The Green Party and Independent Politics
The 1990s have seen many attempts by progressives to break the
stranglehold the Democrats and Republicans have over electoral
politics. The New Party, the Labor Party, the Green Party, and a myriad
of local parties all have been pushes to drive an independent wedge in
the duopoly of the super-rich. The most successful of these, of course,
has been the Green Party.
The Green Party actually began in the 1980s; it wasn't until it joined
forces with Ralph Nader in 1996 that it became a force to reckon with.
Nader's name recognition gave the Party an air of legitimacy that
hadn't been seen by any third party since the days of Eugene Debs.
Although its showing in the 1996 election was paltry--1%, or roughly
500,000 votes--by 2000 the Greens/Nader combination was powerful enough
that the Democratic Party machine began to funnel energy and money into
anti-Nader scare tactics. At the end of the election, Nader received
close to 3,000,000 votes--a huge increase over 1996. This caused the
Democratic Party to put more effort into anti-Nader campaigning;
to this day, many still blame Nader for Bush having stolen the
A combination of bungling on both sides and "Anybody But Bush"
sentiment within the Green Party kept Nader from running as the GP
candidate; instead, he chose to launch an independent campaign and
asked for the Party's endorsement. This was problematic on many levels;
it is not practical for an independent campaign to wait until a June
convention to begin a campaign.
The end result of this fiasco was that the Green Party, in its June
convention, refused to endorse Nader and instead ran a little-known
candidate by the name of David Cobb. Rather than make a serious run for
the presidency, Cobb is running a "safe states" strategy where he won't
campaign in battleground states--in fact, he hardly seems to be
campaigning at all. His nomination is a clear victory of "Anybody but
Bush" sentiment in the Green Party, and a setback for the Greens as a
vehicle for independent political action.
But Cobb's nomination also highlighted some of the many problems that
the Green Party has in terms of structure, organization, and democracy.
A number of excellent articles have circulated, pointing out how a
minority opinion within the Green Party became a "majority" at the
convention through undemocratic processes, weasely maneuvering, and a
lose attempt to mimic the already-undemocratic electoral college
So now advocates of independent political action (IPA) are faced with
an unfortunate situation. Faced with two pro-war, pro-Patriot Act
candidates from the capitalist parties, the only response we have is a
Green Party with no campaign to speak of and an independent campaign
that lacks the resources of a political party.
We need an independent political voice for working people. We
need to build an independent party that will allow us to organize
working people in the electoral arena independently of the two
capitalist parties. Ideally, this party would be similar to the
Socialist Alliance formations we see in Australia, Great Britain, New
Zealand, and elsewhere. Until now, IPA advocates have seen the Green
Party as being the best expression of independent sentiment.
But the time has come for us to step back; to look at the Green Party
both as we'd like it to be and as it currently sits. It is a party rife
with internal contradictions, factionalism, undemocratic processes, and
in some ways does more to act as a pressure group on the Democrats than
a true expression of independent politics.
That's the down side of the Green Party. The upside is that it has a
distinct activist current within it, that ideas (like those of
socialism) can be heard within it, and that it is a diverse grouping of
people. We can look to currents like the Greens for Nader formation and
Peter Camejo's Avocado Education Project who campaign heavily to turn
the Greens into the sort of independent political formation that we're
The IPA movement, like the Green Party, is at a crossroads. The Greens
are far from the ideal party we'd like, but it's also not the cesspool
it's sometimes tempting to see it as. We need to continue our work in
the Green Party, but we shouldn't let that stop us from evaluating the
possibility of new formations. The beginnings of a Socialist Alliance
are underway in New York City; this activity should be encouraged. We
need to be asking, why not in Pennsylvania? Why not in Florida? Why not
If there is one thing that I've learned during the whole Nader/Green
Party melodrama over the past year, it's that IPA advocates need to
keep in mind why we support the Greens. We don't support them
just to support the Greens, but we support them as a vehicle for IPA.
As long as we can continue that struggle within the Party, we need to
continue to do so. But we shouldn't kid ourselves; the Green Party is
an extremely limited formation, and we shouldn't limit ourselves to
only struggle for IPA within the Green Party.
Adam Levenstein, 27, is co-editor of Left Hook and member of Atlanta Palestine Solidarity.