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Is Ballot Access What The Green Party Really Needs?

For years, Green Party activists have excused their political party’s consistent electoral failures by complaining that they would do better, if only they were given equal ballot access, and if only their candidates were not excluded from publicized debates in which the Democrats and Republicans take part. Is it true?

The 2014 congressional elections are less than a year away, and campaigning has begun in most congressional districts across the country, so now seems like a good time to take an honest look at the state of the Green Party.

Thanks to the campaigning of Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala in 2012, there are Green Party affiliates on the books in almost all of the 50 states. However, in only 7 states is there even one Green Party candidate for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. There is not a single state in which there are Green Party candidates in the majority of congressional districts.

Here’s the condition of the Green Party in those states where there is some sort of activity in congressional elections:

In California, 98.2 percent of congressional districts have no Green Party candidate.
In Illinois, 88.9 percent of congressional districts have no Green Party candidate.
In Kentucky, 83.3 percent of congressional districts have no Green Party candidate.
In Maryland, 87.5 percent of congressional districts have no Green Party candidate.
In Michigan, 92.9 percent of congressional districts have no Green Party candidate.
In Ohio, 93.7 percent of congressional districts have no Green Party candidate.
In West Virginia, 66.7 percent of congressional districts have no Green Party candidate – and there are only three congressional districts in West Virginia.

Just what are people doing at Green Party meetings? Listening to subcommittee reports about the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

The brutal truth is this: Even if the Green Party had universal ballot access in all 50 states, and had guarantees of participation in all debates, the Greens would be guaranteed to lose in almost every election in the country in 2014 – because the Green Party hasn’t succeeded in finding a single person to volunteer as a candidate.

Let’s indulge in the fantasy that instant runoff voting could be instituted in time for the 2014 elections, as wonky Green Party activists say would be necessary to break the corporate duopoly. We can see, from the state of congressional elections across the country, that an instant runoff election system wouldn’t make any difference at all for most Americans, because they wouldn’t have any Green Party congressional candidate to vote for.

The Green Party can talk all it wants about how corporations control the system, and how the electoral system is rigged, but these complaints are insignificant in comparison to one much more basic problem facing the Green Party: Most of the time, it forfeits the match before it has even begun.

I don’t see any sign that the Green Party of the United States is acknowledging this problem. Instead, I see the Greens celebrating that one of their candidates won a seat on board of the Norwalk-La Miranda Unified School District.

9 thoughts on “Is Ballot Access What The Green Party Really Needs?”

  1. Richard Winger says:

    I have a alert for “Green Party” and it brings lots of news stories from foreign countries. When the Green Party is in the news in Britain, or Canada, or Germany, or Australia, or France, or New Zealand, or Sweden, etc., etc., the stories are almost invariably about what the Green Party’s position on a particular issue is, or what some Green Party office-holder is saying or doing. There is no reason to think the U.S. Green Party couldn’t be as successful as dozens of other Green Parties, except that U.S. election laws, almost uniquely in the world, are so discriminatory in favor of the two old major parties. It isn’t just ballot access. It’s access to debates, lack of proportional representation, lack of public funding for parties/candidates, discriminatory ballot format, and the strange electoral college process for choosing a president. There would be plenty of Green Party candidates if flaws in the U.S. election system could be cured.

    1. J Clifford says:

      Huh? What kind of political strategy is this? First, fix the political system, then, afterwards, run candidates for public office?!? Seems kinda backwards to me, Richard. These data show very clearly that the biggest problem facing Green Party organizations in the US is that they don’t show up. The first step to ballot access is having a candidate. Want to be included in a debate? First step:.Have a freaking candidate. All across the USA, the Green Party isn’t even trying, and you want me to believe that ballot redesign is going to fix that? Seriously?

  2. Bill says:

    “There would be plenty of Green Party candidates if flaws in the U.S. election system could be cured.”

    “Flaws” Richard? If you ask a Republicrat or a Demican I think they’d say “It’s not a bug, it’s a feature!

  3. Richard Winger says:

    I can’t remember what state J. Clifford lives in, but “talk is cheap”, and if you support the Green Party, why doesn’t he declare his candidacy for Congress? Running for office is very hard work and it consumes resources, and I admire people who do it.

  4. Tom says:

    Big green groups walk out of U.N. climate talks – ‘The Polish government has done its best to turn these talks into a showcase for the coal industry’

    By Ben Jervey
    21 November 2013

    WARSAW, Poland (Grist) – For the first time ever, environmental groups have staged a mass walkout of a U.N. climate summit. Citing immense frustration with the lack of productive action in the COP19 climate talks, which have been dogged by a persistent rift between rich and poor countries on the responsibility of paying for climate damages, hundreds of people from dozens of environmental groups and movements from all corners of the Earth have voluntarily withdrawn from the talks. According to a spokesperson for Oxfam, around 800 civil society members (which is the label applied to all advocate and activist types at these meetings) have walked out. In a joint statement, group leaders offered that “the best use of their time” was to now focus “on mobilizing people to push our governments to take leadership for serious climate action.”

