Dan Savage, the other day:
Where are the Green Party candidates for city councils? For county councils? For state legislatures? For state assessor? For state insurance commissioner? For governor? For fucking dogcatcher? I would be SO willing to vote for Green Party candidates who are starting at the bottom, grassroots, bottom up, building a third party, a viable third party.
Green Party national co-chair Andrea Mérida Cuéllar, pictured above, responds:
Ansel Herz’s repost of Dan Savage’s comments about the Green Party on Tuesday slammed into my field of view when I was deluged by messages of outrage from fellow Greens from around the country. They considered Dan Savage an ally in many progressive causes and were shocked by his rhetoric and lack of knowledge about the Green Party of the United States.
I respect Savage, having first become acquainted with his activism through the “It Gets Better” project and its advocacy for teen LGBTQIA+, as your readers already know. But his commentary begs correction of various inaccuracies in what he understands about the Green Party. I should state for the record that as the only Latina in national political party leadership today, I am decidedly not “pasty white,” as he accuses in his commentary. Neither are Cynthia McKinney or Rosa Clemente, our presidential and VP candidates from 2008, nor Cheri Honkala, Jill Stein’s running mate in 2012, nor Winona LaDuke, Ralph Nader’s running mate in 2000...none are “pasty white,” either.
First, the Green Party actually does run candidates from dog catcher on up.
Here are just a few of our currently seated elected officials around the country:
Bruce Delgado, mayor in Marina, CA
Avito Miranda, school district trustee in Marin County, CA
Hector Lopez, constable in New Canaan, CT
Mirna Martinez, board of education, New London, CT
Gayle McLaughlin, councilmember (and former mayor) in Richmond, CA
Cam Gordon, councilmember in Minneapolis, MN
Becky Elder, councilmember in Manitou Springs, CO
Merrily Mazza, councilmember in Lafayette, CO
Some former elected officials include Michael Feinstein (mayor, Santa Monica, CA) and myself, Denver’s first Green-registered elected official (Board of Education, Denver, CO).
Your readers can find even more at our database, here. These names and offices may not impress Dan Savage, but we each have way more skin in the electoral game than he has shown to date.
We’re running candidates for all levels of state and federal government too, and some of our featured candidates are here, the list of which include Dr. Margaret Flowers, who activists will recognize as a fighter for single-payer healthcare, against the TPP and the editor of PopularResistance.org. In my home state of Colorado, we are proud to support our U.S. Senate candidate, Arn Menconi, a former elected county commissioner from the area around Vail.
So, you see, Savage’s assertion that we only run presidential candidates is incorrect, and perhaps he didn’t notice the 2014 campaigns for congress, state representative, public utility district and charter review commission in Washington state.
It doesn’t appear that Savage is aware of the incredible advantage that the duopoly parties have in automatic ballot access, as opposed to the massive injustice that third parties face. In states like Illinois, having a presidential candidate is a requirement for winning major-party status, without which an alternative party has no future. In other states, the cachet of a presidential campaign helps fuel the party signature requirements for all other Green candidates, because they face nearly insurmountable required numbers; for example:
North Carolina: 89,366 signatures
Tennessee: 33, 816 signatures
Georgia: 51,912 signatures
Oklahoma: 24, 745 signatures
Texas: 47,086 signatures
Keep in mind that these are raw numbers to get any Green party candidate on the ballot and do not include the buffer signatures of at least 50 percent more to insulate against challenges. When a Green Party presidential candidate runs, they carry the weight of a whole lot of other down-ticket races on their coattails, by necessity, and have to run huge ballot access campaigns simultaneous to their presidential campaign. Ralph Nader’s campaign manager has spelled it out. This is decidedly NOT what democracy looks like.
I am pleased to point out that Jill Stein will be on the ballot for Washington state this November.
With regard to Ralph Nader’s campaign for president in 2000, Jim Hightower documented back then that “Nader only drew 24,000 Democrats to his cause, yet 308,000 Democrats voted for Bush.” Therefore, Al Gore’s problem was not Ralph Nader, but rather a Democrat turnout problem. There were other mitigating issues too, such as the whole hanging chad controversy and SCOTUS’ upholding of Katherine Harris’ certification of George Bush’s victory in Florida, as well as the fact that Gore lost his home state of Tennessee.
When we in the Green Party hear about “spoiler candidates,” it usually comes from people who believe that the Democratic Party is entitled to votes without actually doing the work of the people, especially people of color like me, the LGBTQIA+ community, students and others. We are expected to faithfully fall in line without any perceivable return on investment. And yet, Seattle has shown that they’re not satisfied with that status quo, as shown in the re-election of Kshama Sawant, massive support for Bernie Sanders’ agenda, for the fight for $15 an hour and the robust presence of #blacklivesmatter.
We Greens are also well acquainted with Savage’s own rhetoric of entitlement regarding Democratic candidacies, for example his violent remarks aimed at Green Pennsylvania congressional candidate Carl Romanelli in 2006, also challenging Rick Santorum. At that time, Savage said about Romanelli, “The idiot Green? . . . Carl Romanelli should be dragged behind a pickup truck until there's nothing left but the rope." He apparently knew about our non-presidential candidates even in 2006. Perhaps he forgot in May 2016.
Those of us who live outside of privileged circles know that voting for either lobe of the corporate party brings us more of the same: massive student debt, low-paying jobs, more deportations, more wars for oil, more destruction of the environment, more police militarization and even more waffling over the safety and security of the LGBTQIA+ community on the job or at home, or most notably the safety of transgender youth of color anywhere. Neither Democratic nor Republican party shelters us from those storms, and the rhetoric and track record of the presidential candidates of both parties sounds like the other. What’s the difference between violent and racist rhetoric and violent and racist past rhetoric and current actions?
Instead, we need true progressives fighting for all of us, who are unafraid to take on corporate interest for the good of the people. For example, in Richmond, California, Gayle McLaughlin served two terms as a Green mayor and accomplished what no Democrat would ever dare: She held the local Chevron oil refinery accountable for violations and enraged big banks by saving residents facing foreclosure from eviction.
We simply cannot wait for the duopoly to save us. We are willing to take matters into our own hands, and the demise of the campaigns of Sen. Sanders, Rep. Kucinich, Gov. Dean and more show us that we cannot do it within the Democratic Party. We are willing to build a strong third-party alternative within the Green Party that centers people, peace and planet over profit and truly sees each person of color...each gender expression...each citizenship status...each socioeconomic level as equally worthy of enfranchisement. We believe in democracy and that every person has a voice, and we’re willing to not only run for dog catcher but also go to the mat for a ballot position to do it. And we'll carry that sign in a protest march too.
Finally, a vote for Jill Stein is simply that: a vote for Jill Stein. While Savage decries the Green Party for our supposed Hail Mary pass of a presidential electoral campaign, he fails to recognize that we run candidates all up and down the ballot all over the country. Perhaps now that he has seen our work of nearly 40 years, he will see fit to send us a donation and support us, instead of sniping from behind a laptop and spinning falsehoods with a petulant sense of entitlement.
UPDATE: Dan Savage responds.