and there are no national standard of what membership entails.  It describes itself as an alliance of autonomous state parties, an organizational structure that represents a kind of synthesis of the ideology of John C. Calhoun with impulses of a particularly flakey and apolitical New Age libertarianism.  Some states have organizations of tens of thousands of members and others consisting of handfuls of people whom get to represent their entire state.   Although often no more than paper parties, the latter can do anything pretty much anything it wants, including a decision to not run in elections at all and even to support Democrats that seem acceptable for one reason or another.  As far as that goes, the same applies to local groups.  This has permitted the party in my city and state to endorse Democrats with depressing regularity while regularly running no more than a handful of Greens statewide.
That's a pretty damning indictment.

I'm going to add to it with an analogy. It's like NPR or PBS, which are also bottom-up, for those who don't know. Picture your local PBS phoning it in during most the year, which cutting a deal or two with the local NBC, CBS or ABC station to rebroadcast some PBS show in exchange for some dinero, and a tip jar of publicity, or something like that.

(That said, from what I know of the Texas Greens, and the fact that one of its leaders shared Lause's link when I posted it on Effbook, says that it's not a paper party. It's got room to improve along with Greens national, as I recently blogged. But, not a paper party.)

That indictment hits hard enough by itself.

It needs to be read in part in context of the previous paragraph, too:
Nevertheless, others saw the party’s function as less that of a political party or a movement than that of an NGO.  They saw victory coming through court cases, and lobbying to influence Democratic officeholders.  They felt the sting of Democratic disapproval much more deeply than those of us uninterested in fantasies of a convergence of the Democratic party with Green values.  And the peculiarly undemocratic structure of the GPUS left their views grossly over-represented.

Agreed, totally. You run as your own party first, first of all. Second, right. You run as a party, not a parallel to the Sierra Club, Environmental Defense or whatever. Third, yes, while it's gotten more democratic, the national party still has problems, and until recently, I didn't realize just how bad the problems were in the past. 

Lause does partially give back with his other hand:
In the end, vote fraud is superfluous to ensuring an unrepresentative outcome, but that ethos of cutthroat competition leaves plenty of room for it.  The problem Robert Fitrakis and other grass roots activists have demonstrated this repeatedly in their investigations of state and local elections. … 
But that’s a far cry from the comic book universe in which elections are “rigged” by some centralized national management. . . . . And it is only in that universe that someone can seriously believe that one recount aimed at fixing that one problem is going to eguarantee the honesty of future elections that will put Greens into office. 
That fact is that all the efforts of the Democratic Party, combined with those of the Republican Party–and of all the courtrooms and legislative bodies in the country–have failed to restore confidence in the system, and I don’t think that that any party that can’t get 5% of the vote has the power to do so.

What's key is next.

He says trying to play this way is a mug's game in the first place:
That election system here is grounded in the two-party system established by slaveholders to maintain slavery.  It’s a winner-takes-all structure in which almost each and every officeholder in the U.S. has to be in one or the other of those parties. … 
So when we try to participate in that with an excellent candidate running a laudatory national campaign, that “election system” excludes our candidate from the debates and keeps her as far off the radar as possible.  This is the system in which we want to secure confidence?

I disagree that that's why the two-party system was established. I've posted on social media about the untrueness of this "Electoral College was to support slavery" myth. It was founded for many reasons. Besides, parties already existed at the time of the American Revolution and the Constitutional Convention, no matter the spin of the founding fathers.

But the rest of this is spot-on. 

On the broad constitutional issues Mark mentions, Daniel Lazare's "The Frozen Republic" is a great read. 

Personally, I think the following, as someone who has voted Green downballot as well as presidentially, but is not a regular dues-paying member at the state level:
1. The party needs to stop running a safe states strategy at the presidential level.
2. It needs to move on beyond former candidates who think that way.
3. It apparently needs to push some state parties to clean house.
4. It needs to partner less pre-election, or intra-election, with Democrats in general.
5. It needs to move in a more explicit eco-socialist direction.
6. It needs to become more reality-based on all scientific issues related to environment and more, not just climate change.
7. Related to No. 6 would be stop believing in conspiracy theories in general, or people who like to trade in them, whether Fitrakis or Greg Palast, who I have already demolished.

And, if the Green Party isn't the vehicle like this, then I agree with Lause it's time to hop into another existing vehicle of the left, or else create a new one.


