I respect Savage, having first become acquainted with his activism through the “It Gets Better” project and its advocacy for teen LGBTQIA+, as your 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 at our database, here: https://secure.gpus.org/secure/testdb/. 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 some of our featured candidates are here: http://www.gp.org/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 the area 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 (http://www.gp.org/faq). 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 (http://www.vox.com/2016/5/9/11538742/ralph-nader-campaign-manager). 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” (http://www.salon.com/2000/11/28/hightower/). 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.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HDzbTyz3_VI).
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 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 (http://billmoyers.com/2014/10/30/mayor-gayle-mclaughlin).
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. 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 http://gp.org and support us, instead of sniping from behind a laptop and spinning falsehoods with a petulant sense of entitlement.
Damn, Senora! So powerful, onpoint and inspiring. Glad to have experienced you and your hubby’s GREENS work while in Colorado. Looking forward to finding and working with equally committed and
inspiring revolutionists in Florida.
I have been a long time supporter and fan of Mr. Savage, including paying for his podcast, but the rude and dismissive comments from him and his recent guests towards people who don’t toe his political line have left me cold, and my husband furious. I think his privileged status has caused him to forget the struggles that working people deal with every day. I believe in voting with my dollars, so I cancelled my podcast subscription.
Thank you for this cogent response. This passage of yours sums this up so well: “comes from people who believe that the Democratic Party is entitled to votes without actually doing the work of the people”.
I won’t be sheepdogged, or browbeat into voting for a candidate who is on the opposite side of every issue from me. Savage and his ilk can spare us lesser of two evils arguments, and they can stop pretending we live a democracy while they’re at it.
What you’ll notice about all the ways of thinking that one candidate might spoil the election of an opponent is that none of them support the idea that the people’s choice – the one who gets the most votes – is the right choice. Apparently, those who believe in “spoiling” elections do not believe individual people should be able to vote for the candidates they prefer, regardless of how utterly wrong their choices might seem to anyone else.
An election cannot be “spoiled” unless the candidates of the two major parties are the only legitimate candidates. If third, fourth and fifth party candidates plus independents are legitimate, then no such thing as spoiling is possible. In short, if you support democracy including everyone’s right to vote for the candidate(s) they prefer, you realize that “spoiling” is simply one more way to whine about losing an election.
For instance, Democrats never complain about the big “spoiler” in the 1992 presidential election – Ross Perot. The 19% of the vote that he “took away” from George H. W. Bush allowed Bill Clinton to become president with only 43% of the popular vote. But of course, since the Democratic candidate was not the loser of that election, Democrats never use that as an example of a “spoiled” election.
My conclusion is, I do not owe my vote to any particular party, so I will vote for the candidate I want to win. My vote in this election will go to Jill Stein, assuming both she and I survive until election day.
This is such a huge point, that people should be able to vote for whom they choose. It’s incredible, the level of entitlement for no ROI. It’s a big reason why I left the Democratic Party after having served as the co-chair of the Progressive Democrats of Colorado.
I will be looking on the ballot I get for the november election for Green Party members If I can get a Ballot and vote. Since I live outside the US I am hoping that I can get the Florida district I last lived in to send me a ballot. I sent off a voter registration so here’s hoping.