I have serious problems with the current direction of the national Green Party, but first some personal history.
In 2000 I joined the Green Party. I had been working with it for many years before then, but it wasn’t until the Ralph Nader/Winona LaDuke Presidential campaign that year that I felt moved to join the organization. That campaign held rallies of 10-15 thousand people, a number of them. At one point in the early summer it was at 8 or 9 percent in polls. There was lots of energy and lots of momentum.
By early November, a few days before the Tuesday election, Nader was down to 5% in the polls. When the voting was over, he ended up getting over 3 million votes, about 2.8%. Without question, the concern among liberals and progressives about voting for the candidate with the most progressive record, Nader, and getting the candidate with the worst record, Bush, had a very real impact.
Since that time I have hung in as an active member of the Green Party. I was most active between 2000 and 2004, running as a US Senate candidate in 2002 in New Jersey and actively supporting David Cobb in his Presidential effort in 2004. Since then, however, I’ve mainly worked on the local level in northern NJ. I’ve been supportive of state and national efforts, but not in a major way.
My priority since 2004 has been the climate crisis. I came to realize in 2003 how serious and imminent that crisis was and changed my life accordingly. 13 years later I keep at that work, the crisis getting even more serious, at the same time that there is a distinct and growing climate, and climate justice, movement that is doing its best to rise to the challenge.
It was a very big deal that Bernie Sanders made the climate a major issue of his campaign from day 1, and that he has prioritized it in the build-up towards the Democratic National Convention in a few weeks. Indeed, my initial public support of Bernie running for President in the fall of 2013 was in part because I knew that he saw the importance and urgency of this issue.
Which brings me to the issue of the Jill Stein Green Party Presidential campaign.
Assuming Hillary’s email scandal doesn’t derail her expected nomination in Philadelphia, I’ll probably vote for Jill in November. I can do that in New Jersey with little fear that my doing so will help to throw the New Jersey election to Trump. Past voting results for President and current polling indicates that Clinton would win easily here.
But the way Jill is running her campaign so far has me concerned. There are two specific things that have happened that are very problematic.
One was the tweet she sent out in the middle of the National People’s Summit of 3,000 Bernie supporters in Chicago on June 18. She wrote, “sheepdogs for the duopoly” to describe that gathering. Jill Stein said, in effect, that the role now being performed by Juan Gonzalez, Cornell West, Naomi Klein, Roseann DeMoro, Rosario Dawson and, by implication, Bernie Sanders is to round up young people and progressives and bring them into the embrace of the corporate Democrats. That is a truly outrageous statement.
The other was the way she talked about Trump vs. Clinton during a Democracy Now interview on June 9th. She as much as said that neo-liberal Clinton is as dangerous as neo-fascist Trump and that there is no greater or lesser evil; they are “equally terrible.” Here is the key paragraph:
“So, the terrible things that we expect from Donald Trump, we’ve actually already seen from Hillary Clinton. So I’d say, don’t be a victim of this propaganda campaign, which is being waged by people who exercise selective amnesia. They’re very quick to tell you about the terrible things that the Republicans did, but they’re very quick to forget the equally terrible things that have happened under a Democratic White House, with two Democratic houses of Congress.”
Donald Trump and the Republicans are not “equal” to Hillary Clinton and the Democrats, and as a Green Party member I do not support Jill Stein saying that they are.
Jill’s words are an eerie echo of huge mistakes made by the German Communist Party in the 1930’s. Here is how Wikipedia describes what happened:
“The Communist Party of Germany (German: Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands, KPD) was a major political party in Germany between 1918 and 1933. During the Weimar Republic period, the KPD usually polled between 10 and 15 percent of the vote and was represented in the Reichstag and in state parliaments. The party directed most of its attacks on the Social Democratic Party of Germany, which it considered its main opponent. Banned in Nazi Germany one day after Adolf Hitler emerged triumphant in the German elections in 1933, the KPD maintained an underground organization but suffered heavy losses.”
