Campaign Trail Insights

Since May of this year I’ve been actively campaigning for the U.S. Senate as an independent, as a candidate of the Green Party of New Jersey. Over this period of time I’ve personally passed out tens of thousands of brochures about myself, the Green Party and what we stand for. The prominent headline at the top of the brochure reads, “For Peace, Justice, Democracy and Ecology,” and then below it, “Ted Glick for U.S. Senate in New Jersey, Vote Green Party.”

I’ve been surprised by the reactions I’ve gotten as I’ve interacted and talked with people.

One surprise is that there has been almost no hostility expressed towards me. This is true even though I have campaigned in every part of the state, in all kinds of areas, including areas that are heavily Republican and which are seen as conservative.

The exceptions to this general no-hostility experience have been a handful of single-issue anti-abortionists, and several handfuls of Democrats who are still angry at Ralph Nader for his 2000 Green Party Presidential campaign. But in total, out of probably over 100,000 people who have seen me working county fairs, festivals, ocean boardwalks, concerts or other events, no more than 25-30 individuals would fall into this hostile category, and none of the hostility has been physical.

A second surprise has been the extensiveness of the apparent interest in the Green Party, or at least in taking my introductory brochure and checking it out. There is clearly a great deal of resentment toward the Democrats and Republicans. When I explain that I’m a Green Party candidate because those two parties are dominated by corporate money, there isn’t a single person who has argued with me otherwise. Most people who say something say words to the effect of, “what else is new,” or “it’s been like that forever.”

From the reactions I’ve gotten from people who have read it and have talked with me afterwards, there seems to be something about what I’m putting forward—a clear set of progressive positions and my personal history and current involvements—that is striking a chord with a good number of them.

And I’ve been surprised by the number of people who have made explicitly positive comments about the Green Party. It is certainly a minority of those I’ve interacted with, but it’s not a tiny minority. It’s been encouraging and heartening. There have been times when I’ve come back from a day of campaigning and have felt like I have a real shot at winning this race.

I’ve been helped by the fact that my Democratic Party opponent, Bob Torricelli, is very unpopular and has been dropping in the polls since his censure by the House Ethics Committee at the end of July. All indications are at this point that, even with the $20 million or so he expects to raise and an inexperienced, virtually unknown Republican candidate, Doug Forrester, Torricelli is going to have a tough time winning. A recent story by the Newark Star-Ledger had him saying that the major reason why voters should vote for him was the danger of the Democrats losing the Senate.

This campaign has confirmed my view of the “lesser evil” argument. For years I’ve disagreed with people who have argued against building an alternative to the DemoReps because of the threat of the dangerous extremism of the Republican right. Although I believe in building ties and working with genuinely progressive Democrats who are good on most of the issues, I’ve worked to build a consistently progressive party, or an alliance of such parties.

It appears as if, right now, there are a lot of potential voters in New Jersey who are just not buying Torricelli’s desperate argument. There is a deep revulsion to his sliminess and lack of personal ethics. When coupled with the widespread resentment over big money domination of our political system and Torricelli’s long-time involvement in utilizing that system to his personal and political advantage, it has provided a fertile ground for popular education about the need for an alternative. It has made it difficult for committed Democrats to muster up enthusiasm for this severely flawed candidate.

Those of us who are about fundamental social transformation, who are genuinely about “peace, justice, democracy and ecology,” have no chance of ever getting to that kind of a society if we can’t distinguish ourselves from the Torricellis of this world. To the extent that we try to convince others to vote for people like him because of the possible impact upon who controls the Senate, to that extent are we so abandoning any pretense of principles when it comes to our political choices that we might never emerge from that slippery slope.

We need to stop apologizing for criminality and the abuses of power for personal gain. No significant changes in society were ever made without taking risks.