What’s the Deal with the Green Party?

by Latoya Peterson

It’s the day before November 4th, and it occurs to me that we have not provided much coverage to other candidates outside of Obama. Obama is not the only black candidate in the race – Cynthia McKinney is running at the top of the Green Party ticket and Rosa Clemente – hip-hop activist and Afro-Latina – has been tapped for Vice President.

However, my lack of posting does not mean I have not been paying attention. Jeff Chang posted an interview with Rosa Clemente back in August. (Chang also posted more background on Clemente.)

Q: Talk about the platform. What do you think the Green Party has over the other parties?

This is the only party that even has social justice as its core principle. When we say ending the war, we mean all the wars. We need to get all the military out of every country, we need to begin to deal with issues of what peace can look like, how do you sustain that. Obviously, the green party is at the forefront of pushing the environment as a core value, that was innovative then. There should be an end to imprisoning young people, an immediate stop to the death penalty, a livable wage, not a minimum wage. Impeachment for George Bush and them is critical. I think if we don’t hold them accountable as a people, then anybody can do the same shit that they did.

Words are words, but we can make the words into deeds. If people would even open up the platform, they would see that neither the Democrats and Republicans would even talk about young people having rights and that we should be signing some of these international treaties, like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The hardest part is to literally get people to open it up and want to be exposed.

And indeed, looking in the corners of the progressive blogosphere, one can find more and more to like about the Green Party platform.

Cynthia McKinney (along with Barack Obama) took the time to answer the Sanctuary’s Survey on Immigration and the Latino community. John McCain declined. McKinney thoughtfully answered all the questions, but her first answer outlines her entire position:

1. Could you please articulate what you think are the most pressing issues for the U.S. immigrant community, at home AND abroad, and how you would hope to address those issues as President?

One of the most pressing issues for immigrants is the effect of corporate globalization. The so-called “free trade” agreements, NAFTA, CAFTA, Fast Track, the Caribbean FTA, the U.S.-Peru FTA etc., have undermined labor and environmental rights and caused the loss of living-wage jobs both here and abroad. Massive agricultural imports into developing countries have displaced an estimated two million farmers, as subsidized grains from the United States take over their local and regional markets. With few new jobs in manufacturing or other sectors, many of these former farmers now work in fields and low-wage jobs across the U.S.

As a legislator I authored the No Tax Breaks for Runaway Plants bill in Congress; the TRUTH Act, requiring disclosure of the whereabouts of subsidiaries of U.S. corporations operating overseas; and the Corporate Responsibility Act, to force U.S. corporations operating overseas to abide by U.S. environmental and labor standards. As president, I would continue the fight against corporate globalization and require corporations to be held publicly accountable and socially responsible. Global warming is another pressing issue. As islands disappear and indigenous. ways of life are threatened, entire populations are displaced. Food production and water supplies are at risk. The United States can no longer justify denial by blaming weather fluctuations or claiming the science is unclear. We need air, land, water, climate, production and consumption policies that reflect the real limits within which we all must live.

It is impossible to discuss the issue of so-called “illegal immigration” without addressing the reasons millions of people are forced to flee their countries to come to the United States No human being is an “illegal alien.” What is illegal is the way U.S. economic policies treat workers in this country and throughout the world. I support immigration policies that promote fairness, nondiscrimination, and family re-unification, not preferential quotas based on race, class and ideology.

We have not covered much about the McKinney/Clemente ticket, largely because there isn’t much to cover. While we receive daily alerts about the vitriol aimed at the Obamas, we’ve heard nary a peep about McKinney or Clemente in the mainstream media or other sources. Nida Khan, writing for the Women’s Media Center, digs into why their ticket is off the radar:

One would expect McKinney, former congresswoman representing the Fourth CD of Georgia, and Clemente, community organizer, journalist and political activist, to be propelled onto the national stage with the same vigor shown at least to the other third-party candidates. After all, McKinney, who is African American, and Clemente, an Afro-Puerto Rican, are the first ever minority female ticket in U.S. history. So why is it in a time of ‘firsts’ and an election termed the most ‘diverse and progressive’ have so few Americans even heard of McKinney, Clemente or their platform?