1. I owe Counterpunch's Jeff St. Clair, notably, and others like him a partial apology over 2004. The Green nomination system then was indeed rigged. Could Nader have overcome that, had he run again himself in 2004 instead of his 2000 Veep, Peter Camejo? (Camejo was Nader's independent run Veep in 2004.) Possibly. If nothing else, he could have done to expose this undemocratic process to daylight.

That said, Nader brought this on himself. He made a pledge to run a safe states campaign in 2000 — then broke it. Yes, I just said above that I oppose such campaigns. However, starting with my first piece on this year's recount, I've repeatedly chastized Stein for breaking party loyalty and unity.

Besides that, though, he could have challenged the paper parties directly, as just noted. Rather than do that, though, he eventually played a hand in creating the Justice Party — in part perhaps for real worries, but in part for spite, IMO.

So, the apology is partial, not full.

2. I owe Stein thanks for leading me to learn more about the Green Party in the last month than I had in the previous 16 years, possibly.


David Collins said...

There's a whole lot of "huh?" in this post, more than I could reliably refute. Your general point is correct: The Green Parties of the US and the various states are the Gang That Can Shoot Straight but Too Often Shoots Itself in Its Collective Foot. And as a Green, I say that with love.

However, I'd like to make a factual correction to your first sidebar and fill in some additional details. Ralph Nader's running mate in 2000 was Winona LaDuke; Peter Camejo was his VP pick in 2004.

Take whatever lessons you can from the story below.

At the 2004 Green Convention, Camejo, after his illustrious career as a Socialist, positioned himself as a stand-in for a Nader nomination. The majority of Green Convention delegates from California were hot to put Nader on the ticket for the third time, the first being 1996 when he appeared on the ballot in California and a few other states. California had a large number of registered Greens, and the delegate apportionment formula gave the state an outlandish proportion of the national delegates.

However, most other state delegations were opposed to nominating Nader, who had never joined the party and had refused (on principle, I guess) to share his campaign's database with the Greens. I believe that the non-sharing set the party back even more than all the liberals' anger over Florida.

For the record, at the convention in Milwaukee, David Cobb narrowly won nomination on the second ballot. His main opposition came from None of the Above, always a fixture in internal Green elections. Camejo's bid was rejected, so the NOTA move was a way of saying, "Let's not nominate anyone and endorse Nader's independent campaign."

Cobb's acceptance speech did outline the Safe States strategy, even while he noted that he would campaign in swing states if enough Greens in those states asked him to. He and Pat LaMarche wouldn't have had the money to campaign effectively in swing states anyway.

In Texas, because no Greens achieved 5% in the 2002 election, GPTX had to undertake a petition drive to restore ballot access in 2004. That drive failed, as did the two subsequent drives in '06 and '08. Nader's independent petition drive, which required more signature in less time, also failed. Both Cobb and Nader got on the Texas ballot as write-in candidates, receiving officially 1,014 and 9,159 votes, respectively.

Gadfly said...

Fixed the Camejo reference. You're right on that, not sure why I had the brain fart.

I have a mix of agree and disagree on the ideals of the 2004 race (setting aside the realities of money).

As I've noted before, I'm not a huge fan of Nader, and that goes beyond his 2000 investments issue (which you may not see as such a big problem, like with Stein).

I knew about the database issue, though I didn't mention it. That said, how many of Nader's donors would have ponied up for the Green Party, I don't know. To be honest, Nader has never really struck me as being "Green," especially if one looks at the idea of trying to push Greens in an explicitly eco-socialist direction. I know he's anti-nuke, but plenty of Democrats are, too. For that matter, I am unsure as to what Camejo agreed to run with Nader.

This, in turn gets back to the issue of independent state Green parties, paper parties, etc. The fact that some state Green parties still wanted him on the ballot in the face of the donor list issue and the likelihood that he wouldn't abide by a "safe states" request any more than he did in 2000 is problematic.

This re-iterates why I'll offer a partial apology, per the story, to St. Clair, but not a full one. (And I've read extensively his various takes on the 2004 nomination process.)

As for other "refutation," other than my Camejo error, more than half of the post is quotes from Lause. The only extended analysis, beyond my sidebar, is my analogy about certain state parties, building on his comment. If you are in that much disagreement, it might be good to go to him directly. (I stand by what I said about the PDA, and was polite in saying it. I also stand by what I said, tangential to the Green Party, about the myth of the Electoral College being created to protect slavery.)

All of this is why I've expressed my past support for parliamentary government where, theoretically, party discipline means something, although the likes of a Jeremy Corbyn show it's not always true.