It was described this way by Donny Gluckstein in an article in March of 2013 in Socialist Review:
“Effective opposition to the rise of the Nazis would therefore depend on the strategy pursued by the Communist Party. Tragically it was at this time that the party adopted what was called the ‘Third Period’ line. At the very time when the crisis of capitalism was destroying the lives of millions and Hitler’s Nazis were making huge electoral gains (rising from 2.6 percent of the vote in 1928 to 37.4 percent in 1932) the KPD concentrated its attention on attacking another part of the left. It made preposterous accusations against the socialists, accusing them of being ‘social fascists’ and ‘1,000 times worse than an open fascist dictatorship’.
“This was a disastrous distraction from the real issues of the time – the economic crisis and the threat of fascism – and opened up a division in the forces of the left from which it would not recover. The result was that the most powerful labour movement in the world was in turmoil and Hitler rose to power virtually unopposed.”
Another thing that bothered me was when Jill implied in an email sent out in early June that she had a chance of becoming President this year. I guess that’s why she apparently intends to campaign in every state, including states where the vote is very close between Trump and Clinton, telling people to vote for her because both of them are “equally terrible.”
This approach is going to turn off an awful lot of progressives who are open to the Green Party, its 10 key values, its political independence, its policy positions, but who just aren’t going to support this way of campaigning.
Let’s take the climate crisis, as an example of how “equally terrible” the two corporate-dominated parties are. The Republican Party at the national level is a party of climate deniers, with a very small number of exceptions. Most of the money from the Koch brothers and the fossil fuel industry goes to them; not all, there are certainly bought-off Democrats, but a lot less.
The Democrats, of course, are a mixed bag. The corporate Democrats like Hillary support fracking, support the TPP (unless pushed, which she badly needs to be now), support nuclear, support carbon capture and sequestration as a way to prop up the coal industry, and take an incrementalist approach to the greatest civilizational crisis the world has ever faced. The progressive Democrats, as represented by the Sanders campaign, are consistent across the board in calling for a rapid shift from fossil fuels to renewables and energy efficiency and policies toward that end. There are also liberal Democrats somewhere in between.
Can the world and the destabilized climate take four years of a Donald Trump presidency (even if the Republicans do poorly in Congressional races and lose both the House and the Senate, an unlikely but long-shot possibility)? No, we really can’t. We are already behind the eight ball, with climate tipping points staring us in the face. We can’t spend four years in defensive battles with Trump and his ilk as he tries to turn the clock back on the progress—not enough and not fast enough yet but progress—that is being made to shift away from fossil fuels.
Trump and Clinton are not “equally terrible” on climate.
I’ve defended the Green Party and my involvement in it a lot over the last 16 years. I’ve never claimed that it was THE answer, THE alternative that we needed, but I’ve said that one of the things that it has done is to keep alive the idea that we need a consistently progressive alternative to two-party rule. We need a truly multi-party system, a mix of genuine choices for voters, changes in our electoral system to make it much more democratic and truly representative of the needs and desires of the people. I’ve appreciated that it is “green,” that it prioritizes addressing the terrible damage being done to the world’s ecosystems because of the dominance of profit-seeking corporations over our political and economic life.
The Green Party is a piece—or can be a piece—of the massive people’s movement that is now possible for us here in the USA because of the Bernie campaign. It can be part of a left flank, help to keep that movement honest, contend against those who are too quick to compromise with the corporate Democrats or Republicans.
Hopefully, wiser heads in the national leadership of the Green Party will realize that this is the general direction it should be taking, will speak up and attempt to lead this course correction.
Of one thing I am certain: the political revolution which the Bernie campaign did so much to bring forward and bring together is the most important thing happening in the country right now. It is our responsibility to support that movement, constructively criticize it, help it deal with its weaknesses, and keep it together and moving forward. This is far and away the most important task for the progressive Left right now. To the extent that this happens, to that extent will the electoral results on November 8th bring Trump’s defeat, setbacks for the ultra-right and some advances for progressives . As importantly, we will be in a position the week after to move forward with plans to hold accountable whoever is elected and to strengthen our connections and levels of organization.
Si se puede, ahora mismo!
Ted Glick has been a member and sometimes leader of organizations working to build an alternative to the Democrats and Republicans since 1975. His primary work since 2004 has been on the climate crisis. Past writings and other information can be found at http://tedglick.com, and he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jtglick.