“Because we’re women of color, it’s like a double whammy,” explains Clemente. “The corporate, mainstream media has whited us out, but then the so-called progressive media turns around and does the same. When they do choose to talk about a third-party candidate, they still turn to a white male [Ralph Nader]. I can’t explain it, except for the fact that these outlets are still run by white people who don’t give credence to a strong woman of color.”

In fact, coverage of these women’s campaign has been virtually non-existent. In an election cycle consumed with the two-party candidates and their every move, the media has virtually wiped out the notion of a third party. In 2000, consumer advocate and attorney Ralph Nader represented the Green Party and took home some 2.8 million votes or about 2.7 percent of the electorate. Blamed by many for taking votes away from Al Gore, Nader’s success could be tied to the notion that he in fact received decent coverage by both independent and mainstream media. Even today, running as an Independent after losing the Green nomination to McKinney, Nader has appeared on PBS’ News Hour, while Brian Williams has featured a Nader piece on his NBC Nightly News program. He’s been all over the progressive/independent media circuit, while McKinney and Clemente struggle to get their issues heard.

“I don’t expect CNN to do something on us,” says Clemente, who accepted the VP nomination at the Green Party Convention in Chicago in July. “But what has been utterly shocking is the indie media. Most of them have chosen their pick, which is usually Obama, and they end up blocking everyone else out and doing exactly what they say is wrong with mainstream media. In the non-profit world, Obama is progressive. Even if they believe that, they should at least talk about us.”

Reporting that she and McKinney have received more press outside of the country, Clemente highlights appearances the two have made in major outlets like the BBC, Al Jazeera and countless others in Australia, Germany, England, New Zealand and Sweden to name a few. She cites Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now! on WBAI Pacifica, The Truth with Jeff Johnson on BET and Laura Flanders broadcasts on Air America Radio as some of the few media organizations that have allowed her and McKinney to have their voices brought into this all-important election.

At a time when the first African American man is running as a major party candidate for the highest office in the land, could racism and sexism be at play at levels we haven’t even imagined? Are minority women still at the bottom of the totem pole? Or is it McKinney’s strong and vocal stance on controversial issues such as COINTELPRO, 9/11, the Bush administration and racism itself that has removed her from the conversation altogether?

Perhaps it’s a combination of all of the above. Even when corporate news does take note, it’s often in the context of painting McKinney as a left-wing conspiracy theorist out of touch with reality, as the Washington Post did earlier this week.

But not everyone believes that McKinney is out of touch – and in fact, do favor the ticket as being truly transformational. The Progressive published “The McKinney Choice” a piece which grappled with the realities of voting for a Green Party candidate, even if their platform is more appealing to your personal values:

Like Obama, McKinney name-drops Martin Luther King a lot. But whereas Obama constantly utters King’s line about “the fierce urgency of now,” McKinney uses King in a different way. She says “the racial disparities that exist today are worse than at the time of the murder of King.” And she quotes King’s comment that the United States is the “greatest purveyor of violence on the planet,” saying that it is still true today.

McKinney also adopts positions that Obama won’t go near, such as: demanding reparations for African Americans, offering amnesty for all undocumented immigrants, ending “prisons for profit,” and calling off the “war on drugs.”

But having a shiny progressive platform does not guarantee progressive votes. I recall a rule of organizing in the 1988 Jesse Jackson campaign: “Define your own win.” Reason being: If it’s about who has the most money, resources, access, etc., those going against the flow or those who are resource poor will always be sold short. Especially when the powerful set the rules and call the game.

Running was Shirley Chisholm’s win in 1972.

Jackson’s win was successfully advancing a progressive, multiracial, multi-issue agenda.

So what’s McKinney’s win?

