FLOTSAM & JETSAM: How the Green Party can show more strength

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

How the Green Party can show more strength

Sam Smith - The practice of candidates appearing on two different party tickets - known as fusion politics - was so successful for democracy that by 1907 it was banned in 18 states. In 1996 the Supreme Court ruled that preventing fusion politics did not violated the First Amendment. Today only eight states  allow it. But there is still a way in which thirds can exercise more influence in elections - particularly national ones - than they do at present.

I write as someone who has helped to start two  parties - the DC Statehood Party and the national Green Party. I have become increasingly discouraged by the inability of third parties to exercise positive influence on national politics. Particularly the Green Party, where running a candidate for president resulted in winning 1.1% of the 2016 vote, less than half than the 2.7% it got in 2000. One of the major results has been statistically false claims that the Greens were responsible for the loss of Democratic candidates - including Al Gore, who in fact fell far more in polls during the election campaign then what Nader was able to produce.

The results in national contests for the House and Senate have been even worse for the Greens - consistently less than one percent.

So why do the Greens insist on running people for these national positions? After all, their political story at the local and state level is strikingly different. In the past ten years 456 Greens have been elected to local and state  offices. And it is in states and towns where real change is launched and grown into something powerful.

I fear part of the problem is that Greens, like many American citizens, see politics more as a religion in which they express their own virtue than as a pragmatic way to aid the causes they support. They are not choosing a saint, but the best battlefield on which to continues their efforts.

If the polling so far is correct, this election is at best going to be quite close and the Greens could once more come in for blames as a result.

But there is an alternative worth trying: In races in which the Democrats and Republicans seem close, offer the Democrats to not run a candidate and to endorse theirs  in return for a number of policy agreements. In some cases, it would be easy. Here in Maine, for example, our liberal speaker of the House Sarah Gideon could use Green help in defeating Susan Collins.

By the standards of today's Green Party, such a move would be seen as despicable by many of its  members, but it would, in fact, lend power to the Greens where they don't have it today.

From the start, the Greens have done their best at the local and state level, helping well to change the politics and the thinking in places like Maine. But they have done extremely poorly in national races and should at least considered creating a modified fusion politics that could demonstrate considerably more power.