Ansel Herz’s repost of Dan Savage’s comments this week about the Green Party in Seattle’s alternative weekly, The Stranger, slammed into my field of view when I was deluged by messages of outrage from fellow Greens from around the country. They considered Dan Savage an ally in many progressive causes and were shocked by his rhetoric and lack of knowledge about the Green Party of the United States.
I respect Savage, having first become acquainted with his activism through the “It Gets Better” project and its advocacy for LGBTQIA+ youth, as readers already know. But his commentary begs correcting various inaccuracies in what he understands about the Green Party. I should state for the record that as the only Latina in national political party leadership today, I am decidedly not “pasty white,” as he accuses in his commentary. Neither is Cynthia McKinney nor Rosa Clemente, our presidential and VP candidates from 2008, nor Cheri Honkala, Jill Stein’s running mate in 2012, nor Winona LaDuke, Ralph Nader’s running mate in 2000…none are “pasty white,” either.
First, the Green Party actually does run candidates from dog catcher on up. Here are just a few of our currently seated elected officials around the country:
- Bruce Delgado, mayor in Marina, CA
- Avito Miranda, school district trustee in Marin County, CA
- Hector Lopez, constable in New Canaan, CT
- Mirna Martinez, board of education, New London, CT
- Cam Gordon, city councilmember in Minneapolis, MN
- Becky Elder, city councilmember in Manitou Springs, CO
- Merrily Mazza, city councilmember in Lafayette, CO
Some former elected officials include Michael Feinstein (mayor, Santa Monica, CA) and myself, Denver’s first Green-registered elected official (Board of Education, Denver, CO).
The Stranger readers can find even more names at our database. These names and offices may not impress Dan Savage, but we each have way more skin in the electoral game than he has shown to date. Sniping from a laptop doesn’t count.
We’re running candidates for all levels of state and federal government too, and we’ve spotlighted some of them as featured candidates. The list includes Dr. Margaret Flowers, whom activists will recognize as a fighter for single-payer healthcare and against the TPP and as the editor of PopularResistance.org. In my home state of Colorado, we are proud to support our U.S. Senate candidate, Arn Menconi, a former elected county commissioner from Eagle County, CO, around Vail.
So, you see, Savage’s assertion that we don’t run candidates in other tiers is incorrect, and perhaps he didn’t notice the 2014 campaigns for Congress, state representative, public utility district and charter review commission in Washington State.
It doesn’t appear that Savage is aware of the incredible advantage that the duopoly parties have in automatic ballot access, as opposed to the massive injustice that third parties face. In states like Illinois, having a presidential candidate is a requirement for winning major-party status, without which an alternative party has no future. In other states, a presidential candidate helps bring attention to the campaign to gather petition signatures to run any candidate as a Green. And those numbers are high:
North Carolina: 89,366 signatures
Tennessee: 33, 816 signatures
Georgia: 51,912 signatures
Oklahoma: 24,745 signatures
Texas: 47,086 signatures
Keep in mind that these are raw numbers to get any Green party candidate on the ballot and does not include the buffer signatures of at least 50 percent more to insulate against challenges. When a Green Party presidential candidate runs, she carries the weight of a whole lot of other down-ticket races on her shoulders, by necessity, and must run huge ballot-access campaigns simultaneous to her presidential campaign. Ralph Nader’s campaign manager has spelled it all out in harrowing detail. This is decidedly NOT what democracy looks like.
With regard to Ralph Nader’s campaign for president in 2000, Jim Hightower documented back then that “Nader only drew 24,000 Democrats to his cause, yet 308,000 Democrats voted for Bush.” Therefore, Al Gore’s problem was not Ralph Nader, but rather a Democrat turnout problem. There were other mitigating issues too, such as the whole hanging chad controversy and SCOTUS’ upholding of Katherine Harris’ certification of George Bush’s victory in Florida, as well as the fact that Gore lost his home state of Tennessee.
When we in the Green Party hear about “spoiler” candidates, it usually comes from people who believe that the Democratic Party is entitled to votes without actually doing the work of the people, especially people of color like me, the LGBTQIA+ community, students and others. We are expected to faithfully fall in line without any perceivable return on investment. And yet, Seattle has shown that they’re not satisfied with that status quo, as shown in the re-election of Kshama Sawant, massive support for Bernie Sanders’ agenda, for the fight for $15 an hour and the robust presence of #blacklivesmatter.
We Greens are also well acquainted with Savage’s rhetoric of entitlement regarding Democratic candidacies—for example his violent remarks aimed at Green Pennsylvania congressional candidate Carl Romanelli in 2006, who was challenging Rick Santorum and Bob Casey. At that time, Savage said about Romanelli, “The idiot Green? . . . Carl Romanelli should be dragged behind a pickup truck until there’s nothing left but the rope.”
Those of us who live outside of privileged circles know that voting for either lobe of the corporate party brings us more of the same: massive student debt, low-paying jobs, more deportations, more wars for oil, more destruction of the environment, more police militarization and even more waffling over the safety and security at home or on the job of the LGBTQIA+ community…most notably the safety of trans youth of color. Neither the Democratic nor Republican party shelters us from those storms, and the rhetoric and track record of the presidential candidates of both parties sound like the other. What’s the difference between violent rhetoric and violent past rhetoric and current actions?
Instead, we need true progressives fighting for all of us, who are unafraid to take on corporate interests for the good of the people. For example, in Richmond, California, Gayle McLaughlin served two terms as a Green mayor and accomplished what no Democrat would ever dare: She held the local Chevron oil refinery accountable for violations and enraged big banks by saving residents facing foreclosure from eviction.
We simply cannot wait for others to do for us. We Greens are willing to take matters into our own hands, and the demise of the campaigns of Sen. Sanders, Rep. Kucinich, Gov. Dean and more show us that we cannot do it within the Democratic Party. We are willing to build a strong third-party alternative within the Green Party that centers people, peace and planet over profit and truly sees each person of color…each gender expression…each citizenship status…each socioeconomic level as equally worthy of enfranchisement. We believe in democracy and that every person has a voice, and we’re willing to not only run for dog catcher but also go to the mat for a place on your ballot to do it.
Finally, a vote for Jill Stein is simply that: a vote for Jill Stein. If Democratic Party operatives are concerned about votes, they ought not to do what the Gore campaign did in 2000 and cede their base to anyone else. While Savage decries the Green Party for our supposed Hail Mary pass of a presidential electoral campaign, he fails to recognize that we run candidates all up and down the ballot all over the country . Perhaps now that he has seen our work of nearly 40 years, he will see fit to send us a donation at our website in light of the fact that we don’t take any corporate funding, instead of sniping from behind a laptop and spinning falsehoods with a petulant sense of entitlement.