She says the Greens want to pick up “5 percent of the national vote” in the coming election with the hope it “confers major party status” on them.

“Then we will have an official third party in this country,” McKinney said in Chicago, “and public policy that truly reflects our values.”

This has been a prevailing theme with the Green Party’s run this year – they are reaching for the five percent of voters which would guarantee them a permanent place on the ballot and public funding.

Adele Nieves recently conducted an interview with Rosa Clemente for ZNet, where Clemente stressed the same need:

Many people are hungry for a third party (or more) in our elections, but are fearful of voting for one because they are convinced their vote won’t count, or will help the Republican Party. While disillusioned with the Democratic Party, they vote the lesser of two evils. What will it take to persuade voters to support a strong third party?

First, I don’t consider it progressive if you blindly accept the Democratic Party. I’m personally not trying to persuade anybody. If you want to be a Republican or a Democrat, that’s fine. I’m trying to get at the 49% who don’t vote; the millions of African American and Latino young people who are not registered to vote. I’m trying to get to the young people who aren’t caught up in the Obama hype. I’m trying to persuade working-class white people who are not caught up in the Republican hype, and have disengaged from the system. So I’m not trying to persuade somebody to vote differently.

As far as the “lesser of two evils,” I think that says it right there. I don’t understand why we have to have an evil, period. Both parties are corporate parties. In every policy that one puts forth, one might be less devastating, but eventually it will hurt you. That’s what we’ve seen with Democrats and Republicans. I don’t think my generation can afford the lesser of any evil at this point.

And, I believe that Clemente is correct. I am aware that posting anything in favor of the Green Party on the eve of the election is a controversial move. Many people still associate the Green Party (and independent candidates, really) with being election spoilers. And since this election is so close, and may very well come down to every last vote, I can hear some people freaking out behind their screens. Obviously, Racialicious has been officially pro-Obama since Super Tuesday. And throughout the campaigning, the revelations, all of that, none of our positions have changed.

However, it is important to remember why we even have a vote in the first place. And that is to allow citizens to have a voice in the political process. Obviously, the system this principle was founded upon was flawed – it took a few amendments to rectify some people who were omitted as citizens, and even to this day voter suppression tactics still loom large over the horizon. I wholeheartedly wish that everyone reading this blog would vote for Obama. But I know, off hand, at least 30 of you reading have identified yourselves as Republicans, and will vote for McCain. That’s fine as well. This is that ugly, messy part of democracy, where two sides argue against each other, search the rules and scour them for loopholes, and finally, one person is elected. Everyone is not supposed to agree. I just hope my side is more persuasive.

However, what troubles me is seeing that people still are not planning to vote. I’ve read blog posts from longtime readers (yes, I read your blogs as well, especially if you have linked here) who can’t bring themselves to support Obama OR McCain. And some of you have decided to stay home on election day.

And that, to me, is the most despicable form of cowardice there is.

If you aren’t satisfied with your voting choices, then you need to advocate for more choices. You need to support candidates you believe in on a write in basis, or even consider running for political office yourself. But not voting should NEVER be an option. Even if you hate everyone on the board, you need to take yourself to the ballot box and vote. People died for your right to exercise this type of direct say in government. So have your say.

If you are voting for Obama, advocate your fucking hearts out today. I just told everyone on my Facebook page that if they didn’t vote, I was disowning them – and I mean that. I’m checking my friends for that “I Voted” sticker. It’s that serious to me.

If you’re voting for McCain, do your thing as well. Obviously, I don’t support your choice, but I respect that it’s your choice to make.

If you are voting for McKinney/Clemente, do not let anyone say that you are throwing your vote away. You are not. If Obama loses this election, it will not be because of who chose to vote for the Green Party – it will be because of those who voted for McCain – or worse, those who chose to stay home.

And if you are even considering staying home on election day, how about this – perform a random act of kindness and vote Green Party. Or Nader. Or other independents. If you hate the two-party system that much, help those who seek to dismantle it.

But apathy is not an option in this election.