Try to win at the lower levels, try to have impact at the higher levels
We constantly hear: “Don’t waste your resources devoting much time, attention, or money to campaigns for high-level offices like president, governor …” etc.
Scott McLarty, former Communications Director for the national party, wrote that today. Below is my response and then his article.
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Scott wrote: “… run for statehouse, county commission, municipal council seats … build up a real base of power …”
Of course. To tell you the truth, I’ve never heard anyone say otherwise. But it’s not necessarily a question of prioritizing the lower levels of office. There are reasons to run for local offices and (different) reasons to run for US House, Senate, governor, and president. In New Jersey this year we ran a school board candidate in one town and someone for council in another town, but felt it was also important to have a statewide candidate. Madelyn Hoffman ran for US Senate and that gave all NJ Green Party supporters someone to vote for on their ballots. She got over 30,000 votes. Those 30,000 people were glad to have a Green to vote for.
The same logic applies to the presidential race. By having some comprehensive nationwide electoral visibility (and sometimes some impact) the electorate, the press, and the pollsters have started to think in terms of two major parties and two minor parties, Libertarian and Green. Howie and Jo Jorgensen were included in quite a few polls. If we refrained from running high-level candidacies the Libertarians could become America’s one and only widely-recognized alternative party.
Of course we should run in as many local races as possible. It’s not that too many Greens run for Congress, as Scott inferred … it’s that not enough Greens swallow hard, petition, and get on the ballot to run for something. It would be impressive if a state party ran a full slate of Congressional candidates. That would be something to tout to the press.
Campaigns at various levels synergize each other. Having Ralph appear with our down-ticket candidates in 2000 very much helped those local campaigns. Ditto with Jill Stein in 2016.
Jill was successful enough in 2012 as to be viewed as somewhat high-profile in 2016. In regard to high level races, we should either cultivate outstanding rank-and-filers and help them become presidential-caliber candidates (like Jill) or we should try to recruit appropriately high-profile candidates. The way that channels were opened to Ralph Nader in 1995–2000 … dare to be great … start in 2021 to put out feelers to some already well-known lefties. Alicia Garza? Chris Hedges? Stephen Colbert? Michael Moore? Angela Davis? Medea Benjamin? Cornel West? In Canada, Elizabeth May was well-known as head of the Sierra Club when the Greens recruited her to run for parliament. In our state, when Seth Kaper-Dale agreed to be our gubernatorial candidate in 2017, he was already acclaimed as a social justice-oriented clergyman.
So: run at all levels. And: at the higher levels, try to run higher-profile candidates.
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Surviving Point Two Percent
By Scott McLarty (11/15/2020)
Green presidential nominee Howie Hawkins got .2% on Election Day. This was predictable. I predicted it in an article published two weeks ago.
The Green Party needs to stop making the Green presidential nominee’s numbers on Election Day the main measure of the party’s progress.
There are some years in which the enthusiasm for defeating the Republican nominee is so strong that voters who might otherwise vote Green instead feel compelled to hold their noses and vote Democrat.
That’s what happened in 2004, when both David Cobb (Green nominee) and Ralph Nader (Independent and a nationally famous public figure) received under half of one percent. It happened in 2008 when Barack Obama was so popular.
That was the dynamic in the 2020 election. “Dump Trump” meant a vote for Biden. (And who can argue with Dump Trump?)
The race for the White House is a multi-billion-dollar spectacle. It’s necessary for the Green Party to run presidential campaigns for a list of reasons I don’t need to rehearse here. But the Green Party should never invest its future in a presidential campaign.
It shouldn’t matter if the presidential candidate gets a small fraction of one percent if the Green Party can rack up important wins in down-ticket races, like mayoral candidate Emmanuel Estrada’s victory in Baldwin, California on Tuesday.
The party’s top priority should be to get at least a half dozen Greens seated in state legislatures. In my opinion, too many of our best Green candidates mount unwinnable campaigns for Congress when they should really run for statehouse, county commission, and municipal council seats.
The party needs to build up a real base of power — as opposed to imaginary power that comes with participating in a multi-billion-dollar spectacle — and that means winning lots of seats at state & local levels. The Green Party will only have a future when we achieve that.