    Participants in the walkout — which included members and organizers from Oxfam, Greenpeace International,, WWF International, the International Trade Union Confederation, ActionAid International, Friends of the Earth Europe, and dozens of other groups large and small from around the world — assembled just after lunchtime outside the main food court in the National Stadium that is hosting the meetings. After statements from the heads of a handful of international orgs, including Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace International, members of civil society headed for the exits.

    “The real hooligans are the CEOs of fossil fuel companies,” Naidoo told the crowd.

    In the joint statement, the groups said, “enough is enough,” but insisted that they were not walking away from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change process entirely, promising to return for COP20 in Lima, Peru, in 2014.

  5. Tom says:

    Politics seems to be put there to slow down any attempt to change anything from the corporate agenda. The giant corporations pay off the politicians (and they don’t care what party the candidates represent – they buy them all) to dampen the amount of regulation they’ll be “burdened” with, because they want to protect their profit margins.

    Remember the BP disaster in the Gulf? Think it’s all cleaned up and “better” now? Listen to this video interview:

    Friday, 22 November 2013
    Deepwater Horizon

    BP Pays PR Trolls to Threaten Online Critics | Interview with Dahr Jamail

    Abby Martin speaks with investigative journalist Dahr Jamail, who has uncovered BP’s online scheme to silence critics of their Gulf of Mexico clean-up, with methods such as bribery and death threats
    Now extend that to Fukushima and all the radiation being continuously dumped or washed into the Pacific and into the air currents (with on-going catastrophic results).

    Anyone who thinks politics is going to change anything for the better may want to re-think that conclusion as civilization continues to degrade and collapse.

  6. Tom says:

    last one

    Denial wears many faces. Whether it’s average people who are too busy with their lives to take on board the more extreme reports of environmental degradation; bloggers and politicians who believe that it’s all a hoax cooked up by evil scientists to get grant money for bogus studies; or, perhaps surprisingly, the green activists who believe that more political or technological change will improve or even fix the situation – these are common techniques we use to avoid confronting the horror of global collapse face-to-face.

    We are all familiar with the face of climate change denial. The Koch brothers, James Inhofe, Anthony Watts and a host of bloggers and politicians work tirelessly to derail any efforts to address humanity’s greatest existential crisis since the Toba super-volcano 75,000 years ago. They are a resilient species, their fact-resistance bolstered by inoculations of status and cash.

    But this form of denial is easy to spot. There is a more subtle form, one that is endemic among the white hats of the green movement. They are the ones who tirelessly work from the moral high ground – to change policies, to develop and promote green technology, to encourage sustainability. They resolutely refuse to countenance any thoughts of our predicament being inextricable. Tireless work, even in a lost cause, tends to keep one insulated from the deeper, darker realizations, and lets one keep fighting the good fight. Heroism has always been an intrinsic part of our story: “Quitters never win and winners never quit!”

    Is it unfair to characterize (at least some) green activists as being (at least somewhat) in denial? Possibly. But it’s true far more often than you might expect.
    (read the rest)

    1. Stephen Kent Gray says:

      Tom, there are different shades of Green.

      Alex Steffen describes contemporary environmentalists as being split into three groups, “dark”, “light”, and “bright” greens.[7]

      “Light greens” see protecting the environment first and foremost as a personal responsibility. They fall in on the transformational activist end of the spectrum, but light greens do not emphasize environmentalism as a distinct political ideology, or even seek fundamental political reform. Instead they often focus on environmentalism as a lifestyle choice.[7] The motto “Green is the new black” sums up this way of thinking, for many.[8] This is different from the term “lite green”, which some environmentalists use to describe products or practices they believe are greenwashing.
      In contrast, “dark greens” believe that environmental problems are an inherent part of industrialized capitalism, and seek radical political change.

      Dark greens believe that dominant political ideologies (sometimes referred to as industrialism) are corrupt and inevitably lead to consumerism, alienation from nature and resource depletion. Dark greens claim that this is caused by the emphasis on economic growth that exists within all existing ideologies, a tendency referred to as “growth mania”. The dark green brand of environmentalism is associated with ideas of deep ecology, post-materialism, holism, the Gaia hypothesis of James Lovelock and the work of Fritjof Capra as well as support for a reduction in human numbers and/or a relinquishment of technology to reduce humanity’s impact on the biosphere.

      More recently, “bright greens” emerged as a group of environmentalists who believe that radical changes are needed in the economic and political operation of society in order to make it sustainable, but that better designs, new technologies and more widely distributed social innovations are the means to make those changes – and that society can neither shop nor protest its way to sustainability.[9] As Ross Robertson writes, “[B]right green environmentalism is less about the problems and limitations we need to overcome than the “tools, models, and ideas” that already exist for overcoming them. It forgoes the bleakness of protest and dissent for the energizing confidence of constructive solutions.”[10]

      To claim that everyone who doesn’t agree with you on everything with regards to the environment is a denier ignores the shades of green.

  7. Stephen Kent Gray says:

    An extra thing is that the Greens in West Virginia aren’t even labeled as such. The Mountain Party of West Virginia is a Green Party affiliate, but all candidates will be under the Mountain label which is problematic for voters not in the know on this. So yeah, while Green can run candidate there, but no Green label directly on the ballot.

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