Left Candidates – The Green Party

The Green Party is also preparing to nominate a candidate for president in July. Two candidates so far have announced they are running. Rocky Anderson was invited to put his hat into the ring as a Green Party candidate, but declined. Before we review possible Green Party candidates, we need to review some recent history of the Green Party.

The Green Party came into prominence and dramatically grew in membership around Ralph Nader’s presidential campaign as a Green Party candidate in 2000. His campaign brought around it large sections of the anti-globalization movement. At one point, it had the potential to make an important breakthrough. However, a relentless “lesser-evilism” offensive by the Democratic Party in the fall of 2000 was able to strip away sections of Nader supporters and reduce the vote he received down to 3%, about 2.7 million votes.

In the aftermath of the Democrats’ smear campaign blaming Nader for the election of Bush, sizeable sections of the leadership of the Greens – “right-wing” Greens – drew the conclusion that it was incorrect to back a strong candidate who might jeopardize the election of Democrats. This wing took control of the party apparatus and, through its control of small states, has controlled the party’s convention ever since.

Since then, the Green Party has been ineffective. In 2004, they used undemocratic maneuvers to block support for Nader and ran an unknown, David Cobb, as a candidate who would not threaten the Democrats. In 2008, the Greens ran a weak, ineffective campaign in support of their candidate Cynthia McKinney, at a time when Nader ran a more dynamic campaign. Cynthia McKinney later criticized the Green Party for its lack of support for her campaign.

The most prominent of the candidates running for the Green Party nomination in 2012 is Jill Stein (www.jillstein.org). She has a history of running in a number of campaigns in Massachusetts, some of which we have supported critically, and seems to be building a more dynamic campaign around five strong platform points.

Her first call is for “Jobs for All with a Green New Deal” to guarantee a job for every American willing and able to work. She supports jobs programs that will employ “millions of workers to provide socially needed public infrastructure and public services like education, health, child care, elder care, youth programs, and arts and cultural programs.” She emphasizes “sustainable energy, transportation, and production infrastructure,” specifically renewable energy generation, energy efficiency, mass transit, railroads, bike and pedestrian traffic, clean manufacturing, and regional food systems based on sustainable agriculture. This is quite an effective position on jobs (www.green-rainbow.org/content/jobs-all-green-new-deal).

Jill Stein’s other four main points are: a Medicare-for-all system; forgiving existing debt and providing free education for all; ending home foreclosures and requiring banks to adjust mortgages to reflect the current market value of homes; and ending the wars and bringing the troops home.

Jill Stein’s program is to the left of Rocky Anderson’s and stronger on class and economic issues, though still limited. Her five main programmatic points are quite strong and would resonate among many Occupy activists and other workers and young people. However, her overriding weakness is that she is not well-known nationally in the activist movement, and certainly not among the general public.

Politically, she is from a left-populist tradition, similar to Ralph Nader and the left Greens. She has not put forward a clear critique of capitalism or a decisive orientation to the working class as the key force to fight big business. Also, she does not have a base among labor activists. She obviously has potential to make an impact but, again, there are many obstacles that she would need to overcome to achieve this.

It should also be noted that, unfortunately, numerous different socialist organizations are running their own presidential candidates. For 2012, Socialist Alternative argues for socialists to unite behind the strongest independent left-wing candidate and utilize the campaign to popularize socialist policies as part of a broader left-wing challenge to big business politics. If there is not a viable, broader left-wing campaign that socialists can participate in, then there should be a united campaign of the different socialist groups to build the strongest campaign, profile and vote for a socialist presidential candidate. While we recognize that there are differences between different socialist organizations on, for example, program and methods of work, Socialist Alternative believes that it is not impossible to campaign in this election together on the basis of an agreed electoral program. But, if this is not possible, at the very least, we would advocate a limited electoral pact between the different socialist and left campaigns to agree which states each party will campaign in to avoid having multiple socialist candidates on the same state ballot line.

Unfortunately, this is not the approach most of the rest of the socialist left has adopted. Despite a call for a united socialist presidential candidate in 2012, the Socialist Party USA announced they are running Stewart Alexander for president and the PSL announced they are running Peta Lindsay. In addition, the SEP is running their own candidate and the FSP is also running its own candidate as a write-in. Unfortunately, none of these candidates is well-known, and none have strong links to Occupy or other mass movements.